By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
“We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff…..” – Lee Iaccoca (Where Have All the Leaders Gone?)
A week later the Army Commander suspended a Brigadier and there Lieutenant Colonels implicated in the Weliweriya killings. The military proclaimed that those who broke the military law will be court-martialled[ii].
The report was never made public. Still there was a sense in the Sinhala-South that (some) justice has been done.
This week the four suspended officers were quietly reinstated in new posts[iii].
So the much-publicised suspension was not justice but eyewash, a multi-purpose magic trick – a sop to the Sinhala-South, a riposte for Geneva and an olive branch to the Gampaha electorate in time for PC polls.
The Rajapaksas repeatedly assert that an international inquiry into alleged war crimes is unnecessary since Lankan laws and Lankan institutions are capable of delivering justice to Lankan victims. According to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, “….in the course of a long and protracted war…there may have been a few individuals who were guilty of acting outside orders and committing crimes…. Government has always had strong mechanisms to deal with such individuals, and that the allegation that wrongdoers get away with impunity is completely wrong. The military…..has mechanisms to investigate and punish any soldiers or officers who violate those norms. These systems functioned smoothly before, during, and after the war…. It is important to bear in mind that general statements about civilian casualties do not suffice, but specific complaints supported by evidence need to be made….”[iv]
In Weliweriya, there were ‘specific complaints supported by evidence’. So the ‘mechanisms’ Mr. Rajapaksa boasts about should have succeeded in delivering justice. The report of the military court should have been made public and a court-martial should have been instituted. But the opposite happened. The alleged killers got their jobs back and impunity is regnant again.
If the much vaunted national mechanisms did not work for the Sinhala victims of Weliweriya how can they be expected to work for the Tamil victims of the war?
The impunity enjoyed by the Weliweriay suspects is in marked contrast to fate of the war-winning army commander; or the Military Intelligence officer who was assaulted by Mervyn Silva’s execrable son. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, only the Rajapaksas enjoy total, unconditional and permanent impunity; even the military does not. Any ‘war hero’ who falls foul of any Rajapaksa kith or kin will be hounded sans mercy.
In Weliweriya – as in the North – the killings happened not because there was a breakdown in discipline but because strict discipline was maintained and soldiers obeyed their orders. If there is a genuine inquiry, the truth about who ordered what in the North and in Weliweriya will come out. That is why the Rajapaksas will never allow a proper national inquiry into either case. One cannot reasonably expect the Siblings to place themselves in jeopardy.
So long as the Rajapaksas rule, there will never be any Lankan justice, either for Lankan (Sinhala) victims of Weliweriya or Lankan (Tamil) victims of the Fourth Eelam War.
Last week, the Attorney General ordered the courts to discharge two men accused of raping a mentally retarded woman in 2010. “The Court had earlier ordered a DNA test to be done because the woman….had subsequently given birth. The test has confirmed that the DNA of one of the suspects had matched with that of the child. Meanwhile the Attorney General had instructed the Magistrate to release the two suspects Susantha Vijitha Bandara and Dharmasiri Bandara from the case. The Attorney General had asked the court to inform him within 14 days of what action had been taken.”[v]
Why did the AG intervene, after the DNA test proved positive? Why was he in such an unseemly hurry to get the suspects released? Who ordered the AG to subvert justice?
Where is the Opposition?
In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, impunity is a threat not just to the minorities/Rajapaksa opponents but to every Sinhalese who is not a Rajapaksa kith or a kin.
War-heroes, as a collective, are feted, almost to the point of reverence while many an individual ‘war-hero’ is nothing more than an expendable appendage, a labourer doing the job of minor municipal employees. Sinhala-Buddhists, as a collective, are privileged citizens, but in their individual capacity, they are almost as right-less and vulnerable to abuse and impunity as the minorities.
In Pinochet’s Chile, music was used as a backdrop for torture[vi]. In Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, patriotic sloganeering and Buddhist chanting are used as audio-visual-psychological façades to prevent the Sinhala South from understanding the true nature of Rajapaksa rule. The Motherland-Nation-Religion cacophony is an indispensable tool in the Rajapaksa efforts to dupe Sinhala-Buddhists into ignoring/denying their degradation from democratic citizens to right-less subjects.
The Lethal Conjuror
When President Rajapaksa mendaciously claimed that Muslims are attacked only in response to child rape, he seemed to have germinated a new meme.
This week, a Muslim-owned shop in Aluthgama was torched by a bunch of lay and ordained thugs, after accusing the owner’s brother of child molestation. Obviously the saffron mobsters are following in the august footsteps of their President.
On the one hand Rajapaksa pawns are periodically igniting anti-Muslim hysteria, to divert Sinhala-Buddhist minds from real life rice-and-curry issues. On the other hand the Rajapaksas are strengthening their relations with those Islamic rulers who share their inimical and dismissive approach to fundamental rights. President Rajapaksa makes regular state-visits to non-democratic Islamic states. His most recent destination was Bahrain where he was welcomed warmly and given a medal’[vii].
The regime is also planning to attract more Middle Eastern tourists, probably in the context of new travel warnings, including by friendly Australia[viii]. Which means any anti-Halal/Niqab hysteria is another sleight-of-hand to dupe Sinhala-Buddhists.
Bertrand Russell warned, “No man thinks sanely, when his self-esteem has suffered a mortal wound and those who deliberately humiliate a nation have only themselves to thank if it becomes a nation of lunatics”[ix]. Tamils were once law-abiding to the point of docility. Decades of injustice, pillaging and murder created a new antipodal reality. Are the Rajapaksas trying to push Lankan Muslims in the same homicidal/suicidal direction?
Soon after Hugo Chavez was elected President, he had an encounter with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Mr. Marquez turned this encounter into a long essay, which ended with a question for the future: “While he moved off among his military escort and old friends, I shuddered at the thrill of having gladly travelled and talked with two contrary men. One to whom inveterate luck has offered the opportunity to save his country. And the other, a conjuror, who could go down in history as one more despot.”[x]
After almost nine years, there cannot be such doubts about President Rajapaksa. He is a conjuror and a despot, one who is injecting deadly viruses into the national bloodstream, to safeguard his dynastic project. The only doubt is: will Sinhala-South see through the illusion, before the cliff-top is reached?
[ii] “Meanwhile the Director Legal, who is the Chief Prosecutor of the Army, examines (sic) the report of the Court of Inquiry further and will order a Summary of Evidence against any person who has violated the Military Law as a preliminary step of prosecuting such people through a Court Marshal (sic)” http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/34632-weliweriya-incident-top-army-officers-relieved-from-their-posts.html
[iii] Lankadeepa – 9.5.2014
[iv] Text of special address by Secretary Defence and Urban Development, Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the workshop for Sri Lankan ambassadors and heads of missions conducted by the Ministry of External Affairs at Sri Lanka Military Academy in Diyatalawa – 10.7.2012
[v] Rape of Mentally Retarded Woman: Suspects Released – Manopriya Gunasekera – Daily Mirror – 9.5.2014
[ix] In Praise of Idleness
[x] The Enigma of Chavez