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CBK, War Crimes And The Rule Of Law

by S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole-Sunday, February 12, 2017


Judges are notoriously scared and take political decisions, or
are corrupt and at times communal
Killers need to be punished and not celebrated as heroes
Douglas Devananda and EPDP MP Chandrakumar, admitted
to the massacres of and use of cluster bombs on civilians
during the last phase of the war in Mullivaikal
In communalist eyes, the murdering soldiers are heroes. The
murdered civilians are nobodies

It is reported that President Chandrika Bandaranaike


Kumaratunga (CBK) has stated that there is no need for a war
crimes probe and that the need is for a new constitution. It is a
major flip-flop for someone who publicly cried at the Justice K.
Palakidnar Memorial Oration on 24.07.2011 over her sons and
daughters comments after seeing the Channel Four documentary.
Her son sobbed on the phone saying how ashamed he was to call
himself a Sinhalese and a Lankan. Her daughter expressed
shock and horror that our countrymen could indulge in such
horrific acts.
To have no war crimes tribunals is to trivialise the deep shame felt
by her children, and abort and reverse their growth she proudly
and rightly boasted of about their growing up to be the Man and
Woman their father and mother wanted them to be.
The Daily Mirror (02.02.2017) reports her criticism of the
Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM)
headed by Manouri Muttetuwegama for recommending foreign
judges. The CTFRM is merely repeating what all Sri Lankans know
that many of our judges are notoriously scared and take political
decisions, or are corrupt and at times communal. Prof. S.
Pathmanathan has pointed out that even the judgement on the
de-merger of the North-East Provincial Council was politically
motivated. In short, our judges are partial and can be bullied.
They are unprofessional as evident in the withdrawal of foreign
observers (i.e., the International Independent Group of Eminent
Persons) from the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Alleged
Human Rights Abuses in March-April 2008, finding a lack of
political will to find the truth.
Therefore in calling for foreign judges in the light of the well
known view of our judiciary, the CTFRM was merely repeating a
promise before the whole world at the UNHRC. There this
government under Ranil Wickremesinghe and President
Maithripala Sirisena affirmed the importance of participation in a
Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the special counsels
office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence
lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators.
Those who wish to save our murdering soldiers know how
politically partial our judiciary is and do not want impartial foreign
judges. This seems to include our President Sirisena who is quoted
in Economy Next (12.10.2016) as saying military commanders
who led a successful campaign to crush separatist Tamil Tiger
rebels in May 2009 should not be humiliated by bringing them to
courts. In other words, total impunity and hero-status to those
who butchered Tamil civilians in the tens of thousands.

Collateral damage
These communalists see in the happenings of 2007 as only the
end of the LTTE. They are blind to the tens of thousands of
civilians held hostage by the LTTE while the army bombed them
into nonexistence, seeing their massacre as collateral damage. In
communalist eyes, the murdering soldiers are heroes. The
murdered civilians are nobodies.
The President of the National War Heroes Front, Sarath
Weerasekera, says (Island 27.01.2017) Anyone who betrays the
country should be charged for treason. [T]reason is an offense
punishable by death. Unlike those who do not have any faith in
the local judiciary we are fully confident that our judges are fully
capable of defining Treason and punish [sic.] accordingly.
Our judges? Recall the Bindunuwewa massacre where
surrendered LTTE-ers in rehabilitation were massacred with the
connivance of the police and the army, and a Supreme Court
Justice repeatedly pointed out that a child soldier of 12 who had
been killed was a terrorist. It was a rare case where the Attorney
General had prosecuted the army but the judges freed all the
accused although they had been found guilty by a Presidential
Commission of Inquiry. Many Tamils feel that the prosecution was
mainly a show put on for international donors. I suspect that as
UNHRC is about to meet at months end, the government is
getting ready to let the soldiers off because of upcoming
elections.
I have travelled much in the North East. I have no doubt that
massacres occurred. It was only this week that I visited a home
run by the Sisters of Charity and heard of how the soldiers
dumped 500 wounded persons on them after there had been
wanton shelling from the army camp. My secretary told me that
she was with her infant grandchild and gone to a place
announced by the army to collect infant food, only to be shelled
by the army. A driver spoke of bombs all round in a declared safe
zone, and he could see little because it was a constant series of
flashes. Tamils know!
These crimes were admitted with President Mahinda Rajapakse on
the stage, at the election rally at Duraiappah Stadium in Jaffna on
January 2, 2015 when both Douglas Devananda and EPDP MP
Chandrakumar, admitted to the massacres of and use of cluster
bombs on civilians during the last phase of the war in Mullivaikal.
At that time, responding to President Rajapakses claim to fame
for ending the war, CBK had countered that she had been the one
to capture 70% of LTTE territory. That is when the EPDP duo felt
the need to boost credit for Rajapakse in ending the war. Lacking
in imagination, they asked whether CBK would also accept 70%
responsibility for the massacre of Tamil civilians in large numbers
during the war and for the use of cluster bombs, both stoutly
denied by the government up till then. They went further. To
blame challenger Sirisena, they alleged that the use of cluster
bombs had been authorised by him, then Deputy Defence
Minister, in the Presidents absence. It was a volte face for
Devananda who had earlier repeated President Rajapakses
obviously untrue claim that troops had fought with the human
rights charter in one hand, without even a single civilian casualty.
It was the first time that there was official admission of the mass
murders or of the use of cluster bombs by the government.

