23 May, 2024

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Pardons & Amnesties To Heal The Divided Nation

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The release of eight long term LTTE prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act by the government was unexpected. The government led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe has arrested and detained about 4000 people associated with the protest movement though it has permitted bail to be granted to most of them. But several hundreds, if not more, continue to languish in detention for several months. The government has so far not been receptive to calls for their release, or amnesty, by national and international human rights organisations. In particular, the arrest of Wasantha Mudalige, a student leader, and Venerable Galwewa Siridhamma Thero, a young Buddhist monk active in leadership of the student movement, both charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, has elicited widespread condemnation most recently from the country’s Human Rights Commission, which has been demonstrating a sterling sense of independence for a state body.

The release of the eight LTTE members by the government needs to be commended as it is a long standing demand from the Tamil community and Diaspora and will be helpful in creating a climate for national reconciliation. At least four previous governments have balked from doing this despite protests and pleadings from their families and national and international human rights organisations. Three of those released had been convicted of trying to assassinate former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who was blinded in an eye by the bomb attack. Prior to releasing them through a presidential pardon signed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the government has ascertained the sentiments of the former president and obtained her consent. In a manner similar to her former protégé President Maithripala Sirisena who pardoned an LTTE member who had tried to assassinate him, former president Kumaratunga demonstrated the magnanimity that is required to bring healing to our tortured and divided country and people.

In a startling admission the presidential secretariat stated that four of the eight prisoners had served longer prison terms than their court-ordered sentences. “Three prisoners had been sentenced to 30 years in prison and had served 22 years, one prisoner who had been sentenced to 11 years and had served 14 years, one who has been sentenced to 10 years and had also served 14 years, two prisoners who were sentenced to five years but had served for14 years, were among those who received a presidential pardon.” This would appear to be a serious violation of human rights and an intolerable abuse of power by those who kept them incarcerated in this manner. The government would need to conduct an inquiry and offer an explanation to the victims as well as the larger national and international communities how this happened. The extra judicial detention would tend to justify the claims made at international forums such as Geneva and also raises the question of how many more are incarcerated without any judicial mandate.

Lighting Strike

The powerlessness of victims and their families in the face of the government’s use and abuse of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the pathetic plight they can be reduced to can be seen in the case of the LTTE prisoners. The Human Rights Commission has pointed out that “Under section 9(l) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) No.48 of 1979 as amended, where the Minister has reason to believe or suspect that any person is connected with or concerned in any unlawful activity, the Minister may order that such person be detained for a period not exceeding three months in the first instance, in such place and subject to such conditions as may be determined by the Minister. Any such order may be extended from time to time for a period not exceeding three months at a time, provided that the aggregate period of detention does not exceed twelve months.” The PTA has been used and abused in this manner for 43 years and is rightly called a draconian law as it permits people to be incarcerated without a judicial order.

No sooner had President Ranil Wickremesinghe been elected President by a majority vote in Parliament in July this year the government cracked down hard on the protest movement through the security forces. Protest sites that had been in existence for over three months and which had been shown on media throughout the world as a testament to the power of non-violence by masses of people, were torn down and protestors on the streets were baton charged and tear gassed till they fled. These severe deterrent actions, in violation of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression, soon brought the mass protests to a halt. Worse still, the government has used the dreaded Prevention of Terrorism Act to incarcerate those who have not been shown to have engaged in violence or to have plotted it.

Today the country has a veneer of normality, due to the forcible suppression of protests, which can be helpful in bringing tourists and their dollars back to the sustenance of the economy. But in reality the president and government are presiding over a powder keg of economic deprivation and sense of injustice suffered by the masses of people. Those in the protest movement are well aware that many of their fellow protestors have been arrested and are in prison. Their sense of injustice rankles when they see government-affiliated hoodlums who instigated and took part in attacks against peaceful protestors continue to enjoy their freedom and engage in their corrupt practices. The double standards being practiced continues to erode the credibility of the government and its leadership and can act as a lightning rod to mobilise future protests.

Dormant Uprising

The protest movement does not consist of only those who come out publicly onto the streets to shout slogans and obstruct traffic and make a show of strength. There is a much larger protest movement that is currently dormant, who are suffering due to the collapse of the economy and who have to give priority to earning for their families. It is not enough that the government should reduce the price of a few essential commodities when the real income of the people has shrunk by at least a half due to inflation rates that exceed 70 to 100 percent. There is also a need to assuage the sense of injustice that those who caused the economic collapse are free and in power but those who protested and ensured that a new president and new government should take over are the ones being punished.

