19 September, 2018

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Sri Lanka: Ethnic Reconciliation Facing Double Jeopardy

By R Hariharan

 Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

Col. (retd) R.Hariharan

Double jeopardy: No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of each country.~ International Covenant on civil and political rights, Article 14(7)

To say many Sri Lankans who voted President Maithripala Sirisena-Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe combine to power are disappointed with its performance to provide good governance would be repeating a cliché. But that would be ignoring the magnitude of the twin tasks of promoting ethnic reconciliation and restructuring governance. It requires dismantling empire of sleaze and corruption that had come into existence during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule for over nine years which thrived upon structural weaknesses and ethnic animosities.

The Australian journalist Greg Bearup has quoted JC Weliamuna, chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on the Recovery of Stolen Assets describing the task as “incredibly complex” that would take time and international cooperation.maithri-ranil-wijeyadasa-pic-via-wijeyadasa-rajapaksa-facebook

And the jerry-built grand coalition of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and its arch political rival the United National Party (UNP) in power may not be the ideal instrument to dismantle the institutionalised corruption in Sri Lanka’s body politics to prevent the rise of another leader who could use it to his advantage. But that is what people of Sri Lanka have voted for as both President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe had shown rare unity of purpose in defeating Mahinda with the promise to deliver upon two seamlessly connected reforms: structural reforms to promote clean governance and enduring ethnic reconciliation.

The 26-year long episodic wars Sri Lanka fought the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), till President Rajapaksa eliminated it in May 2009, is a testimony for the failure of the State and the nation to promote both structural reforms and ethnic reconciliation.

However, ethnic reconciliation between Sinhalas, Tamils and Muslims is perhaps more important as the nation cannot afford to sacrifice two generations of progress and over 150,000 lives lost in the civil war all over again. Without a viable and equitable constitutional structure, ethnic reconciliation is not possible.

In spite of many built-in political handicaps and ponderous process of parliamentary democracy, the work on producing a new constitution has made some progress. The Steering Committee has received the six-sub committees constituted for making recommendations to the constituent assembly in the areas of fundamental rights, judiciary, finance, law and order, public service and the all important centre-periphery relations.

Each one of these areas, particularly the centre-periphery relations, has the potential to divide and delay the process due to the entrenched prejudices encouraging divisive politics among Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim constituencies, faithfully reflected in national politics. It is imperative for the parliament, conscious of its historic responsibility, to accommodate most of the aspirations of all sections of the people. Failure to do so would put the clock back and snuff out even the few positive steps taken so far on national ethnic reconciliation.

To achieve unity of purpose, the leadership has to evolve strategies to handle social and political fallout of its actions, stoked by Rajapaksa loyalists which are already showing up. Most disturbing is the revival of the activities of the notorious anti-Muslim outfit – the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), an extreme right wing Sinhala Buddhist organization. Its leaders spewing venom are again finding space in national stage.

Recently the BBS leader Galagoda Atte Gnasara threatened launch attacks on Muslims “to settle the issue with stones, poles and blood” if the police did not arrest and deport Abdul Razik, secretary of the radical Muslim outfit Thowheed Jama’at (SLTJ), as “Sinhalese were getting attacked in Colombo.” He was reacting to the arrest of Dan Priyasad who calls himself the ‘Saviour of the Sinhalese’ after he made several statements threatening to bomb Muslims in the country, including the members of the SLTJ. It is significant that the Muslim community itself has condemned the activities of SLTJ.

Apart from allegations of fraud in 2005 presidential election and human rights aberrations during the Rajapaksa regime, investigations into some of the major cases involving the Rajapaksa clan have reached an advanced stage. Yoshitha, a naval officer and former president Rajapaksa’s son, was arrested in January 2016 over allegations of siphoning off millions of dollars of government money to a sports business owned by the family.

His name has also come up in the reinvestigation of the case of Wasim Thajudeen, national rugby icon, found dead in his burnout car in May 2012 which was apparently hushed up by the police intervention at the highest level suppressing evidence pointing to murder. The involvement of military intelligence has also been revealed in the investigations.

