Decapitation Within A Democracy

( October 28, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The recent statement coming from the Sri Lankan army commander made in the Tamil Vanni area that if "anyone becomes extremists or tries to divide the country, it is not the country that will be divided but their heads that will be severed from their bodies" is a reflection of many things. While being a bombshell it is also a confession of sorts by a war criminal.

This is a threat held out with impunity not only against a section of elected representatives returned with overwhelming support by the Tamil people despite the numerous threats held out against them, but also a threat to the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Sri Lankan Constitution for whatever its provisions are worth in so far as a true democracy is concerned, not to mention the freedom of speech, a freedom that is fast becoming a thing of the past in Sri Lanka, a luxury.

Perhaps this threat is a slight aberration of the explanation given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the recent interview with the Al Jazeera television where he said in references to the remarks on Navi Pillay by his ministers, that being a democratic country his ministers could say anything including officers. He also said: "We allow them to do that."--as if as a matter of deliberate policy. Accordingly, the army commander is an officer of the State and apparently he could make such statements.

The army commander was also giving lesson in democracy to the Head of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) who also happens to be a former judge of the Supreme Court, of no mean repute during the days when the justice system still had some credibility.

Imagine the Head of the NPC telling the people of the north what a good thing reconciliation is, when a sword is being held over his own head to be beheaded at any moment. It confirms our view, that in reality even the remote possibilities of reconciliation are a very distant prospect.

The army commander was apparently concerned about those "Tamil extremists" exceeding the tenets of democracy within a democratic framework trying to divide the country but did not see any danger from the extremists that were trying to bring about ethnic and religious divisions and cleavages within the Sri Lankan society.

Having massacred more than at least forty thousand innocent non combatant Tamil civilians, severing the heads of the Tamils from their bodies is nothing novel to a war criminal but a child's play coming from a barbaric army in every sense of the term. It would be recalled that during the war against the Tamil militants, sections of the Sri Lankan army were being trained by the Israelis, and just before the training programme had commenced the Israeli commander responsible for the training had warned his officers that he was to be engaged in the training of some barbarians. This was to be later confirmed by the behavior of the army personnel in Haiti sent there on a UN assignment with accusations of rape still under investigation.

We wonder whether the army commander was trying to tell the Tamil speaking people that with the NPC they have been endowed with the democracy that they could ever hope for. We would like to remind him that little learning could be a dangerous thing. If an army commander could silence a distinct nation with these kinds of cheap threats then he has something coming.

If the elected officers of the Council, which we believe is an eyewash, could be intimidated in such manner we shudder to imagine the fear in which the ordinary citizens living in the Tamil speaking areas would be subjected to. The statement by the army commander amounts to an admission of the atrocities and the massacres inflicted on the tens of thousands of the civilian population during the height of the war between January and May 2009.

( The writer is the editor of the Eelam Nation, an online journal)