Those Who Wield Political Power Will Be Punished If They Deviate From Righteous Principles!
Cilappathikaram or the story of Jewelled Anklets is one of the great epics in Thamil literature written about first century AD and authored by Ilango Adikal a Jain monk. It narrates the ordinary lives of early Thamils. The story begins in the Chola Kingdom, then moves on to Pandya Kingdom and finally ends in Chera Kingdom. The epic describes the presence of King Viyabahu at the invitation of Cheran Senkudduvan propitiating a temple for Kannagi (Goddess Paththini) the heroine of the epic.
Kovalan the son of a wealthy merchant marries Kannagi the daughter of an equally wealthy merchant and the parents find them a separate house to live. However, Kovalan falls in love with a dancing girl called Madhavi leaving Kannagi to live alone. After some l years and squandering his family wealth he returns to Kannagi and apologises profusely for his shameful conduct. Penniless, Kannagi offers her precious pair of anklets filled with rubies to be sold and with the proceeds to restart his trade. Ashamed to live in the city of his birth and unable to face his parents and in-laws, Kovalan asks Kannagi to accompany him to the great city of Madurai, capital of Pandyan Kingdom.
On arrival at Madurai they found shelter in a cottage, and Kovalan went to the market to sell one of Kananga’s anklets. But the queen of Neduncheliyan, king of the Pandyas, had just been robbed of a similar anklet by a wicked court goldsmith. As fate will have it, the king was told that the thief who robbed the queen’s anklet was waiting in the market to sell it. The king without a second thought gave orders to slay the thief and bring the anklet forthwith.
There were bad omens on that day and when the news was brought to Kannagi that her husband was mistaken for a thief and was killed by guards on the orders of the king. She then goes out in search of her husband into the town. After weeping, sobbing and crying over her husband’s dead body she hastens her way to the palace addressing the king as “an unenlightened” king. By dashing the anklet to the floor and breaking it Kannagi proved to the king’s discomfiture that the anklet seized from Kovalan is filled with rubies while the anklet stolen from the queen is filled with pearls. Ilango describes the court scene thus:
When he saw it the parasol fell from his head and the sceptre trembled in his hand.
‘I am no king,’ he said,
‘Who have heeded the words of the goldsmith?
‘I am the thief. For the first time
I have failed to protect my people.
Now may I die?’
[And he fell to the ground, dead.]
The queen seeing her husband dead, she too passes away. Still raging with anger she curses that the city to be destroyed by fire.
Though Ilango Adikal was a Jain monk, he did not use the epic to propagate his own religion. He praises all religious gods alike, unlike the twin epic, Manimekalai which its author, Sathanar used the work to teach Buddhist philosophy.
At the end of the epic, the author himself lays down the threefold literary objectives of the epic:
- That virtue itself is the executioner of those who err in politics
- That the great will ever praise a chaste woman of great virtue
- That fate will inevitably follow and give the fruits of ones past actions
By now readers would have guessed why I had laboured to quote the threefold objectives of the epic. There is uncanny similarity between the fall of king Neduncheliyan and President Mahinda Rajapaksa, except the latter is victim of what he did in this birth. He was dethroned by the people for deviating from righteous principles.
In fact, President Maithripala Sirisena pointed out this eternal truth in his own style. During the recent Joint Opposition Paada Yathra from Kandy to Colombo, Maithripala Sirisena took aim at his predecessor, pointing out that “if former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had carried out his duties “properly,” there would be no need to undertake long marches for political purposes while “hurting their feet”.
President made this statement at a ceremony held at the auditorium of Mawanella Provincial Council on Friday to distribute computers to 50 Pirivenas and churches in the Kegalle District.
“Though some people greedy for power walk through roads aimlessly, the Government is committed to build the country by working with consciousness and discipline,” the President said.
“Today, the country is suffering from a debt burden of Rs. 9,000 billion. The new Government has to face the challenge of an unbearable debt burden created by the former Government,” he charged.
Instead of the word “properly” the president might as well used the words “righteous principles.” Suffice to say during the authoritarian rule of ex President Mahinda Rajapaksa the country was sliding rapidly towards elected dictatorship.
The 18th amendment gave Mahinda Rajapaksa more powers beyond turning a man into woman or vice versa! It took only 10 days for the amendment to become law on September 8, 2010 with in 8 months of the presidential elections. There was no hint that such an amendment is in the offing during the elections. On the contrary Mahinda Rajapaksa tongue in cheek talked about the abolition of the Executive Presidency. The general public was not given any chance to air their views. A docile cabinet and parliament rubber stamped the draft bill and an equally submissive Supreme Court ruled that 18th amendment was consistent with the provisions of the Constitution and did not require a referendum.
The 18th amendment was a classic example of the saying power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Mahinda Rajapaksa made use of the extra ordinary powers to impeach the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and remove her from office unceremoniously in January, 2013.
On February 08, 2010 just under two weeks after the presidential elections held on January 26, 2010 Mahinda Rajapaksa got Sarath Fonseka a highly decorated “war hero” and the “world’s best army commander” arrested on trumped up charges using the military, put him on mock trials and sent him to prison to rot for two years. All these vindictive acts were due to Sarath Fonseka daring to contest Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presidential elections.
Mahinda Rajapaksa 9 years rule as president was an unmitigated disaster for the country as a whole. Even the defeat of the LTTE, which earned him the title ‘King’, is tainted with allegations of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
While in office Mahinda Rajapaksa did what a democratic ruler should not do. A ruler should rule his subjects with love and compassion. A ruler who is arrogant and who does not listen to complaints, which does not examine and pass judgement justly, will perish in disgrace. A ruler must act impartially towards all his subjects and dispense justice without fear or favour. The life of a ruler will be shortened and he will quickly perish when people say “Our ruler is cruel.” A ruler without the guard of men, who can rebuke him, will perish, even though there is no one to destroy him.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was guilty of all these failings and wrong doings and fell from his throne much quicker than many expected. The fact that his opponent at the elections went into hiding out of fear for his life on the night of January 8th, 2015 tells it all.
Three weeks after the election President Sirisena told BBC Sandeshaya’s Saroj Pathirana in an interview that he wouldn’t know whether he and family would be alive today if the elections favoured the other side. “That was the democracy the Rajapaksas practiced. I know that only too well” he said.
On the day of the poll, Sirisena after casting his vote at Polonnaruwa took refuge in a “safe” house in a coconut plantation at Dodangaslanda owned by one Kiran Atapattu. It was a long night and as news filtered that he was leading the polls he decided to leave for Colombo.
It was ironical that Sri Lanka’s incumbent Executive President had to seek a safe hideout until the final outcome of an election in a country which at one time was described as a “five-star democracy” by J.R. Jayewardene in his hey-days as president.
The disclosure by President Sirisena is a telling indictment about the state of governance under Mahinda Rajapaksa and his siblings. He went to polls two years before his term unaware that nemesis has caught up with him. Certain of a land slide victory; he challenged the opposition to name his opponent. At the end he reaped what he sowed many times over.
Three weeks after his election victory and speaking at a rally held in Polonnaruwa, President Maithripala Sirisena said that he left the former government regardless of the threat to his life, adding that if he were to be defeated, he might be lying six feet underground by now. He added that the former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa had planned to arrest his children to ‘torture’ him if he had lost the election.
It may be recalled that Maithripala Sirisena campaigned under considerable threat to his life. His campaign was marred by more than 400 incidents of violence, allegations of fraud and intimidation. At least three people have been killed in pre-election violence.
During the rule by Rajapaksa family, they were considered as demi-gods. Those under them slavishly followed their orders. Life was cheap for politicians, editors, reporters, businessmen, sportsmen etc. Anyone who dare to cross the line or tried to step on their toes was summarily dealt with. Today, dethroned from the throne, family members of Rajapaksa are trekking between the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) office, courts, prisons and national hospitals. Cases of widespread corruption, waste, abduction, murder etc are being reopened and suspects indicted in courts in some cases.
(1) Pillayan, the former chief minister of the eastern provincial council and two other TMVP members Edwin Silva Krishna Kandaraja alias Pradeep Master and Rengasami Kanayagama alias Caajan Mama were arrested in October, 2015 in connection with the murder of Joseph Pararajasingham, MP who was gunned down on the night of 25 December 2005, during Christmas Mass held at the St. Maria’s Church in Batticaloa. The arrests were made 10 years after the killing.
