By Sarath de Alwis –
The French novelist Emile Zola who captioned his last novel as ‘Verite’ [Truth] wrote these immortal words. “When truth is buried underground it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out, it blows up everything with it.”
In his Philosophy of History, Hegel remarked that people and governments have never learned anything from history. The observation is crucially relevant to the times we live in.
The Channel 4 video has succeeded in its purpose. It has provoked a fresh inquiry into the Easter Sunday Carnage.
The Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has called for an impartial investigation with international assistance into revelations made by the Channel 4 documentary on the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage.
The seventh executive president Gotabaya Rajapakse has captioned his response with argumentative finesse. He calls it “The latest Channel 4 film on Sri Lanka.”
His response ignores the yet unresolved broad day light killing of ‘Lasantha Wickrematunge whose brutal assassination is shrewdly woven into the preamble of the Channel 4’s Easter Sunday story.
His Press Release seeks to dismisses Channel 4 allegations as ‘fabrications’ and ‘plain nonsense.’ He explains the deplorable and humiliating transfer of the CID’s top investigator as an imperative dictated by his sense of governance propriety.
As per the media release no one called someone a ‘dog’.
A ’Viyathmaga’ stalwart in a passionate defense of the former President said on TV that the idea of a few Islamic fundamentalists blowing themselves up to make someone else win the presidency was simply and ridiculously inconceivable.
That indeed is a valid point. But this is where Hegel’s remark of our incapacity to learn from history comes in to play.
Who could have imagined that Velupillai Prabhakaran would impose a boycott of the 2005 Presidential election paving way for a Mahinda Rajapakse presidency.
So, if history is of any help, the unthinkable and unspeakable indeed can happen.
One may agree or disagree about its motives and timing. That said, the simple truth is obvious. Channel 4 video is cinematography mocking at the Rajapakse dynasty’s brazen attempt to weaponize ‘pride’ and ‘patriotism’.
For too long we have quietly acquiesced or helplessly watched the subversion of universally held norms of justice.
The military defeat of violent separatism has been used to stigmatize minorities. In post war Rajapakse family rule the mainstream media has been coerced in to meek or calibrated dissent. There are plenty of timeservers’ clerical and lay to offer apologies when injustice is perpetrated by the ruling class.
Justice is dispensed by humans. Humans are fallible. US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously quipped, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.”
I undertake this essay despite a serious eye problem due to age, weakening my eyelids resulting in eyes flooding with tears. I consulted several Eye surgeons, and it took some time to find out what’s wrong.
These are thoughts that come to mind at random. If Doctors can make mistakes so can judges, jurors and investigators.
But the Channel 4 story is not about error but deliberate directional determination to arrive at error, distortion, or both.
As E.C, Hughes remarks in his classic commentary in sociology ‘Men and their work’ no human effort is wholly immune from error.
The myth of ending a thirty-year war made Mahinda Rajapaksa incapable of wrongdoing. He was the ‘Appachchi’ of the nation. The ‘Appachchi’ decided that henceforth there were no minorities. All are patriots.
Soon after the end of the war Professor Neera Wickremesinghe wrote an essay “Producing the Present: History as Heritage in Post-War Patriotic Sri Lanka”. I invite readers to revisit her brilliant and prophetic reading of our steady dissent into a cult of tribal savagery under the guise of a return to heritage.
A defective investigation will not give us effective justice. We are in the process of restructuring our sovereign debt, domestic and foreign. At the behest of the IMF, we have undertaken a governance audit.
His eminence the Cardinal wants a fresh audit of the investigative process of the Easter Sunday massacre.
Decision-makers vested with authority in a democracy must be able to explain how they reached important decisions on behalf of all in society. As a Society we must never relinquish our right to question officialdom.
Protestors on the streets shape the future. That is the lesson of history. Behind the barricades are those who fear the future. They refuse to learn from history.
Emile Zola ended his famous tract ‘J Accuse ‘in which he accused 19th century France’s officialdom of a grand cover up of a gross injustice with these words.
“I have only one passion, that of light, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much, and which has the right to happiness. My fiery protest is only the cry of my soul. So, dare you put me on trial and let the investigation take place! I wait.”
Pillayan and Moulana are silhouettes dancing in the dark world they were nurtured in by a Surveillance state.
Though broken, and bankrupt, we still retain some sanity. We demand light!
Meanwhile in a parallel universe mischief is afoot.
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town, Upstairs and down stairs in his night-gown, Tapping at the window, crying at the lock, Are the children in their bed, I’m looting your EPF !