Fair war crimes probe


Except for a few, the Sinhalese are in collective, selective
amnesia de nying that all this happened. Anyone who says there
is no need for a truly independent, demonstrably fair war crimes
probe is essentially saying that those who deliberately murdered
Tamils have a free pass. I do not think that CBK has thought
through her new position.
President Sirisena might have good reasons for not wanting a
serious probe of the war crimes that occurred because he himself
could be investigated. But Madam Chandrika? I have respected
Madam CBK over the years and supported her in many ways.
However, in not wanting a real probe of war crimes as reported by
Ms. Muttetuwegama and the CTFRM after canvassing opinions
across the country, she is wrong; absolutely wrong!
CBK heads the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation
(ONUR). There can be neither unity nor reconciliation when there
is no justice for those civilians who were butchered by both sides
during the war for the simple reason of their being Tamil or
refusing to remain as a human LTTE-shield.
CBK argues that the need is for a new constitution not a war
crimes probe. We really need both. Good laws on paper are no
good when we are a people who do not live by the law. For
example, we have the Thirteenth Amendment. Of what good is it
when it is not implemented fully? In a political situation where the
state cheats and the Supreme Court and Presidential
Commissions of Inquiry collaborate, only those guilty of war
crimes will root for a piece of paper in the form of a constitution
that is never obeyed. For example, there were trumped up
charges against me on the basis of Minister Devanandas
complaint in 2011 that I had started a riot by reporting (untruly he
claimed) the rigging by him of elections in Kayts. Every few
weeks I was in court where the court sergeant would pull me by
my arm and make me stand where he wanted me. The Police
Prosecutor would make lengthy statements in Sinhalese (which I
never understood) asking for more time to investigate. This
despite the constitution/law requiring Tamil to be the language of
the courts in the North and a Supreme Court judgement to that
effect! It was only last week, after five years, that the judge
dismissed the case saying he has no jurisdiction and that the
police keep saying they are investigating but he has seen no signs
of such investigations and no longer believes that there is any
investigation on. The fear of the old regime permeates the police
and the judiciary.
Of what good then is the law when the people implementing the
law are bad or fearful of retribution? Madam Kumaratunga: please
do not waver from the correct positions you have taken in the
past. Stay the course you boldly took in 2000 and in rooting for
change in 2015. Every crime needs to be punished as a
deterrent. No probe means, a free hunting season on Tamils. Your
government cosponsored a resolution calling for foreign judges.
Why the sudden change? Did you lie then? If you persist in this,
you will be giving proof to the claim of the separatists that the
Sinhalese are always lying and that we Tamils must go our own
way. Sensible people do not want that.
We want justice, not more words, empty promises and
constitutions and laws that are never taken seriously. We want the
rule of law, to return us to which your government was elected.
Killers need to be punished and not celebrated as heroes.
Posted by Thavam