SRI LANKA: Destructive effects of racial nihilism 

Nilantha Ilangamuwa

“Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses.”
– Euripides

The government has about an year to improve governance in terms of human rights, instead of selling racial nihilism and isolating itself from the world and the people. Next March (2013 March) the High Commissioner for Human Rights would report to the UN Human Rights Council the report the office of the Commissioner would prepare about Sri Lanka based on the UN resolution on Sri Lanka. The events preceding the passage of UN resolution (A/HRC/19/L.2) indicated strongly the genuine commitment of other world concerning affairs in Sri Lanka.

( AHRC Photo: A Buddhist monk holds a sticker calling for the boycott of U.S products in Colombo March 23, 2012.)

The clamor in Colombo concerning the resolution has subsided and the balloon of ‘patriotism’ has deflated. Those who made objections against the resolution perhaps have realized that they have wasted time and energy to support a corrupt, abusive, fraudulent regime, which has thus far failed to deal with essential problems in the country, but is continuing to bluff its way with the people.

Since March 08, the Government of Sri Lanka let its real foreign policy flow through the streets of Colombo, though the government was embarrassingly embroiled in an internal crisis. This writer has highlighted earlier, the rift within the Sri Lankan delegation that went to Geneva. Infighting between top ministers in Colombo is a reality of this regime. From the beginning it is the character of this regime and it will continue.

Mr Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister of Plantation Industries and Special Envoy of the President of Sri Lanka concerning Human Rights, and the Head of Sri Lankan delegation, on the resolution on Sri Lanka, pointed out to the Council before the vote “… this resolution if adopted will not add value to the implementation process in Sri Lanka; on the contrary, it may well be counter-productive and, as such, those who have been using extreme pressure tactics in garnering support for this ill-timed and unwarranted initiative should be mindful of the responsibility that accompanies it …”

“Let me assure you Madam President that the Government of Sri Lanka will spare no effort to safeguard the sovereignty and independence of the motherland. As we defeated terrorism through resolute and united action, we will dedicate our efforts to guaranteeing equality, dignity, justice and respect of each and every Sri Lankan, who have reposed their trust in our vision for the future. May I add, Madam President, that no one has to remind us of this responsibility…”

By this what the government literally said is that, there is no need for an outsider to teach good governance. In other words it implies that ‘we will eliminate our problems the same way we finished off the one of the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world.’ The interesting factor is that, when the minister was addressing the world, another Minister, Mr Douglas Devananda, the man believed to be responsible for abductions, torture and killings in the country, as highlighted by the LLRC, was sitting just beside Samarasinghe.

“During the Commission’s (LLRC) sittings in the Jaffna district, a complaint was made by a mother alleging that her son was abducted in May 2007 involving a “white van” with two EPDP cadres following them on a motorbike. The woman also claimed to possess the number of the van and when she visited the EPDP office several times they had repeatedly requested her “to be patient”. In another case reported to the Commission in Jaffna, a woman claimed that her husband and his two brothers were abducted by the “EPDP and Army men in civilian clothes”. Their whereabouts are still unknown” (LLRC report, p 174).

In addition to that it was reported several times that, during the first week of March 2012, a thirteen-year–old school girl, Jesudasan Lakshmi, was abducted, raped and killed by breaking her skull using a stone, when she was on her way to the school on Delft Island, by a man who is a member of the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), led by the minister. While sitting beside a perpetrator of serious human rights violations, Samarasinghe warned the UN, that there is no need of reminding Sri Lanka about its responsibility of equality, dignity, justice and respect of each and every Sri Lankan. What a tragedy!

Meanwhile the statement issued by the Minister of External Affairs, Mr Gamini Lakshman Peiris, shortly after the resolution was adopted read: “many countries which voted with Sri Lanka were acutely conscious of the danger of setting a precedent which enables ad-hoc intervention by powerful countries in the internal affairs of other nations. This is a highly selective and arbitrary process not governed by objective norms or criteria of any kind. The implications of this were not lost on many countries…”

Eventually our domestic politics are as immature as our diplomacy. “It will be easy to go through when we put down the monkey; which was on our shoulder,” Defense Secretary Mr Gothabaya Rajapaksa disclosed his personal view at the meeting with the media held in Colombo, just a day before the resolution was adopted. According to him the resolution cannot do anything substantial to the government. In other words, no one can stop the government what it intends to do in Sri Lanka. In addition, the former Attorney General, Mohan Peiris said, “it would not change anything; we will just forge ahead as planned.” Talking about India’s position on the resolution, Gothabaya said, that India was going to be in favor of the resolution for two things – because the Congress Party suffered defeat in the recent state elections, and the government in India would be totally defeated if Karunanidhi went against New Delhi.

Such shoddy consideration of India’s position confirmed the outcome. Perhaps it is a lesson as explained in historical Machiavellian politics, that, you cannot see real politics through the trigger of 9mm revolver – meaning the eliminating enemies through military action. But what the government still does not appear to be realizing is that, facts are very often stranger than fiction. The government of Sri Lanka was making up stories to feed the Sri Lankan public ever since it started its military campaign against the LTTE. However it is now proved that the international community cannot be bought with these stories.

