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UNP: Stop making excuses and admit wrongs

By Our Political Editor

(April 19, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In our last editorial comment, we said that if the UNP wanted to regain the confidence of the people they must admit to the wrongs they have done in the past; express sincere regret; ask for forgiveness and show how they have developed a different way in which to deal with problems in the future.

To what wrongs should they admit?

Forced disappearances

They should admit to the large scale forced disappearances in Sri Lanka. They caused these disappearances in the south, used the Sinhala army to kill Sinhala youth and they have done similar crimes in the north and the east. Whatever the circumstances a forced disappearance cannot be considered legitimate by any stretch of the imagination.

It is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed. As has been shown, a forced disappearance means the causing of illegal arrest by way of abduction, illegal detention, the maintenance of police and military detention centres where the detainees are tortured for days on end on baseless allegations and thereafter extrajudicially killing them and disposing of their bodies.

In this, a sinister division of labour was devised and carried out through the police, military and paramilitary groups. This division of labour meant some people being engaged in the collecting of the thinnest allegations and encouraging people to believe that there would be no repercussions for making false allegations, mobilising units to carry out the abductions and arrests, having other units in control of the detention centres and having yet others who specialise in torture. And then there were the even more specialised groups that carried out the extrajudicial killings and disposed of the bodies.

Some bodies were disposed of in secret while others were simply dumped on the road sides as a warning to the people. Still other bodies were dumped in places where they would be found by their families or neighbours with a view to terrorise the people.
All these were actions devised and carried out deliberately with the full knowledge of the political leaders of the United National Party.

All these things were done These leaders said, because the JVP was a vicious political group and the UNP did this in order to protect the society. The same thing has been said with even greater emphasis about the LTTE, that they are the worst terrorists in the world and therefore such actions were taken to suppress them.

The fact that the UNP has been rejected politically simply implies that the people reject these arguments. The people do not accept these excuses of the UNP. The people are aware of the circumstances under which these things happened and how these conditions were created. Whatever it was, in 1977 the people rejected the coalition government for perpetrating a similar kind of violence, albeit on a less grand scale.

The UNP utilised the enormous dissatisfaction the people had against that government because of such violence and promised all kinds of action they would take when they came to power. Then of course, the UNP engaged in the same crimes on a much larger scale than could ever be imagined.

Today the people's rejection of their excuses is final and therefore the only way to get over the problem is to deal with it with much more enlightenment and to get into the process of admitting wrong and finding ways to deal with the problem as justice demands.

Suppression of political dissent

It is also quite well known now that the UNP used forced disappearances in order to suppress their political opponents. The findings of the commissions for disappearances show that the largest number of persons who were made to disappear during this time belonged to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. The enormous use of suppression in order to contain the opposition was a strategy that was introduced by the United National Party. It was their desire to abolish the multiparty system in the country or at least make of opposition parties ineffective and the causing of disappearances were primarily for that purpose.

This has become a legacy of all political parties now. Today's ruling regime now uses the same political tactics against the United National Party. The arguments that are being used today against retired general, Sarath Fonseka and the repression that is being carried out is within the same political mindset that was introduced to Sri Lanka by the United National Party. Thus, the UNP helped to create a political of the suppression of dissent and this is something that must admit to in public.

Their attempt defend political dissent in the country will not be believed by the people until they admit their own terrible contribution in this area. If, in fact, they do have enlightened leaders who understand this problem and genuinely bring it before the party and find a way to convince the party leadership that it is harmful to the entire nation then they will be able to develop a political philosophy that could have a dynamic effect on the political life of Sri Lanka. If the UNP fails to develop a dynamic political message to the nation of ways in which to deal with these major problems it is very unlikely that the people will give them a hearing.

The next most destructive action that the UNP did was to destroy the independence of the judiciary in Sri Lanka. This was a deliberate policy entrenched in the institution itself. The constitution was made to create the creature called the executive president that was above the law. For that purpose the jurisdiction of the courts to enquire into the actions of the president was destroyed; if the executive is above the law, whatever he or she does, whether it is legal or not is outside the law.

Suppressing of the independence of judiciary

The result of suppressing the independence of the judiciary and thereafter manipulating the judicial system was later utilised also by their opponents. Some one like Sarath Nanda Silva and what he did would not have been possible if not for what the UNP did within their term. The opponents of the UNP are now reaping the harvest of the seeds sown by the UNP. Today the judicial institutions are not only seriously threatened but also seriously destroyed.

We are rapidly becoming a nation where the laws cannot be enforced. The judiciary is ineffective and the law is redundant. Laws in the books that cannot be implemented are not laws at all. Rights without remedies are not rights at all. We have made the meaning of the law a meaningless affair.

The challenge, therefore to the UNP is that they must either participate in a process of genuine confession, genuine regret and genuine discourse to understand the political environment that has been destroyed. Like the equality that has been destroyed and is causing havoc in the world today the political climate once destroyed causes havoc and from all kinds of misery there are those that benefit.

Today's political leaders are those who have learned to derive benefits from the miseries bequeathed to the people of Sri Lanka by the United National Party. If UNP understands this and are able to deal with these serious political problems they might emerge as a solution in the process. If they cannot do that they will be part of the great problems even though they may not be in power anymore. They themselves are victims of the trap they set for others.

Are their political leaders within the United National Party who are capable of understanding this and developing an enlightened political philosophy for the entire nation? That is the question that could be answered only in practical terms and the people will be able to see when it happens.

Related Link: Inability to admit wrongs led to defeat of UNP - It needs a Nikita Khrushchev

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