Sri Lanka: Height of state sponsored racism and impunity
| by Thrishantha Nanayakkara
( December 24, 2012, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Recently, there was a wave of explicit racism on Facebook from a large number of Sri Lankan youth who identified themselves to be Sinhalese-Buddhists defending their race. They once campaigned to boycott brands said to be owned by a minority ethnic group in Sri Lanka. Recently I saw a jubilant notice by this hate group – “We proudly announce that we could bring the profits of THAT BRAND by 40% over the last couple of months”. Some of my friends were wondering how this could happen in Sri Lanka when they should be thinking more of Nation building after a 30 year war came to an end. The tentative conclusion of a lot of us with wider information was that Government itself is promoting such racism openly.
I suspect that you really wanted the public, including children to join the minister to insult the country’s judiciary and the Chief Justice. When the minister indicated that he is not scared of any other thing but the public in the context of questioning and insulting the country’s judiciary, there was a danger that a child would interpret it to be that the minister is above the law of the land.
Then, I happened to watch Sri Lankan ITN program “Hathweni Paya (7th hour)” posted on YouTube on 22nd December 2012. Minister Wimal Weerawansa was talking about the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake. This top cabinet minister who was once elected with highest preferential votes from capital Colombo, a political favorite of the Rajapakse Government, and a member of the parliamentary select committee to investigate the impeachment motion against the chief justice mentioned the ethnic background of the three judges in the Appeals Court that examined the defense of the Chief Justice (her constitutional right). Two of the judges being Tamils and the other being a Muslim (the ITN interviewer assisted here) was used as part of his argument that the defense action on the part of the Chief Justice was a coup with possible international links! Disgusting as it can be, this minister went on to say that he is not scared of anything but the public (voters) in the context of openly insulting the country’s judiciary. He even asked what law specifies what amounts to be an insult against the Supreme Court. Does that mean that the majority of voters in Colombo approve this state sponsored racism and impunity? And do they realize the destination this racism and impunity leads them to? Are they not tired of a 30 year war erupted due to the ethnic tensions and deterioration of rule of law?
Of course it being an ITN program, the minister was there without anybody to give an alternative view. The interviewer himself was only consolidating the minister’s views without posing any credible criticality in his questioning. Though I am not very surprised about that abyss the state media has fallen down to, I wish to warn ITN of the danger of promoting racism and impunity. By not arranging to give any alternative view, you gave a very dangerous message to the children who watched that program. By not providing an alternative view, you allowed children to be convinced that even a judge from another ethnic background is a suspect, when in fact you should be promoting a credible Nation building program as a media institute depending on Tax payer’s money. Next, by not providing an alternative view, you allowed children to be convinced that political authority can insult the judiciary at will. Please look at the way the minister used street language to insult the Chief Justice and Globally reputed legal experts like J. C. Weliamuna. I suspect that you really wanted the public, including children to join the minister to insult the country’s judiciary and the Chief Justice. When the minister indicated that he is not scared of any other thing but the public in the context of questioning and insulting the country’s judiciary, there was a danger that a child would interpret it to be that the minister is above the law of the land. The ITN interviewer did not have the decency to question the minister about his interpretation of rule of law, or the interviewer’s taste buds had been burnt out long ago.
In summary, Wimal Weerawansa being a minister appointed by the Rajapakse administration in the parliamentary select committee to investigate the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka amply demonstrated his partiality of the investigation. He went beyond normal decency expected from a Government minister to openly bring judges under public suspicion based on their ethnicity. He openly insulted the Chief Justice and challenged her constitutional right to defend herself in a court of law. He gave a dangerous indication that the country is heading towards political authority not respecting rule of law and division along ethnic lines. However, I am glad that the minister said that he is aware that this state of affairs can lead the country to possible cornering by the international community in international forums like the United Nations Human Rights Council, though he made an attempt to put the blame of the Chief Justice for this possibility. May sanity prevail among the voters of Sri Lanka.