By Malinda Seneviratne –
Of all that is pernicious in all resolutions tabled in the UNHRC against Sri Lanka the most scandalous and disgusting perhaps is limiting investigations calls for to the last few months of the war. We are talking about a conflict that dragged for almost three decades. We are talking about a couple of hundred thousand killed. One life cannot be less valuable than another. One murder cannot be more despicable than another. The grief of one mother cannot be less than that of another mother. The same goes for fathers, children, lovers and friends who grieve.
We are reminded of this monstrous ‘logic’ today when there’s a call for the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and wrongdoers therein being held responsible for wrongdoing; a call for a full investigation on numerous allegations. Now, ss someone said ‘compassion’ (maithree) is all good but this does not mean that wrongdoing and wrongdoers should go uninvestigated and unpunished respectively. Strangely, though, Champika Ranawaka of the Jathika Hela Urumaya who spearheaded Maithripala Sirisena’s campaign and was clearly the most articulate critique of the regime on all counts including corruption has picked a period, 2004-2014. This is arbitrary and worse it smacks of witch-hunting.
True, it is the regime that was defeated that is under scrutiny. True, investigation of corruption charges was a key theme of the Sirisena campaign and it can be concluded that people did vote for such an inquiry. Corruption and wrongdoing on the other hand could not have begun in November 2004. We are after all talking about a constitution and institutional arrangement that made for abuse and pilfering in a large scale as well as a culture of impunity that was well and truly made use of by many who wielded power for decades but especially since 1977. Bheeshanaya (terror) and dhooshanaya (corruption) let us not forget were charges leveled by those in the opposition at least since the 1988 Presidential Election. They had currency.
Some might claim that the bheeshana-dhooshana levels of the past 10 years were unprecedented, but they would be those who have short memories considering what happened in 1988-89 and towards the tail end of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s first term (before her wings were clipped by the Parivasa arrangement with the JVP, the 17th Amendment and the brief UNP Government of 2001-2004).
We cannot go to Year Dot. This is clear. However, since those who were charged (but not investigated) are still around and since this Government has come to clean up, so to speak, we should start at least from 1994 which is when coalitions led by the SLFP first came to power. Most importantly it includes the period 2001-2004 when the UNP held sway. If there’s going to be change, it must be underlined by wholesomeness, not revenge-intent.
Today we have a President who is also the Chairman of the main party of the coalition led by the opponent he defeated. All those who supported ‘the corrupt regime’ have now pledged allegiance to President Maithripala Sirisena. He has as his key coalition partner, the United National Party, which too is not exactly a party of saints. One of his key backers was ex President Chandrika Kumaratunge, a person described as Chaura Regina (The Thieving Queen).
It is good to clean up. It is necessary to investigate. It is non-negotiable that the constitution and institutional arrangement be reformed so that corruption can be stumped. Mark it with ‘vengeance’ and we can shed all illusions about this regime being ‘better’ (forget ‘compassionate’). Bring to book the crooks of the previous regime by all means, but let other crooks go free and you would be doing a great disservice to those who voted for ‘change’.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com