Ven Rathana’s shadow boxing

Daily News Editorial

JHU stalwart and UNP National List MP Ven Athureliye Rathana appears to be running with the hare and hunting with the hound. While there is a demand from the JHU hierarchy calling for the Ven. thera’s ouster from the party, the latter continues making controversial statements, causing embarrassment to the government while staying put as a UNP parliamentarian. The Ven. Athureliye has taken exception to the government arresting Military Intelligence personnel, claiming that such a move would be a threat to national security. Addressing the media on Tuesday the thera said that President Maithripala Sirisena expressed his views to the country clearly that he would not permit the arrest of Military Intelligence personnel in an arbitrary manner and if there are reports of wrong doing by Military Intelligence personnel action must be taken after a PROPER investigation (emphasis ours). In other words, the thera is hinting that the Military Intelligence operatives, now in custody, were taken in without a proper investigation.

How has the Ven.Athureliye come to such a conclusion? Was the war winning Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, unceremoniously thrown behind bars after a PROPER investigation? During that time, the Ven Athureliye, was an MP in the Rajapaksa government. Why did he not raise objections when Sarath Fonseka was brought before one court after another, almost on a daily basis, and prevented even from speaking to the media by the din raised by his police security, at the instance of a top Defence official, in the court premises? Does all this tally with the Ven. thera’s idea of a proper inquiry?

This is not the first time Military Intelligence operatives were taken into custody after the coming into power of the Yahapalanaya government. Such officers were arrested in connection with the Lasantha murder and the Ekneligoda disappearance long before the present arrests. Why did not the thera raise objections then and waited until he parted ways with the government, to be an “Independent” MP to voice his protest? Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka responding to Ven. Rathana, on the same day, at a media briefing, rightly made the point that the thera was expressing the views of the Joint Opposition and if the latter was of the same wavelength as the JO he should resign from parliament and join forces with his new found pals.

Fonseka also expressed the view that nobody was above the law and members of the armed forces and Buddhist clergy should face the music under the country’s laws for offenses committed, implying that being on the battlefield did not give one the license to commit criminal acts. He also dismissed the suggestion, made by the Ven Rathana to have Military Intelligence officers probed by a separate investigations board, saying that ALL offenders, should face the consequences if they had breached the country’s laws.

To begin with, the constitution does not provide for the appointment of investigations bodies, other than that prescribed under it, and going by the thera’s tone and tenor, even the verdicts given by such a body is likely to be rejected by the likes of Ven.Rathana, for whom our soldiers, read war heroes, can do no wrong. The thera also goes onto take up cudgels with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who appointed him on the National List from the United Front of Good Governance, saying the latter did not appreciate the consequences of arresting members of the security forces. Why did he not make the same claim when his then leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, threw Sarath Fonseka in the slammer? Is the thera saying that only Ranil Wickremesinghe will look bad, in the eyes of the public, by resorting to such a course of action and it is well and good for the Rajapaksas to do this?

Besides, the Intelligence officers were arrested following a proper investigation, during the course of which, it was revealed that they were part of a clandestine unit which targeted journalists and critics of the Rajapaksas, and what is more, operated from a Safe House at a location in the city. Is Ven Rathana suggesting that all these investigations be halted and a Special Board allowed to determine if, they were in fact guilty?

Be that as it may, in our book, Military Intelligence officers will constitute a threat to national security only if they are allowed to go on the loose and commit criminal acts. Besides, having such officers in the Military Intelligence with criminal tendencies is likely to corrode the entire apparatus. Such men are also very likely to be corrupt, if they, so much so, had done the bidding of their political masters by engaging in criminal acts such torturing and abducting journalists. No reasons can be adduced in extenuation that military officers be spared the full force of the law, just because they fought a war.

As for Ven. Rathana, the good thera should make up his mind if he is going to remain with the Yahapalanaya government or join forces with the Joint Opposition, instead of shadow boxing for the latter.

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