22 October, 2017

Putting The Sri Lankan State On Notice Post CHOGM

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

As the nation catches its breath following an extravagantly useless Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit 2013 (CHOGM), the only way in which Sri Lanka can avoid evident international pitfalls ahead is to put our internal democratic systems in order.

TRC another procrastinating tactic

It is time and more that we stopped wasting energy protesting double standards followed by Western nations where accountability for human rights abuses is concerned. Such fierce gnashing of teeth in regard to historical as well as present injustices may raise some hurrahs and may certainly be justified. But justification matters little when measured against the harsh realities of international realpolitik. That much is evident.

And the way ahead is not through the appointment of a South African style Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as reported recently. This move speaks to an increasing desperation of the government in finding yet another way to procrastinate and delay, to not deal with the inevitable and let go its authoritarian hold on power.

The TRC was suited to South Africa in a particular post-apartheid context under the visionary leadership of Nelson Mandela. It was meticulously planned and carefully executed by the country’s leading clergy, judicial figures and public personalities of unimpeachable integrity. Importantly this was accompanied by a gradual crafting of workable democratic structures, an advanced Bill of Rights and a proudly independent South African judiciary. The TRC was not conceived out of the blue as it were and dropped down into the country as an excuse to avoid dealing with the general democratic process of government while everything remained dysfunctional elsewhere. It was peculiar to South Africa. Similar models have not worked elsewhere, even in the African region as we have well seen. Where Sri Lanka is concerned, suggesting a TRC without any conception of what this actually means but as another procrastinating tactic seems so childishly simplistic that it truly beggars belief.

No practical implementation of LLRC report

And we hear talk of a TRC even as the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which is the Rajapaksa Presidency’s loudly boasted ‘homegrown’ Commission, remains shamefully bypassed in large measure. During CHOGM, glib excuses were advanced by government spokesmen that there had been fifty percent implementation of LLRC recommendations. This is patently untrue. The deterioration of the Rule of Law was a core focus of the LLRC report. We have not seen the government’s adherence to that LLRC focus so far. On the contrary, the ‘soft’ recommendations of the LLRC have been reluctantly implemented while its ‘hardcore’ recommendations that go to the dismantling of this Presidency’s authoritarian and militaristic power structure remains glossed over.

One classic example is the cosmetic creation of a new Ministry of Law and Order under which the Department of the Police has been placed. However, to all intents and purposes, the militarization of the police continues, the secretary to this so-called new ministry is a former army man and the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence who is the President’s brother, evidently continues to exercise command responsibility in regard to the police.

The enactment of a Witness and Victim Protection law where the police are apparently given the task of protecting victims even though the police themselves are very often the very source of the threat is another example. Meanwhile, we do not hear even a whisper regarding the enactment of a Right to Information (RTI) law. The government’s fear of an RTI Law being wielded as a formidable weapon to expose its monumental corruption is crystal clear.

Reversing post-war militarization of the State

It is ironic that even while diplomats boasted on international news channels during CHOGM that the emergency regime in Sri Lanka has been withdrawn, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) continues to be in force and is used against dissenters and critics of the government. One recent example was the detention orders issued against Muslim politician Azath Salley including one ridiculous charge that he had been ‘humiliating the government.’ Here as in several other instances, the power of the Presidential pardon was used to take the case out of the consideration of the court and into the province of presidential or monarchical magnanimity.

Over and above everything else however, Sri Lanka’s judicial and legal processes must be freed from executive control. The judiciary itself must engage in vibrant protection of civil liberties of the Sri Lankan people, similar to what the Sri Lankan Supreme Court was during the mid 1990’s, before the disastrous Silva decade. This country has had entrenched traditions of judicial stubbornness in resisting government abuse even though the constitutional framework did not permit a sweeping exercise of judicial powers as much as, for example, the Indian Supreme Court. Despite past ravages, there are brave and good judges still in this country. They must be allowed to exercise their judicial role without fear of consequences from the political branch and the destructive consequences of the 2012-2013 witch-hunt impeachment of a sitting Chief Justice must be reversed.

Promise of dire consequences post CHOGM

Where the criminal justice system is concerned, the office of the Attorney General needs to be restored to at least a modicum of independent functioning. Patchwork indictments in respect of extraordinary human rights violations that should have been properly investigated and prosecuted with perpetrators punished years ago will not suffice.

But in all probability – and barring an ecstatic miracle – none of these will happen. And the consequences for Sri Lanka, in terms of being outlawed from the community of nations despite our gleaming expressways and rising city skylines, are dire indeed. CHOGM made that perfectly plain, even to the palpable idiots in our midst.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    KISHALI:

    NOT only Britain but also most of Europe is dependant on Chinese – Ren Nimbi for their survival.

    Think along that line.

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      JimSofty

      “NOT only Britain but also most of Europe is dependant on Chinese – Ren Nimbi for their survival.”

      My elders tell me that this was the case in the 1980s and early 90s, the only difference was it was yen then.

      Are you hoping one day Sri Lankan rupee would replace Ren Nimbi, Euro and Dollar?

  • 0
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    So now you realize that David was blowing a lot of hot air and nothing else.This time we will give you the south African thing.Till then wait.You see,these things take time.Wait!wait!wait!Why the hurry?

    • 0
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      Max Silva

      “So now you realize that David was blowing a lot of hot air and nothing else.”

      No some cold air, we could see it from shaky and cringed face of MR.

  • 1
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    The Rajapaksas are only putting forward a TRC to counter Western pressure. In reality any TRC will do nothing but whitewash GOSL war crimes and immunize GOSL from facing justice. This TRC is all just a plan to escape justice and keep delaying meaningfull action into war crimes.