(2) Indictments have been filed against six people belonging to Karuna group for the murder of former TNA Parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj on November 10,2006. He was 44 at the time of death. Others include two navy personnel and a policeman. They are charged on five counts including murder, aiding and abetting murder and conspiring to murder.
(3) Seven military personnel, including an Army lieutenant, two colonels, a staff sergeant and a corporal have been arrested by the CID over the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda. The suspects were produced before the Homagama Magistrate and remanded until December 30. Two of them are deserters.
(4) On July 15, 2016 the CID arrested Sergeant Major Pemananda Udulawala of the Army Intelligence Unit in connection with the murder of Sunday Leader Chief Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge on January 8, 2009 at 10.30 AM. Lasantha was on his way to office in Attidiya on that fateful day. Lasantha was 50 years of age at the time of his death.
Udulagama has been charged with abduction of an eye witness, assault, conspiracy and making death threats. Udalagama, during the time of Lasantha’s murder had reported to Major Ansar in the DMI. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was the then Defence Secretary who angrily and arrogantly told the BBC correspondent that Lasantha wrote many articles very critical of many people and any one among them could have killed him.
The prosecution told the court that one Lal Valentine Wickramaratne of Gnanendra Mawatha Ratmalana had made a confidential statement to the CID that he had encountered one of the killers on the day of the killing. During an identification parade held at the Mount Lavinia‘s Court, the driver of Lasantha Wickrematunge identified the Army Sergeant Major as the individual who kidnapped him, after the murder of Wickrematunga. The new probe came as a sequel to mounting allegations against members of the former regime for shelving of the probe indefinitely. Over 20 men from the Army have been grilled to date on the killing. Now the CID has obtained court permission to check the 63 bank accounts held by 60 Army Intelligence Unit (AIU) officers including that of Kandegedera Piyawansa.
The CID summoned ex- IGP Jayantha Wickramaratne, ex-DIGs Prasanna Nanayakkara and Chandra Wakishta for questioning over the assassination of Sunday Leader chief editor Lasantha Wickrematunge. A few weeks before his assassination, Editor of Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Leader newspaper Lasantha Wickrematunga penned a chillingly prophetic editorial predicting “When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.”
Published three days after his assassination, the editorial titled ‘And Then They Came For Me, ‘ said, “I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of our president to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish.
(5) The Colombo Fort Magistrate Mohammed Mihal, re-remanded till August 10, 2016, former Senior DIG Anura Senanayake and the then OIC Crimes of Narahenpita in respect of the killing of ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen on May 12, 2012. He is a father of an infant child. His body was found dead inside a burning car after an apparent accident in the capital Colombo. The Senior State Counsel, Dilan Ratnayake told the Court, that the telephone calls that reached the office of the OIC had been investigated by the CID.
Some of the calls had been from the Presidential Secretariat. They were yet to be investigated. These shows the orders to assault kidnap or kill critics mainly originated from the presidential secretariat. During the time of previous regime, the death of Wasim Thajudeen was treated as an accident and the file closed. The file was reopened after claims that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s security officials killed Thajudeen.
On August 10, the police exhumed the remains of former national rugby player Wasim Thajudeen, whose charred body was recovered from his burned-out car in May 2012. Recently, a government spokesman claimed that Thajudeen had been tortured and murdered by members of Rajapaksa’s presidential security division. The prime suspect in this case is Namal Rajapaksa, the eldest son of ex President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Hence, the closure of the file calling it an accident and not premeditated murder.
While progress has been registered in a few high profile cases, there are many others lying in limbo. There is no progress in the killing of 17 workers belonging to Action Against Hunger (ACF), a French charity, who were lined up against a wall and shot dead one by one on the morning of August 10, 2006. All 17 were executed still wearing t-shirts embroidered with the ACF logo. The armed forces were accused of carrying out these killings.
There is also no progress regarding the extra judicial killings of five Thamil students on January 2, 2008 allegedly by the STF. The students were shot point blank while seated and chatting at the Trincomalee beach. Hundreds, if not thousands, of such cases remain in limbo for years and years.
There was a climate of impunity during the previous regime and perpetrators of serious crimes like mass killings, abductions, involuntary disappearances etc remained beyond the long arm of the law.
The political fate that has caught up with Mahinda Rajapaksa, his siblings and his cohorts is a lesson to those who wield political power that they will be punished if they deviate from righteous principles.