19 September, 2020

Blog

Impunity Reigns Supreme: What Gota’s Candidacy & Shavendra’s Promotion Mean For Us Sri Lankans

By Shreen Abdul Saroor

Shreen Saroor

The International Day of the Disappeared is on the 30th August and I was in Mannar when a group of mothers were preparing to show their collective resistance at Omanthai in North and Kalmunai in East. The discussion was around how safe it is to protest even though the emergency has been lifted but the President has signed an extraordinary gazette assigning same powers that is granted under Emergency Regulations to the military. Not so long ago the Rajapaksa government locked up a protesting mother Balenderan Jayakuamri who surrendered her younger son Mahindan to Sri Lanka military. Mahindan was later found among the young LTTE men who underwent rehabilitation in a government photograph but never returned back to his mother. To date Jayakumari has been in and out of courtrooms due to the false chargers brought against her using the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act. The slogan that the mothers arrived at this meeting was “Men who made our children disappeared are awarded with commanding the military and running for the presidency” Is it the justice promised to us?” 

Last week, Gotabaya Rajapaksa launched his presidential campaign. A strongman who disdains human rights, democratic governance, and the rule of law is trying to capitalize on public fear in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks to bring back a dark chapter in Sri Lankan history.  Not to be outdone, President Maithripala Sirisena, who risked his life in 2015 to challenge the Rajapaksa regime, demonstrated his complete capitulation when he appointed Major General Shavendra Silva as the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army.

Who are Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Shavendra Silva? Patriots or traitors? It depends. Are war crimes, murder, disappearances, torture, and state plunder feats to celebrate? These are the men now in the news. Rajapaksa’s candidacy and Silva’s promotion mark a dangerous step for all Sri Lankans.

During the second JVP uprising in the late 1980s, Gotabaya was the commanding officer of the First Gajaba Regiment in Matale.[1] A mass grave with 154 skeletons from that period was found there in 2012.  Skulls and hand bones show signs of torture, but the Rajapaksa government buried the case by transferring the magistrate judge and launching an ineffectual commission of inquiry.[2]  Radiocarbon testing raised more questions than answers, and the concerns of archaeologist Raj Somadeva were ignored.[3]

Gota spent a decade abroad and returned to Sri Lanka in 2005. He promptly reorganized the security sector, presided over weekly meetings of intelligence agencies, and personally followed up on the progress of arrests and interrogations.[4] As the war intensified, he ensured there would be no witness.  He expelled the U.N. in September 2008 and barred independent media. Only embedded journalists ready to glorify “war heroes” and the “humanitarian operation” were allowed. News trickled out anyway, with U.N. officials and government doctors documenting indiscriminate shelling of hospitals and firing in no-fire zones.  

As we now know, LTTE leaders and even their children were executed at point blank range, reportedly under Gota’s orders.[5] Women were stripped naked and there have been allegation of sexual abuse. Hundreds who surrendered to Shavendra Silva’s 58th Division with Father Francis Joseph boarded government-operated CTB buses in May 2009 never to be seen since.  The report of the U.N. OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) would later link the 58th Division to extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Killinochchi, Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK), Putumattalan, and Mullaivaikkal. A Ministry of Defence report admitted supervision and “UAV monitoring” of all military operations up through the chain of command, meaning Gota was aware at every step.[6] After the war, Gota heaped praise on Silva for doing a “marvelous job” during its final stages.[7]

To enable his atrocities, Gota fabricated lies.  Anyone who criticized the government, whether the U.N. human rights chief or a peace activist, was a Tiger.  Government doctors were coached until they “confessed” that hospitals were not shelled.[8]  Where truth could not be bent, Gota brought in white vans.  Keith Noyahr and Poddala Jayantha were severely tortured after Gota personally warned Jayantha that if he criticized the army, “people who know how to do it will finish you off.”[9] Gota commanded two military intelligence officers to abduct and later kill Prageeth Ekneligoda.[10]He is now facing lawsuits in the U.S. for his role in the murder of Lasantha Wickremesinghe and torture of Canadian Tamil Roy Samathanam. 

For years after the war, accountability was out of reach.  Recommendations by the LLRC and Paranagama Commission went ignored. Mothers of the disappeared and the activists who helped them were detained under the PTA. Sexual assault survivors were threatened and harassed not to name their rapists.  Habeas corpus cases involving the Father Francis and other surrendees languished; as the responding party, Shavendra Silva stonewalled inquiry into what happened under his command.  There was no progress on even the most emblematic cases. At the family level, mothers had no space to mourn or protest.  The military took their lands.  Efforts to mobilize before the U.N. were labeled a Western threat to sovereignty. Any attempt to achieve something better for Sri Lankan people was dismissed as an attack on the war heroes.  Of course, a tyrant needs propaganda to quell the masses.  

