By Tisaranee Gunasekara –
We know him as Kumaran Pathmanathan alias ‘KP’. The Interpol knows him as Shanmugam Kumaran Tharmalingam. He is on the Interpol’s wanted list for a variety of crimes starting with terrorism. Unsurprisingly; for decades he was a senior Tiger leader, a trusted confidant of Vellupillai Pirapaharan and the LTTE’s chief arms-procurer.
In a lawful land, when it came to charging ‘KP’, the problem would have been not where to start, but where to stop. But in Rajapaksa Sri Lanka, the AG’s Department under Presidential control cannot charge ‘KP’ with even the most miniscule crime because “there was no evidence or complaints” against him (Daily Mirror – 17.10.2012). So while lesser Tigers fester in jail, Vellupillai Pirapaharan’s hand-picked successor is a free man, “involved in the development drive being carried out in the North and East” (ibid).
Thus ‘KP’, the former Tiger chieftain, joins the illustrious company of Minister Mervyn Silva and son, Parliamentarian Duminda Silva, Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and Air Lanka Chairman and Presidential brother-in-law, Nishantha Wickremesinghe – men whom the law cannot touch because they belong to the charmed circle of Rajapaksa kith- and-kin. ‘KP’ is now protected with Rajapaksa-Teflon and not even the Interpol will be able lay a fingertip on him (if the Interpol tries, we will howl about ‘sovereignty’ and ‘imperialism’).
The government which persecuted General Fonseka and Senior Journalist Tissanayagam, the government which has appointed a cabinet committee to investigate the Secretary to the Judicial Service Commission Manjula Tilakaratne (even as his assailants roam free), the government which illegally incarcerated almost 300,000 civilian Tamils, including children, in open prison camps to catch a few hundred Tigers, cannot find even an iota of evidence against ‘KP’ who for decades kept the LTTE plentifully supplied with weapons of destruction.
In a lawful land this would be considered rank, obscene injustice. Under Rajapaksa rule, this is the only justice possible.
The happy fate of KP is a morality tale about Rajapaksa law: the Rajapaksa kith- and-kin can never be guilty of any crime while Rajapaksa opponents have to be guilty of some crime. (Just as Rajapaksa-economics dictate that a country too poor to spend much on education or health is rich enough to buy a satellite and inaugurate a space programme; and Rajapaksa-governance rules that only brevet colonels can become effective school principals).
Today Rajapaksa law is predominant. Fortunately, the normal law, though under siege, still retains some life, some capacity to alleviate injustice.
Are we going to allow the law of the Rajapaksas to pulverise the Rule of Law? Do we not comprehend the dangers inherent in allowing the judiciary to become the handmaiden of Rajapaksa Rule?
‘Power is God’
The Divi Neguma Bill is about Rajapaksa power. Its primary aim is neither development nor poverty alleviation, but the further expansion of Brother Basil’s extensive economic empire.
The 13th Amendment is one of the few really existing impediments to this manic power-grab. If the Divi Neguma Bill, which plans to give Basil Rajapaksa absolute control over a huge chunk of national wealth, fails, it will be thanks to the democratising potential of the 13th Amendment. Without the 13th Amendment, even the most independent judiciary would have found it difficult to legally impede the march of the megalomaniacs. That is why the regime has set its sights on the 13th Amendment.
Joachim Fest argues that Adolf Hitler’s absolutist project succeeded so well partly because “everything he did, including his surprised lunges for power and arbitrary acts, was planned in such a way that at least part of the population would have good reason to feel thankful to him” (Plotting Hitler’s Death). Vellupillai Pirapaharan made excellent use of Tamil nationalism and Tamil pride to win support for his horrendous dystopia.
The Rajapaksas too excel at conjuring attractive mantles to hide their frightening aims and dangerous objectives. Thus patriotism is being used to justify the opposition to the 13th Amendment. Last month an officer who contributed significantly to the anti-Tiger cause was thrown to the wolves to save a ministerial offspring. Last week ‘KP’ was set free. The anomalies are glaringly obvious; but the Siblings know – as Herr Hitler and Mr. Pirapaharan did – that enough people can be deceived all the time, if you rave against international conspiracies, wave the flag and do the patriotic-dance, with convincing frenzy.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa compares the 13th Amendment with the Norwegian sponsored and Tiger-appeasing Ceasefire Agreement (CFA): “the 13th Amendment and the CFA didn’t serve the people of Sri Lanka. Instead they facilitated interests of various other parties including the LTTE. Interestingly both supported the separatist cause” (The Island – 14.10.2012). The logical and the factual fallacies of this statement are mind-boggling. The aim of the 13th Amendment was to find a political solution to the ethnic problem by ensuring for the Tamil people a modicum of devolution. It did not promote separatism; on the contrary it enabled many former Eelamists to support the Lankan state by demonstrating the possibility of a peaceful and democratic path to win Tamil rights. The Tigers opposed the 13th Amendment as viscerally as Sinhala supremacists do because it indicated, however faintly, the possibility of a Lankan future.
The CFA on the other hand was aimed at appeasing the LTTE to the hilt. The Tigers turned the North-East into a de facto Eelam, thanks to the space, opportunities and powers provided by the CFA. That is why Vellupillai Pirapaharan regarded the CFA as a trap with a lot of use-value while he abominated the Indo-Lanka Accord and the 13th Amendment wholeheartedly, as dangerous betrayals.
The 17th Amendment was an entirely indigenous product. It had nothing to do with India, Norway or any Western power. Its sole aim was to democratise the polity by making the political playing-field a little less unbalanced. But Rajapaksas killed it because it impeded their unyielding quest for even greater power.
Patriotism is just a cover to fool the Sinhala South. Rajapaksa-power, Rajapaksa-glory and Rajapaksa-safety are the sole concerns of the Rajapaksas.
The Siblings are trying to create a majority-minority, Sinhala-Tamil/Muslim, anti-devolution-pro-devolution gap to facilitate their power-grab. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s definition of the 13th Amendment as an anti-national, pro-separatist piece of legislation is a case in point. That false equation will not only enable the regime to label as traitors anyone who supports/defends the 13th Amendment; it will also be helpful in discouraging civil society from standing foursquare behind the judiciary in its current efforts to resist the rampaging executive.
Power is the Rajapaksa God and the Divi Neguma Bill is the latest instalment in their serial power-grab. Its current difficulties demonstrate the use-value of the 13th Amendment and its democratic indispensability as the last constitutional bastion against Rajapaksa absolutism.
That is why the Siblings want it out.
The debate over the desirability and viability of devolution must await a post-Rajapaksa future. That politico-ideological-intellectual exercise is a task for a happier tomorrow. So long as the Rajapaksas rule, even those who oppose devolution (and Tamil rights) must defend the 13th Amendment unequivocally, if they want to save some democracy and justice for the Sinhalese.