SRI LANKA: Needed — A Ministry of Truth 

“… dislike doctrines, you have a horror of systems, as for principles, you deny that there are any in political economy; therefore we shall call it your practice — your practice without theory and without principle.”
Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)
[Open letter to the French Parliament, originally published in 1845]


The operation in Geneva has been accomplished, the hyperbole declared by the government during the weekend, after the inelegant drama on the streets of Colombo and in the suburbs where President Rajapaksa’s critical political situation has been changed. Now who will talk for Antony Fernando who was a father of two; an innocent fisherman killed by a man attached to the Special Task Force after he received an order from Ravi Wijegunawardhana, Deputy Inspector General of Police, — a senior official within one of worst State institutions which is almost dependent on unlawful tactics to kill innocent civilians. Hence, we ask the question: What was the harvest shared with the country, by the more than 52 delegates, all from the ruling party, who participated in the Geneva operation last week; Geneva being one of most expensive cities in the World? The truth is far beyond our sight, though the so called “our patriots” have their own way of dealing with people in the Country. This is simply identified as them not being serious about people at all. They are presenting us with a system of horror which is murdering the freedom of mankind in every aspect of society.

The situation in Sri Lanka is ranked third in-terms of concern by the international community after Syria and Egypt. Some quarters claim that Sri Lanka is the country where wide a range of massacres have occurred in recent times. In this situation, what answer does the ruling party have? The former attorney General Mohan Peiris, who is a legal adviser to the President, says that the government is moving forward towards fresh investigations into two massacres that happened in 2006. One relates to three unarmed students who were gunned down by an armed gang when they were chatting at the Gandhi statue in Trincomalee. What is of very real interest is that it was reported in the media that the Minister of Economic Development, who is a brother of the President, disclosed to the US envoy in Colombo that it was done by the security forces with special weapons that they use to conduct this kind of killings. The second case was killing of the 17 aid workers at Muttur, Trincomalee.

The former Attorney General gave this assurance during an interactive session with representatives of countries interested in the Sri Lankan issue in Geneva.  Mr. Peiris is reported to have said that the government had in no way swept everything under the carpet. He said the matter had been investigated and the government would reopen the case to ascertain the truth behind some of the allegations.

Just a few months earlier he commented on the disappearance of Prageeth Ekanaligoda, a journalist and activist, who was abducted in Colombo, in August 2009, that the Government had enough evidence to prove that Prageeth was living in a Western country.  We must conclude that the former Attorney General is none other than a materialistic fun-maker of tragic issues plaguing the Country. He is trying to be a prestidigitator of justice even though he failed to carry out his own duty when he was in office. His comments are closer to the Minister of External Affairs, and former professor in law at the University of Colombo, Mr. Gamini Lakxman Peiris, who tried to teach political science and international relations to Uganda, Nigeria, Botswana, South Africa and other African countries in his African safari after he lost his “dignity” within the Sri Lankan delegation to Geneva. However as per media reports during the weekend, Botswana is one of the countries that are likely to support a proposed resolution against Sri Lanka, proposed by the US representative at the UNHRC session scheduled  to be held later this month.

Meanwhile, at a meeting with the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation of the Republic of South Africa, Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister Peiris commented in a statement issued yesterday afternoon (March 6) referring to the inspiring leadership of former President Nelson Mandela,  that “a salient feature of the structures he had put in place was their home-grown quality, in many fundamental respects. Although not hesitating to draw on positive experiences from other cultures, as Mandela has explained in his fascinating autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he considered it vital to adapt these experiences to suit the unique context of the South African situation. The result was a model containing features which hardly bear comparison with any other set of constitutional or political arrangements.”

Similarly, he went on to say, it is Sri Lanka’s earnest effort, after the defeat of terrorism, to develop in an inclusive spirit structures fulfilling the special needs of our society, he explained. The Minister continued that, while collaboration on the basis of equality and mutual respect is always welcome, Sri Lanka does not consider helpful patronizing attitudes leading to attempts at external intervention.
The lie did not stop there for he went into detail and recalled his past, “Prof. Peiris drew attention to yet another prominent characteristic of the South African experience, with special value to Sri Lanka: namely, the deliberate decision to dispense with external mediation or facilitation in any form, and to rely instead on local creativity and resourcefulness.”

After the completion of his doctoral thesis at the University of Oxford on avenues of development of the Roman-Dutch Law in Sri Lanka and South Africa, he had accepted with pleasure the invitation extended to him by leading South African Universities including the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town to deliver a series of lectures. He recalled, as well, his association with the late Mr. Dulla Omar, Minister of Justice in the Mandela administration, and with Mr. Valli Moosa, at that time Minister of Constitutional Affairs, but he forgot to mention what Minister Dulla Omar had done and what he could do in the context of Sri Lanka.  The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up by the Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid, where Minister Omar played leading comprehensive role in reconciliation from the long term conflict in the Country. The conflict during this period resulted in violence and human rights abuses from all sides. The core notion that all politicians in South Africa, have accepted is that, “no section of society escaped these abuses.”

