by Thambu Kanagasabai, June 11, 2020
Alarm bells are ringing and heard from various quarters about the direction of Sri Lanka being piloted by the military machine of Rajapakahe’s clan led by the military mindset President Gotabaya Rajapakshe who has a penchant to in tolerate criticism and opposition from any source and not hesitating to eliminate them by any means.
President Gotabaya was not involved in active politics as he himself admitted recently. He won the presidential election in December 2019 pleading
openly for the votes of Sinhala Buddhists and obtained them handsomely. He also vowed to avoid the “Kingmakers role of the minorities in forming a government”, and further pledged “To respect the aspirations of the majority of people [SINHALESE] which will only safeguard the sovereignty of people”. Thus, he is committed and dedicated to rule the country for the benefits of Sinhalese, their language, religion, culture, traditions and Buddhisization, shutting out the minorities – Tamils and Muslims in the running of his government. True to his promise, he has excluded Tamils and Muslims in his Cabinet except Duglas Devananda who is a permanent stooge of any government in power.
The President soon after assuming his office has embarked on an agenda of militarization and Buddhisization of Sri Lanka by enlisting the services of retired and current serving military personnel who were in service with him when he was in the Army. This genocidal process is being executed steadily and quietly without any murmur or strong protests while Covid-19 is providing the shield as the whole island is pre-occupied with fear for their lives and curfews closing the channels for popular protests and demonstrations.
The militarization though it affects the Sinhalese to some extent, the main focus, thrust and impact is directed towards the Tamil civilians and their lands in the North and Eastern Provinces [The traditional and historical home land of the Tamils.] There is no iota of doubt that a genocidal dictatorship has been unleashed if one can see the various undemocratic dictatorial steps executed by the President during the last six months.
- The President has promised promotion for about 14,000 soldiers who participated in the genocidal war for their deadly contributions. ‘AS NATIONAL HEROS’ . These are the rewards for the alleged war criminals etc, not to mention the promotion and top posts given to Major Shavendra de Silva and Kamal Gunaratna who face command responsibility for the alleged commission of war crimes etc.
- May 18th is remembered and commemorated peacefully as a day of GENOCIDE by the Tamils all over the world since 2010 described as ‘MULLIVAIKKAL REMEMBERENCE DAY’. This year’s commemorations in the North and East were disturbed, blocked and prevented by the Police and Military even though the protesters followed the social distancing and other guidelines – in the pretext of Covid-19, while the Sri Lankan Government conducted ‘NATIONAL WAR HEROS DAY’ celebration flouting the government and Health official’s guidelines.
- Sri Lankan Security Forces in the North and East are virtually given a free hand to deal with the civilians and Press to muzzle their oppositions and criticisms against the Government and Security Forces. The recent banning of ‘SANGATHI NEWS’ website is a warning to the others who dare crossing the Government lines. Complaints of torture and assault on civilians have been reported recently in the North by the Security Forces. These incidents show the domination of Security Forces to execute repressive measures against the Tamil civilians.
- The President’s recent appointments of two Task Forces composed of Military and Security Officials some of whom are suspected war criminals is simply an act of a DICTATOR who keeps out the participation of civilians to protect his position. The first Task Force is mandated to “BUILD A SECURE COUNTRY, DISCIPLINED, VIRTUOUS AND LAWFUL SOCIETY’. This Task force consists of 13 Military officials; most of them are alleged to have committed war crimes while serving as disciplined Military members, Furthermore, the words ‘DISCIPLINED SOCIETY’ is a nebulous term with no definition. Building of a disciplined society involves enforcement and orders which could also allow punishment for those who are considered as in-disciplined like groups staging peaceful protests and expressing criticisms in the Press. Besides, a country can be a secure one only when all of its citizens enjoy equal rights, non-discrimination, recognition and respect for their language, culture, history and religion. In this respect, Sri Lanka has long lost its secure status notably from 1956 with its genocidal pogroms coupled with the agenda of Buddhisisation and Snhalisisation. President has thus implicitly admitted that Sri Lanka is now not a secure country and task of building of a secure Sri Lanka is possible only by enlisting the services of Security Forces and Buddhist Monks who only contributed to the present insecurity of the country right from 1956.
Another job of Task Force is ‘TO CURB ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES OF SOCIAL GROUPS’. It is well known that curbing illegal activities is the sole duty and responsibility of POLICE FORCE which has been performing these functions since 1948. By the act of the President the Police Force has now become de-functional and also devalued. It is unclear to understand SOCIAL GROUPS committing illegal activities suddenly and the definition of SOCIAL GROUPS is vague and it is anybody’s guess. They could be Sports associations, religious and charitable associations, human rights associations political association and parties etc. Granting the powers to take legal action for those responsible in a social group is nothing but an arbitrary abuse of power and it appears to aim at the suppression of freedom of speech, expression and peaceful association whenever the TASK FORCE considers them as illegal. The judicial powers and law and order enforcement being given to a body constituting Security Forces is nothing but a deadly blow to the functioning of independent Commissions including Judicial administration. These steps clearly undermine the democratic set up of Sri Lanka. It is not clear whether anyone affected by an illegal Act of TASK FORCE can seek the protection and intervention of judiciary.
The second TASK FORCE comprising exclusively Sinhala members including military officials and Buddhist monks are entrusted to “Take steps to preserve the historical heritage of Sri Lanka in the East”. This will involve engaging in archaeological explorations and searches. This TASK FORCE has completely shut out Tamil or Muslim member so as to confine the findings exclusively for the interests of the Government. This step is nothing but a sinister move and cover to seize lands belonging to Tamils and Muslims in the East under the pretext of conducting surveys and researches in those lands. There is also a possibility that archeological findings or evidences relating to Tamil’s history could be kept hidden discarded, unpublished an even destroyed.
In short, a covert and overt genoncidal military dictatorship is underway as the following facts reveal:
- Reconciliation is no more in the dictionary of the Government and a just political settlement for the Tamils is out of question as there is not even an acknowledgement of the 70 years old ethnic problem by the President.
- In the event of the present Government obtaining a 2/3rd majority in the coming general election, Sri Lanka will have a new constitution with an Executive President vested with unbridled and unquestionable powers taking control and custody of independent Commissions like Police, Public Service and Judiciary.
- Buddhisisation and Sinhalsisation in the North and East will be accelerated to attain the goal of a SIHALA BUDDHIST STATE;
- Tamils and Muslims in the North and East will be at the mercy of the Security Forces permanently residing there while seizing control and running of all civil institutions and engaging in surveillance. Illegal arrests, detentions, torture and disappearances will become formal and normal with hardly any protection from any judicial authorities. Already several civil ministries have been brought under the control of Ministry of Defence The President’s goal of dictatorship is also made easier as the International Community will be satisfied with statements of concern while the paralyzed and inactive Tamil political leaders will be contented with occasional statements and then relapse into hibernation while ensuring their perks and privileges as members of a devalued Parliament.
In short, death knell for democracy involving accountability, Justice, Reconciliation, Rule of Law and Good Governance will be guaranteed in the near future coupled with international isolation due to withdrawal from UNHRC and other International Organizations.
The end result will be the gradual and steady moves to ensure the process of non-existence of Tamils in Sri Lanka. It is relevant to quote the statement of President on May 21, 2020 at a Cabinet meeting when he asserted that “Even if Supreme Court orders that Parliament be re-convened, he would not do so. He will use his Presidential powers to veto, postpone or re-convene and immediately suspend”.
This statement of the President reveals his true and underlying lethal motive and intentions to assume the position as Commander in Chief of not only Armed Forces but also of Parliament, Judiciary and Civil Service.
Thambu Kanagasabai – LLM [London] Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. President, Tamil Canadian Elders for Human Rights Org.