23 January, 2020

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President Reduces Democracy To Elections And Human Rights To Defeating Terrorism!

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

I am basing this critique mainly on President’s interview to the Daily Mirror titled “Critics of SL Have a Misguided Notion” published on 1 January 2014, as it is always better to be precise when discussing the issues of human rights or democracy. The views expressed in this interview have no excuses of ‘problems of articulation,’ like in a ‘on the spot’ interview, as it was conducted in advance through email, probably with other’s assistance.

It was highlighted in the preface to the interview, President saying that “those who criticise the Human Rights record of the country are either those who have not visited [or don’t know] the country or those who are the voices of the LTTE.” I cannot possibly be accused of either of these allegations, as I have always been a strong critic of the LTTE, and my knowledge of the country cannot be second to the President.

I understand, however, that he was aiming the allegation mainly to the ‘outsiders,’ but what it shows is his intolerance to any criticism and dismissal of any human rights advocacy as “voices of the LTTE.” He has also further stated in the same vein, “They simply act as the voice of the defeated terrorists. They are both within and outside Sri Lanka.” This is quite unfortunate as it equates ‘human rights criticism to terrorism.’

My focus of this article is not on the human rights record of the country as such, but the pitiable views expressed by the President on human rights themselves. Altogether he has answered 10 questions and most of them are to do with development and infrastructural projects on which I don’t have much issue here. However, what is characteristic is his attempt to highlight the achievements of development, in contrast to the record of human rights, as if to say that human rights and democracy are things that the people have to scarify in achieving development. This is unacceptable and defy the experiences of development and human rights in many countries.

Direct Question

There has been one direct question on human rights that was asked from him: “There has been criticism against your government with regard to human rights abuses. What is your response to this?”

In response, he has himself asked two questions: “Who criticises us? And why do they do so?”

This is of course a response, but not a genuine answer to the question from the caliber of a President. However, he has admitted that the critics are “both within and outside Sri Lanka” and has ironically stated that what he now calls “malicious propaganda…was set in motion since the early 80’s” which obviously includes himself in that category of ‘malicious propaganda.’ It is possible that he was reflecting or mirroring on the matter, from his own image or motives on human rights.

In late 1980s, he was acting as a human rights crusader. This is well known. He was also a human rights lawyer. As an opposition Member of Parliament, he went to Geneva to the UN Human Rights Commission, the predecessor of the present UNHRC, with Vasudeva Nanayakkara and was extremely critical of the then government. I was a witness. He cannot deny that. Those days, not only the North, but also the South were engulfed with different types of terrorism. That time, patriotism was not a barrier for him to criticise the government. Why now? Is it just because he is the President? As the saying goes, ‘what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.’

In addition, there is no threat of terrorism now, for which the main credit undoubtedly should go to him. But aren’t the people deserve more freedom now than before?

If he were using human rights, just as a propaganda tool for political ends at that time, without any genuine conviction, it is possible that he wants to judge everyone from that yardstick. That is not fair or correct to say the least. It is rather outright hypocrisy. From my own experience, I do completely differ that human rights is just a propaganda tool. Human rights are genuine concerns although some use them for political purposes. I have known many other human rights crusaders of that vintage, for example, Jose Romos-Horta. Jose became the President of East Timor, but did not betray or flinched on human rights like President Rajapaksa.

The following however was the full answer that he has given to the question.

All those who criticise us including those who have never set foot here and those who do not know what Sri Lanka looks like or her history or for that matter what happened in the period 1983 to 2009, are those who accuse us without any evidence.  They simply act as the voice of the defeated terrorists.  They are both within and outside Sri Lanka. I don’t have to tell you the scale of the malicious propaganda that was set in motion since the early 80’s. 

As governments, we have been poor in countering these and presenting our case forcefully.  The only abuse is that we defeated the brutal terrorists which some people labeled as unbeatable.  I have always maintained that we have given opportunities for people to present any grievance and that we have a rock solid judicial system which is time tested.  I reject that our government abused human rights.  I cannot comprehend how those same people who accuse us now, waited in stoic silence when the terrorists for nearly three decades massacred thousands of innocent people, men , women, children, pregnant women etc., and governments of the day looked helplessly being unable to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.  Where were the so called human rights crusaders then?

