22 May, 2024


Ranil’s Opinion On Periodic Massacres Of Youth Since 1971

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Sri Lanka Deterioration of the legal intellect (5): A conversation with the Prime Minister on periodic massacres of youth since 1971

Last week, 23 April 2015, the television programme ‘Sathyagaraya’ – a Sinhala language programme telecast by the Independent Television Network (ITN) and produced by Upul Shantha Sannasagala – broadcast a long conversation with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesignhe. Our concern in this article, is about one particular question raised by the producer, Mr Sannasgala and the reply given by the Prime Minister, to the same. Producer Upul Shantha Sannasgala, raised a question, which he said, is of very great importance to him, about the periodic massacres of youth which had taken place, repeatedly, every 10 to 15 years in Sri Lanka, beginning with the suppression of youth in the 1971 JVP uprising. His question was as to whether these cyclical massacres would go on, from time to time causing the sacrifice of lives of a large number of youth in the country?

The Prime Minister’s reply was that each of such events had its own causes, like for example youth unemployment was the cause for the 1971 rebellion and ethnic factors caused unrest both in the South and North of the country; both unrests causing large scale violence.

Speaking about the solutions, the Prime Minister opined that the improvement of the economic conditions by way of development programmes can improve the well-being of all including the youth and that hopefully that would remove the kind of situations that arose in the past.

JVP Madirigiriya 88 89It would be quite useful for the Prime Minister to also look into the other causes of such unrest and not purely into the development issues alone – in trying to fathom the grotesque violence that the country has been experiencing periodically- in order to develop a more comprehensive policy towards the elimination of such occurrences.

The use of disproportionate force to control a difficult security situation is not an isolated issue that can be resolved through economic factors alone. It is essential to try to understand what caused the hugely disproportionate use of violence by the police and the military in each of those occasions in the past and to develop policies and strategies to avert such disproportionate use of force in the future.

To put it more bluntly, killing a person after arrest, is not an issue that arises out of economics. Such an issue relates to the type of discipline that is inculcated into the security agencies and to the type of measures that are taken, in order to ensure that the security forces will not fail to observe the basic rules of conduct, even when the situations they face may be unusual and difficult ones.

JVP 88 89Even in the midst of great world wars, armed forces as well as the police forces have observed the required codes of conduct after a person is captured or surrenders. However, in Sri Lanka even after persons have been picked up from their homes, and not infrequently, even with promises of their return within a short while; they were in fact, killed and very often their bodies secretly disposed.

The stories of such occurrences can be counted in thousands or in tens of thousands. To give one example, the several Commissions appointed by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government to investigate into involuntary disappearances have given vivid descriptions of how persons were kidnapped in place of arrest, were interrogated at secret places and tortured, and were finally killed and their bodies disposed of.

As this article is a commentary on a conversation with the Prime Minister, we assume that the Prime Minister is well-aware of all that has taken place during each of these periodic episodes, those to which the producer of the programme, Mr. Sannasagala was making reference to.

Besides the protection granted to persons after their arrest there is also a fundamental rule that is binding on the police and armed forces alike to maintain an official record of what has happened to each of the prisoners who come under their custody. Again, the killings that took place in Sri Lanka, found no mention in the records of those who were engage in such acts. In fact, it can be without exaggeration said that a tacit rule has developed to dispose of such persons without maintaining any form of records.

We do not believe that with the Prime Minister, we need to labour much to demonstrate or to prove these incidents. Instead a more serious approach is to request the Prime Minister to ponder about the questions raised by the producer of the programme, not purely in terms of economic roots of the conflict but also from the point of view of the ease with which the police and the security forces dispensed with the need to adhere to basic rules of law and of civilization in dealing with the arrestees.

JVP Krunagala Wahara 88 89It is the duty of the Prime Minister and the government to take all the possible measures to inculcate a tradition of obedience to rules within the police and the armed forces. Not to think about this matter seriously, will amount to contributing to a recurrence of such a situation in the future. So long as the leadership of a government does not care about the manner in which the police and the armed forces observe and respect rules, no amount of economic development would prevent the recurrence of such violence.

