Last Wednesday, November 19, India sent a signal to the world’s drug mafia that they could patently use Indians, posing as Tamil Nadu fishermen, to smuggle drugs into Lanka confidently without fearing any reprisals. If their couriers were caught, convicted and jailed, even sentenced to death, India would stand as guarantor to get them off [...]


India rules heroin waves and waives Lanka’s rules


Last Wednesday, November 19, India sent a signal to the world’s drug mafia that they could patently use Indians, posing as Tamil Nadu fishermen, to smuggle drugs into Lanka confidently without fearing any reprisals. If their couriers were caught, convicted and jailed, even sentenced to death, India would stand as guarantor to get them off scot free. A little bit of arm twisting followed by a presidential pardon were all there was to it.

Out of eight Tamils, five of them Indians and three Sri Lankans, convicted and sentenced to death by a Lankan High Court on October 30 for smuggling heroin into Lanka, the five Indian Tamils walked free after India stooped to deploying street smart thuggish tactics of a new India under her much acclaimed street savvy prime minister, to force the hand of the Lankan president to issue a presidential pardon effecting their immediate release.

The five convicts who were released posing for a photograph at the Indian High Commission in Colombo before they were sent to India

As the Lankan President said in an interview this Wednesday with the Hindu newspaper when asked whether he pardoned the five fishermen because he thought they were innocent. “Absolutely not. I was absolutely sure that they were guilty, as our courts had convicted them. But I felt that our friendship with India was more important.”

Whilst Sri Lanka’s Justice Ministry Secretary Kamalini de Silva said on November 20 that the three Sri Lankan Tamils would remain on death row, Modi’s party were lighting crackers that day at the news of the release. The ruling Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) national spokesman G.V. L. Narasimha Rao hailed the release as an achievement of the Central Government and said that it is heart-warming news. “It was only possible due to the efforts of the Centre,” he declared in triumphant vein. Another BJP leader Nalin Kohli proudly announced that “India’s voice is being taken seriously ever since Modi became Prime Minister.”

No wonder that President Rajapaksa wisely handed all the credit to the adulation seeking Modi when the two met at Kathmandu’s Soaltee Hotel, where they were both staying on Wednesday evening for about half an hour. “All credit must go to his foreign policy. Since he has come to power PM Modi has opened out to the relationship with Sri Lanka. It is his foreign policy and his outreach that led to my decision,” President Rajapaksa told the Hindu newspaper.

So are these then the new Himalayan peaks of Indian triumphs that the once moral voice of the world have to trumpet today from the octagonal tower of Khas Mahal in Delhi’s Red Fort?

Is this the sublime Land of the Rishis, the hallowed ground which had given birth to two great religions, Hinduism and Buddhism and beheld the birth of a Buddha to rise from its womb? Is this the soil watered by the sacred Ganges in which India cleanses her sins, a profound heap of moral dust which had formed, shaped and nurtured a saint in our life and times, Mohandas Gandhi who by using the Buddha’s moral tenet of ahimsa as his sole staff and shield had led India to keep her midnight tryst with freedom, that now has descended to the sewers of Calcutta’s Black Hole?
The new street breed of India catapulted to lofty climes to rule, spike their victory on the grime of their past which still cling to their mundus and smear the spotless white. And in so doing reveal the yellow mettle of their moral steel and the blank black of their mental slate.
Consider the following scenario and the ultimate victory these men of a lesser god claim have finally made the voice of Modi’s India as something “to be taken seriously.”

Four years ago, five Indian Tamils and three Lankan Tamils were nabbed by the Lankan Navy attempting to smuggle heroin from India through the Palk Straits to Lanka. They were produced before the courts and were charged with the heinous offense, convicted and were sentenced to death four weeks ago by the Colombo High Court.

News of the verdict and the imposition of the death sentence sparked protests in Tamil Nadu. Given the ten watt mindset of the highly emotive Tamils in that state — remember over a hundred committed suicide when they heard that their Mother Goddess, the great Amma Jayalalitha had been jailed — they believed that the men were to be immediately executed by the Lankan Government.

