SRI LANKA: Drama on the Ah 

If a girl sits badly, it is up to her mother to cover her thighs.

– Orma (Kenyan) Proverb

Again, it works, doesn’t it? But for how long you are going to trap the public with this same strategy which has different faces? When the person who has abused power and undermined the basic rights of the people is unclad then his followers have to conceal his nudity from the public in order to keep his power alive. The drama, which is now being the staged in Geneva, is sending us a clear message that the way of dealing with an issue which is highly sensitive in terms of the validity of a human person is to treat the human being as an ‘ah’. At the end of it all the question is: who is going to have the last laugh. The answer is indeed pathetic if you think in terms of the social scenarios using the recent history of Sri Lanka. That answer says that we strengthen the enemies’ hands with our own resources in order to undermine our freedom. As a result of that we have experienced nightmares where thousands of people were killed. But we are yet to learn from these nightmares. What we have to realize is that which is simply explained in a proverb of the Alur people in the Congo, ‘Darkness can’t lead darkness’. In other words, an ignorant person can’t lead another ignorant to knowledge.

The Government of Sri Lanka is protecting the human rights of the people in the Country with the international norms and standards”, said Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights, who also is the leader of the Sri Lankan Delegation to the 19th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this year, while the Minister of Foreign/External affairs, Mr. G. L. Peiris, was sent  to South Africa by the President on an official visit. Both these ministers have issued statements on the situation in the Country. Mr. Peiris who was a professor in law at the University of Colombo, tried to argue the issue on the basis of concerns raised by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson of the Elders Foundation based in London. Both statements by these ministers are very interesting to read and their views reflect the levels of the Government’s understanding of the human rights issue and the real identity of the weaknesses in their diplomacy.

According to Minister Samarasinghe, “….Out of over 290,000 IDPs housed in welfare centres at the end of May 2009, only 6,647 IDPs remained to be resettled by the end of 2011. The Government has spent over USD 360 million on its resettlement programme.”(Quoted from the statement issued by Minister Samarasinghe at HRC in Geneva on February 27).

Minister Peiris said on that same day, “Within the last two and half years, of the 290,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), 6569 remain to be resettled, an effort which has been commended internationally. The Government has already spent USD 360 million for the resettlement programme. These remaining IDPs will be resettled once the demining process is complete.” (An excerpt from the open letter to Archbishop Tutu in South Africa by Minister G.L. Peiris on February 27). One minister said that there were 6,647 IDPs remaining to be resettled by end of the year, while the other minister claimed that there were only 6,569 IDPs remaining to be resettled. The difference is not a small number but 78 human beings are labeled as IDPs. The fact that the ministers could not agree on the figures that, could in fact, be easily verified, confirms that, even at UN level, the information provided by the ministers representing the Sri Lankan government is not reliable.

According to Minister Peiris, “From the 11,993 ex-combatants of the terrorist group, around 750 remain under detention and also in the Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centres (PARC). In relation to the detainees, appropriate investigations have begun in order to institute legal action. Further, all 595 child soldiers of the terrorist group were rehabilitated under a UNICEF-assisted programme, and reintegrated with their families within a year.” Minister Samarasingha in his long and allegedly factual discourse at the UN proudly disclosed on the same subject with different statistics, “With regard to rehabilitation of LTTE ex-combatants, out of nearly 12,000, less than 900 remain in rehabilitation centres.” The difference of 150 young lives highlights the fact that that these two ministers are not very concerned about these young lives, categorized as ex-combatants, who are in the custody of the Sri Lankan military.  The difference highlights the callousness with which, not just these 150 young lives, but all the lives in the custody of the Sri Lankan military have been treated. This is what Archbishop Tutu and Ms Robinson try to raise through their article about the callousness of the Government in treating human beings in their custody. Similar false presentation came from former Attorney General Mr. Mohan Peiris when he attended the CAT committee meeting end of last year in Geneva where he clearly lied to the committee is saying that a journalist of the Lanka E News, Prageeth Ekanaligoda, was not abducted but that the government had information that Mr. Eknaligoda received refugee status in foreign land, where he was still alive.