Therefore, it is quite appropriate to request the Prime Minister to once again reflect on this question which was posed by the producer of this programme, and to place before the nation a more comprehensive response, as to how the Prime and the government envisions carrying out of his duty to inculcate an attitudinal change into the armed forces and the police, where they would observe the normal decencies that they are expected to observe in relation to persons they have taken into their custody.

We hope that the producer of the programme ‘Sathyagaraya’, could give another opportunity to the Prime Minister to provide a more comprehensive answer to put the conscience of the producer, as well as of the listeners’ to rest, with the assurance that the government has a policy and a strategy to bring to an end, the heinous offence of harming persons who have been arrested.

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Latest comments

  • 5

    The author claims that his departure from his home land in the early 80s was because he name was placed on a UNP hit list but he has never produced an evidence to back up this claim. His entire career as a human rights activist is based on this claim. I think it’s time to show some evidence!

    • 7


      “His entire career as a human rights activist is based on this claim. I think it’s time to show some evidence!”

      What has his claim got to do with his work as a Human Rights activists?

      The abhorrent MR used to be a human right activist while supporting the JVP.

      You too can be one if you are willing to spend your time documenting, investigating and campaigning against all kind of violations.

      Give it a try.

      • 2

        Native Vedda,

        “What has his claim got to do with his work as a Human Rights activists?”

        I worked with the author for ten years as his assistance and editor at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong, [Edited out]

        @Stewart, then you should use your own name – CT

        • 0

          If you worked for this Basil, then you must be an altar boy. You must understand that whatever this Basil has done – and he has done many spectacular things including the performing of tricks with white houses and burned wine mixed with yellow water – he has done a wonderful job defending human rights.”God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform”and I am certain that the happy recipient of his water turned to wine will agree that Basil has repaid him through his service to the defense of human rights.

      • 1

        Native Vedda,

        “…….You too can be one if you are willing to spend your time documenting, investigating and campaigning against all kind of violations. Give it a try……”

        I did, for ten years at the AHRC but the cronyism, nepotism and blatant self serving attitude of the desk officers put me off. If the desk officers and of the AHRC cared as much about human rights as they do about their own livelihoods then they could truly call themselves human rights activists.

  • 5

    Shame on CT for showing such pictures to back up a spurious article!

    • 2

      Saracen, this is exactly the kind of comment that could have been expected of the Honorable Prime Minister Ranil the Barbarian. Were your parents married?

    • 0

      Sadly, these pictures act as a constant reminder of the way we have treated our fellow citizens, those who like us are creatures of circumstance, and who through fate were been born to share this land. It is a curse that the many gods of Lanka simply cannot exorcise, as yet. Particularly over the last six decades we have found myriad excuses to perpetrate misery and mayhem; race, religion, language and plain old-fashioned jealousy.. At Aluthgama, we came to within a hairs breadth of adding to this graphic gallery of shame. These pictures should remain a constant reminder of our vileness till we have rid ourselves of the residual evil that continues to stalk our once blessed land.

  • 10


    “Shame on CT for showing such pictures to back up a spurious article!”

    Shame on those who committed those crimes depicted on those photographs. Shame on you for not preventing those crimes.

    Shame on you for preventing general public from viewing such gruesome acts.

    Watch out for those who committed such crimes, they may be living with you or near you, it could have been your father, brother, brother in law, grandfather, uncle, son, son in law, …. or you.

  • 3

    There is no need to ask Ranil to reconsider his answer. The Free education he received from the most liberal minded teachers at Royal and University of Ceylon has been a waste. His inherited barbaric traits will not change. He approves the current jungle procedures followed by the armed forces.

    The answer is clear. Our Prime Minister and most of our politicians consider themselves gods who have the power of life and death over citizens. They reserve the right to deal with citizens who protest their authority any way they wish including terminating their life.

    Sri Lanka is a lost cause.

  • 5

    Basil Fernando , Thank you for enlightening the readers with rationale, evidence and facts.
    Also thanks to Mr. Sannasgala of ITN for the probing questions.