As the regime tightened its grip, Gota’s targets grew wider. BBS hate mongerer-in-chief Gnanasara Thero was given reign to incite mobs to burn Muslim homes and businesses in Aluthgama and Dharga Town. That thug now has a presidential pardon, a sign of how far  President Sirisena is gone from good governance.[11]

Men capable of torture and murder are no less capable of plunder. Gota was accused of siphoning more than $75 million in state funds to private firm Avant-Garde to establish a floating armoury and setting up a secret offshore account to procure MiG fighter jets from Ukraine.[12] The Rajapaksas took usurious loans from China and built a vanity airport and port at Hambantota.[13]Even as Sirisena won a surprising victory in 2015, it was unclear if Gota would organize a coup.

So that is Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the man who now stands for election. A strongman who will crush his own people for personal gain. A man who cloaks tyranny as patriotism. And Shavendra Silva, his right-hand man ever since Gota made him his second-in-command in 1987.[14]

The current administration’s failures are without question long.  It ignored intelligence and failed to prevent the Easter attacks.  It has not delivered accountability or security sector reform.  It has reneged on transitional justice promises made to its citizens and the U.N.  It has done nothing to help Tamils rebuild lives shattered by war and has remained silent as mobs now target Muslims post-Easter attacks.  Initial progress on corruption probes resulted in no convictions, and the Central Bank bond scandal shows this government is capable of corruption of its own.  The President has recently shown himself spineless, from unconstitutional moves last October to replace Ranil Wickramasinghe with Mahinda Rajapaksa to more recent moves to pardon Gnanasara and appoint Shavendra as Army Commander.  

But there has been halting progress, too. The 19th Amendment limits unchecked presidential power. Sri Lanka is now a party to the Convention on Enforced Disappearance. The Consultation Task Force heard from thousands on how Sri Lanka should approach transitional justice.  The Office of Missing Persons is finally beginning its work. Media freedoms have been restored, and citizen engagement was on full display to prevent a constitutional crisis end of last year. Tamil mothers have a space to protest and mourn. Citizens can use the Right to Information Act to question authorities about their corruption and discrimination. Independent commissions have questioned  the abuse of state power by law enforcement and military.  

It is unclear what President Sirisena is thinking in appointing Shavendra Silva as Army Commander, or what the public expects will happen with Gota at the helm.  Those who think Gota would “Make Sri Lanka Safe Again” should remember the state-sponsored terrorism he unleashed. And Sirisena should know that appointing a lawless Army Commander is the opposite of the good governance he promised back in 2015. What happened to the foreign minister’s promise in early 2015—“Unlike the previous government we are not in a state of denial, saying that such violations have not happened.  We believe such violations have happened, and the extent to which it has happened has to be finally decided by the mechanism we set up.  We are ready to ensure that those who have violated human rights in Sri Lanka will be brought to justice through such a mechanism.”  Sirisena’s latest misstep shows how far he has fallen since 2015.

Shavendra Silva’s promotion plays directly into Gota’s hands and is a betrayal of the trust bestowed by victims and affected communities who brought this government to power.  It is a giant step back for justice and the rule of law for all of us.  The government should reexamine the appointment and investigate abuses perpetrated under Shavendra’s command.  It should bring Gota to justice for his role in disappearing, torturing, and killing journalists, ordering point-blank executions, and plundering state coffers. Gota’s candidacy and Shavendra’s promotion are a mockery and insult to the mothers who have been protesting over 1000 days by roadside, day and night, in the north and east and spell dark days ahead for impunity and democratic governance for all citizens. 

1. C.A. Chandraprema, Gota’s War: The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka (2012), at pp. 173-177.

2. Chandini Kirinde, Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Begin Sittings Within Next Fortnight, Sunday Times (Jun. 30, 2013), available at http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130630/news/presidential-commission-of-inquiry-to-begin-sittings-within-next-fortnight-50836.html

3. Darshanie Ratnawalli, Matale mass grave: skeletons in closets as well?, Colombo Telegraph (Dec. 21, 2014), available at https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/matale-mass-grave-skeletons-in-closets-as-well/.

