18 September, 2020

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The Bitter Cost Of Bringing The Genie Out Of The Bottle

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

Do those who vehemently and oftentimes quite hysterically rise to the defence of this Government’s self-aggrandizing post-war policies, pause to ask themselves as to why we are now witnessing extreme intolerance directed at the minorities which was not seen even when the North and East war was at its fiercest?

Perhaps some reasoned and calm introspection in this regard is long overdue.

The playing of a dangerous game

Good examples are the post 2009 attacks on Hindu, Moslem – and for that matter, non-mainstream Christian – places of worship by militant groups who remain outside the reach of the law.  This Government appears to look blandly on such attacks. Powerful figures within the establishment even offer covert support as was the case when President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa attended official ceremonies of the Bodu Bala Sena which is clearly implicated in attacks on mosques.

Does the Government think that by bringing the genie unpleasantly out of the bottle at carefully timed intervals, that it can intimidate the minorities as well as embolden its majoritarian and nationalist platform, thus preventing the generally decent Sinhala majority from rising up in arms against its corrupt extravagance which has impacted most drastically on the daily low/middle income wage earner?

Whatever may be the reason for such twisted policies, it is a dangerous game that is being played. This is precisely why Sri Lanka is fast losing sympathy in the world as we can see not only by the increasingly critical language resorted to by Western nations but also by India and Japan whose veiled calls to the Government to demonstrate restraint and bona fides, tell an eloquent tale. These are warning signals that Sri Lanka may well recognize even at this late stage.

Looking to the LTTE as an example

Indeed the Rajapaksa Government may look to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as an illustrative example, as delightfully perverse as this may be. When the LTTE attacked the Dalada Malgawa, massacred Buddhist monks and worshippers at the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, in Aranthalawa and elsewhere during the conflict years, these events led to seminal changes in international perception.

The LTTE was recognized as totalitarian, decimating Tamil citizens, intellectuals and thinkers who opposed them as well as Sinhalese and Muslims. This was a perception that stood to the benefit of the country despite latter-day politicians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) who persist in hailing the late leader of the LTTE as a hero.

If being a hero is characterized by dragging the Tamil people down to the depths of ignominy, by persisting in extreme violence for its own sake when a degree of accommodation may have been reached with Sinhalese governments and by killing off liberals who disagreed with the LTTE’s policies, then the meaning of heroism may perhaps need to be drastically redefined. Nonetheless, the point is that that these acts on the part of the LTTE irreversibly defined its image as a terrorist organization.

Realising the damage done to itself

Throughout those difficult years, the Sri Lankan army for its own part, had bloody markers against its name particularly in the early nineties when attacks by the LTTE were met by reprisal civilian massacres in Tamil villages. Perpetrators responsible for these massacres were not generally brought to trial. Investigations only took place in rare cases such as the Kokkadicholai killings of 1991 when the deaths of two soldiers and the serious injury of another after an LTTE-placed device exploded, led to the massacre of sixty seven civilians of a nearby village. In Mylanthanai when thirty five Tamil civilians were killed in similar circumstances (1992), eighteen accused soldiers were indicted. But neither case led to serious conclusions.

In the Kokkadicholai case for example, then President, the late Ranasinghe Premadasa appointed one of Sri Lanka’s ubiquitous Commissions of Inquiry which recommended weakly that court martial proceedings be initiated against the responsible soldiers. This was despite strong protests by civil rights organisations that a military court-martial was hardly the appropriate forum to look into extraordinary human rights violations. This court-martial led to the dismissal of just the officer in charge on the basis that he had failed to exercise control over his troops. And in the Mylanthanai case, most extraordinarily, all the accused were acquitted by a predominantly Sinhalese jury with witnesses being intimidated and the case transferred from the Eastern Province to Polonnaruwa and thence to Colombo.