    My question is if Presidents Commission Chief Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama can give an interview to an Indian Media about the disappearances , why can’t he give one to ITN.

    Hope Mr. Sannasgala make it happen and Paranagama take it as a duty to participate in that interview.

  • 6

    This article high lights a very real and yet suppressed reality in our countries history. Everyone knows the facts but no one including our present prime minister wants to face head on. That is how we are brought up. At least those on CT have enough education and exposure to face facts.
    My biggest surprise and Joy is the fact that ITN our de-facto pro government propaganda machine TV station is getting into main stream journalism and are asking such questions from our prime minister boldly. When in the recent past ITN’s job was to white wash the mob in power without any shame. That is Progress! We could not have had this 6 months ago.
    I must tell you we have come a long way since 9th Jan. Yahapalanaya has made it possible. Yahapalanaya has proved its worth. And Yahapalanaya will do much more if we tread on its path.
    There is no satisfaction in falsehood, no matter how we try to sugar coat it, if the truth is bitter it is indeed bitter. However it is only the truth that can set us free no matter how bitter it may be.
    So we have come to face the most crucial reality in the history of our country, why have we been having these uprisings every 10 to 15 years?, as the writer correctly points out and why does the government resort to using the most barbaric means to suppress the same?
    I can see two or three very obvious reasons: 1) Continuing effects of Colonial rule, 2) Cheap politicians and Politics, 3) Lack of economic emancipation for the masses, 4) Continuing vicious cycle.
    1) When our colonial masters colonized our countries, they did so against the will of the citizens and by the use of force. To keep themselves protected they had to employ the police and the army. With time, our people were drafted and were trained too. The Police and the military were trained to protect their masters. Protecting the country and its citizens was secondary or not even in their agenda. This orientation has not changed even after the transition to self-rule. Why should it have been? Our politicians were camouflaging as nationalist while they were essentially carrying on from where the British had left. Our forces are ready to attack our citizens at the slightest quirk from their masters. Hence the politicians don’t necessarily have to do what is right, rather hang on to power for as long as possible since it’s the military power that keeps them in position and not the good work. Is this not the reason why the Rajapaksa’s are crying for security?
    2) This brings us to cheap politicians, the people who took over power were associates of the British, and Of course they had to be. Having transitioned into self-rule, it is imperative that our politicians put all their policy to favor the citizenry. However they didn’t instead they chose to keep the status quo. Cheap politics refers to the use of propaganda in pitting one community against the other and applying the same old divide and rule policy of the British as well as the use of propaganda to mislead the average masses. The ill effects of which materialize many years later.
    3) As a result of all this there has been no real development in the country, when compared to some countries that have developed themselves by leaps and bounds over the same period. It is only natural that people start asking questions from time to time. When the questions and talk gets noticed by the government in power naturally they apply the use of a little force. There is silence at first, then again people voice out a bit louder (at this point the government could look in to the root cause of the commotion, but doesn’t). Instead use force, this cycle continues till there is a major issue. At this point the government uses deadly force and squashes all those who agitated, their associates, neighbors, practically and anyone whom they think of as a threat. No question of human rights or any such imaginary fancy ideas come into effect at this time.
    4) This is happening as the government are using the military with the same ideology that British trained them with. Protect your master at all cost. So the cycle continues!
    Now I can understand what Prime Minister Ranil is trying to say, at the same time I can understand what the writer is trying to point out. While Ranil wants to Jump to no 3) directly, the writer is asking how he could achieve that by ignoring nos 1) and 2).
    I think the answer is Yahapalanaya. With Yahapalanaya the viscous cycle is broken. We have an idealistic President who is willing to sacrifice his powers for the greater good of the nation. This is a luxury we haven’t had since independence. This is something we all have to appreciate, protect and take advantage of in good faith as a nation and not as opportunistic individuals.

    • 5


      Thank you.

      Your comments reflect the collective thoughts of the right thinking people of Sri Lanka.

      Hope they are received well and absorbed by all concerned.