Even though the Indian Government must know very well that all death sentences imposed by Lankan courts are commuted to life imprisonments by the Lankan President following a precedent set 36 years ago and followed by every president since, nothing was done to assuage the fears of the people of Tamil Nadu. No effort was made to assure the misled people that a Lankan court’s sentence of death is in reality only a life sentence.
Instead, while trouble flared in Tamil Nadu, the Indian High Commission in Lanka went into top gear to pressure the Government to release the five Indians on death row. Matters came to a pretty pass when the issue of the heroin smugglers even featured in a telephone conversation on November 9 between Boss of Bosses, Indian Prime Minister Modi, and President Rajapaksa. Thereafter the possibility of sending the death row five Indians back to India to serve their life sentence in Indian jails was probed. This was to be done under the 2010 treaty of Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners between the two nations.

But for the stage managers fishing for a Modi triumph to flaunt abroad and belch at home, this would not have done at all. To have followed such a beaten avenue would have meant that India accepted the legal correctness of the conviction, acknowledged the trial as fair and the findings of the Lankan High Court as just; and, God forbid, admitted that five of her nationals were guilty of smuggling heroin into Lanka. And this she was unwilling to do and so this way out was abandoned. What India wanted was nothing short of a presidential pardon, one that put Lankan courts in the dock and rendered its verdict void while simultaneously absolving India’s citizens of guilt and setting them free. And she bagged them all. By hook or by crook, what India wanted, India got.

This incident cannot be compared to the other instances when countless Indian fishermen have been arrested by the Lankan Navy for poaching in Lankan waters and later freed by the Lankan Government as goodwill gestures. In all those cases it was evident and clear that those fishermen had crossed the physically unmarked marine divide in pursuit of their legitimate livelihood of fishing. In the present case, however, it was smuggling heroin to further exacerbate Lanka’s drug menace which has condemned her youth and damned her society.

Furthermore it was a slap in the face of the law enforcing authorities, an affront to the due process and a disgraceful action by a regional super power to browbeat a small neighbouring nation to downright submission and force her to compromise her own sovereign status before the eyes of the world.

As the five Indian fishermen walked to freedom, an exultant Indian High Commissioner described the release as a ‘humanitarian’ gesture. Maybe he meant ‘humiliating gesture’. Or else, how can the abhorrent act of releasing convicted heroin smugglers whose vile trade is dedicated to the destruction of the lives of other people tantamount to being one executed to improve the lives and lot of others? Does the Indian High Commissioner hold the view that it is a humanitarian act for a government to grant immunity to heroin traffickers and thus promote the drug trade even more by giving it new impetus?

The release from Lankan prison under a presidential pardon also means that the 5 Indians will not have to serve any time in Indian jails either. For if the crime committed in Lankan waters were forgiven by the Lankan government, under what laws and for what offence are the Indian authorities to curtail their liberty. After all, it is another fundamental maxim of natural justice that no man can be tried twice for the same offence. As the Indian High Commissioner stated clearly, “they will be sent to India and will not serve their sentence there.”

Well, good for them, the lucky five Indian Tamil heroin smugglers. Meanwhile the other three Sri Lankan Tamils who were their accomplices, who were also charged with the same offence and convicted and sentenced to death, will be spending the entirety of their lives in prison with no Sri Lankan Godfather to fix freedom for them.

This should also serve as an eye opener for the Tamil National Alliance which looks upto India as mother country and Modi as new patron saint of Lanka’s Tamils. The Hindutva philosophy of modern India, however, clearly demonstrates that India will expend her sweat to save Indian Tamils and save her tears to shed cosmetically for Lankan Tamils.

Tell that to voter buffaloes, Mr. Minister


With last Friday’s dramatic declaration by Maithripala Sirisena that he was leaving the UPFA Government and taking up the challenge to contest President Mahinda Rajapaksa for the presidency of Lanka, how flows the river of public opinion?

To those more inclined to scene by scene, blow by blow, nonstop remixed action movies, the absence of any further high action voltage power packed clips of further crossovers by dissident MPs has turned the Friday flare to a puswedilla, a damp squib.

