By Emil van der Poorten –
Led by that most reprehensible of politicians, the current Minister of Justice, there are assembling on the government benches a motley crew of some of the most unprincipled characters to claim the garb of “representatives of the Sri Lankan people.” Goodness knows we’ve had our share of these types over the years and we certainly don’t need another edition of them at a time that Sri Lanka is inviting what is left of decency in this world to censure us.
One of the terms that is most abused is that of “war heroes,” defined by no less a person than our President.
It is increasingly evident that when he and those he leads in this crusade of ultra-nationalism refer to “war heroes” they refer to every person who donned a uniform of whatever description during the period of conflict with the forces of the criminally insane Prabhakaran.
One has to have taken leave of one’s senses to claim that not one individual among our armed forces which, during the war, totaled half a million, committed a war crime or acted in contravention of internationally-ratified covenants covering human rights and war crimes. That’s right: the numbers I quote for the Sri Lankan security forces approximate those of the entire Russian army!
I am personally aware that there were several individuals in our neighbourhood that no one would entrust with a catapult, leave along provide training in the use of sophisticated weaponry, who were welcomed into an army that obviously didn’t indulge in criminal record checks to ensure that some of the unemployable flotsam and jetsam of rural and urban Sri Lanka were handed AK 47s and told to get on with it! One of these characters from a neighbouring ”colony” kept deserting and being re-arrested and taken back into the embrace of his unit (to learn even more about how best to kill?)
The vast majority of those who enlisted were decent, honourable young people who enlisted to fight what they saw as a very real threat to their motherland. However, to even imply that every single individual to don a uniform was a “war hero” is nothing but to, knowingly, propagate a lie of unbelievable proportions.
Let’s be blunt: there had to be bad eggs among the armed forces of Sri Lanka who were engaged in battle with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tigers/LTTE) in occupation of territory primarily inhabited by Tamil-speaking people for a very long time.
To suggest that not one soldier, sailor, airman, policeman or member of the auxiliary forces committed one murder, rape or similar crime or deprived a fellow citizen of his or her human and civil rights during three decades of war puts one in cloud cuckoo land and should constitute qualification for swift entry into a mental institution.
Don’t our politicians, the President included, realize that to keep parroting “I will not let any foreigner punish our war heroes” is counter-productive in the court of international decency and does nothing but degrade what we have left of humane behaviour, honour and honesty in our country?
To suggest that those who were responsible for the premature demise of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the outstanding young rugby-player Thajudeen, not to mention the numerous “white van disappearances” and life-threatening assaults of anyone who had the temerity to question the Rajapaksa Regime belong in the ranks of “war heroes” speaks volumes about those uttering such unadulterated nonsense. Mind you, I have chosen not to dwell on such as the shooting of unarmed protesters in the Free Trade Zone and at Rathupaswala and the fact that they were pursued into places of worship and “suitably chastised” in the case of the latter.
This country is sliding back into the trough of conspiracy theories where no one but some servile stooge of the government is permitted to speak to any “foreigner” particularly anyone with connections to an organization involved with human rights issues. Simply put, if you have nothing to hide, nobody can do you damage. The Minister of Justice and the President of Sri Lanka, please note.
Just in case there is any misunderstanding with regard to my opinion of the conduct of the Tigers during the conflict, let me be absolutely clear: they were farthest from purity in the matter of war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined in international law. They should be subject to the same due process of law as any other, notwithstanding their claim of having waged a “just war in defence of the Tamil people’s rights.”
However, the number of the members of the LTTE or connected to its activities who are still surviving are, by the government’s own claim, miniscule. The previous government claimed and the current one, by its silence on the subject, appears to confirm the claim that the LTTE cadres taken into custody have been rehabilitated and released into the general population or are unaccounted for. “Disappeared?”
However, there are some quite glaring omissions in the matter of senior members of the LTTE being held to account for their reprehensible, nay criminal, conduct by this or the preceding regime.
One glaring omission in the matter of the application of the Sri Lankan Criminal Code, Prevention of Terrorism Act or any similar piece of law is that of the “Minister of Finance” of the LTTE who was responsible for all the weapons purchases and, in fact, the entire financing of the Tigers for years, “K.P” or Kumaran Pathmanathan. In fact, he was broadly accepted as the successor to Mr. Prabhakaran on that gentleman’s premature demise. Neither the Rajapaksa government nor the current one have given any indication whatsoever that this kingpin of the LTTE enterprise, the primus inter pares in the matter of being a merchant of death, is to be investigated, leave along prosecuted for his direct involvement in the loss of, literally, thousands of Sri Lankan lives.
What also of Pillayan who ended up heading the Eastern Provincial Council thanks to being taken under the large Rajapaksa wing? He was one of the few exceptions in that some form of prosecution was launched against this man who, in terms of his intelligence, is supposedly a few bricks short of a load, something that didn’t prevent him from visiting death and destruction on the Sinhala and Muslim communities of the Eastern Province and then, when he switched sides, on his erstwhile comrades!
What of the military genius of the LTTE whose defection is held to have been the primary cause of that organization’s total and absolute military defeat, “Colonel Karuna?” Despite the fact that all available evidence points to his being directly responsible for the execution of, literally, hundreds of unarmed policemen in the Eastern Province he not only walks free but was elevated by the previous regime to one but the highest position in their political party! Of course that elevation was also despite the fact that he was jailed in Britain when found to be travelling with fraudulent documentation (knowingly issued by the Sri Lankan government of the time!) as a member of a high-powered delegation to that country!
There are also the only two surviving Tiger commanders – “Masters” if memory serves me right – from the final Nanthikadal battle who run free in the north, untouched by the provisions of any law, thanks to their swearing fealty to the (Rajapaksa) government of the day!
Does all of this not say something about people who mouth platitudes about “war heroes” while looking after some of the major war criminals from a group that was the most feared terrorist organization in the world?
Our leaders are, simply put, knowingly lying through their teeth when they claim that every single Sri Lankan who donned a uniform during the thirty-year war that ended in 2009 is a “war hero” and should not be subject to the provisions of Sri Lankan law, international covenants or anything of that kind. The next thing you know, they’ll be declaring “K.P,” “Colonel Karuna” and the two “Masters” that they folded in their embrace “war heroes” as well, qualifying them to be celebrated with statues at some major road intersection!
O tempora, o mores!