What we have to understand when we are hear these comments is the level of the poverty of political wisdom and the excessive weakness of the ideological arguments of the ruling regime. In other words the Government seems to be having their own ideas about what kind of lies will work anywhere in the world to cover up what they are doing locally. And unfortunately, the Government is still trying to enjoy lying in local politics which is an opportunity they do not have at the international level.

In their communication, which was originally published in the Guardian, UK, Archbishop Tutu and Mary Robinson clearly pointed out, “…we want to emphasise that Sri Lanka’s recent history is an issue that concerns all of us. Whether or not the Human Rights Council is able to summon the will to act on one of the most serious cases of human rights violations to have occurred since it was founded in 2006 could have ramifications for the global standing of human rights and international humanitarian law – and for the prestige and authority of the council.” This is not a conspiracy against the country but rather a basic fundamental question that the entire World is asking. In other words, this is a basic problem about our own people that we must answer with due accountability. Otherwise we run the real risk of being classified as lesser human beings.

Today, what the government is showing the public is that it is incapable of implementing basic structures and systems conforming to the principles of good governance. In this situation the whole society is placed in danger by the government’s failure to address the core issues of a crisis. And this is happening just so that some people can stay in power. The government is seen to be covering this up by encouraging the anger of political henchmen within our society against those who seek justice. That is seen as the reason as to why the government decided to conduct street protests and thereby destabilize the normal life of the public.

When diplomacy was met with catastrophic failure the government appeared unable to do anything except lie to the people and try to get them to take to the streets. In another words, this can be taken as the foreign policy of the country; flowing out on the streets when diplomacy fails to work. a state owned newspaper carried a news story on the proposed US resolution on Sri Lanka, saying that, “the US has intervened quickly in Sri Lanka because of the discovery of the oil that the government announced it has recently found in Mannar”. Furthermore the Government’s paper claimed that, “The US ire of Sri Lanka is because the leader is not a puppet of the West who is not going to bow down to them, and who instead started mega economic development process.” For how long will they push this poor strategy?

We recall a character named Arthur Abdel Simpson, in Eric Ambler’s novel Dirty Story, regarding the advice he received as a child from his father; “Although I was only seven when my father was killed. I still remember him very well and some of the things he used to say… One of the first things he taught me was, “Never tell a lie when you can bullshit your way through”. (quote: ‘On Bullshits’ written by Harry G. Frankfurt, p. 48). The present regime is not only going to tell a lie but will continue to bullshit their way through.

I would like to quote an extract of an opinion on this situation that I shared with the Media in an interview recently, ‘President Rajapaksha is a man of old era.  He still seems to be thinking the way that he thought and followed in 70s and 80s.  To some extent he will be the hero but the moment will come soon where he and his entire team will be seen as villains by the Public. Now the public is coming forward and seeking justice. But this is a very sensitive point where the Regime also can divert the public into blood bath like what was happened in 1983. After creating that kind of catastrophe the Regime needs to change the bad impressions about them which have spread within our society. This old strategy may be used again in different face/way. But with technology and intolerance of lies, new gates will open to solve the problems of the people. First stage has already been born where the politician has become a symbol of jest and simple manifestation of cunning. Like how the President is thinking about people, now people have also started thinking in the same way. Neither the President nor people trust each other enough to go forward together. At a certain point the people will find a smart way to crack down on the power of the politician. Then politicians will have to find a way out which would be a most difficult challenge. I’m not saying that the Arab spring will happen here but the real alternative will be born when the public get better understanding of the way the politicians’ lie. The people will find their own way to react to remove the unjust.’

In other words, Justice cannot be undermined by the victory in the battlefield.  What we have to understand is that now the country is sitting badly because of the abuse of power through positions above the law, and the people who have the ultimate power must cover the country’s exposed thighs.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-014-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Campaigns : Stop Custodial Deaths in Sri Lanka
Issues : Administration of justice, International human rights mechanisms, Rule of law,