The Impeachment Debate, Sumanthiran and power devolution

| by Sebastian Rasalingam

( January 23, 2013, Ontario, Sri Lanka Guardian) The previous Chief Justice was accused of financial wheeler-dealing and arrogation of power in judicial cases where she had a conflict of interest. If she had been tried before a proper court, she may well have been found guilty. However, her real `crime' was her arrogance and non-compliance with the powers that be.

Think of this theater of judicial impeachment under power devolution, with some local land-owner high-caste chief minster (possibly a Mervyn-de-Silva Chelvam of the North), pitted against a regional `chief justice' selected from a tiny caste-based pool of local lawyers. The regional chief minister would have got away with it without even a news headline. In the present system, at least all the light is focused on one national stage.

Righteous indignation at others.

If the CJ was officiously arrogating power to safeguard her private interests, the politicians too were obnoxiously ensuring that they were in control. Listening to the impeachment debate makes us realize that Lanka's members of parliament have no dignity, decorum or basic civility. They are men and women who have come to power by the most devious means, and who are ready to cling to power by mendacity and murder. Can any serious matter be decided by such men, in their shouting and `standing committees'? Surely, it is not constitutional reform that is needed, but a mandatory test of education, a clean police record and some good breeding. We need good role models of honesty, civility and plain good-nature.

There are some members of parliament who have the education, and the potential for honesty and civility. Unfortunately, they rise like champions of justice when they are not committing the offense.

It was refreshing to listen to Mr. Sumanthiran denouncing Prof. G. L. Peries, and Mr. Vasudeva Nanayakkara for their total lack of principles. However, why doesn't Mr. Sumanthiran look at himself in the mirror and ask himself some basic questions that might help himself to emerge as a new honest leader of Sri Lanka, instead of playing destructive politics by working for the TNA (Tamil National Alliance).

Sumanthiran stated that he has 21 years of professional experience practicing in Colombo. For at least 18 years, he implicitly and explicitly supported the murderous regime of Prabhakaran, and never denounced the kidnapping of children, forcing children, women and civilians to become fighters, training orphans into suicide bombers etc. When the constitutional rights of the Tamils were denied by Prabhakaran by preventing the Tamils from voting in several elections, the TNA (and Mr. Sumanthiran) went along with it. Prabhakaran himself ruled the Tamils for three decades, but the Sampanthans and Sumanthirans never told him to legitimize his rule by a vote. After all, the cyanide king came to power by killing the TULF leaders like Amirthalingam. So the LTTE-TNA cannot claim that the 1977 TULF victory legitimized them.

When Tamil leaders or MPs who dissented with the methods of the LTTE got assassinated, Mr. Sumanthiran said nothing. When Prabhakaran herded all the Vanni Tamils into a human shield, and when he killed thousands of injured Tamils as he retreated to Nandikadal, Sumanthiran said nothing. He himself lived among the Sinhalese, practiced law and led a privileged life while claiming discrimination and genocide of the Tamils. So, his speech is an exercise in hypocrisy unless he follows up and atones his past.
We need National leaders and not Tribal chiefs.

How can Sumanthiran follow up on it? Perhaps he should look at Mr. Anandasangaree. The latter is one Tamil MP that I can think of who stopped practicing as a lawyer when he became a member of parliament, since such practice would surely lead to serious conflicts of interest. Most countries do not allow MPs to also practice in the courts.

Mr. Anandasnagraee is one of the few people who had the courage and honesty to stand up against the Nazism of the LTTE, although not always unequivocal. Mr. Sumanthiran can surely see how Mr. Sampanthan is playing divisive politics, not just within Sri Lanka, but also among the Tamils. However, Mr. Ananadsangaree too has got trapped in the Vaddukkoddai time-wrap.

So, Mr. Sumanthiran is young enough, and cosmopolitanly educated to be able atone for his sins and take a leaf from Mr. Ananadasangaree. But he can go further. He can abandon Tamil tribal politics based on land-owning caste discrimination. He should make himself the leader of a future program which shuns parochial ethnocentrism. The future of the Tamils of Sri Lanka does not lie in segregationist devolution where they end up falling into the hands of some odious `Mervin-Chelvam'-type chief minister from Manipay or Mavattipuram.