Ignorance or evasion of the reality is worse than the inability to see the reality, and even more dangerous, for it scorns and rejects those who can see and are willing to see. The Indian position and their diplomacy are completely different from that of Colombo. Their engagement was very essential, important and influential. The government of India consulted the US and others who were in favor of the resolution, to change some important aspects of the resolution, and then they voted supporting the resolution. This is an important lesson that Sri Lanka could perhaps start learning now, about participation on behalf of all the people, understanding its value, instead of throwing our vulgarism at everyone as a political norm and later call it a policy.

The resolution states ‘Encourages the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant special procedures mandate holders to provide, in consultation with, and with the concurrence of, the Government of Sri Lanka to, advice and technical assistance on implementing the above-mentioned steps; and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to present a report on the provision of such assistance to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-second session.” This point confirms that the Council has genuinely addressed criticism against the resolution by the government and its supporters like China, Russia, Cuba, and Pakistan. And let us not forget that the resolution was raising the points based upon the LLRC report, which is a product of the government itself. But what the government seems to be motivated to do is to ignore their confession of the war, while giving false promises to other countries, such as the thirteenth amendment to the constitution. Locally, they are undermining real opposition in the name of patriotism.

It was in last November that the government of Sri Lanka decided to block some web sites, describing those as being involved in “character assassination” of the leadership and other top officials of the government while introducing a pending law on a new registration policy concerning online media. There was no prior notice to any of the web sites before that sudden decision on web censorship by the regime. However, one out of the 12 web sites blocked later was allowed to publish, under the orders by the High Court of Colombo.

Censorship is another notorious character of the governments in Sri Lanka. The present government however is more dangerous than those we had before. Now the government, through the government-sponsored media outlets seems to have decided to carry out personal attacks based on fabricated charges against journalists who are abroad due to security reasons, and some independent journalists who are based in Colombo. This is a dangerous situation that would lead to another nightmare in the country. This seems to be the result of what the President meant when during his so called ‘real independence day or victory day’ speech at the parliament three years ago, he said that there are two types of people in the country, those who love it and those who hate it. I would leave the readers to decide who falls where? A suppresser of fundamental freedoms or a journalist who writes?

This notorious campaign of the government through its media shows the world as to how the government is intolerant of the people who are against the unjust and who have different views about the government and on social issues. The primary strategy used by the government to get political advantages while hiding their failures of governance seems to motivate destructive emotions of various groups in society. The result will be a structure for a new model of racial nihilism, which would be a nonreversible setback the country in many aspects. But this strategy will not survive at the international level where the government cannot rig elections to steal justice. In other words, almost all our points in diplomatic cycles are a shadow of frailty.

Now the result is out – to use the words of Secretary of Defense, – the monkey has pulled down the government as it fell. The problem is how much capacity does the government of Sri Lanka have, to undertake lawful governance. Today the root problem in Sri Lanka seems to be the government’s intentional ignorance to bring about an effective law and order system because of which people have to live with fear. The government is continuously spreading fear topped with the icing of patriotism. This is how the government is trying to hide its failures. The history of the world is filled with case studies of such dictatorial regimes led by Hitler, Pol Pot, Sadam Husain, Ferdinand Marcos, Augusto Pinochet, Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq and Hossain Mohammad Ershad.

The media has reported that the Education Minister, Mr Bandula Gunawardhana said, a family of three could live a comfortable life with an income of SLR. 7500 (57.53 US) per month if they used their money wisely:

“The Education Department runs student hostels in several schools where students have three square meals and two cups of tea a day for Rs.2500 a month. This is a clear indication that a family of three needs only Rs.7500 for a month if they manage their expenses properly. Many individuals are in the habit of wasting their hard earned money having meals at hotels and restaurants. Recently I was invited to a function at a hotel that charged Rs.6500 for lunch per head. We must avoid such wasteful expenditure and guard our expenses.” However the Department of Census and Statistics clearly indicated in its 2009 – 2010 report, that a family of four could live a comfortable life with an income of SLR. 31,331.00 (239.96 US) per month, which is basically Rs.7,832.75 (59.99US) per head. Despite asking the people to live tight, billions are wasted from the exchequer by the government, as this writer has pointed out earlier concerning the construction of mega projects by the Rajapakse regime. Most of these projects have failed and continue to bleed the exchequer.

The adoption of the resolution on Sri Lanka is new dawn for the country. In another words the term ‘justice’ has a possibility to be awaken like Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle, after long period. The international community has achieved what the people of Sri Lanka are unable to archive during the past six decades. It is for the people to decide where we (the country) should take this to, either after the King who uses every citizen as subject or after the law which treats everyone equal, thus guarantying – equality, dignity, justice and respect of each and every Sri Lankan, a concept that we have denied to us thus far. This is not the time to protect a murderer who killed for his benefits but to claim our rights and to protect the nation.