By Kumar David –
Many of Gota’s actions in the use of state power (except containment of the coronavirus) are wrong. But I understand them in the sense that I know why he did so. Placing the CID unit handling political crimes under the military and taking away files relating to the murder of Lasantha, Ekneligoda, Thajudeen and the Trinco students is a coverup but everybody knows why this was done. It was to shield members of the Royal Family, or high officers or for fear the finger of suspicion will point straight to the top. Lasantha’s daughter Ahimsa’s filings in the US tells a story that no court or public in Sri Lanka will be allowed to hear.
But this Sunil thing! Sunil Ratnayake, a former army staff sergeant, was sentenced to death for the murder of eight Tamil civilians including four children in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on 19th December 2000. Gota gave him a special presidential pardon and released him from death row on Thursday. This was grossly, fragrantly, improper, but that’s not my point. My question is “Why did he do it?” Why, oh why? Yes, he is under obligation to monks and extremists who helped him to power, but there was no clamour from rabid-racists who want to drown Tamils and Muslims in blood, to get this killer released. Gammanpila-Wimal were not fuming at the mouth demanding a pardon. So, Gota was not bowing to mass racist demands. Then was military brass pressing him to pardon one of their kind – in more ways than one! Well not that I know of. Which brainless commander or ex-commander, would at this time, approach the President and press for the release of an 8-times convicted racist killer? No one has suggested an even half-credible explanation for this pardon insanity.
It has cost Gota outrage even in his following. A Gota devotee and one-time leftist of my Engineering Faculty days wrings his hands but follows up with inane justifications “what to do, such things happen in wars”. Eight cold blooded murders including four children and stuffing the bodies down a sewage pit! I have still to meet any one who even attempts to answer the “Why pardon?” question.
I have no option but to leave that matter in abeyance and move to another. How will coronavirus fallout affect the standing of different political leaders in the world? Most like Australia’s Scott Morrison and UK’s Boris Johnson have gone to the bottom of the charts but five have made gains in public opinion; Trump, Gota, Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam, Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong, South Korea’s Chung Sye-kyun and China’s Xi Jinping. China and South Korea, after initial blunders, are now the copybook examples. Singapore was exemplary from the word go as was Hong Kong but when 80,000 students fled the USA, UK and Australia and came back home to Hong Kong, some were virus carriers. Carrie Lam and her government have now got it under control.
The Trump case is interesting. America is fractured on ideological lines; herd-like clustering that nothing will heal. About 35% of the population will stand behind Trump even if he commits blue murder in public; another 40% will hate him even if he attains enlightenment. It is an unbridgeable abyss, a society rent in twain; nothing will move this three-quarters either way. The remainder is, as of this moment, somewhat impressed by the bravado and aplomb of the commander in chief who gives himself ten-out-of-ten and swears to conquer all before him. Veni, vidi, vici; the new Caesar. Soon his house of cards will come crashing down as fast as his country’s health and economy.
Gota and his government are doing a good job, but small people are taking a hit. I know a small contractor or two, many day-labourers, a computer repair chap, 15 daily-paid gardeners in an estate, they are all badly hit. They are not of any particular hue but live on daily earnings. Without an income for a few days they can’t feed their families. They are cursing the government and in no mood to listen when I explain, for accuracy’s sake, that the virus is not Gota’s fault and that a hard lockdown is the quickest way out. Worse will come when the hit on the economy becomes glaring; garment orders are down, hotels, tourism and airlines are in the dumps, shops are shuttered and employment is falling. As with all electoral politics the opposition will make capital before the polls. Can Gota, MR and the SLPP convince the electorate that they did the best that could to be done? Politics doesn’t work like that. Pardoning a murderer, and worse to come the expected pardoning of Duminda, makes for an act of political suicide that is not possible to understand.