Wasantha Mudalige and Ven Galwewa Siridhamma have become symbols of the injustice perpetrated against those who are powerless by the government. Both of them were arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). The PTA is about terrorism and is meant to prevent terrorism. The Human Rights Commission has defined terrorism to be where “Any person by the use of threat or use of force and violence by unlawfully targeting the civilian population or a segment of the civilian population with the intent to spread fear thereof in furtherance of a political, ideological or religious cause commits terrorism.”

Applying this standard, the Human Rights Commission has asserted that the arrest, detention and continued incarceration of Wasantha Mudalige and Ven Galwewa Siridhamma from August 18 onwards under the PTA is “unreasonable and without justification.” Both of them are in poor health, are reportedly kept in appalling conditions, and Ven Siridhamma in particular has been hospitalized due to the possibility of him contracting the dengue virus which can prove fatal. They have not yet been charged for any offense and are being detained under the draconian provisions of the PTA that the government has pledged to repeal in its entirety to the international community. An amnesty to them declared by President Ranil Wickremesinghe can exert a healing influence in the same way as intended for ethnic reconciliation by the pardons granted to the LTTE prisoners.

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Latest comments

  • 18
    1

    “The release of the eight LTTE members by the government will be helpful in creating a climate for national reconciliation”.
    … What should my feelings be on reading this?
    Jubilation? Rejoicing?
    If that is what Jehan Perera expects from me, I am sorry, I have to disappoint him.
    They are not my sons, daughters, nephews or nieces.
    I do not know why they were incarcerated. I do not know why they were imprisoned for an inhumanely long period without evidence. What about the rest of the members. How can I rejoice?

  • 17
    2

    If Wasantha Mudalige, and Venerable Galwewa Siridhamma Thero are both released I’ll see consistency in the release of LTTE members.

  • 21
    3

    “Pardons & Amnesties To Heal The Divided Nation”

    Pardons & Amnesties are needed for people who have committed crimes …….. not for people put in gaol for ol’ Ranil’s fear of the truth. ……… The pitiful attempt to cover the bleeding bloody obvious everyone out there knows!

    Ranil is the one who needs a pardon …….. along with his 37 ministers …….. the 225 + their robber baron sidekicks. ……… How did they get so rich and the nation/people so poor and bankrupt?

    Jehan, Man do you know the damage you cause by writing this insipid dross/crap? If you have no gainful employment, Native will double what the NGOs are paying you to take a long vacation.

    • 8
      1

      nimal fernando

      “If you have no gainful employment, Native will double what the NGOs are paying you to take a long vacation.”

      Man, all what I want to say to you is
      “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” ― Voltaire

      Therefore Jehan, Dayan, Shenali, SJ, ….. do not seem to make much difference. Why worry?

      However I would like to remember Voltire for the following Quote
      “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” – Voltaire

      • 8
        1

        Native,

        Like Jehan, you are now escaping the issue here …….. by dishing out platitudes.

        When Jehan advocates Pardons & Amnesties for people who have not committed crimes ………. he legitimizes the status quo of jailing the innocent on the whims of the rulers to prolong their illegitimate power.

        Why doesn’t Jehan has the courage to just say …….. release the innocent who shouldn’t be in jail?

        For the NGO dollar, he is trying to strike a conciliatory/”diplomatic” stance to legitimize the corrupt activity of the people in power. Does he realize the harm he does? ………… Man, is there anything more shameful than that?

        There is truth and there are lies: nothing in between. ………. Everything else is just bullshit.

    • 7
      0

      nimal fernando

      Please forget Jehan Perera for a minute.
      This country has a serious problem.
      People are stealing from Journalist Rajpal Abeynayake left right and centre. Today he claimed his book has been stolen/plagiarised by Shehan who won the Booker prize.
      Please watch this clip bloody marvelous :
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5evvOxCBnk&t=56s
      Earlier a couple of decades(?) ago he lost his wallet in Thailand, you know where.

      I do not know as things are happening to him his trouncer and underwear might also disappear. Do we need STF protection for his AMUDE?

      • 4
        0

        Dear NV,
        .
        I don’t want to say anything for now.
        .
        I’m listening to this
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5evvOxCBnk&t=56s
        .
        right now. I’ve submitted this comment about 4.25 a.m.:
        .

