By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 28: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: Government-Sponsored Terrorism in Sri Lanka
Brutality against the innocent public using the police and the military is unbelievable not only to the observers—the public—but also to the international community. From whom the party-less, “Ranil-Rajapaksa” government expects handouts to bring it out of the economic crises. There is a vacuum of raising voices from all ‘religious leaders:’ are they hiding? If they are not silently collaborating with the government, they must vehemently object to its terrorism against the people.
Maintaining power at any cost—Presidential brutality
People have not forgotten previous experiences, especially when the same people who brutalised innocent people in the late 1980s are again in power today: ordering brutalities and killing the youth to stay in power. They authorised heinous crimes and abuse of powers—setting up torture camps by the police, where innocent and uninformed youngsters were abducted, tortured, and killed in the late 1980s. These details are illustrated in the Batalanda Report.
Under the current president, are we heading there again?
Despite these murders, successive governments pushed this critical Report under the rug to protect the named culprits. Consequently, thousands of crimes conducted against humanity were never brought to justice, but none were penalised. The current executive/administration is repeating its extensive experience from the recent past in abduction, torchers, and brutality against innocent people, partly to threaten the rest of the population.
Because the temporary power has blinded them, they forget that even the president is not above the law, especially with such atrocious crimes (i.e., torcher and murder) in the past, present, and future. It is time that these long-standing crimes (including those being carried out) are reported to the International Courts in Hauge with detailed evidence.
Government’s failure to collect trillions of taxes each year
With impending bankruptcy, a month ago, the Sri Lankan government should have drastically reduced its expenses and implemented ways to collect over two trillion rupees of “unpaid taxes” from politicians and large businesses. In addition, as we discussed in detail earlier in this series, the top three professional cash businesses, lawyers, doctors, and tuition masters, avoid paying close to one trillion rupees yearly. Thirdly, as stated recently, none of the four casino businesses has paid proper amounts of taxes.
If the IRS is given the authority to collect these and an electronic mechanism is established to gather taxes on a bi-monthly basis (as one earns), most of these taxes can be collected on time. However, as vehemently objecting to a System Change, crooked politicians will not approve enforcement of tax collections, as they must pay their shares of taxes, never mind they owe millions of overdue water and electricity bills that are yet to pay.
The lack of constructive ideas by the president and cabinet for economic recovery
Instead of seriously addressing the crises, President Wickremesinghe still focused on (A) intimidating, arresting, and harming those who peacefully protested during the previous few weeks using the prevention of terrorists Act (PTA) illegally and prior to that unlawfully using emergency declaration, perhaps as a warning to threat others not to come to the street, (B) dishing out money to MPs in his surrogate party in power to keep supporting him in the parliament to maintain HIS power and to enact worthless and harmful laws for the country, (C) enticing MPs by allocating billions of rupees to re-construct their homes, and (D) continuing to waste many by appointing dozens of puppet ministers with zero experience in their portfolios that the country does not need. He continues to expose his lack of constructive ideas and prejudiced follies.
The current Wickramasinghe—Rajapaksa government has no mandate to govern the country: if they even had a fraction, they lost it on July 9th, 2022. Especially subsequent terrorising of the public by the president. The current president should have resigned in the following days after the defection of the previous one, as RW promised (lied) to the public. This became blatantly clear in the following week: his hunger for power, desperation, and greed prevented him from doing so.
The administration neither has the mandate to negotiate with the IMF nor obtain more outside loans without decisive actions in cost reduction and income generation, including the foreign exchange that they lost due to appalling management of the fiscal system and stealing, including from loan funds. What is necessary is serious political and economic reform.
Nevertheless, without accomplishing the above, there is no rationale for conducting early Presidential and/or Parliamentary elections. The incumbents have moral and legal obligations to work out the current political and economic calamity within six months, or they need to quit, like the previous president who absconded.
The consequences of government-sponsored terrorism against people
In 2017, Sri Lanka regained the GSP+ status from the European Union (EU) with difficulty: EU offers GSP concessions to developing countries to assist their economy (and not for pilfering funds): https://economynext.com/eu-parliament-adopts-resolution-on-sri-lanka-wants-pta-repealed-gsp-withdrawn-82891/
GSP+ provides preferential status to Sri Lanka to export goods to Europe without taxation. It also gives critical leverage in competitive markets, such as garment and fishing industries, to sell their products to the EU. However, the lack of empathy from the current president and his completely unnecessary brutal repressive regime and actions were taken against innocent people are likely to persuade the EU to revoke the GSP+ status for Sri Lanka. If that happened, the public and the courts must make President Wickramasinghe singularly responsible and accountable.
Continuing human rights violations
The current escalating human rights violations—the president’s abuses of using emergency declaration and subsequent the PTU have led the EU to re-consider abolishing the GSP+ status for Sri Lanka. In the interim, the United Nations Human Rights Council is also closely watching inappropriate and harmful actions taken by the president, harming and imprisoning youth without a case.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of disappearances and deaths (with signs of torture) occur among the youth in extraneous circumstances. These corpses provide evidence of torture and executions—tell-tell signs of extra-judicial killings by the government: so, they refuse to take no action or investigations (against themselves). As with the killings of thousands of youths in Batalanda and other torture camps, as discussed above, the post-mortem findings and none of the investigation reports of current brutal killings have not been made public. Even if they produce in due course, no one will trust them.
United Nations Human Right Council must investigate these brutalities and killings of the youth without further delay allowing other coverups. Similarly, the EU must investigate these killings, human rights violations, and suppression of freedom before they decide to re-approve the GP+ status. Such brutality and crime against people will not help attract funds and loans, and concessions such as GSP+ from other countries to overcome the economic calamity the same politicians created.
The GSP+ tax concessions for Sri Lanka are discussed next week at the EU Parliament. It is unlikely to have a favourable impression of ongoing arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, torture, and extra-judicial killing of the youth in Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan government. These violate the established democratic norms, and thus, the EU tax concession is likely to be revoked.
Sri Lanka must heal the profoundly fractured and untrusted political system, highlighting the need for complete system change before it can resolve the economy. Without addressing the political crisis, there is no hope for the country to overcome the fiscal crisis, even with interim IMF funding, which is a drop in the bucket.