However, even though there were no great trials or compelling judgments handed down by the courts which acted as a deterrent, the army slowly brought down the number of these incidents by effective internal control, realizing the damage caused thereby to itself. By the end of that decade, reprisal civilian massacres gradually became exceptional rather than the norm even though dark happenings of torture, rape, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial executions continued, fostered by state terror as well as LTTE terror.

Damage to ‘divine statues and theft

But what is singular is that places of religious worship of the Hindu community were not targeted even when fighting was at its height. So is it not ironic that attacks on Hindu kovils are being regularly reported after active fighting has ceased in the country following the military defeat of the LTTE in 2009?

This week, the All Ceylon Hindu Congress (Federation of Hindu Religious Associations and Hindu Temples in Sri Lanka) expressed its ‘shock’ and ‘grief’ over the damage caused to a 150 year old statue of Shri Muthumariaman which had been worshipped in Shri Murugan Kovil located in Udunuwara in the Hali Ela area of the Badulla District. The cautiously worded statement of the ACHC only said that the statue had been ‘damaged by undesirable criminal elements.’

The organization pointed out that it had brought notice of such destruction and theft to ‘the appropriate authorities,’ including President Rajapaksa, his brother, the Defence Secretary and the head of the police but that those responsible have not been arrested and brought before the law. And it was observed that ‘failure to take action appears to be encouraging those undesirable criminal elements to continue these criminal acts of destruction and theft.’

This statement, in fact, asks as to who is responsible for ‘divine statues being continuously destroyed and valuable items being continuously stolen in Hindu temples?’ (Colombo Telegraph, December 12, 2013).

Well meaning but simplistic excuses

So are these statements of outrage and cries for help to be dismissed out of hand as pure fabrications? This is a moot question.

It is well meaning but somewhat simplistic reasoning to say, as some have done recently, that Sinhalese soldiers will not carry out attacks on Hindu temples since the Buddhist and the Hindu traditions are closely intertwined in customary Sri Lankan religious practice. The fact is that ordinary soldiers are not inferred as being culpable. Instead, the manifest impunity demonstrated in regard to these incidents and the failure of the police to investigate infers that the perpetrators are a select group, secluded within the government apparatus.

It is hardly plausible to think that well organised raids with Hindu statues being stolen and other statues being damaged can occur otherwise. This was similar to attacks by ‘grease-men’ targeting women in rural communities some years ago. When area people chased the intruders, it was commonly reported that they ran into the nearest army or special task force (STF) camp. Those responsible were never apprehended. And those incidents died down as mysteriously as they had commenced.

Enforcing the responsibility of our own Government

In this scenario, to talk of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) predicated on the South African example is laughable. This is not a Government that recognizes the essential meaning of either truth or reconciliation. Its post-war policies offer ample evidence of that truth. If there is however a sincere acknowledgment of its own mistakes, then it must first put right these mistakes without being offered the tempting carrot of a TRC. This will only again enable prevarication and obfuscation on fundamental issues regarding adherence to the Rule of Law.

And the question is not the excesses indulged in by our onetime colonial masters, the impolite posturing of UK premier David Cameron or the undoubted hypocrisy of Western governments in preaching to small nations while perpetuating atrocities with abandon elsewhere in the world. The question is also not about the totalitarian character of the LTTE. That bank of international empathy has now been thoroughly exhausted.

What should concern us is the responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government in regard to the due operation of the law and our duty to enforce that responsibility for the collective good. Engaging in hyperbole and rantings against outsiders will not serve to detract from that essential duty.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    why is a TRC laughable in Sri Lanka and acceptable in South Africa ?

    • 2
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      Abhaya

      TRC in South Africa was a genuine effort to establish truth. The process encouraged perpetrator to tell the truth an opportunity to confess and in return receive pardon. The Commission also allowed victim’s relatives to confront the perpetrators. Truth and forgiveness were the essence of that process which brought many cases to closure.

      The purpose of MR’s TRC is to protect their bump from rapid fire.

    • 0
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      Yo, one is a black and white case, the other not so clear cut. Think it through.

    • 1
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      Ever heard of Commission Culture to delay inquiry into criminal violence and then bury the evidence and sweep the Govt and its cronies’ culpability under the carpet?

      Enough Commissions – the time for talk and commissions is long past. We need action and full implementation of the LLRC recommendation, the RIGHT TO INFORMATION BILL, reversal of the illegal impeachment of the Chief Justice and JUSTICE for the minorities who are under attack and all those who have been killed and disappeared by the State and its LTTE supporters – Karuna and Douglas – who are the most vicious monsters of the Tamil militancy – now that the great monster Prabakaran is gone. It is only once this is done that Sri Lanka will be free of the CURSE OF KUVENI (KUVENIGE SAPAYA). Both the corrupt and criminal Rajapakse family and Prbakaran’s family need to be wiped out for Sri Lanka to be liberated from KUVENIG SAPAYA (curse).

    • 1
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      Great article Kishali! Keep up your excellent work.
      I have said over and over that the Rajapakse regime’s game plan is to DIVIDE, DISTRACT, RULE and LOOT the Sinhalaya Modays. Gotabaya Rajapaksa The military Dictator in waiting has constructed a DEEP STATE or STATE WITHIN A STATE with selected officials in the military, judiciary, administration and business and is systematically taking over and destroying civil governance institutions. Military-business and Gota the white van goon’s love for the Pakistan military is the evidence of this. Today Pakistani Christians are arriving in Sri Lanka as REFUGEES from that country where Islamist supported by the PAK MILITARY have attacked and destroyed minority cultures including the Buddhist Gandhara period and Bhamiyan Status in Afghanistan. The AF-PAk Taliban is run by the Paki Military to attack minorities so that the Pak military can rule Pakistan with a facade of Democracy. Pakistan is a failed state today and Gota is playing the same game in Sri Lanka.
      The Rajapakse family that is looting Lanka are following the British colonial policy of divide and rule to extract wealth from the natives of Lanka. Ironically, today it is just ONE (Rajapaksa) family and its cronies that is looting the Sinahalaya Modayas who VOTE for them?! Can you believe it?! Democracy is a total farce in Sri Lanka today because the Sinhalayas are racist modayas – I am afraid – otherwise they would not vote Rajapassa..

    • 2
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      You should LITERALLY be a wild buffalo.If nothing else is in your mind than being apologetic to the rulers.. ofcourse you the ilk would never get it..

      Writer^s current article per se explains it clearly, and you raise this kind of silly qs.
      Please read it here:

      “This is not a Government that recognizes the essential meaning of either truth or reconciliation. Its post-war policies offer ample evidence of that truth. If there is however a sincere acknowledgment of its own mistakes, then it must first put right these mistakes without being offered the tempting carrot of a TRC. This will only again enable prevarication and obfuscation on fundamental issues regarding adherence to the Rule of Law”

    • 1
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      Not only intro of TRC but also almost every step of this regime is laughable.

  • 1
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    Yes Kishali, its time for the more enlightened members of the TNA to accept the fascist crimes of the LTTE against non-Tamils. They have done so with the Muslims – which is great. Its time to accept the crimes against the Sinhalese civilians – though they inflicted it in greater proportion.

    Kishali, hope you appreciate that TNA does not represent LTTE and many members of TULF and EPRLF were gunned down by LTTE, but some of them like Suresh Premachandran worked closely with the LTTE. So did Premadasa , based on Dayan Jayatillakes good advise. So it is a mixed bag. But we are seeing some positive signs right now with the moderates currently in control. But the balance may swing as Sinhalese atrocities rise.

    • 1
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      Kiri Yakka

      You need a genuine Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with all your concerns,

    • 0
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      Yakko,
      Did not you hear that, Hothambaya Wants to create a New LTTE front to carry out the Looting and Killing and Show the world that LTTE is coming with new Outfits.
      As they manipulate, and Slyly lead us to “we Sinhalese must start the Killing machine and Hey’ we must fight this West originated Disopora helping New LTTE”.
      Then Jarapassa clan Can go on looting and killing.
      ANEY YAKKO?????.
      Shit eating Pigs are On Piggy back on BUDDHISM?.
      SHIT EATING PIGs Malabari CLAN has COME TO DESTROY BUDDHISM AND SRI LANKA.
      Aney KiARI YAKKO???????????????????.