        Panini Edirisinhe
        4 minutes ago
        Good heavens, is all that I will say for the moment. These are known people and I must think this out.
        .
        The time at which I’m submitting this is 04.32
        .
        It may be that I’ll stay out of all this. There are necessary hats, and totally unnecessary hats!
        .
        Being in Bandarawela, I’m out of touch with this sort of thing.
        .
        Panini Edirisinhe

        • 5
          0

          Native,

          “People are stealing from Journalist Rajpal Abeynayake left right and centre. Today he claimed his book has been stolen/plagiarised by Shehan who won the Booker prize.”

          Should I believe either? ……… Should we read/like a book because it won a white-man’s prize? ………When do we like a book for itself?

          I’ve always said I’m a Cynic ………. an admirer of Antisthenes, Diogenes, Crates of Thebes, ……….. I even went to Athens/Greece and roamed the streets they roamed: it is that important to me ……… and my cynicism is also aimed at myself …….. in my heyday, I know what I told girls: nothing different from what Ranil or the Rajapakses are telling voters …….

          “I tell women that the face is my experience and the hands are my soul. Whatever, just to bring those panties down.” ………. “Then the exchanges of promises. I wasn’t very good with promises.” …………

      • 6
        0

        Native,
        Don’t you think Rajpal Abeynayaka (ex-Abeynaike ) seems to be after a dram or two? Why do you think he changed his name?

        • 11
          0

          Native,
          This Rajpal, a dodgy character who was editor of the Daily News u til 2014, is a well-known defender of the Rajapaksas and their politics. Shehan’s book is against majoritarianism. It’s difficult to see how he could have “copied” anything from this drunken Rajapaksa stooge.

          • 11
            3

            Are you suggesting that Abeynayake is sub-human ! Those looks are certainly a burden representing the low qualties of humans .
            But my thinking is that this book was published some years back( although the booker prize was won this year)
            Why did not Abeynayake object when the book was first published ?
            A case of looks and thoughts living in harmony in Abeynayake !

            • 4
              0

              deepthi silva

              “Why did not Abeynayake object when the book was first published ?”

              Are you sure “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” has already been published by Shehan Karunatilaka?

              Booker winner Shehan Karunatilaka denies plagiarism allegation Says Rajpal Abeynayake’s claim ‘baseless, insulting, unfounded, libellous’
              https://www.themorning.lk/booker-winner-shehan-karunatilaka-denies-plagiarism-allegation/

              Is Rajpal Abeynayake going to sue Shehan.
              It would be an exciting event to watch.

              Please tell me does Rajpal has a genuine claim over “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida”?

              • 4
                0

                Native,

                Without reading Rajpal’s novella and Shehan’s book how can one decide if it was plagiarized?

                People can’t decide on gossip and innuendo ……. let the evidence come into the public domain.

                If not it’s just a tiff between stooges …….. you, a Ranil stooge, and Rajpal, a Rajapakse stooge :))

                As for plagiarism …… from the day we are born we pick up things from others …… most of what we know, we have picked up from others: very little is our own ……. except Sinhala_Man’s musings – at times I wonder where he gets them!

                I’ve plagiarized Old Codger word for word; how to talk to girls ……. Masters are always dropping lessons ……….

        • 0
          0

          OC,
          Sounds better, possibly after a dram!!??

          • 0
            0

            Mahila,
            🙂🙂

      • 0
        0

        Alleged Plagiarism
        *
        *
        What is now being suggested:
        .
        There was something that happened long ago; about the time that the now aged* Ranil Wickremasinghe entered Parliament.
        .
        Isn’t it similar to what is talked about here?
        .
        https://medium.com/literature-lust/what-you-might-not-know-about-alex-haley-and-roots-6e26ac5a0fcc
        .
        Quoting from that blog: “it was a long time ago, but when you think of Roots today, you probably don’t think about the court cases and allegations of plagiarism that were levied against Alex Haley.”
        .
        Many other accounts of this. For example:
        .
        https://www.brightworkresearch.com/roots-author-alex-haley-was-a-serial-plagiarizer-who-was-protected-from-exposure-because-he-was-black/
        .
        I agree that what is necessary is to read the book, and judge it on its merits. It’s clearly a worthwhile read.
        .
        All this publicity may have been to increase sales. Even then, none of this is as bad as the sodomising of Lanka by patriotic politicians.
        .
        * I acknowledge that I, Panini Edirisinhe, am a few months older than Ranil. Time for us to depart this life.

