By Dayan Jayatilleka –
Given the outpouring of public gratitude towards the military for its role in rescue and relief during the floods, I’d like to see the Government proceeding with and taking the consequences of the ‘full implementation of the Geneva resolution’, with new hybrid judicial mechanisms, foreign judges etc.
One cannot help but wonder how Foreign Minister Kadirgamar would have reacted to the recent, absurdly intrusive and occasionally hypocritical statements on Sri Lanka by Justin Trudeau, Jeremy Corbyn and Jayalalithaa.
Speaking of the late Mr. Kadirgamar, a former secretary of Justice Dr. Nihal Jayawickrema has expressed some doubts and confusion as to who killed him. Hmmm, who indeed could it conceivably have been?
Dr. Jayawickrema has, to cut a convoluted story short, advocated a hybrid court and foreign participation in probing the war and the military which liberated us from thirty years of suicide bombing terrorism.
This is even richer in hypocrisy than Justin Trudeau’s statement. Dr. Jayawickrema, a friend of my father’s, served as a conspicuous commissar under Felix Dias Bandaranaike in the Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime of 1970-1977. Remember Gamani Fonseka’s film ‘Sagarayak Meda’ anyone?
My father was an enlightened dissident in that Establishment who was duly sacked by Mrs. Bandaranaike from the posts of Editor, Daily News and Editor-in-Chief of Lake House (just as I would be from Geneva over three decades later by President Rajapaksa). Dr. Jayawickrema by contrast was deprived of his civic rights on charges of the abuse of power, by the successor administration which was swept in with the most massive popular mandate in the history of Sri Lankan democracy.
It was during the administration of Mrs. Bandaranaike, of which Dr. Jayawickrema was a flamboyantly energetic apparatchik that Sri Lanka (still Ceylon at the time) saw bodies of young men and women, burnt on tyres; floating down rivers with hands tied behind their backs. A JVP suspect named Kamalabandu was dismembered while alive with a buzz-saw. People stopped eating fish, because the fish had fed on the bodies.
My generation saw these horrors. In my teens I joined a revolutionary group (of which Rohan Samarajeewa and Asoka Pieris were older members) and was detained for questioning by the anti-terrorist secret police between my A levels and university entrance.
Profs Sarachchandra and Ashley Halpe wrote about the tyre pyres up in the Hantana hills. Bala Tampoe wrote open letters of protest to the PM. Prof. EFC Ludowyk signed petitions in London against the horrors. The Civil Rights Movement was initiated against this reign of terror. Its co-founder, Rajah Gunasekara, the Law College Principal, was reviled (as was MARGA Institute and its respected founder Godfrey Gunatilleke) by Dr. Jayawickrema’s boss (and my father’s campus colleague), Felix Dias.
The Amnesty International representative Lord Avebury was deported. The Guardian (London) ran Lord Avebury’s article with the caption “An Island behind Bars”. The Ceylon Solidarity Campaign was started in London against the regime’s brutal practices. Civil rights lawyers protested against retroactive legislation. Indeed the Communist Party of Sri Lanka split and its two most respected leaders, Dr. SA Wickemasinghe and Sarath Muttetuwegama left the Government precisely in protest at the passage of the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) Act , which they criticized for being both retroactive and draconian. It is the Ministry of which Dr. Jayawickrema was Permanent Secretary that drafted that piece of legislation.
While this exceptional legislation was directed against the anti-state forces which lost the clash, there were no hybrid courts and foreign judges to ensure the accountability of the state apparatus.
What the military learned in 1971, it practiced again in 1986-1989, as the 1971 veterans rose through the ranks. What the JVP didn’t do in 1971 it did in 1986-1989 because it thought it had been too soft the first time around and imitated both its old enemy and the Tamil Tigers who had arisen since. Ragging grew exponentially more violent as a generation which had witnessed torture entered the universities after 1971. A new generation which had witnessed atrocities and been brutalized, joined both the JVP and the military.
Despite a record 12,000 enforced disappearances according to a UN report, there were no hybrid courts or foreign judges.
I don’t see anything wrong in that, but if there were no accountability mechanisms and certainly exceptional, hybrid ones after either 1971 or 1987-90, there do not need to be any after our Just War of self-defense and reunification (2007-2009).
Dr. Jayawickrema went overseas, earned his PhD and much to the delight of the last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, preached Human Rights in Hong Kong before it reverted to China.
Having gone through the thirty year war living in Eton, UK, during which time our friends were being killed by suicide bombers, and we were risking sudden death in daily life, Dr. Jayawickrema wants hybrid courts and foreign judges to judge our military men who liberated us from the hell of weekly terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile Jayalalithaa Jayaram, who just won a historic electoral victory, had declared during her campaign, her commitment to Tamil Eelam.
For its part, the Sri Lankan government has agreed to an Indian-built temple marking the spot where Sita is said to have had to walk the talk through the fire (the earliest forerunner of a ‘Game of Thrones’ lass).
Thus the Sri Lankan government has given permission for a temple marking a mythical narrative in which Ravana of Lanka is the bad guy and India’s Rama and his invading monkey army are heroes!
No wonder our PM, far more a Vibheeshana fan than a Ravana fan, suggested the Hanuman Bridge linking Tamil Nadu with northern Sri Lanka as far back as 2002; a deadly bridge and underwater tunnel which India is now about to build.