By Thambu Kanagasabai –
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s compelling necessity to install a military dictator rule is due to many reasons, some of which can be listed as follows: The military mindset of the President is also an underlying factor propelling and influencing his thinking.
1. He has to put an end to the accusations of UNHRC, UN and other civil groups, namely the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity etc. He has to avoid the principle of command responsibility for those alleged commission of crimes,
2. He is facing suits for alleged bribery and corruption charges including money laundering while serving as a Defence Secretary during the war.
3. He owes a moral and unavoidable obligation to protect his loyal military officials and family members from any prosecution.
4. He is expanding the role of the military in the civil administration of the country with an agenda of militarization which is in progress with full swing particularly in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
5. He has to silence the voices of minority Tamils and Muslims and by taking action in violation of their human rights like the destruction of Mullivakkal Memorial Monument and Stone on May 12, 2021 in the North.
6. He accelerated the Buddhisisation and Sinhalisation in the North and East to achieve the goal of making Sri Lanka a pure Sinhala Buddhist state. as vowed by him
7. He has to silence the opposition parties and critics including the emerging criticism from some Buddhist clergy members.
8. His family members almost control the wealth, economy and administration of Sri Lanka where one notices his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa – Prime Minister is in charge of seven Ministries and his other brother Chamal Rajapaksa with six Ministries with a total of 145 state institutions are said to be under the control of Rajapaksa’s family members including Namal Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa.
The moves and actions of former President Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa since assuming office are writings on the wall for impending fostering of a military dictatorship.
Some of the moves can be listed as follows:
[a] Ban on 11 Muslim Organizations and closure of 1,000 Islamic Schools.
[b] Ban on Burqa dress for the Muslims which is a violation of the fundamental right of a citizen.
[c] Arbitrary arrests of Richard Bathiudeen MP and his brother in the midnight under the draconian PTA, and not informing the Speaker before the arrest.
[d] The arrests and detention of Jaffna Mayor Manivannan under Draconian PTA on unfounded allegations of inciting violence is an act of political revenge.
[e] Appointing Military Officers to key civil positions and controlling civil administration like Major Shavendra Silva’s appointment as the Chief for Covid Pandemic, a prescribed job of health officials.
[f] The appointment of several President’s Special Task Forces[STF] to handle civil functions which are officially entrusted to civil officials of each region. Eg. A task force for Archaeological Heritage Management in the East was appointed solely to explore and search for Sinhalese Buddhist historical evidence and another Task Force was appointed “To build a secure country, disciplined, virtuous and lawful society.” which implies that Sri Lanka’s societies are undisciplined, not virtuous and non law abiding.
[g] Destruction of Mullivakkal Monument Stone by the Sri Lankan forces on May 12 2021 and another earlier destruction of Mullivakkal Memorial constructed by the Jaffna University students.
[h] A regulation passed. under PTA allows “People to be detained without proving any wrong doings or any offence” This is clearly an act of State Terrorism, defying the judiciary and rule of law and mainly targeting the Tamils.
[i] Accountability, justice and reconciliation for the 72 years old ethnic problem have been swept under the carpet and kept in limbo.
[j] Extrajudicial killings have become common like the recent killings of two criminals who were brought out from jail and shot by the Police.
[k] A Resolution on April 9th 2021 tabled in parliament containing recommendations of Political Victimization Commission seek “To exonerate, pardon and free all security personnel and state officials who committed war crimes and other crimes including bribery, corruption and money laundering etc.
[l] Preventing memorial events to mourn the dead in the North and East for those who were killed like banning the University of Jaffna students to conduct a memorial event on May 18, 2021
[m] A statement of President Gotabaya made a few months back reveals his dictatorial attitude when he allegedly stated that “My spoken words must be considered as written statements and those who fail to implement them will be punished.”
This is a typical statement of a dictator taking the law in to his own hands and defying the principle of natural justice which demands that an affected person must be given the opportunity to explain his position before any decision or judgement is passed.
[n] A recent Directive issued by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne “Warned of strict legal action against those who spread or share false malicious information, news, messages and also threatened to arrest those who criticize Public Officials involved in Covid-19 control”.
This directive is an assault on one of the pillars of democracy, freedom of speech and expression by a citizen or media, this being clearly a dictatorial caveat from a dictatorial administration. It is reported that several arrests have been made under this directive.
[o] The recent appointment of Former IGP Jayantha Wickramaratne as a member of OMP who was in charge of the three Police Units involved in mass disappearances at the end of the war is like appointing an accused criminal to function as a judge, jury and witness go investigate his own case. This appointment is nothing but a brazen insult to the victims and relatives of thousands of disappeared persons during the war. This is another dictatorial action of the Government which is discarding accountability and justice.
Above all the 20th constitutional amendment passed on October 25, 2020 has blessed the President consolidating his powers and ensuring a dictatorial rule with absolute impunity under Article 35 “which states anything done or committed to be done by him either in his official or private capacity cannot be challenged in any Courts of law”.
Undoubtedly this is a hundred percent impunity for the President exempting him from criminal or civil action. This completes full impunity for the President from the long arm of the law with the judiciary being relegated and made impotent as a main pillar of democracy.
The April 9, 2021 Resolution furthermore seeks to take revenge on those who investigated and prosecuted for the conviction of military and state officials and those who instituted legal actions against them including the Police and Prosecutors. This Resolution when passed will lead to the glorification of the war criminals and preserving their impunity while prosecuting those who sought to uphold accountability and justice to the victims of crimes.
Madam Jasmin Sooka’s – International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka [ITJP] comments expose the dangers of the Task Forces appointed by the Rajapaksa’s when she stated that these “Task Forces are only creating a parallel state giving the President, his family and former military Commanders unparalleled control over patronage networks and the use of public assets.” A total of eight Task Forces have so far been appointed to handle civil affairs which would drain state funds and resources to the betterment of few. Most of these Task forces will have no supervision by civil servants or Parliament and will have a free and unchecked run in the civil lives providing ample opportunities for corruption, misuse of funds and abuse of power.
In short, a looming death knell for democracy is on the horizon with the agenda of genocide against the Tamils which will eventually ensure their gradual extinction as a race to make Sri Lanka a pure SINHALA BUDDHIST MILITARIZED DICTATORSHIP with an entrenched culture of impunity shielding Rajapaksas. their family and friends from the reach of the long arm of law and judiciary being relegated and robbed of its role and functions.
*Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM – London, Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka