SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka is abandoning the rules against murder

Already within the first month of this year two legislators have been assassinated. One was a minister in the government and the suspected killers are the LTTE, the other was a Tamil Member of Parliament, who was also a member of the opposition United National Party and the party leaders have accused the government of being involved in the assassination. The trivial manner in which such assassinations are being treated is reflected in the lack of belief that there will be any genuine investigations into these killings.

Meanwhile, there have been three assassinations in police custody already this month. Last year there were 17 such custodial deaths. The truism is that none of the killings, whoever carries them out, or for whatever purpose they are done – whether for private or political motives – nothing will happen by way of the discharge of legal obligations to investigate and to prosecute offenders.

With the ceasefire agreement (CFA) being declared as abrogated the killings will now increase. Where the killings will take place, who will be the victims and who will be the perpetrators, no one knows. But that there will be killings, more killings and even more killings is not only everyone’s prediction but a sort of fateful expectation that hangs in the air.

Altering the social behaviour that leads to murder is the central concern of any criminal justice system and such concern is also the central theme in all ethical and moral discourse. In Sri Lanka, both in the area of law, as also in the area of ethics and morality, there is a bewildering lack of concern on the issue of the prevention of murder. When the legal system, as well as the ethical and moral discourse loses its interest in this core issue, on what foundation can the law as well as ethics and morality rest? The answer is none.

All the discourse makers want to be blind to this central aspect of their society. It is as if something more than physical death has happened in this place. There seems to be some death of the spirit or the soul. While some die from murder, almost everyone, particularly those persons belonging to the more articulate sections of society, appear to have acquired in their spirits, the coldness and rigor that is associated with death. Even the judiciary in the country and its prosecution system, organised under the Department of the Attorney General, suffers from this rigor mortis. And in this setup neither the intellectuals, nor the religious leaders seem to be an exception.

One is reminded of the great novel of the Sri Lankan born, now world famous novelist, Michael Ondaatje Anil’s Ghost. This tremendous story set within the background of the killings in the north and the south, in the late eighties has left an impression of a tremendously psychopathic condition spread throughout society where people do not trust anyone and even talk to their closest friends about sensitive issues in whispers. The situation has deteriorated much worse since then.

One is also reminded of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies in which he demonstrated how human beings can degenerate when they abandon the basic rules, by which is meant, the basic laws created to protect human life. As one of the characters in the novel said, rules are all we have. That is the basic principle that the Sri Lankan state as well as its people have failed to concern themselves with.

Under these circumstances there are some concerned persons who are beginning to realise that to fight for the re-establishment of the basic rules of society is the question, to be or not to be, for Sri Lanka. It is only a movement that is committed to ensure that the rules against murder are re-established that can save not only the lives, but also the living spirit of the people of Sri Lanka.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-011-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,