Yositha’s elder brother Namal is being investigated in a number of cases of alleged money laundering. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the all powerful defence secretary and brother of president Rajapaksa, is facing a $130 million dollar corruption case in an armoury business run by the Sri Lanka navy during his term in office. He is also suspected to be involved in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader, who was to appear in a defamation case to substantiate Gotabaya’s alleged corrupt deals in arms procurement.

Investigations in this case also has revealed the involvement of military intelligence officers at the highest level. Basil, former president’s brother and minister for economic development during Rajapaksa days, has also been arrested a number of times on charges of corruption, financial irregularity and misuse of office.

Former president’s cousin Jaliya Wickramasuriya has been arrested for accepting a commission of $245, 000 while serving as the country’s ambassador in the US. Another cousin of Mahinda, Udayanga Weeratunga, who served as Sri Lankan ambassador to the Russian Federation for nine years, has been absconding for long after the Ukraine government accused him of selling arms to the rebels.

It is important to bring to book those found guilty in these cases for the government to regain the trust deficit of the people, particularly minorities, democratic processes which has now been completely eroded.

To sum up, time is running out for the ruling coalition to speed up the processes for finalising a new constitutional framework and promoting national ethnic reconciliation. As these are mutually reinforcing imperatives to live up to the peoples’ expectations, the ruling coalition leadership should bury their internal differences to prevent other political priorities from stalling the processes, using entrenched ethnic prejudices in the communities. Otherwise the nation would be dissipating the gains of ushering in peace after making huge sacrifices to bring the Eelam wars to a successful close.

*Col R Hariharan, a retired MI officer, served as the head of Intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force from 1987 to 90. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-mail: haridirect@gmail.com Blog: http://col.hariharan.info

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Latest comments

  • 7
    1

    YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SPOT ON HARIHARAN.The local media is silent on the former regimes corruption issues and working on a pre planned agenda. Ranil and Sirisena are taking the country further down the precipice. As Harin said 2017 is the year to make progress in developnent jobs bringing allthe fraudsters mass murdreres to justice.
    If not?????

    • 3
      0

      Simple example – the countries like Lybia or Irak in post war scenarios face it today, if anyone would expect the people to see reconciliation as the politicians and other profesionals expect – is no means possible within shorter period of time.

      The same rules are the case for even more poor srilanka- that can be even more difficult since lankens are not 100% Islam, Buddhism, Hindu OR Christianity blessed folks. Their thoughts and minds are fully affected by the social stigmas. Even in a neighbourhood, people are no civlized enough to get on peacefully and settle their day today issues. What I am saying is people s average mind sets are no means ready for peace talks.

      As some Uni dons make it clear, we just need to leave it as it is – but we need to work on getting them clear with thoughts.

      They boast about highly literacy rates, but how many of them would use their brains in elections ? Who sent idiots to the parliament ? Were that indian, Europeans, Americans or scandinavians ?

      No, majority punnakku eaters from this country. Today they talk about parliamentary composition: I thought this would have been much better after last election. But it has become worst as i see it today.

  • 4
    7

    Occasionally one finds an Indian who land on a 6-month visa selling “Tupperware”. They roam around Sri Lanka hardly selling anything because its low quality Indian shit.

    This is the Indian “Roger Moore”, the 007 agent spying on Sri Lanka.

    But then there are times even they surprise you. The BBS is one of those surprises. The car that Gnanasara drives around must have been fully paid for by the RAW or similar agency.

    BBS was used by Indians to remove Rajapaske on the insistence by TNA perhaps. The BBS is still used for by the Indians to beat up Muslims. The question is why?

    I think Muslims in India should know their intelligence services are up to.

    The Indian RAW are everywhere online too, on forums and blogs changing public opinion.

    I think its a massive failure on part of Sri Lankan “intelligence” not being able to counter. Rajapaske was removed and the Sri Lankan intelligence community were woefully ineffective.

