By Emil van der Poorten –
I know the campaign of Maithripala Sirisena for the Presidency of Sri Lanka was based primarily on getting rid of that obscenity of modern governance in Sri Lanka, an Executive Presidency gone stark raving mad.
However, what emerged as the campaign progressed was a huge surge of anger and resentment about the massive corruption with which the Rajapaksas had swamped the country and the fact that people realized that this was not something “out there” but something that had already proven to have major implications for every Banda and Biso and in which ocean of filth their progeny and the progeny of those progeny would surely drown if permitted to grow.
Yes, the implications of the wanton spending and lining of political nests with ermine of unbelievable value had become evident to every man and woman in Sri Lanka’s rural regions. And as Sir John Kotelawela and his UNP discovered in 1956, this could generate a political wave of Tsunami proportions. Yes, while it is the tenth anniversary of that terrible event hammering a large part of Sri Lanka’s coastline, this political tsunami promises to wreak havoc even more widely in our island nation, from its beaches to its highest mountains. The difference, though, is that it is a benign storm.
We can and must harness the energy that was released on January 8th in the manner most positive for our country today and tomorrow.
How do you do this?
The primary concern should be to stay away from petty vengeance as too often has become the Sri Lankan tradition immediately after an election. In order to ensure this and avoid the senseless vengeance that has done damage to a nation and its people more times than I care to remember, we need to employ the law as it was meant to be used: to punish the guilty and give solace to their victims. Such an exercise will have another restorative result: it will resurrect practices of law and justice to a point that people begin to realize that what is in statute books and in the criminal code has validity. This has been diminished to the point that it has disappeared from public perception.
The catharsis that is most necessary after all these years of corruption and violence in the name of “governance” is a most necessary thing if we are to restore our island nation to something resembling the Beacon of Democracy it once was in this region.
We don’t need kangaroo courts or the Asian equivalent of Ku Klux Clan in white hoods to punish the guilty. We need the application of existing law to bring to book those who’ve robbed us blind, with patronage for that endeavour extending to the very highest levels of this government which blithely claimed that “anything goes” insofar as “our people” (“apey minissu”) were concerned.
Criminal conduct calls for the application of criminal law. That said, trying to drag the mountain of criminal activity through existing legal avenues will simply cause roadblocks of unprecedented proportions and set even the existing court systems in backlog mode for years to come, putting even the hobbling apology for jurisprudence that exists today in reverse gear.
If need be, more judges and prosecutors must be employed and the (public) funds recovered from the thieves should be employed to meet at least some of the additional costs. While this will certainly mean money well spent, it will hardly make amends for the massive damage inflicted on this country in so many ways. Make no mistake however, this is a first ESSENTIAL first step in the effort to restore national pride and self-respect and to bring back the rule of law.
The placatory statements made by the erstwhile opposition’s leaders during the lead up to the Presidential election about President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his henchmen not being prosecuted for their criminality need to be treated as just that: placatory statements and little more. Prosecutions must be launched with the least possible delay. In this case, justice delayed will, indeed, be justice denied; to the huge number of victims and not, as is usually the case, to the accused only.
Those businessmen who played “footsie” with the Rajapaksa Regime so that their customer-gouging enterprises prospered have already begun their attempts to influence the course of essential justice, seeking to have these monumental miscreants handled with kid gloves, just in case they return and these second-rate capitalists need their patronage again. This should NOT, on any account, be permitted because the people expect the incoming President to do what every new broom is expected to do: Sweep clean!
We can and must make the pursuit of justice our No. 1 priority not only because it is the right thing to do but because we owe it to ourselves if we are to claim to be, in any way, a civil and civilized nation.
As for the apologists who went before international tribunals and the television channels of this world, blatantly lying in defence of their masters in government, they must be exposed absolutely and completely for what they are, liars, prevaricators and totally amoral sub-humans. I have one particular individual in mind who now sits front and centre on Mr. Sirisena’s platforms. This fruit of his father’s loins did not fall far from the paternal tree (if I might be permitted to mix my metaphors) and I cannot but add a little sidebar to that allegation. The man’s father I’ve heard praised for having “helped” people from his village to get good government jobs when he (the sycophantic father) was setting new records in sleazy stooging for the delectation of his progeny and the world at large. What his admiring referees fail to see is that the man was “helping” his kinsmen and others from his hometown get jobs that would otherwise have gone to those chosen in the normal scheme of things after being judged on their merits and suitability for the positions concerned. This “pulling of strings” is devoid of anything resembling fairness while parading as something praiseworthy. Obscene! Like the man himself and his plummy-voiced progeny!
As for those who’ve skirted criminal offenses just barely but have, nevertheless, done what passes for the “public good” enormous damage by the propagation of outright lies and deceit, they need to be exposed, chapter and verse, for what they said and, stemming from that, who they really are. You might not be able to put them in jail, but you can surely reduce their effectiveness when they return to the trail of misdirection another time, as they surely will. That most of them, sans their Rajapaksa patronage, might end up in the unemployment line would be poor enough punishment for the untold damage they have done individuals that they have targeted in this country not to mention the whole area of public information.
I would suggest that every appointment based on political grounds made by the Rajapaksa regime be scrutinized in full public view and, where necessary, those who’ve been picked in complete contravention of fairness and the guidelines existing for such appointments be terminated with immediate effect. This must be done by a group or group of people about whose integrity and honesty there must be no doubt. A hard bill to fill? Perhaps, but something eminently “do-able.”
Another matter, particularly given the fact that Sri Lankans’ right to access information has been seriously curtailed by the Rajapaksa Horde, is the matter of Internet Service Providers blocking their subscribers’ access to a variety of websites carrying information about Sri Lanka. The conduct of those in telecommunication companies such as Dialog and Sri Lanka Telecom must be investigated and, if there is a prima facie case to be made against them for removing a basic democratic right from citizens of our country, they should be prosecuted without hesitation immediately.
If all of the preceding sounds like some kind of national cleansing, it is meant to be just that because I am convinced that nothing short of an exercise of that nature will suffice to restore even a modicum of decency to this country in the conduct of its affairs.
This piece would certainly lack balance if I didn’t comment on an entity that has emerged as powerful beyond the level of its public support: the Jathika Hela Urumaya. This bunch with a track record in racism and xenophobia only second to the Bodu Bala Sena, are beginning to look like the proverbial tail wagging the coalition dog. This must end and, even if their presence is necessary in the short term for strategic reasons, they must be kept on the shortest of leashes. They basically run counter to the central thrust of the public support for the Coalition and their chauvinism must NOT be permitted to intrude on that Coalition’s efforts to establish fairness, justice and equity in Sri Lanka.
How can you help? Make sure that you take every opportunity to keep the feet of those in decision-making positions to the fire. Nothing else will suffice and remember, if we don’t make sure that this is done, what we achieved on January 8th could all be for naught.