4. Gota’s War, p. 357.

5. Frederica Jansz, “Gota ordered them to be shot” – General Sarath Fonseka (Dec. 13, 2009), available at http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2009/12/13/%E2%80%9Cgota-ordered-them-to-be-shot%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%93-general-sarath-fonseka/; Major General Kamal Gunaratne had murdered Balachandran on Gotabhaya’s order (Jun. 14, 2012), Lankanewsweb.com (archived).

6. Ministry of Defense, “Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis July 2006-May 2009” (Jul. 31, 2011), ¶206

7. Udeshi Amarasingthe & Thilini Kahandawaarachchi, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa salutes the war heroes, Business Today (June 2009), http://www.businesstoday.lk/cover_page.php?article=891

8. Cable from James R. Moore, Doctors from no-fire zone released on bail (Aug. 24, 2009), available at http://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09COLOMBO830_a.html

9. Cable from Ambassador Robert Blake, Sri Lanka:  Defense Ministry Mobilizes Against Media Critics (Jun. 2, 2008), available at http://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08COLOMBO528_a.html

10. Dharisha Bastians and Aanya Vipulasena, Prageeth: A politically motivated Crime, Sunday Observer (Jan. 20, 2019), available at http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2019/01/20/news-features/prageeth-%E2%80%9C-politically-motivated-crime%E2%80%9D

11.  Chathuri Dissanayake, President Pardons Gnanasara Thero (May 23, 2009), available at http://www.ft.lk/front-page/President-pardons-Gnanasara-Thero/44-678714

12. See, e.g., Ahimsa Wickremetunge, What they did to my father and why they did it, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/what-they-did-to-my-father-and-why-they-did-it  Mangala Samaraweera comments on MIG deal, NewsFirst (Jun. 24, 2015), available at https://www.newsfirst.lk/2015/06/24/mangala-samaraweera-comments-on-mig-deal/?mode=list; Lakmal Sooriyagoda, Avant Garde Case: CA order on Gota’s petition on July 26, Daily News (Jun. 15, 2019), available at http://www.dailynews.lk/2019/06/15/law-order/188464/avant-garde-case-ca-order-gota-petition-july-26; Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s appeal against the Avant Garde court case postponed, NewsFirst (Jul. 26, 2019), available at https://www.newsfirst.lk/2019/07/26/gotabaya-rajapaksas-appeal-against-the-avant-garde-court-case-postponed/13. Maria Abi-Habib, How China got Sri Lanka to cough up a port, New York Times (Jun. 25, 2018), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/25/world/asia/china-sri-lanka-port.html; Wade Shepard, The story behind Sri Lanka’s emptiest airport, Forbes (May 28, 2016), available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2016/05/28/the-story-behind-the-worlds-emptiest-international-airport-sri-lankas-mattala-rajapaksa/#4ecbf6d47cea.

14. Gota’s War, at p. 163.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    Today addressing the women wing of SLPP Gotha said “he will pay extra care for women and children” of Lanka. This is the guy who threatened a female reporter with bodily harm of even death. After Trump this guy will be the next presidential candidate to do so. Jeyawewa.

    • 6
      0

      Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! What joy when even one sinner repents. Gota who promised that brave journo – “You shit eating pig” “They will murder you” has become human again. Frederica-ca-ca-ca it might be safe to return to your motherland once more. Sweet joy.

  • 4
    12

    “What Gota’s Candidacy & Shavendra’s Promotion Mean For Us Sri Lankans’
    .
    Freedom from the fear of blown into pieces.

    Soma

  • 9
    0

    We want to live without fear of being killed – like before.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Sri_Lanka

    Is it too much to ask for?
    The successors of those who did, and their commanders, are now back, with added ‘police powers’.

  • 2
    5

    Shreen write an article about crazy easter bombers if you can highlighting the religious views about terrorism and criteria for entering heaven

  • 4
    1

    No point of complaining if unp alliance appointing a maithreepala type joker candidate like sajith Premadasa to compete with power full business capitalist party mahindas slfp candidate got a.sajith can get 24 lacks of unp sinhala vote base and if he gets 90% of Tamil Muslim votes he can get 21 lacks , maximum sajith can go up to 45 lacks. Percentage wise 31%. Gota coming on party mahindas slfp which holds 6 million Sinhalese block vote base
    This vote base is like fixed deposit for them. If unp alliance want to compete with gota they need entire 8 lacks of JVP vote base, entire 6 lacks vote base of Maithree, 90% of 12 lacks floating votes. If unp alliance candidate is sajith( sirisena 2) or karu please get ready to watch gota swear in as a president on 9th December 12.30 pm.