  • 2
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    The two party unity government’s ranking falls steeply due to inaction against much voiced corruptions and murders. Although Col HH says that investigations are now in advanced stage but it is like waiting for Godot. Further the recent grant of allowance of Rs. 100,000 per month for parliamentarians has frustrated the public who were compelled to pay 15% Vat.With the ongoing bus strike (Instigated by the JO)it looks that government is not in a good batting wicket.

    • 5
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      Kautilya

      “Further the recent grant of allowance of Rs. 100,000 per month for parliamentarians has frustrated the public who were compelled to pay 15% Vat.”

      The Rs 100,000 per month is a pittance when you take account of the income they make from protection rackets, government tenders, local businessman, allocating resources and employment, santhosam for covering up crimes, ……. arms deals, …… land grab, …..

  • 5
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    You proudly say that you were ‘Head of Intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force between 1987 to 1990.

    Because of your /Indian failure thousands died in Sri Lanka after you left our shores?

    • 3
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      Thamilan
      Indian failure was caused by the LTTE with the support of President Premadasa and V. P. Singh Indian PM culminating in the killing of Rajiv Gandhi who tried to bring about a normalcy in SL.

  • 2
    1

    A series of disjointed pieces of narration not convincing enough to prove his point. Bensen

  • 1
    2

    I’m from a country of Burma where we are fighting an evil invasive parasitical threat from Bangladesh. We are currently enacting the final solution we learned from our Buddhist brothers in Lanka to contain and eradicate this virus once and for all. I extend my solidarity with Sinhala sons of the soil in their quest to take back their land from interlopers. Sieg Heil!

    • 0
      3

      The Tamil diaspora are capable of all kinds of mud slinging.

      • 4
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        Taraki

        “The Tamil diaspora are capable of all kinds of mud slinging.”

        Well, well well, do you need Tamil Diaspora for mud slinging when you have Gnasara, the saffron clad thug who is more capable than all the diaspora put together. Then of course you have Gota the hangman, MR the known devil, Wimal Sangili Karruppan Weerawansa the mathematician, Champika the scholar historian (direct descendant of the one who discovered zero) , ….. …

      • 4
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        Taraki,

        It was the Federal Party in the mid-1950s, then the TULF from the mid-70s to the 80s. Then it was the Tigers. The Sinhala-dominated government in the South tells the people and the world the Tigers are finished – by the Rajapakse-Fonseka combine in mid-2009.
        And now, your lot has latched on to the Tamil Diaspora. Don’t you realise it is the Sinhalese – and more particularly the clueless Buddhist religious hierarchy – that has ruined this country and the Sinhala Nation from the post-1948 period. Realisation comes slowly – and, after much blood and turmoil. The once rabidly anti-Tamil Ven. Maduluwawe Sobita Thero changed the Sinhala perspective around early 2005. Now Gamarala, former Leftist, JVP-leaning and later SLFP stalwart now insists the Sinhalese made a grave error in foolishly but bitterly alienating the Tamil Nation. Gamarala tells the Sinhala people this cannot go and asks for the Sinhalese to make amends now itself. This is good. But it will not come in a silver tray. After all, don’t we know
        it is the livelihood of Dinesh G – who has no electoral base of his own, the divisive Gammanpila and friends; Gandasara only platform behind which you see the finger-prints of the communal Rajapakses. Unity and reconciliation is still possible because the vast Sinhala Buddhist Sinhala electorate realises it is they who lose the most in the 6 decades of the Sinhala-Tamil stand-off. And, therefore, the project worked out by Ranil, CBK, Mangala at al with able guidance from the international community shows signs of succeeding within an year or two – with or without the baseless Gamarala. It will not be Singapore for us but, at least, something close to Karnataka/Tamilnadu developmental standards. That, I venture to suggest, is good enough for starters for us – otherwise hurtling downwards to social-economic doom.

        Kettikaran

        • 1
          1

          Friend, importance of Gnanasara to Sinhalese is as much as Prabakaran to Tamils. Only that Prabakaran held Tamils and the issue of bad governance hostage for many years. Gnanasara has no such power and people are not willing to break their backs for these kind of bastards anymore.
          My issue with what you say is that Mangala, CBK and RW are the most incompetent politicians, who unfortunately are expected to deliver necessary change. Today in any organisation, including a state, managing change is the most difficult task. I can’t understand offering the most challenging job to the worst of the operators.

