SRI LANKA: Honouring Baratha Lakshman Premachandra and denying him justice at the same time
In the public discussions recently, particularly on the occasion of erecting a statue for Baratha Lakshman Premachandra, there has been several references to the need for electoral reforms. Even the Leader of the House, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management, Nimal Siripala de Silva, was talking about ending the politics of violence.
However, ending the politics of violence cannot be achieved by electoral reforms. Ending violence is a matter of reforming the criminal justice institutions which are expected to deal with the problem of eradicating violence. As long as the institutions of law enforcement, particularly the police are under political control and are unable to carry out their law enforcement function, violence will be there in every area of life including political life.
In a previous article, SRI LANKA: The rise of the security apparatus and the decline of the criminal justice system, we point this out. The cause of political violence in Sri Lanka is the national security apparatus itself. The use of intelligence services, paramilitary groups and the police and the military for political purposes has caused the political culture that Sri Lanka has now.
That political apparatus is created through Sri Lanka's Constitution itself. The originator of the 1978 Constitution, J.R. Jayewardene, was in fact, the mastermind which created the design for the existing 'national security apparatus.' In fact, what this apparatus created is the security for the ruling political regime. The problem that threatens all opposition political parties and dissidents is this constitutionally entrenched 'national security apparatus.'
When a criminal speaks about the elimination of crime and a minister of the ruling political regime speaks about eliminating political violence there is little difference. It is all nice rhetoric but it is no indication of any actual change that is to come about.
What caused the death of Baratha Lakshman Premachandra and what provided the impunity for Duminda Silva and others is this same 'national security apparatus.' The crippling of all the elements of the criminal justice system in Sri Lanka has resulted in many political murders and Baratha Lakshman Premachandra's was just one of them.
To talk of honouring Baratha Lakshman Premachandra and at the same time to protect the 'national security apparatus' is simply murderous hypocrisy.
It is this notion of 'security' that was reinforced by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. With that the possibility of conducting future elections under an election commissioner who is capable of guaranteeing free and fair elections has been removed. When there is no constitutional possibility of conducting free and fair elections what kind of electoral reforms of any significance can be expected?
Thus, to deny justice to Baratha Lakshman Premachandra and at the same time to talk about electoral reforms to remove the political culture that caused his death is senseless.
The way to honour the politically destroyed individuals in Sri Lanka is to work towards the ending of the operations of 'national security apparatus' and to make justice possible through genuine criminal justice reforms.