  • 5
    2

    N.Perera

    “Two greatest war generals, Gota and Shavendra.”

    Please explain as why both are greatest war generals?

    ” No nonsense with this two. “

    You are right, they both know they are immune from all kind of war crimes, because the war was conducted by Hindians and Americans. So they could kill people however they want to knowing Hindian and Americans would save their asses.

    “These 2 never ever divide Sri Lanka, no Elam, no separate country.”

    Both cowards know Hindians would not allow it to happen.

    “These 2 knows and the entire world knows Aryans Sinhalese country belongs to Helayans (Sinhalese) , Sri Lanka is known as Heladva”

    What is your point if there is any?
    What is an Aryan country?
    When did it become one?

    When feudal nationalism hits your head hard people talk nonsense.
    You have gone beyond the threshold, hence recovery is difficult.

  • 4
    9

    Koti Diaspora guys are shitting bricks when they think of the Gotabhaya and Shavendra combination. Koti Diaspora is asking White Supremacists to take action against Shavedra. If they take any action, Sinhalayo will impose full scale sanctions against Demalu.
    After Muslim terrorist attack Sinhalayo imposed sanctions against Muslims and showed how effective their action. Muslim traders are crying and telling their plight to BBC. Sinhalayo do not want Demalu or Muslims to survive but Demalu and Muslims can’t survive with-out Sinhala customers.

    • 6
      1

      Eagle Eye Mahindapala,
      Your glee about all these killings is nauseating.
      You would not openly gloat over killings of humans, in Australia where you are safe with your Tamil wife – you would be arrested and locked up.

    • 1
      0

      Eagle Blind stupid Fascist Eye

      “Koti Diaspora guys are shitting bricks when they think of the Gotabhaya and Shavendra combination. “

      Forget the Koti Diaspora for a minute.
      Now tell us what these single handed cowards did when Hindian invaded this island until the IPKF was evicted by the LTTE baby brigade?
      Were the cowards hiding behind their women folks or VPs fat bum?

      Security forces are supposed to protect their people from invading alien armies, in this incident IPKF from Hindia.

      Please keep these cowards under rap else they will start killing their own innocent people, 1987/1991, until 2015, Welikada Prison, …

      You do not need to respond to my comments.

  • 3
    6

    “Those who think Gota would “Make Sri Lanka Safe Again” should remember the state-sponsored terrorism he unleashed.”
    ——
    What bloody state sponsored terrorism? Eliminating barbaric Demala terrorists is not state terrorism. Rajapakses gave peace and democracy to Para Demalu but still they hate Rajapakses. It is UNP Governments notorious for state sponsored terrorism. Demalu have forgotten terrorism sponsored by UNP thugs in 1983. Still these shameless guys prefer Ranil.

    • 0
      0

      Eagle Blind Eye

      “Eliminating barbaric Demala terrorists is not state terrorism.”

      You are right in the name of eradicating terrorism is not state terrorism however your stupid racist goons in uniforms killing innocent people from 5th April 1972 to 2015 is

  • 1
    0

    I also agree that the Executive presidency should be abolished because, every parliamentarians say they want lot of pocket money, So they need to allocated some billion every now and then to the President’s fund. The advantage is they do not have to present the expenses to anyone. some ministers may be the one who had double dose viagra charge even viagra and condom expenses to the President’s fund.

  • 7
    0

    FOR ALL INTENTIONS AND PURPOSES, I AGREE GR AND SHAVENDRA ARE TO BE CONDEMNED AND CONVICTED. BUT WHAT ABOUT BIG BROTHER MR AND THE WORLD GOVERNMENTS AND ORGANISATIONS THAT DID THE DIRTY GENOCIDE ?

    ARE THEY ALL ABSOLVED OF THEIR SINS ?

  • 0
    0

    What I say, some one is pushing Sri lanka too much. We can read a lot in between lines. One thing is Kenya had problems like this. Then, Kenya chased out NGOs, Quit ICC and I think, UNHCR too. Now, they are growing up a decent country. they have their own credit cards. they are not going for 5G and stay with 3G. Agreeing to 5G for a srilanka like country is just politics. Srilanka can have only 3G and achieve everything they earn.
    I know how Bolsanaro won; how the previous president and the presidential candidate was jailed and removed from the presidential election. That is the same reason, we need a corrupt ministry of Law enforcement, Lawyers and Judiciary. then they will jail the Presidential candidate and make win the Mangala – approved candidates. I do not think people will allow taking forces people out.

