| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(June 20, 2014, Bradford, UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Former Liberian leader Charles Taylor now incarcerated in Durham Prison is seeking clemency from UK to transfer him to Rwanda to enjoy visits by his family of several wives and children who have been denied visas in fear of them not returning to Africa.
Taylor was nurtured by the US and he faced successful ICC indictment in Hague for amputating Sierra Leone Rebels and is imprisoned in the UK for war crimes. UK is now miffed that he is sucking UK taxpayers’ money to maintain him in UK prison. Taylor’s predicament should send warning signals to our own President.
As President Mahinda’s apala kalaya spells doom he should not be in a mighty hurry to prepare for the next Presidential election. Rather it would be prudent to get his Swiss Bank account fattened up to send his royal family abroad during his forthcoming incarceration by Hague. UNHRC is leaving no stone unturned and his trial in Hague by the ICC means he has to scrape the bottom of the barrel to justify his security forces’ conduct towards the war which annihilated a good portion of fleeing civilians and rendered thousands more homeless and destitute.
Now Parliament votes against a UN Probe. But UNHRC can conduct its own probe even when countries refuse to co-operate and with tomes of evidence of war crimes available Sri Lanka has no choice but to face scrutiny towards its conduct during the war to eliminate the LTTE in 2008/2009.
Rape, torture, extra-judicial killings, chemical warfare such as cluster bombs on fleeing civilians and even proclaiming the war is over, the government still terrorises North and East with military presence which has neither rationale nor reason. The most recent incident in Aluthgama re-iterates the government complicity in silencing the minorities such as the peace-loving Muslims who go about their own way.
Never in the history of post-independence did the Muslims demand to carve an enclave of their own. They placated the Tamils and they supported the Sinhalese but they never resorted to violence. And the police maintained deadly silence as BBS went on a rampage looting and burning their businesses and properties without a slight provocation on the part of the Muslims.
The tragic incident which claimed four innocent lives and rendered some 5,000 Muslims to seek refuge in Mosques just when they are embarking on the fast for Ramadan on June 28 could not have come at a most inopportune time. If there is anything that provokes a Muslim is to infringe on his right to worship. Muslims have considerable clout abroad which could jeopardise Sri Lanka’s trade relations in the years to come particularly in the Middle East.
Most corrupt leaders give themselves a decent interval of at least a couple of years before they descend into dictatorial mode and ensconce their family members in positions of power. But President Mahinda Rajapaksa came pre-packaged and ready to distribute the wealth of the nation to his family and he already had a head-start on this.
To this day there is no accounting for the US$ 183,000 Treasury approved fund he obtained for Helping Hambantota, a charity to help Tsunami victims in his constituency. For an obscure law practitioner in the outback of Tangalle until he became prime minister on April 06, 2004, his meteoric rise to presidency was envied by long-standing contender to presidency Ranil Wickremasinghe, the opposition leader.
Once he took office he quickly distributed key cabinet portfolios with gay abandon among his relatives with his eldest brother Chamal as speaker, younger brother Gotabhaya as Defense Secretary, son Namal and another brother Basil as MPs. His nephew Shashindra Rajapaksa is chief minister of Uva Province and cousins Jaliya Wickremasuriya ambassador to US and Udayanga Weeratunga to Russia. His brother-in-law Nishantha Wickremasinghe is the chairman of Sri Lankan Airlines.
His re-election was mired in mass scale vote-rigging and never in the island’s history has there been such blatant disregard for the rule of law, transparency and accountability and the violation of democratic principles enshrined in the constitution in the form of arbitrary detention and arrests, extra-judicial killings and other forms of suppression of fundamental human rights.
This alone was not enough for the President. He also surrounded himself just to be doubly sure he is firmly ensconced for his lifetime as the despotic leader following his victory on the 35 year old scourge of LTTE terrorism which earned him a name in the annals of Sri Lankan history as ethnic cleanser.
But all good things must come to an end as we have witnessed in recent times in the Arab world, Sreberinca, Cote D’ Ivoire and Rwanda. Leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Pirabakaran et al truly believed they were invincible not unlike our President whose international and domestic policies are the diktat of the Rajapaksa clan with his puppets lying for him abroad.
The mother of all lies was that no civilians were killed in the war two years ago and Rajiva Wijesinghe, an apologist for the President, then turns the lie on its head and admits some 5,000 civilians could have been killed. Now would anyone with even minimum IQ buy his canard?
Then the erudite Legal eagle and former VC of Colombo University Prof. G.L.Peiris proclaims that the UN is co-operating with the Sri Lankan government in its investigations even as UNSG is preparing to investigate in detail Channel 4 video Killing Fields and his panel report.
Some in the cabinet with their half-baked or no knowledge of international rule of laws even go so far to proclaim that ICC (International Criminal Court) cannot touch Sri Lanka.
Hosni Mubarak waited several decades before he was booted out of his reign as the ultimate leader. Other examples are Charles Taylor of Liberia now languishing in the detention centre of the ICC (International Criminal Court) which comprises 12 cells on the premises of the Scheveningen branch of Haaglanden Penal Institution in The Hague along with five other alleged African war criminals.
In the case of Sri Lanka which pats itself on own back that it had not acceded to the Rome Statute the ICC can subject even states to co-operate with it specific cases.
The ICC collaborates very closely with the UN Security Council and its mandate to bring war criminals to justice has been proven by its success as stated above.
Apart from international calls for the government to justify killing civilians in their thousands (the exact numbers will never be known) and other atrocities locally the President is ignoring warning signals of total discontent among his populace the majority of whom are Sinhalese.
The President needs all the help he can get whether he gives Dana to 100 Bhikkus or not to ward off the malefic influence of Jupiter. Here’s hoping he could muster support among his extremist Buddhist forces.
(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)