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Common Sense, a Letter to the Sri Lankan People

"Good citizens of Sri Lanka, do you relish the idea of a small clique of politicians having total control of your lives and fortunes to such a degree that they may ignore your constitutional laws whenever it pleases them? Or will you stand up and declare, in one unified voice, that no one is above the law and every citizen has the right to equal protection under the constitution?"

(February 10, Austin, Texas, Sri Lanka Guardian) If a man had stood outside the Central Bank in Colombo after the 1996 bombing and proclaimed that Sri Lanka was a nation of cowards he would have been strung up with a noose and the nearest tree just as quickly as he spoke, but that’s what happened in 2010 and you’ve done nothing! Have you become a nation of cowards, Sri Lanka? In an audacious display of disdain for the rule of law and the Sri Lankan people whom those laws protect, the administration of Mahinda Rajapaksa has systematically targeted any and all voices of opposition and have stripped them of their constitutionally protected rights to free speech, threatened their lives and the lives of their families, and have killed or abducted dozens of journalists and political activists.

A great many others have in turn fled the country to save their lives. And now, in a blatant display of making a personal vendetta into government policy, the only significant political rival of the Rajapaksa regime has been violently arrested, not by civilian law enforcement, but by the military police, in an unconstitutional act backed up by what any fair-minded observer can see to be trumped up charges designed to cripple the political power of the minority opposition. Does any individual with the most basic endowments of common sense believe the sudden dismissal of Parliament and the arrest of Sarath Fonseka are unrelated events? Is there any doubt in your mind that if a military officer dabbled in politics to the favor of Mr. Rajapaksa that they would be free men, and likely rewarded? There shouldn’t be, because it is a repeatedly observed and documented phenomenon.

Good citizens of Sri Lanka, do you relish the idea of a small clique of politicians having total control of your lives and fortunes to such a degree that they may ignore your constitutional laws whenever it pleases them? Or will you stand up and declare, in one unified voice, that no one is above the law and every citizen has the right to equal protection under the constitution?

When a silent majority allows their nation to lose their common sense, that nation is lost. Is it common sense to fill the government with terrorists and cop killers, whose track record of treason wins them the scorn of Sri Lankan nationalists and separatists alike? Is it common sense for a nation to put in power, men who have killed thousands of the soldiers and police who fought and sacrificed to save the country from disintegration, many hundreds by means of mass executions as prisoners of war, as well as untold thousands of innocent civilians, while allowing the arrest of one of the most important figures in the ultimate destruction of the LTTE menace, simply for being the political rival of the head of state? It is openly admitted by the government itself that it is unclear whether proselytizing politics between military personnel is legal or not, and yet a man’s liberty has been violated under the direct orders of the executive branch, before a legal ruling can even be made as to whether any law was broken! The Rajapaksa government is not taking any chances, though. There are still half a dozen more fanciful charges that have been concocted to ensure Fonseka and his compatriots stay under lock and key.

Is it common sense for war criminals, whose crimes were against your own citizenry when they wore the uniforms of traitors and terrorists, to be put in some of the highest offices of government, while a man who led the most successful military campaign in Sri Lankan history is languishing behind bars? The Rajapaksa regime is clearly as desperate to keep Fonseka’s knowledge of war crimes in the final moments of the war a secret as they are to make you all forget about the war criminals who are now your leaders. You demand justice for the hundreds of police officers and civilians murdered in the Kalmunai Massacres, and your government ignores you! You demand the guilty pay for the slaughter of hundreds of surrendered soldiers at First Mullitivu, and your government ignores you! Your elitist, non-representing, representatives have got it in their heads that they are your rulers, not your employees, and so not only do they ignore you, but they put the killers of your sons and daughters in charge of the very nation they sought to tear apart. You government clearly has no interest in the rule of law, and yet you’re still turning to government to one day reestablish the law and order they discarded in the first place. You’re sucking at the hind-tit of a dead cow! Only when they see a million-man protest from Jaffna to Colombo demanding equality under the law and the return of constitutionally limited government will they get the message that they work for you! Demand that all laws that apply to the citizens of Sri Lanka, apply equally to government officials. You would expect to be punished for committing murder, but the greatest murderers among you have been rewarded with higher office by your president!

Is it common sense for the citizenry of a nation of laws, for and by the people, to do nothing when journalists are abducted and killed time after time, simply because they had a critical thing or two to say about the commander-in-chief? Even after the end of the war, Sri Lanka is recognized by the entire world as being one of the most dangerous places for journalists to go on the planet, not because of a fear of terrorist attack, but because of the repressive and violent actions of your own government! Regardless of whether or not you agree with the political views of these fallen journalists, if you have any love for your republic, stand up in solidarity against this campaign of terror towards free expression. If you wait for your views to be the ones under fire, there will be no one left to stand up in your defense. Make your decision now! Are you a proud citizen of a republic, a nation whose power is tempered by constitutional law, or are you living in a glorified mob, where 51% of the population has every authority to persecute the 49% minority and where a wave of popular fervor can at any time surrender any and all personal liberties and invest all the strapping’s of power into a small oligarchy of politicians and retired terrorists?

Is it common sense for a people who claim to live in a free republic to do nothing when the executive branch of government singles out any news media source that is critical of the state and denies those sources their natural born right to free expression? In case you did not notice, I said natural born right, not constitutional right or lawful right, because the liberty that every man woman and child across the globe has to free expression, association, worship, and assembly are not endowed to them by their government or laws, but are their rights as human beings, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or social status. Perverting the law to repress the liberty of the people and protect the power of government is tyranny and must be opposed. To do otherwise is to sign the death warrant on your republic and opens the door to unlimited corruption and despotism. If Sri Lanka truly is a republic, governed by the rule of law, then those laws don’t give the citizen their rights, but protect those rights you were already born with from infringement by your own government. Republicanism doesn’t repress power, it unleashes it to the citizens!

Over the course of your devastating civil war, you lost more than just your peace of mind. You lost your constitutional republic! It is time for you, the people of Sri Lanka, to make a choice. You may choose to do nothing and accept a government that is above the law, and can single out and steal the life, liberty, and property from anyone it sees fit, or you can rise up and force your government to answer to We the People with a nationwide protest in defense of your constitution and republican way of life. As I do not share your citizenship, I cannot do more than write in defense of liberty when I see it threatened. However, if our roles were reversed, and it were now my decision to make, I can think of no better course of action than to consult the wise words of Patrick Henry, on the Eve of the American Revolution:

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”

(The Editorial authorized by Eric Bailey of Sri Lanka Guardian, based in Austin. Texas. He can be reached at eb@srilankaguardian.org )

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