By Laksiri Fernando –
Apart from being an illegal appointment to the post of Chief Justice, Mohan Pieris undoubtedly is a controversial character in many respects. His business connections and government appointments are well known and contrary to the independence and integrity expected by that highest position in the judiciary. He was the Chief Legal Advisor to the Cabinet. He himself is personification of ‘conflict of interest’ par excellence. The following is an article I wrote about his views on the ethnic question and reconciliation which was published in the Asian Tribune on 16 June 2012, seven months ago.
I wish the readers to pay attention to what he said about the ‘lawyers, constitutional jurisprudence and the Tamil community’ quoted in my paragraph 14 below. This is what I quoted:
“The whole problem with the Tamil community is that they have too many lawyers there. They just talk law. They are enjoying themselves talking constitutional jurisprudence.”
When he said that he was just the former Attorney General, but now he is supposed to be the Chief Justice. Look at his attitude about constitutional jurisprudence, lawyers and the Tamil community. His full interview appeared in the Asian Tribune under the title “Mohan Pieris: On the urgency of reconciliation for lasting peace” on 12 June 2012.
Dangerous Pronouncements of Mohan Pieris on ‘Reconciliation’
Dr Laksiri Fernando
When the Asian Tribune, probably the Editor KT Rajasingham himself, raised the important issue of ‘confidence’ as a possible barrier for the TNA and the UNP to so far nominate their representatives to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), Mohan Pieris, in an interview on 12 June 2012, characterized it as “being selfish,” and lambasted saying “What is confidence? They are enjoying all the perks of their offices they hold. They enjoy all the material benefits every other government members enjoy. What is this confidence they talk of?”
Mohan Pieris is not only a former Attorney General of the country who recently lost his credibility by saying one thing to the UN Committee on Torture (CAT) on the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda and then refuting it cheekily before the Homagama Magistrate, but also the Chairman of the Inter Agency Commission to Implement the Interim Recommendations of the Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). In addition he is also a Special Advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers.
To such an important person on reconciliation, ‘confidence’ or ‘confidence building’ in the reconciliation process equals to ‘perks’ and ‘material benefits,’ perhaps revealing his own mindset on matters that are well prominent nowadays in Sri Lanka. Thus he cannot understand why the TNA or the UNP cannot have confidence in the government, when they enjoy the official benefits of MPs, as if these benefits are given to them by the benevolence or as ‘bribes’ of the government. What is implied is the ownership of power and wealth within a small group of people, masquerading as Government, and the need for others to serve them with ‘confidence.’
When the interviewer commented on the TNA position that “they are not going to come as far as I am aware,” the answer was “well..well..well…then the Government will have to do the next best thing.” Mohan Pieris also spelled out this ‘next best thing’ saying that “there are other right thinking people in the Tamil community who will join with us and will come with a formula which we think is the next best.” It is perhaps in this context that he mentioned about the ‘perks’ and ‘material benefits’ that can generate confidence among some ‘dummies’ instead of the TNA.
Pieris also talked about ‘clapping’ and ‘Tango.’ “It takes two to Tango. You need two hands to clap,” he boldly said. But instead of a real Partner to Tango, as he revealed, the government is going to have a dummy as the second best. Why? The answer came when the Asian Tribune asked “why can’t the government try to persuade the TNA?”
First it was sheer arrogance saying, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t get it to drink.” Then it was utter impatience when the need of ‘government again talking to the TNA’ was suggested. The answer was “What is there to talk…We are just talking, talking and talking.” This was the attitude of such an important person from the government side on ‘talks’ as part of a reconciliation process or political negotiations.
Pieris was somewhat taken aback when the “UNP also not joining the PSC” was suggested. “So that is because none has the country at heart” was the answer. He was not talking about a ‘second best’ in this instance. Instead, he was waving the ‘patriotic’ card.
When the Rajapaksa associates first brought the issue of ‘patriotism,’ many people who wanted to be critical of the government, including myself, were somewhat puzzled thinking whether they (we) were doing something wrong, because we all love the country. But now it has become an utter joke simply because of the scale of abuse, vendetta, plunder and deceit going on in the name of patriotism.
In the interview, Pieris very clearly refuted the possibility of reconciling with the TNA. That should be noted by everyone at home and abroad. “I can only reconcile with someone who wants to reconcile,” he categorically said. Perhaps he was ignorant of the political implications of the simile that he brought into the discussion. He said, “it is no different to – may be a family break up.” He should know better than anyone else the marriage law regarding separation or divorce when there is a family breakup. I am sure however he is ignorant of the theoretical literature on the subject of self-determination that equates political separation to family breakups.
There is no wonder why Mr R. Sampanthan was talking about the impossibility of having a ‘solution even within a united Sri Lanka’ at the ITAK convention in Batticaloa, if he has encountered utterances like Mohan Pieris’ during the “quantum of dialogue” with the government that Pieris referred to during the interview. Still I would persuade Mr Sampanthan to otherwise.
It was utter nonsense that Pieris talked about referring to amity among communities in the Galle Face Green! Almost like a senile ‘post-modernist,’ he said “in the evening you see the community living in peace. They are talking, laughing and enjoying themselves. There is no Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers over there.” Then he said “Nothing,” like what he said about “Ekneligoda’s whereabouts” before the Maharagama Magistrate: “only God who knows.”
Perhaps this type of self-deception must be going on in the inner circles of the Rajapaksa associates. It is entirely true that the ordinary Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims have ever lived in peace and still wants to live in peace and amity. Then who is igniting communal ill feeling and violence like what we recently saw in Dilithura, Dambulla or Dehiwala?
At least we know for sure that Rev. Inamaluwe Sumangala who led the attacks on the Dambulla Mosque was a President’s delegate to Myanmar in June 2009 just after the end of the war and perhaps he learned those tactics from there (listen to ITN News on YouTube, 18 June 2009). It is equally known that many recent attacks on Muslim religious places, including the Dehiwala Musjid attack on 25 May 2012, were led by the JHU monks, a constituent partner of the Rajapaksa administration.
Most dangerous or vicious were Pieris’ comments on the TNA leadership and Mr Sampanthan. When the interviewer asked why doesn’t the government “talk to the TNA leader Sampanthan on all these issues,” the sarcastic answer was “in that case we will add another round of talks…The whole problem with the Tamil community is that they have too many lawyers there. They just talk law. They are enjoying themselves talking constitutional jurisprudence.” Mind you, these answers came not from an ordinary politician, but from a former Attorney General.
This is not what I exactly thought vicious, but his comments about the future of the TNA leadership. He said, “Sooner or later the present TNA and the whole existing political outfits will be no more due to natural causes (my emphasis).” Pieris didn’t explain what these natural causes might be but repeated even at the very end of the interview that “the present TNA and others will be no more due to natural causes (again my emphasis).”
I have met Mr Sampanthan several times and he is an extremely a gentlemanly and a pleasant person whatever the political differences that we may have. I call him ‘Mr’ because of his seniority and with respect. We all know that he is old with several health problems.
The world needs an explanation from Mohan Pieris what he meant by “natural causes.” What we know about him is his entanglement with disappearances in Sri Lanka, especially of Prageeth Ekneligoda. If he is involved with ‘natural causes’ as well, then he should explain them without dragging this time God into the whole affair.