  • 0
    0

    Shreen Abdul Saroor
    56 Comments
    Impunity Reigns Supreme: What Gota’s Candidacy & Shavendra’s Promotion Mean For Us Sri Lankans

    Maithripala Sirisena’s promotion of Sharvendra as Army Commander and Mahinda Rajapaksa presenting Gota as Executive Presidential Candidate nothing more than
    MS: Anything you can do, I can do better.
    I can do anything better than you.
    MR: No you can’t.
    MS: Yes, I can.
    MR: No, you can’t.
    MS: Yes, I can.
    MR: No, you can’t.
    MS: Yes, I can, Yes, I can!
    .
    Is impunity reigning supreme? Self-preservation has taken a bit off the shine.
    Is the once thought of the impregnable MR family, permeable?
    Basil R’s prized ‘kill’ was SLPP but the alfa-R decided to commandeer the ‘kill’.
    Is MR worried that GR has sold his soul?

  • 1
    0

    Shreen Abdul Saroor is the first journalist to call Gnanassara Thera “the BBS hate mongerer-in-chief”.
    Shreen points out that Gnanasara was afforded the impunity to incite mobs to burn Muslim homes and businesses in Aluthgama and Dharga Town.
    Shreen adds {“…That thug now has a presidential pardon”}
    MR/GR portray Gnanasara as a Heroic-Angel.

    • 0
      0

      We dont agree with hate mongering but Ganasara fore told that some thing like the Easter Sunday Massaker could be unleashed by Muslim Exteamist in Sri Lanka.

      And it came true _ so it is apparent that there is some truth in what he said.

      If the Present dumb government followed up on this 300 lives and the reputation of the country could have been saved.

      • 1
        0

        We Are Sri Lanka

        Are you the part of the Rajapaksa clan to have such boasful psuedonym?

        So are you saying the saffron clad thug is a yogi who knows the past, present and the future? In that case Gnanasara should replace Mahinda’s court astrologer Sumanadasa Abeygunawardena.

        However try this, you too could say 1,000 or more things, in time one or two may come true.

        Dumb or clever government could keep watch on security matters 24/7/52. Isn’t it why since 1948 security matters have been delegated to various security agencies, institutions, personel, …. departments, . etc?

        Police is too keen to extract bribes from poor motorists than catch the would be terrorists. The army top rankers are are interested only in their interest, commissions from large contracts, foreign postings, nex promotion and perks accompanying the rank, how best to cover up war crimes, corruptions, kidnapping, …. etc.

        Who gives a toss about the innocent people or the ordinary people.

        You should focus your criticism on dump forces and their commanders in addition those politicians who promote them.

        • 0
          0

          The government that cannot take responsibility for the
          safety and security of the the country is an incompetant government.

          We cannot comprehend what kind of loonatic will safe guard such a government.

          If these nutters cannot promote the right people and ensure the security of the people.

          THEY SHOULD GO HOME

          Shame on You NV for supporting these JOKERS.

  • 0
    0

    means nothing or upward.

  • 0
    0

    YES. “freedom from the fear of blown into pieces”. When ambulances (white ) are replaced by just vans with no siren or number plates/tags , public will not be aware or disturbed. Usually no remains or shred of evidence is left , so that, they can be free of fear ??????

  • 0
    0

    Native Vedda

    You raised some supplementary questions earlier to follow up our reminiscing of the Fragrant one.

    I don’t ‘think’ about Sex in the city these days (too dangerous at my age!) However it is quite heartening to see present day women taking the initiative. Sex in the city is all about their empowerment. Nice.

    As for political Buddhism – well, Buddhism in Sri Lanka is Political as a result of entwining Buddhism in the Constitution. Can you imagine the nonsense of having Buddhism ‘protected’ by a bunch of devious self-servers?

    Village women? – why? they are God’s gift. Long may they flourish.

    Viharadipathis? – by and large a bunch of opportunists. Mostly deviants on accounts of the opportunity that come their way for mischief.

    By the way NV, re these questions are you conducting some king of research? or have they been troubling you in some way? I think we should be told.

  • 0
    0

    CT, lately we are experiencing lot of difficulties in accessing your page. It’s loading very slowly, and most of the time we are unable to open the site at all. Might be some issues with your website or some one is deliberately creating issues for they don’t want your independent reporting and taking an unbiased view of all what’s happening in the country unlike other media outlets of the country.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.