    • 6
      2

      Dear nimal fernando,
      .
      I know that I’m a bit of a fool, and also that I am a bit of a joke to some, although I want to be taken seriously. If I’m not taken seriously, and dismissed as an eccentric (as you have done yesterday, I don’t really mind, because I don’t think of myself as being a guy of any importance.
      .
      I’ve scrolled down and now see that Naive Vedda’s comment, although polite implies roughly the same as what I’m going to say. Despite your customary sardonic tone, you’re being serious here. Whenever Jehan writes something at least passable, I try to say something pleasant. But I’m forced to agree with you that Jehan is causing damage to all Lankans by writing crap.
      .
      When you write later about Native’s offer, you’re again being sarcasm.
      .
      I rarely use sarcasm. I remember Jehan the star tennis player, etc. I agree that this is crap. I will make another comment at the bottom of the page, after stating clearly that nimal is right.
      .
      Panini Edirsinhe

      • 1
        0

        I must have been really tired to have written that single sentence penultimate paragraph.
        .
        “……… you’re again being sarcastic.”
        .
        OR
        .
        “…….. you’re again displaying sarcasm.”
        .
        Plus plenty of other ways of saying it.
        .
        I’m sorry to trouble readers with this comment which adds nothing to the discussion.

  • 12
    2

    Jolly good start for a number of amnesties and pardons, abut which some of us may not be very amused

  • 19
    1

    Thank you Jehan.

    The fact that some of those “pardoned” had been detained longer than the period for which they were sentenced proves that we live under a racist state. They needed no pardon. They had a right by any reckoning to be free.

  • 16
    2

    “The release of the eight LTTE members by the government needs to be commended as it is a long standing demand from the Tamil community and Diaspora and will be helpful in creating a climate for national reconciliation. “
    This is not the way to create climate for national reconcilliation. This is only made because of there is no other to escape from the current economic crisis. This President was in power as Prime Minister for many times. Reconcilliation should come from hearts and minds of the people in normal situation. What is the guarantee once the country become normal?

  • 6
    0

    Pardons & Amnesties To Heal The Divided Nation

    After Wasantha is arrested he is becoming more popular than before aggravating done by the president
    Like the late Nelson Mandela people will vote more that the present parliamentarian as he sided the people by the people for the people from the people is suiting to wasantha, Ranil is enabling conditions that allow people to go from being victims to being victors. The staus of wasantha apperant The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are

  • 14
    1

    This writer is like a wet mop hanging to dry. His words have no strength to anything that needs assertion. From stating the obvious and what is known to everyone on the forum, his insipid mumblings do not inspire anything. He is limp, floppy and impotent. He must wake up, wipe away the cobwebs and write something that brings a spark to the reading community. Otherwise, he is no different to a Kachcheri staff member taking their pay doing nothing.

  • 10
    0

    This is a state of dictatorship ,
    _
    In Kurunthamali courts ordered not to build the Vihara, but ignored the orders and carrying on with security forces

  • 7
    0

    Writer forget to mention the pardoned of Trinco school children abducted murdered for ransom

  • 8
    1

    Thank you Ranil W – the President of the “134 Idiots” in Parliament. It was only after you signed that “DO” (Detention Order) on Wasantha Mudalige, Ven.Siridharma and another student leader, all who participated in the “Aragalaya” (that which you supported) the PEOPLE (mostly the Sinhala/Buddhists and other “Leftists”) realized the “EXIXTENCE” of such legislation called “PTA”. Till you signed that “DO” the general public was not much concerned about the “Hundreds and Hundreds” who have been on “DO” and langushing in prisons for years and years, most of whom were not even charged.

    I know, you will sign many more “DOs”, because you have a recorded history of a penchant to incarcerate the youth as evidenced by the “Batalanda Commission Report”.

  • 2
    2

    In Sri Lanka, it is cheaper to become a terrorist than a murderer. No matter how many people are killed by you, you get all the international support, free legal support, presidential pardons and good marketing from Sri Lanka’s corrupt politicians. There is no word about the victims of LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka.
    Then there is bio terrorism. Ukraine, which developed bio weapons to kill millions of people world over, gets all the international support. There is no word about the victims. New Covid variants magically disappeared after Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine. I bless President Vladimir Putin for saving billions of innocent people by deactivating bio-labs in Ukraine.
    Now, Ukraine is accused of planning to use a dirty bomb in their own terriroty in support of the Biden administration. President Joe Biden is a hundred times better than the megalomaniac Trump. The world doesn’t want Donald Trump ever again. Amid protests from the Ukraine administration, Mr. Putin did the right thing by evacuating over 70,000 civilians from Kherson. However, some kind of massacre is in the offing. If Mr. Joe Biden is “confident” of his victory, there is no need for any kind of massacre in Kherson.

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