I have already commented on the first part of the answer which also appeared as a preface to the interview in the Daily Mirror. He may be correct to say that “As governments, we have been poor in countering these and presenting our case forcefully.” This must be the reason, why the government is hiring Thomson Advisory Group and the Majority Group in the US alone, spending over Rs. 15 million of tax payer’s money per month in addition to other extravagant expenses for propaganda and propaganda personnel.

If Sri Lanka faces human rights questions fairly and squarely, and makes genuine efforts to improve them, the expenses cannot be that high. Honesty is inexpensive, dishonesty is expensive. Of course there can be adverse propaganda initially, whether you are honest or not, but they would die down eventually.

Human rights are not ‘grievances’ as he has implied in the statement, they are important entitlements of the people. The ‘rock solid judicial system’ that he has boasted about, was not even in a position to safeguard the dignity and the rights of the Chief Justice, not so long ago, due to the government manipulation. This is a time tested fact, not a fiction.

Reductionism

The question asked about human rights was not merely in the context of the war. Therefore, to say that “the only abuse is that we defeated the brutal terrorists which some people labeled as unbeatable,” or “I reject that our government abused human rights” is not relevant. More than its irrelevance, it is a reduction of all human rights issues to the elimination of terrorism.

The defeat of terrorism or elimination of it, was a necessary task to reestablish peace and democracy in the country. But to imply that it should be or should have been done at all costs is inconsistent with human rights and humanitarian law.

The President’s reductionist attitude or approach also became revealed when he referred to the Northern elections.

I am also happy that we were able to restore total democratic rights of the people in the North which the terrorists deprived them of, for many decades and hold free and fair elections to the Northern Provincial Council.   

It is completely erroneous to claim that the holding of the elections to the Northern Provincial Council as a restoration of “total democratic rights of the people in the North.” Although the wording imply that the ‘total restoration’ was done even before the elections; that was not at all the case. While it should be appreciated that the suppression of terrorism has undoubtedly opened up democratic space in the North, that space is also circumscribed by the heavy military presence and their activities. Let me highlight one aspect of the complexity in the North as follows.

When the North was under the yoke of the LTTE, although they were ‘terrorists,’ they were Tamils. The army in the North today, although ‘not terrorists,’ are Sinhalese.

This is something that the country should find a solution for.

There is obviously a complete lack of understanding of the subtleties involved in the Northern scene, even if we assume that the President is genuine in pursuing some reconciliation. But most grotesque was his attitude towards democracy and governance. There were many places where he pictured democracy as just elections. That may be his limited understanding, I am sorry to say. But most dangerous authoritarian pronouncement came when he was referring to what the British PM said during CHOGM.

In regard to what the British PM said, I must emphasise that we are a sovereign government, duly elected by the people and that no one can threaten countries or governments. (My emphasis)

It is true that no one should threaten ‘countries or governments.’ It is also true that the way David Cameron uttered his challenge also was reprehensible, waging his finger. International leaders should not behave so. But to counter that or anything else, the President cannot claim that his Government is Sovereign. This cannot be ignored as a slip of the tongue or the pen. What was said more precisely was “we are a sovereign government.”

‘We’ can soon become ‘I.’

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    Sri Lankans as a Rule, (not only the President), seem to be suffering from a Huge Inferiority Complex. We react negatively and subjectively to any criticism, without any recourse to Objective Investigation.

    Responses are knee jerk reactions of dismissal, of the perceived Criticism, and withdrawal from dispassionate examination of the same.

    This seems to be a result of our System of Education, which places so much importance in cramming and passing of exams, and so little in Training the Mind to Think and Communicate, Logically, Independently and Creatively.

