Ceylon Today Editorial
President Maithripala Sirisena speaking at a function in Kurunegala on Wednesday had said, while war heroes would be protected from any war crimes prosecution, those who used the war as a pretext to commit other crimes, including the killings of journalists and sportsmen will however not be protected.(Yesterday’s Ceylon Today)
In respect of the killings of journalists and sportsmen which Sirisena referred to in his speech, what immediately comes into mind is former editor of ‘The Sunday Leader’ Lasantha Wickrematunge killed in 2009, cartoonist Prageeth Ekneligoda the following year, i.e. in 2010 and former Thomian and Sri Lanka ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen two years later in 2012.
His reference to ‘non-protection against other crimes’ committed in the name of war may include rape, murder, torture, robbery and other forms of crime executed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and its agents such as certain GoSL officials and a section of the security forces, Police, civil defence force and others.
The President’s reference to the protection of war heroes against judicial sentences of any kind in relation to their prosecution of the war against LTTE terrorists include collateral damage, which encompasses unintended deaths or injuries or even damage or destruction to private property, caused, due to bona fides acts of commission and omission, committed by the aforesaid GoSL officials and a section of the security forces, Police, civil defence force and others.
Previously, Sirisena had said that no foreign jurists would be allowed to investigate alleged war crimes committed by GoSL and its agents in their war against LTTE terrorism, though, GoSL, under his presidency, was a signatory to a UN resolution unanimously passed in October 2015, that gave the green light for foreign jurists to investigate such alleged war crimes.
He, together with Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, has since reverted to the position that such war crimes investigations will be carried out by local jurists with foreigners only being permitted to be present as observers, thereby reinforcing the status that Sri Lanka’s judicial system is independent, despite being scarred, battered and bruised in the near 10 year rule of Sirisena’s predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, i.e. from November 2005 to 8 January, 2015.
Sirisena’s ‘Kurunegala Doctrine’ is politically double edged.
Kurunegala is the district that provided the highest number of soldiers to the country.
Kurunegala is also the district which Rajapaksa, after divorcing from his family ‘seat’ of Hambantota District (previously having had represented the Beliatta electorate, before the advent of proportional representation in 1978) which he currently represents, having had successfully contested under Sirisena’s leadership in the SLFP/UPFA ticket in the August 2015 Parliamentary Elections.
By doing that and moving away from his family ‘seat’, he ‘gifted’ Hambantota to his eldest son Namal, who topped the list in that district, contesting under the SLFP/ UPFA ticket, similar to his father’s accomplishment at Kurunegala in the August 2015 poll.
Nonetheless, Rajapaksa (senior), re-entering Parliament as an ordinary MP, which he first did 47 years ago in 1970, as a young man of 25 and, 35 years later, in 2005, to end up climbing the top of the greasy pole, by being elected to the highest position of the land, only to allow himself to slide down rapidly and once more re-enter Parliament as an ordinary MP in 2015, is something which his predecessors had never done, or, probably, never would have had dreamt of doing?
Father and son continuing in politics, is also an extension of family bandyism, particularly in the context of Rajapaksa (Snr.’s) defeat at the 8 January, 2015 Presidential Poll.
Rajapaksa, who hasn’t severed his connection with the SLFP or of its coalition the UPFA, which former party, i.e. the lead party of the UPFA coalition, ‘nurtured’ him and his father D.A. Rajapaksa, in politics, particularly after the latter’s defection from the UNP to the SLFP 66 years ago in 1951, is, however, masquerading as the leader of the so called Joint Opposition (JO), comprising disgruntled MPs from the SLFP led UPFA coalition in the current Parliament.
Namal, or for that matter even his father Mahinda (Rajapaksa Snr.) has, however, studiously and shrewdly avoided playing an active role in the JO, allowing lesser minions such as Dinesh Gunawardena (scion of the Boralugoda lion Philip) to play that role.
Nonetheless, Sirisena’s Kurunegala Doctrine makes it clear, that not only will foreign jurists not be permitted to sit in judgment in an alleged war crimes tribunal, but that war heroes will also not be prosecuted. Those, who will, however, be prosecuted are only those who committed crimes in the name of war to fulfil their own vested agendas, and that too by local jurists.
He also underscored a fact elaborated by no lesser person than US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Atul Keshap recently, that the island’s relations with the international community is at an all time high, thereby dealing a double blow to the Rajapaksas and JO who are hell bent in trying to gain political mileage over this matter of foreign jurists, war heroes and war crimes investigations, and, that way, to try to lead the country down the Gadarene slope of economic, political and social chaos.(See also Ceylon Today’s editorial of 1 December, 2016)