  • 1
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    When our post independence political leaders scrambled to secure the affections of the majority SINHALA-BUDDHIST voter, WE the PEOPLE all tut-tutted and said ‘what to do?’ So we did nothing.
    When our Sinhala mobs rampaged through Tamil communities the ‘GOSL looked blandly on such attacks’.
    When young restless Tamils violently superseded the leaders in their communities and took the violent option, the ‘GOSL looked blandly on such attacks’. Even though it was perfectly within its rights to quell such activity (as it promptly did with the JVP).
    Now the odious Tiger has been vanquished. But nature abhors a vacuum; so out from the dark recesses of our ‘holy places’ comes a thoroughly repugnant movement clad in yellow and spewing vitriolic and thoroughly un-Buddhist words and the ‘GOSL looked blandly on such attacks’. Perhaps the GOSL are using these forces, as you say. But WE the PEOPLE are thoroughly ham-strung and seem unable to do anything about it. What to do? That sorry mantra will have to suffice when our mawatha’s and patumaga’s run with blood of our innocent citizens. Don’t expect the God’s in anybody’s pantheon to come quickly to save us from the next blood bath.
    Let us ignore Cameron et al; for all our anti-colonial sentiments, our people still fall for the old tricks of the ‘white master’ We Sri Lankans were seduced, like the errant husband who coaxes a much abused wife into being ‘best friends’ (a la Mahindananda Aluthgamage), into joining the Commonwealth. Truth is that Sri Lanka should have left this anachronistic rag bag outfit a long time ago. But of course our brown sahibs wouldn’t allow it!
    As for a ‘TRC’ commission; what we have now is a typical GOSL knee-jerk reaction to the CHOGM clamour, and is a delaying tactic clouded in obfuscation. The GOSL adopted, in May 2009, the denial default position and each time it tries to move from that position it realises how utterly ridiculous it looks. Now what to do?

  • 0
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    Sharia Law can do a lot of good in SL especially in the north and the east.

    Existing law in the north and the east cannot bring peace, harmony and bury racism. Only Sharia can do it.

    Racist Laws like Thesawalami law must be scrapped. Otherwise the law will remain an ass.

  • 0
    2

    There are numerous footage of mega LTTE massacres of innocent, feeble , old men , women and even baby monks on You Tube including the specific ones that Ms Pinto has mentioned.

    Couldn’t Mss Pinto find any Srilankan Military ones that she is trying to portray here as ghastly and gruesome as Mr Prabakaran’s to show us on U Tube?

  • 1
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    UPFA needs to keep LTTE ghost alive to win elections. Then UPFA did not get muslim votes. most muslim votes goto UNP yet UPFA win elections from majority sinhala votes. The BBS is to get more sinhala hardline votes. Sice we have 70% buddhist votes UPFA needs only 51% of votes to win elections.

  • 0
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    So is it not ironic that attacks on Hindu kovils are being regularly reported after active fighting has ceased in the country following the military defeat of the LTTE in 2009?

    Hindu Kovils are increasingly becoming a target is not a surprise. This is essentially Tamils following TNA lead playing the Hindu card.

    These are all engineered. They hope crying victimised by Buddhists will appeal to Indian Hindu fundamentlists anticipated to win elections.

    In fact whenever Tamils have been killed do not suspect the Army only. The LTTE tradiaionally killed Tamils, burnt libraries so that they look like victims. LTTE did not invent these themselves. They learned this techniques from FP/TULF.

  • 0
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    Double madam lets fix that Jarapakse for bumping off that wonderful human being Prabakaran.Though we managed to bump off Gamini,Premadasa,Rajiv,we failed to fix Mahinda.I will join the action provided i get lots of [Edited out]

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