  • 0
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    [Edited out]

  • 1
    0

    Continue, dear Colonel, your interest and writing on the Sri Lankan scene. As is the pracrise we notice you will have many criticising you and some agreeing with you. By now, you have realised it is a Lankan past time since the 1960s, by the people and the politicians, to place all blame of Sri Lanka’s ills at the feet of India. Universally, this is nothing new. Even before the time of Hitler, who blamed the Jews for all Germany’s ill at the time, finding scapegoats for mass ills is common among many peoples and indeed countries.

    Until the Jawans touch Lankan soil next time, Farewell good Sir. The only warning I have for you is next time the jawans come here it will not be to battle Tigers – but, I fear, slit-eyed dragons. Thank the Rajapakse Brothers for that. Bharat saved them from the noose in The Hague. Mother India will one day regret that. Unless there is divine intervention Sri Lanka will be the next Syria – as another commentator in these pages speculated. Or better still, is the pleasant prospect of an indi-chini coming together now that mad dogs have taken over the US and Poor Uncle Sam is surely on the decline.

    Nettabomman

  • 1
    0

    Ambi Kshēmama? Nokku aathula Choli illaya?

    India helped Karuna to betray the Eelam Tamils and make us all the permanent slaves of the Sinhalese. They also helped the racist Sri Lankan Sinhalese armed forces and the Rajapakse brothers to win the war and saved them from the international community. Thanks to this Sinhalese racist and Buddhist extremism is now become very powerful and thriving, the LTTE despite all its faults kept Sinhalese racism and Muslim extremism in check now after the defeat of the LTTE and the enslavement of the Eelam Tamil population both these are now virulent. Now the ancient Hindu Tamil east is under attack both from Wahhabi/Salafist Islamic extremists and Sinhalese Buddhist extremists. Both are ethnically cleansing Tamil Hindu villages destroying Hindu temples and busy building their own religious sites and claiming the once Tamil Hind east as theirs. One is funded by the Gulf states and Porkistan and the other by the Sri Lankan establishment. India will soon regret what they did.

  • 0
    1

    Hariharan:

    Very soon, Muslims will be the second majority and What will happen to the reconciliation at that time ?

  • 0
    0

    Dear All, I m going back to Ravana a Tamil Saivaite King who ruled Ilangai. He ruled from southern Lanka. His unethical act brought warriors from Bharatham through Tamilnadu accompanying Raman. That Brigade formed more than half of Tamils and the rest others Bharatham , ethical soldier for the cause. At that epical time there were no Sinhalese. It happened so Raman left those remaining soldiers occupy the Lanka evident from Tamil Eelam map (inverted V) capping now being occupied by Tamils now. Raman did this so to prevent the danger to Bharatham from the progenies of Ravana. Later King Asoka after committing colossal offences against people of Bharatham safely sailed off his progenies – Vijayalaya & Sangamitra under the camouflage of Buddhism. These invaders occupied Southern Lanka & mingled with the left overs of Ravana to form new things Sinhalese. Please compare the letters Oriya with Sinhala. So the war between Good & Bad is still on. Let language be the communication medium rather than to decide morality of the issue. Being a more related to Hindi Pakistan cannot be a reliable Western frontier. Let Mahabaratham be the Policy in the north and Ramayan be the policy in the North than to frame a policy from lesser menials like ss menon and the gang. Both Mahahabharatham and Ramayan oriented around the honour of the women, which have no place in the smaller brains of Sinhalese. It is easier to preach Gita or Ramayan. LTTE practiced these two epics as far as the Chastity of women are concerned, where other groups got compromised. Epical ways are harder to emulate, if tried it will cause Dearly which they taught the entire Humanity even with the loss of all in the family. They proved in reality also. No rape not even a single rape was done by LTTE, in contrast to the Sinhalese war machine raping Child, Mother, Grandmother and even dead females. If one is not able keep morale at least keep mum.

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