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RajapakseRegim : A veritable member of global tyranny

Letter to Hilary Clinton from a group of Sri Lankans)

May 25, 2010
Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
US Department of State
2201 C Street, NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary,

(June 04, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) As you are aware, Sri Lanka is one of the oldest democracies in Asia where all, irrespective of their ethnicities or religion, had enjoyed certain inalienable rights and privileges of democracy. One such privilege is the universal suffrage which we had since 1931 when it was called Ceylon.

The world is also aware of the unfortunate and brutal civil war which lasted more than three decades which led to more than 80,000 deaths. This brutal war came to an end with the victory of the government’s armed forces, led by General Sarath Fonseka of the Sri Lankan Army. Unfortunately, the immediate aftermath of an otherwise celebratory outcome, was beginning of the end of democratic rights of Sri Lankan citizens, freedom of press, and free and fair elections, to name a few, which are rapidly eroding under the current political regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

We would like to bring to your attention following important facts about President Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in order to indicate as to how the democratic privileges have been infringed through politicization of the judiciary, strengthening the power of the executive Presidency in quasi-legal measures, and through brutal and open suppression of all types of dissent.

1) It had been a year since the end of the war against LTTE and a sizable number of the Tamil minority is still locked up in IDP camps or have been resettled with access to little or no critical public services. No press or NGOs are allowed to visit these camps. In fact, some members of the Parliament, who made a visit to the IDP camp at the Menik Farm recently, were denied access to the facility by the orders of the Defense Secretary.

2) Presidential election held in February of this year (2010), two years ahead of time, was to exploit the victory to consolidate President Rajapaksa’s own powers and that of his party. It is also clear to all citizens how an concerted effort is being made to create a dynasty of Rajapaksa family by appointing the President’s extended family members to powerful positions in both the Cabinet and the parliament as well as in strategic and lucrative public agencies. Sadly, none of these members has even the minimum qualifications or experience for these, otherwise, highly competitive and important positions. For instance, the President has appointed one brother as the Speaker of the Parliament, another as a Cabinet Minister, and a third as the all-powerful Defense Secretary. According to the Government Gazette detailing the names and duties of the 42 ministries in the current cabinet, the Rajapaksa siblings will control no less than 94 state institutions. President Mahinda Rajapaksa who first came to power in year 2005 making a promise to abolish the executive Presidency, is now on the verge of passing a constitutional amendment which will allow him to stay in power for two more terms.

3) During the last five years of his Presidency, we have witnessed unprecedented scale of abuse of political power with impunity. Freedom of speech, which we enjoyed since independence in 1948, is seriously curtailed with constant intimidation, abduction, torture, and broad day light assassinations of journalists. In fact, accordingly to many international reports, Sri Lanka has now become one of the most dangerous places in the world for independent journalists.

4) We would like to remind the International community, about the assassination of Mr. Lasantha Wikramatunga, the Editor in Chief of the English Weekly “Sunday Leader”, in January of 2009, who was an open critic of President Rajapakse and his brother the Defense Secretary who is an American citizen, holding dual citizenships. Ironically few months later after the assassination of the Editor, a Government Minister Mervyn Silva openly bragged about getting rid of Mr. Wikramatunga. Neither the Police/CID (equivalent of FBI) nor the President/the cabinet did initiate a criminal investigation against the Minister De Silva.

5) Another example is the Tamil Journalist J.S Tissainayagam who was incarcerated for nearly twenty two months as part of a 20-year prison sentence. He was later released on bail as a face saving measure, only after he won a prestigious award, International Journalist of the Year. A Presidential Pardon had been announced recently, again just to please the international community, while intimidation and abduction of journalists who expose government corruption and human rights violations continue even to this day.

6) A well known journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda went missing, shortly after he wrote articles supporting the opposition candidate of the Presidential elections, General Sarath Fonseka. The police and the criminal investigation department of the country had paid no attention to initiate a proper investigation so far. New evidence shows that this journalist was preparing an investigative report on the usage of chemical weapons at the latter stages of the civil war. This journalist was also the victim of an unresolved organized abduction which happened last year.

7) A classic example of the massive politicization of the judiciary is provided by the manner in which the government is trying to remove the Chief Magistrate of Colombo, Mrs. Lanka Jayaratne, who is presiding over the only civil case file against General Sarath Fonseka. However, the government has so far failed to have their way with her.

8) President Rajapaksa is illegally detaining his former Commander of the Army, Gen. Fonseka, a four star General and a true national Hero who nearly died of an LTTE suicide bomb attack a year before he successfully defeated the LTTE. Gen. Sarath Fonseka was the main opposition candidate at the Presidential election. By independent accounts, he had received the majority votes and won the Presidential election, if the election was not rigged by the defense secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a brother of the President.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has brazenly violated the constitution by failing to implement the 17th amendment which deals with the appointment of the constitutional council and as a result, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has failed to appoint following independent commissions:

(a) Election Commission

(b) The Public Service Commission

(c) The National Police Commission

(d) The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka

(e) The Permanent Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption

(f) The Finance Commission

What is also noteworthy is the serious strategic misalignment of our current foreign policy with deleterious future consequences. China, Russia, Myanmar, Iran, and Libya have now become the government’s closest allies. The projects funded by the Chinese government dwarf all other bilateral aid. In February 2010, Russia gave a 300 million USD credit to Sri Lankan, most likely the biggest such donation ever given to Sri Lanka even compared to Soviet Union days. The Sri Lankan government continues to purchase arms when the country has a surplus of weapons and 150,000 soldiers who could deal with any potential future insurgency. Most of these arms purchases are from China. It is reported that the GOSL is now making attempts to embrace North Korea for country’s military needs.

Parallel to these new strategic moves, and in an effort to hoodwink the poor masses, the government propaganda machines are regularly bashing the U.S., EU, and the important international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF. Despite this negative propaganda at home, the regime is privately bending over its back to convince the IMF to release its second tranche of the Stand-by Agreement without which the government is unable to finance its current budget. The economy is as vulnerable to a major crisis as was Greece but with the only exception that the Sri Lankan Central Bank can continue to print money to avert a collapse in the short run. It is clear that in few years, Sri Lankan economy will be one of the worst performing economies in the region. This may most likely lead to civil unrest, political instability, and even to an absolute dictatorship led by Rajapaksa family.

What we humbly request you and the rest of the civilized world is not to ignore this brazen violation of democracy in Sri Lanka by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers as just a regional phenomenon. This repressive regime is fast becoming a veritable member of global tyranny which will not be easy to contain once the regime establishes a repressive institutional structure. Therefore we would like to appeal to you and your colleagues for their continuous support to oppose the current Sri Lankan regime through all available legal means.

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