    • 2
      2

      “Sri Lankans as a Rule, (not only the President), seem to be suffering from a Huge Inferiority Complex. We react negatively and subjectively to any criticism, without any recourse to Objective Investigation.”
      _________

      Fernando is no different from Rajapassa he evades from accepting that the “Sinhalese are the cause of the problem and no one else” because like Rajapassa he has much more to hide than the poor villagers of the north or south.
      They are all from the left policy only they know which they feel we don’t experience.;)

      29/1: News: Responding to MP Stephen Timms who asked what recent assessment Swire has made of the likelihood of a credible domestic process beginning by March 2014, the FCO Minister has noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay in her September 2013 oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has said that she had “detected no new or comprehensive efforts to investigate” alleged war crimes during her visit to Sri Lanka.

  • 4
    4

    Dear Laksiri,
    I am still reading this article. In the middle of the reading, I am just thinking about your security. You know the current situation of the country and the rights of the Academics and the Journalists.

    • 2
      3

      Fool fool! He is one of them. Scum cannot be open otherwise that why they enter teaching, the priest or politician – control freeks

    • 2
      2

      Thanks Seena.

      • 1
        2

        What a scumbag like pavement preme.

  • 2
    3

    Dr Fernando@,
    Congrats to you, one another great piece.
    All right thinking masses will agree with you the contents of this well articulated article. MR’s responses to serious questions of the day have always taken as you described above. And I think the interviews that he give have been limited to 1 -2/year in last 5 years. It is high time him as the leader of the nation, if he is honest as his rhetorics repeatedly sharp – address the real issues like REIGN of IMPUNITY under his guidance today. One clear things I noticed myself sofar is, either he cant give proper answers to any of the key questions or is trying all folks to pay attention on only his so called development projects that are totally reduced to rd constructions, highways and while totally paying blind eye to education, nation building, justice and rule of law, religious affairs and the several other essential areas.

    • 2
      1

      In other words, lanken states affairs have NOW been reduced to Rajapakshe affairs ( “we” have become “we the Rajapakshes”) – totally abusing the independent functions of many ministries like Justice, Education, religious and cultural affairs to this day.

      a) In recent attacks exercised on several churches in Hikkaduwa, there minister of justice did not utter a single word as he has been used – nor took he serious as Halal issues and the related attacked were made, or in the case of beheading disaster of that poor girl due to the lack of due actions could have been taken by the state (from the relevant ministry)

      b) I read somewhere the country’s PM is adding his remarks in terms of the violent behaviours of some buddhist monks – giving a sign that country’s second most important person has no direct access to discuss these grave issues directly with the president

    • 1
      1

      Mr Sirimal,

      I appreciate your comments. I hardly have a disagreement on what you say here or elsewhere. That is one reason why I normally don’t respond. But I think we should concentrate more and more on how we could get out of this mess. Your contributions may be necessary both in writing and in practical terms.

      Laksiri

      • 4
        0

        Greatly appreciate Dr. Fernando.
        Please take good care of yourself wherever you are. Rulers’ shenanigans are planted everywhere to the manner LTTE rebels planted mines in the N an E provinces of the Island then – and we are all well aware of their reality to this day.
        My source of info restrict to CT and few other electronic media. I am also accessed to several news sources from Germany, the Netherlands, UK and several other european countries. But I try my best to make an unbiased picture about the prevailing situation of the country. I would not easily become a person like Abhaya (overwhelmed – OR even intoxicated just got to see the SOUTHERN HIGHWAY OR THE OTHER PHYSICAL CONSTRUCTIONS for example) when I annually visit my aged parents. Abhaya – one another apologist of them repeatedly attack us on this platform.

        Nor have I the least idea how I would feel if I dwelt on a remote corner of the island today. Anyway, sad to see the fate of the masses that have only been fed with – ongoing updates without fact and figures.