On the TRC, Mr Dullah Omar, former Minister of Justice, once said, “… a commission is a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation.” Will Minister G.L. Peiris provide assurance on Sri Lanka’s LLRC and its recommendations to restore rule of law in the Country?  It was reported by the media that the Minister was booted out from Geneva, and that he arranged his African safari to take a break from this political predicament.

After the crushing of the LTTE, under a pretext that the Government used for many years to undermine people’s rights and control their opponents, the Government is not in a mode to put their administrative mechanism within the paradigm of good governance. The government is facing a crisis within a crisis.

To use a simple example to explain this, the tragic scenario that happened at the Law Collage over their lack of transparency in conducting exams would not have happened if the government had genuinely implemented a reliable administrative system. It is laughable to read that a person with doctorate in geography is in charge of a person doing his masters in criminology at the University of Jayawardhanapura. The only apparent reason is that the student is a son of the President. The logic that underpins this seems to be: if you are too far away to lick the top component of power then you get to at least lick a branch of it to secure what’s left of your position in an unlawful system.

The entire system is under cynical manipulation of power which is constitutionally above the law. The enemy is not on the outside, but within our system and our rejection to accept rule of law system. Our culture and the Rule of law have never gone together. In other words, our culture and rule of law did not overlap each other but always tried to apagoge one another.  This is a strategy that was used by regimes to undermine people, for a long time. Under these circumstances how could the former Attorney General provide assurances before the international community that he was going for a fresh probe on extrajudicial killings in recent times, while the evil of abduction came into the court premises and abducted a person who had been given tight security by prison officers. The former Attorney General has given assurance at a time when the Country’s policing system has lost their capacity to undertake reliable investigations rather than using barbarian tactics to obtain self-confession from those arrested by the police or eliminate peaceful demonstrators.

In their article in the New York Times on 3rd March 2012, Marzuki Darusman, former Attorney-General of Indonesia, Steven Ratner , a law professor at the University of Michigan and Yasmin Sooka, the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, argued,  “When, a year later, the government had done nothing to carry out Rajapaksa’s commitment, the secretary general asked the three of us to study the allegations of atrocities during the last stages of the war and Sri Lanka’s response. In our report, we found credible evidence that both sides had systematically flouted the laws of war, leading to as many as 40,000 deaths — many multiples more than caused by the strife in Libya or Syria” (The New York Times, (March 3, 2012). They are authors of the report by the UN on Sri Lankan war through the Secretary General’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka, issued last year, based on which  the UN in fact finds that enough evidence was there to conduct an investigation into  crimes against humanity.

Nevertheless, when these authors are referring the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) appointed in May 2010, by President Rajapaksa to conduct an investigation into the conflict they observe, “when it came to proposing next steps for the government, it called for investigations by the same entities — the army and the attorney general — who have a track record of ignoring governmental abuses for decades.” (ibid). This indifference and ignorance have been a long history and they have murdered the social system in Sri Lanka, and divested distance between culture and rule of law.  What the people of Sri Lanka are looking for today, from the International community is not an introduced magical robot who can change the entire society.  As this writer pointed out last May, about the UN report, “to even make any sense of the UN’s expectations of Accountability, majority Sri Lankans, including victims of the recent war, need ground level education in global responsibilities. Until this is done, these reports would be twisted and abused by the Rajapakse clan to make a mockery not only of the UN system but also our own reality, from which they have alienated themselves.”

What we are seeing in the country are those wide spreading lies to cover up all notorious acts done by the state agencies. Lies have become our core of idealism of the Social contacts of the system; in other words there is widely held belief that if you want to succeed in your life then you have to lie. This pathetic ideology has written screed of history of the country.  The painful point is that common sense of society has replaced by this. As this writer pointed out last week in relation to the war in Sri Lanka even far beyond the lies, today what the regime is practicing is that they will never tell only a lie because they can bullshit their way through. But that the Government is more concerned and is careful in-terms of their personal life when they are dealing with the West. As former Attorney General’s assurances in Geneva on extrajudicial killings is more closed to the Huntington’s theory, “partial truths or half-truths are often more insidious than total falsehoods.” This tactic is being used by everyone in the Government including the leader who has given various promises at various times to the intentional community but nothing will be implemented.  What Sri Lanka needs today is to form a Ministry of Truth to collected all lies, but tell the truth to the people.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-018-2012
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Administration of justice, Enforced disappearances and abductions, Extrajudicial killings, Rule of law,