  • 2

    I simply cannot understand why CT chooses to publish such sickening pictures as accompany this article and have accompanied other pieces before. What great objective does that serve? Is the merit of the article in any way enhanced by these graphic aids? If nothing else, they are in very, very poor taste. I don’t seek to deny that terrible atrocities occur but to see the human form disfigured and desecrated in the manner shown in these pictures, physically sicken me. I believe that repeated exposure to such images will in the long run render us insensitive to such outrages. Human beings are endowed with an inherent dignity and their bodies should be treated with the respect that that entails.

  • 1

    Who are the arrogant teenagers and young men placing their feet on what appears to be a dead body! I hope that their legs will explode into smithereen. Same goes to the evil men in arms that ill treat fellow humans as depicted in the photos below. Sri Lankans indeed are an uncivilized lot wearing a mantle of religious rhetorics.

  • 1

    Quote “The author claims that his departure from his home land in the early 80s was because he name was placed on a UNP hit list but he has never produced an evidence to back up this claim. His entire career as a human rights activist is based on this claim. I think it’s time to show some evidence! ” STEWART…………..


    Its strange that there is no mention by the Author Fernando having made a Non-Refoulment claim against Torture in Singapore/Bangkok or even in Hong Kong.
    According to STEWART his former assistant, The Author Fernando remains in Hong Kong. If so, was his Torture Claim accepted by the HK Immigration as Hong Kong does not accept or grant Refugee status.
    Did the catholic hiatus who were pay masters for the UN office in HK fix him up ? Yes. the Catholic hiatus never disown their cassoack variety though they flee the flock

    So the UNP & the dangerous Ranil of Batalanda fame wanted to Kill the Author Fernando.
    Ranil will be pleased to note it was Author fernando’s alleged Organisation according to STEWART which was know as the Asian Human Rights Commission that had allegedly got together with some Catholic priests in Sri Lanka and screwed the GOSL in Geneva when the Americans brought resolutions against the then SL Govt.
    STEWART being the former assistant could shed the names of the SL Catholic Priests who visited HK/AHRC from time to time and also Kishali PJ and Prez Counsel J.Almeida…
    If STEWART or the Author Fernando could shed light the number of reports submitted to the UNHRC in Geneva to screw GOSL.

    Pay masters need for Geneva was greater than ones own country.
    However, it is unfortunate this STEWART never submitted anything against United Kingdom. May be because UK provided him employment in the British run police in HK.

  • 1

    I really wonder what kind of people are in Sri Lanka sometimes!
    Take Mr. Thondamannar for instance, while the article is addressing facts from our past history, Mr. Thondamannar is busy looking into the personal life of the author.
    Does the personal life of the author have anything to do with the realities of what has been happening? Or are you seriously trying to play the ignorant card and mislead the focus of the whole discussion?
    Please get real. What has happened has happened no matter how you may rigmarole with the issue. Unless you have not been living Sri Lanka all your life, you would know what happened in 1971, 1988-89, 2009. Please don’t deceive your self. The reason the author is pointing out past facts is so that avert a repeat such a situation in the future.
    If we had been under Rajapaksha rule there was a very real danger that one of the ethnic groups would have ended up having to fight for their rights and perhaps a lot of lives would have been lost once more. Is that what you want?

  • 1

    Our Country is a great one indeed!!!

    We have managed to miraculously stop three insurgencies with 40 years. How did we do this, with brutal force. I was not around during the 71 insurgency but clearly remember the other two. They brought the Country and its people to its knees. I commend people like Sirimavo, Ranjan Wijeratne, Fonseka and Gota for carrying the cross on our behalf.

    I doubt we could ever properly thank you!!

  • 0

    On a more scientific/psychological basis, let me refer to a study done at MIT on violence perpetrated by normal human beings on others. The study group was divided in to two, one called ‘captors’ and the other ‘captives’.

    After some time the captors started to treat the captives in very human ways and the study was called off.

    The violence perpetrated by US personnel in the Iraq war and other cases fall in to this category.

  • 0

    Should read as:

    After some time the captors started to treat the captives in very INHUMAN ways and the study was called off.

  • 1

    Vietnam and brutal violation of human rights, mass murder,,rape, massacres were never cause for war crimes eh?


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