        Anyway, I am very interested in how could it be, had the very same masses been informed adequately providing them with the ground reality as they really are. Political chicanery and high level corruption should be made clear to all.
        To tell you truth, it took me so long to realize- why the opposition have zero effects today in the parliament: Rulers have applied all their tactics building up walls (surveillance devices) across the country. The bricks of these walls are made of their siblings, offsprings, close relatives, far relatives, political shenanigans and the shenanigans of the shenanigans (basing on ape miniha principle). MR is tactful person by nature – his criminal energies were enormous – akin to those of JVPrs in late 80ties. MR spends millions of poor people funds to keep mentioned intact. Only a tiny minority in the country are aware of all these while poor gullible, gawky rural folks – that still stay rhapsodizing – nothing else but the WAR VICTORY will have no chance to see beyond. Like the Stasi reporters in former eastern Germany kept all important info away from the nation, masses in our country have, to this day, believe only what state media pass to them. Those contain only about unctuous development projects – nothing about huge losses continuously being made by national carrier for example. If media men, by any means could approach those rural masses (that are the voter majority making up 70% of the island population) by providing them with TRUTHS.. but the truth, then we can hope for a better future. Alas, CURRENT Situation is like CAUGHT BY DEVIL

  • 3
    1

    President Reduces democracy to rigged elections

  • 3
    0

    It is not his understanding, he knew very well when he went to Geneva against the then Govt. It is simply the greed for power and the deception of the masses.

  • 2
    0

    “In addition,there is no threat of terrorism now………………….”
    Laksiri Fernando overlooks the disappearances,dead bodies occasionally found in the north,assaults and shootings of citizens protesting against perceived injustce,toture beatings and deaths of citizens in custody of police and prisons,shooting deaths of 27 welikada prisoners whch have not yet been explained by inquiry,reported assaults by police of citizens,threat of “rehabilitation” of a female NPC member who among hundreds of others saw relatives taken prisoner by the army at the end of the war,and ‘disappeared’ without race,
    journalists disappearing,shootings and arson of a media organisation in the north,rapes of young and old females etc.
    These amount to what is called State terrorism.
    State terrorism in the past,periodically killed batches of tamils commencing around 1951.
    Tamils were victims of State Terrorism since soon after independence,then from 1983 of LTTE Terrorism, and now since the end of the war,again of State Terrorism.

    • 2
      2

      Mr Justice,

      It is not that I have ‘overlooked’ the events and violations that you have highlighted. I believe that when one writes, it is better to focus on one theme and also limit the length. I think Vibhushana also made this valuable comment. I did state that my focus is not on ‘human rights record.’ I have on and off written on some of the things that you have rightly highlighted.

      As for terrorism, yes you are right in saying that those acts can be characterized as ‘state terrorism.’ But that is not the general understanding, and there is also a distinction between the two. I raised the ‘no threat of terrorism now’ to counter the argument of patriotism and to show double standards. My purpose of writing is not just to denounce or expose, but mainly to convince the unconvinced. Not that I have any disagreement with those who vehemently expose the regime, but my approach is step by step and different. I am saying this not to defend all what I say, but to explain. Criticisms or observations are always welcome.

    • 0
      2

      go to Tamil Nadu and settle there… then you will not have a problem

      • 1
        0

        Sudarshan

        Go back to Tamilnadu and settle down there then we will not have a problem.

      • 1
        0

        Sudarshan you Sinkalam:

        Why don’t you go to Mahabodhi and settle there. Hurry up man.

  • 1
    0

    Dear Laksiri,
    You worked with The President closely if I am right. So you know his knowledge in politics. Recent interviews shows, to what extant he could face the international media. So there is nothing to wonder about his response in the case of Human Rights and the Extreme Sinhala Buddhist issues against to not only to the minorities but also to the critics of the government.
    He was the one who told that there is no Minorities in the country. Former and the Current VC of Col. Uni too defended it publicly. Unfortunately some of the SO CALLED political scientists were silence. Though his purpose was building a common Sri Lankan Community or Identity, the argument is politically incorrect. What do you think about it?

    • 2
      2

      Dear Seena,

      This is to put the record straight. I was not so close to the current President, although I defended him on certain matters in the past. Even now, I might not have any hesitation to appreciate if he does anything positive. To be fair on his part, I think he always had some reservations on me while I did the same. Three main matters were on the ethnic question, devolution and human rights.

      As per the ‘political scientists,’ people do have certain limitations and/or different ways of approaching things. We should not pursue these personal matters too much.

