By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
“… like a long-lost person suddenly discovered floating in the ocean-as a cadaver.”
The single and personal saga of popular young ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen’s mysterious death is bound to push election news aside in this last week of the General Election period. News stands already abound with stories of his death. The grapevines and gossip lines have gotten busy. Truth is getting mixed with fiction but the resultant public narrative is getting juicier by the hour.
What was deemed an inconsequential issue and was thought buried for good under a regime that had acquired the power to hush anything that became uncomfortable to it, has now surfaced like a long lost person suddenly discovered floating in the ocean-as a cadaver.
In the old days, we had the Kavi Kola Karaya who invasively steps into public transport and recites eloquently his version of a sordid narrative. I remember how during the sixties, when I was in Galle, the Dayman Kularatne murder news spread like wild fire via informal and formal channels. I was a youngster then working at the Galle Katchcheri. I rushed to the scene of the murder. In the case of the Thajudeen story, the naming of the then ruling family has material that has an infinite combustive potential. The eventual turnout of the various charges and accusations will depend on the results of the General Elections.
The following news story that appeared online on the 9th of August gives the outlines of what other published and unpublished stories have been giving the reader during the past few days after the investigation was resurrected.
Here’s the news story:
“Economynext (Daily Brief) Gruesome details have emerged of the murder of Sri Lanka rugger player Wasim Thajudeen ahead of the exhumation of his body, official sources said today.
The killers are said to have made a former girlfriend of Wasim’s listen to him being tortured, the sources said, adding that the horrific account of the events will form part of the evidence in the case.
A dossier has already been prepared by the CID which has questioned the former girl friend who had served a brief stint as a Sri Lankan diplomat, a position given apparently to buy her silence.
However, with the collapse of the Rajapaksa regime in January this year, she was recalled along with all other political appointees.
The authorities have identified sexual jealousy of a VVIP as the motive for the torture and murder which according to minister Rajitha Senaratne was carried out by three members of the Presidential Security Division.
The new president has already ordered a major shakeup of the PSD following Senaratne’s claim as well as for several other lapses that may have even risked the life of President Maithripala Sirisena.
What is most ironic is that Thajudeen is believed to have been abducted in a vehicle said to belong to the Red Cross Society of Sri Lanka, an organisation which by charter is obliged to stand against arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and murder.
The local head of the Red Cross Society, Jagath Abeysinghe, has remained silent although police sources said he had been questioned about the use of a Red Cross vehicle to abduct Thajudeen.
The Red Cross boss is reported to have maintained that the vehicle at the time had been “gifted” to the Siriliya Foundation of former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa.”
These are, of course, charges but it is a fact that they are serious charges. My question is: Could we believe such horror? Can a killer get a lover of the victim listen while the brutal attack is being made? The killing process of Sunday Leader editor, Laasantha Wickrematunge before a morning crowd in crowded area proximate to a security zone had similar gruesome accounts. Lasantha was butchered-his brain shattered into smithereens and he was hacked to death. To date, the government of the day has not demonstrated that they did their best to bring culprits to book. I remember how the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa appeared quite blithe over TV when interviewed by BBC about the episode.
Frankly, I had not heard of this kind of macabre stuff occurring in Sri Lanka ever. Our people have not been that black, I thought. The closest was the CTC robbery that occurred decades ago. Of course, there are pending tales of the massacre of civilians during the last stages of the war which cries for investigation. There have been individual cases like that of Richard De Zoysa during the Premadasa regime and the rape of the European tourist lass down South. Although Sarath Fonseka was not murdered, his incarceration in jail smacks of the same deficiency of lack of respect for human dignity. Even a softer illustration was the unlawful impeachment of the 43rd Chief Justice. these incidents all represent a scant disregard for human life and dignity.
At this stage, one cannot make any conclusions about the guilt of those accused of the deliberate slaughter of Thajudeen. Let’s hope the justice system, now restored, will look into that. However, it becomes in the vital public interest for us, Sri Lankans, to ask ourselves serious hypothetical questions that bear on this growing culture of disrespect for life that had been fostered during the recent past. When these things did happen to Lasantha and (hypothetically) if it could have happened to Thajudeen, then where are we heading as a nation? To a Dark Age from which nobody will come out unscathed? Isn’t this the surest sign of the breakdown of the law and order process under the Rajapaksa Regime as a result of totalitarianism politicization? The two processes are internally linked.
Hand in hand with that collapse was a burgeoning supportive culture of “minding one’s business.” And this is, perhaps, the worser thing that happened. Our intellectuals, our academics and our artists tended to join the disastrous bandwagon of indifferent people. When I observe a venerable and respected litterateur, now in a ‘patriotic movement,’ jump up and make a great hue and cry about a proposal for a bridge linking our country with India but say nothing of the recurring episodes of crimes to humanity taking place in the island, my heart bleeds. When I hear a most talented actor recreate a new history that shows Mahinda Rajapaksa as a coming in a line of descent from the Buddha my disbelief loses bounds.
It doesn’t become one’s business until it does become one’s business-someday, sometime. These constitute central issues for the country. Believe me, nothing else matters. You and I and our kids must have a governance environment that gives us protection of the law. We seem to have lost our priorities as simple human beings and so we fight among ourselves to save our tribe. The tribe can flourish only if humanity flourishes. And if we look at our common humanity we can also solve our tribal problems more intelligently.