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    Old traditions die hard. We Sri Lankans have turned blaming everybody else into a fine art; from the convenient last colonial master to every other nation/person that comes in handy. 65 years of independence have been wasted on plumbing new levels of degradation; first in political life and public service and then the inevitable seeping into private and family life. We now show all the signs of development but our national morals have gone to the dogs. Our present government, give them credit, did one thing right; they showed the political will to end the nonsense of the LTTE. Since then everything has been downward; a seat of the pants operation when it came to essential reconciliation; abysmal non-existent standards of law and order; selective justice and putrid standards of behaviour in government. What use are clean roads, new highways and gleaming buildings if impunity rules? Couldn’t we use our own to do some original thinking and come up with a national plan for reconciliation, tailored-made to suit our own purposes? instead of now proposing to borrow, yet again, someone else’s second hand plan for a quick fix; laughable! The piece de resistance was CHOGM; talk about not being able to organise a piss-up in a brewery. Only the thick skinned among us are rejoicing.

  • 2
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    Excellent article.

  • 2
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    Dear Ms Pinto-Jayawardena,

    Congratulations on a brilliantly written article.

    I am happy to note the simpler use of language. Some of us academics tend to forget George Elliot’s famous words “The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words”.

    Having said that, I must also say that I totally agree with you that the TRC that worked for South Africa will certainly not works for us.

    Unfortunately we may never see the day the LLRC will be implemented in its entirety until we have a visionary leadership.

    Yours sincerely,
    Prof. A. Senanayake

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    Brilliant and hats off to you Madam Kishali! A pointed and no nonsense piece that says it as it is.

    Indeed, a South African truth Commission is the last thing Lanka needs now! NO more Commissions and time wasting – the time for FULL implementation of LLRC is now.
    The international community’s obsession with war crimes is rather eyewash and a distraction from the Current excesses of the Rajapakse Military Dictatorship – that CHOGM helped boost.

    Both Kamalesh Sharma who claims to be helping Sri Lanka’s HRC on Human Rights though the Commonwealth Circus and Rajapassa need to be held ACCOUNTABLE to the people of Lanka. They must NOT be allowed to foist a silly truth and reconciliation commission in lieu of demilitarization, Right to Information Bill, Bill on Prevention of Hate Speech, de-politicization of judiciary, and repeal of 18th Amendment…

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    Camroun have big tange in his mouth.Talking big talk. Now looking for human rights violashions an all. What happen when the old fox JR took away Bathalawathys human rights. Then nobody talking. Then Katey Pittu. Aney, Aney what for the telling I donn know.

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    The CHOGM Circus is not going to bail out the crazy Jokers. The only way out is to turn the corrupt lawless Banana Republic back to Democratic Sri Lanka and restore Democracy and rule of the law in the Country, check corruption and serve the entire Nation not themselves, immediate, extended families and criminals associated with them. The International community who helped us to completely eradicate the Terrorism from our Country will once again support us.

  • 0
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    Well written and no-nonsense article.
    Thank you.

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    I have met Kishali Pinto-Jayawardene at the Human Rights Council (HRC)meeting in Geneva some time ago and was deeply impressed by her.Her address at ‘a side-show’ at the HRC on Torture was absolutely breathtaking.

    So are her articles, not least the present one.

    I am aware that she is currently in Australia as a ‘Distinguished Visitor’. I hope that the moron whom this country has recently elected as Prime Minister gets the message about Sri Lanka, a message that he does not want to hear, and probably will not.

    Kishali refers to the ‘palpable idiots in our midst’ (referring to Sri Lanka). Well, we have the same ‘palpable idiots’ here in Australia – on both sides of the political divide. It is only a question of which side has the bigger ‘palpable idiots’.

    Hopefully, Kishali will return to Sri Lanka to continue the struggle against “the drift towards authoritarianism” as Navi Pillay put it.

    As i have repeatedly said, this is no longer a Sinhalese-Tamil issue but a problem with the collapse of democracy and the establishment of a Totalitarian State under one family – a Family Autocracy.

    As long as there are people like Kishali around (and alive) in Sri Lanka, there is a light (however faint) at the end of a very long dark tunnel.

    What business is it for us, Australians, to ‘interfere’ with a sovereign country which the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka – as it nonsensically claims to be? It is very much our business because the chaos there results in a flood of asylum seekers to this (and other) countries, creating problems here.

    Idiots (and racists) like Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop (the Australian Foreign Minister) in the current regime, and Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard from the other side of the political divide who have been turfed out, are little better than Rajapaksa. What these Australian idiots are doing is a gross violation of the Refugee Convention and many others, signed and ratified by Australia. To compound the problem, Australia gets into bed with the Rajapaksa junta.

    Kishali should be invited here more often. She might, of course, be bashing her head against a brick wall, both in Sri Lanka and in Australia, but it is worth a try to knock some sense where none exists.

    There is an outstanding book by Naomi Wolf called “The end of America”. The same book re-written with a slightly altered title (but keeping the contents unaltered) – “The End of Sri Lanka” is urgently needed. Importantly, it has to be translated to Sinhala – the language of my people. THEY are the ones who matter.

    Brian Senewiratne

  • 0
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    Pinto,
    Kissing the terrorist ass as usual?

    • 0
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      Remember the hot iron rod?

      That is how traitors will end their miserable lives. Mark my word!

  • 0
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    Direr consequences for Tamils unless they peacefully go extinct from SL.

    The more pressure SL gets the more pressure SL must put on Tamils’ survival.

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