      • 0
        0

        “”I might not have any hesitation to appreciate if he does anything positive. “”

        Kutti Vasudeva!!

        What a moronic politician thinking he is a scientist.

        Your chemistry set must be stinking to high heavens.

  • 0
    1

    Isn’t Democracy all about peoples choice through the ballot box?..

    Our vellalas in Colombo are under the Sinhala Army, now .

    And they were under the protection of the same Army for three decades prior to Nanthukadal.

    Even then these Vellalas participated in elections every 3 to 5 years to elect the LTTE proxy TNA over and over again.

    Isn’t this Democracy?.

    BTW , When did this Dr visit his ex Motherland last?.

  • 1
    1

    The points you have made are all well and good. What MR cannot fathom out is: he found the politically will to end once and for all the terrorism of the LTTE and deliver the country peace. With it came the expectation that he would be rewarded with gratitude by the south and with relief by our northern citizens who suffered just as badly. Instead he finds himself pilloried at home and a pariah internationally. So, MR asks, where is the justice of it all? His answer is to become more entrenched with his sycophants and his brother keeping the Sinhala-Buddhist army onside. All his hopes rest with the Sinhala-Buddhist voter and their eternal gratitude – that is from where MR and the Rajapaksa dynasty will draw validation.

  • 2
    1

    Dr.Fernando:

    First of all a response to MRs answers or denials about the killing of Innocent Tamil Civilians.
    The problem that the Tamils have and indeed now the World has is that MR doesn’t think that killing Innocent Tamils in pursuit of his goal to destroy the LTTE is a Crime. For him LTTE is a Terrorist Organisation but for Tamils Freedom fighters. We can go on arguing about this but let us accept we are never going to agree. This is why we are not going to have any reconciliation in Sri Lanka and frankly it is Impossible.

    Democracy for MR is a means to an end. I am sorry to say this but for MR the end is to convert Sri Lanka into a Buddhist Country where Tamils are turned in to Second Class Citizens and I call that ethnic cleansing.
    I am sure you are a reasonable civilised man and let me let you from my line of work I have evidence which can be corroborated to confirm the Reign Of Terror to which the Tamils are being subjected to. I am sure you have seen evidence of this during the CHOGM.

    **** I totally disagree with the following and let me explain why.

    In regard to what the British PM said, I must emphasise that we are a sovereign government, duly elected by the people and that no one can threaten countries or governments. (My emphasis)

    It is true that no one should threaten ‘countries or governments.’ It is also true that the way David Cameron uttered his challenge also was reprehensible, waging his finger. International leaders should not behave so. But to counter that or anything else, the President cannot claim that his Government is Sovereign. This cannot be ignored as a slip of the tongue or the pen. What was said more precisely was “we are a sovereign government.”

    ***** Sri Lanka might be a Sovereign Country but if you claim to be a Civilised Country there are Rights & Obligations and they both go hand in hand. Sri Lankas obligations are to treat every Citizens equally but Sri Lanka has failed dismally in this respect. But even worse is the fact when the oppressed fought back they were killed in their thousand under the pretext of eliminating Terrorism. The so called Terrorism which we call Fight for Freedom has been replaced by State Terrorism which is sweeping the Country.

    If you abide by civilised International Standards you wont be threatened but Sri Lanka has sadly failed that test and Mr.Cameron has every right to Question Sri Lankas behaviour. MR has sadly betrayed Sri Lanka and tarnished her image and you have no one but yourself to blame.

  • 1
    1

    LF is a secret Rajafucksa man.

    This is Rajafucksa trick. He buries spies who criticize him. Get them to collect information on who cheers them and send to Rajafucksa. Gets them!

    Muzammil, that singing politician CM, Mangala, Dayan, etc.

    They openly fight secretly love.

  • 0
    0

    Actually Rajapaksa promised an honourable peace, the JVP & JHU pushed for a war victory, masterminded by the General and his 4 year plan (from the time of CBK and refusing to vacate Jaffna HSZ during Ranil’s stint)

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