To those hooked on teledramas and accustomed to the weekly cliffhanger endings, last week’s melodramatic Friday fare have made them suspend their judgment; and, whilst being entertained by the new serial in town, to await in suspense until the final instalment is enacted live on January 8 when they will be called upon to decide as to who will take the curtain call. And to those bathed with the patience to go through a Lord of the Rings ordeal, November 21 was the day Hobbit Frodo left home to safeguard his inherited Ring of Power in order to abolish it out of existence: and they will remain agog, savoring the long haul ahead.

Amaraweera: Yes, there’s corruption

Expectations from the political gallery rose to a pitch on Tuesday waiting for the mass crossover that never came. With the Government successfully seeing the budget passed in Parliament with a thumping two thirds majority, it was an anticlimax; and Maithri’s advent to launch his crusade though bold, was treated by some as a quixotic battle with windmills. In their eyes and in their perceptions, if another twenty or forty or sixty of UPFA MPs cross over to Maithri, then his victory will be assured. If only a few do and a great many opt to stay, they will form the bedrock of a Rajapaksa triumph, the third time around. Such a perception is based on the misguided notion that the masses are awaiting for the MPs to give them the signal which way to vote. The fate of the Ape Janatha Peramuna, it is said, lies gift wrapped in the hands of the remaining MPs.

But does it really? While the fidelity parade is being held almost on a daily basis and MPs come forward to profess their solemn oaths that they will not cross over, what impact does such display of servile loyalty have on the masses? Apart from the natural interest created by crossovers in the manner excitement is generated when wickets fall like skittles during a cricket match, need the government have to worry unduly about who is leaving or who is staying? Are the masses of this country going to base their final decision on the actions individual MPs take with their own political survival in mind? Will the people be taking their cue from the actions of those they hold in the utmost contempt?
When Maithripala Sirisena crossed the Rubicon and declared himself as the UNP-led joint opposition parties candidate, he shattered the UPFA lamp, cracked the UPFA mirror. He cut the sod under UPFA’s feet and rose to present himself as a credible candidate possessing all the attributes of victory. He came at a time when the people had no choice and faced the pathetic prospect of the election ending up as a bland one horse race. The main opposition party, the UNP, weakened by long years in the wilderness had no mascot of worthy calibre to herald a brighter future for Lanka.

Ranil Wickremesinghe’s failures had staled him, Sajith Premadasa’s youthful impetuosity had bedeviled him, Karu Jayasuriya’s turncoat past had condemned him from coming forward as credible challengers with even a slight chance of knocking out the Goliath of Lanka’s politics. Only charismatic Chandrika with her magnetic earthy aura wafting from the flower of her seductive smile came close but, alas, her many bouts with tragedy and a son’s adamant ‘no’ to her return to the fray, inhibited her from picking up the gauntlet. In that respect, Maithri’s entry gave the people a real alternative. The initial group was only needed to push him into the ring. A few more MPs coming onto his side as cheerleaders will help to raise his morale. But now that he is in the arena, victory will be decided on who the masses think is best to lead them. It will not be based on what their political representatives, blackened by the soot and grime of corruption and bribery, will do or not do.

Apparently there is a set of happy political UPFA Arahaths who have attained their political Nirvana through the expediency of amassing wealth through corruption to such a gross extent that, bloated to bursting point with a surfeit of criminal indulgence, they have finally extinguished their once insatiable desire to thirst flagrantly for more. Thus it is advocated by adherents of this new political philosophy to leave the nation’s future development in the hands of these enlightened few rather than risk plunder of the nation’s coffers again by entrusting it to those who have still not even entered the path.

Take for instance what Disaster Management Minister and Hambantota UPFA MP Mahinda Amaraweera said at a media conference at the SLFP headquarters this Wednesday. In a direct appeal to the voters he said, “There is minimum chances of corruption in the UPFA ranks now because they may have amassed enough by now. There may be corruption and irregularities in the UPFA Government but the voters must not make it a reason to topple this regime,” the Daily Mirror reported on Thursday.

“Yes, there may be corruption in the Government. But look what will happen if you voted against this Government and bring the UNP back to power. Members of the UNP are hungry to grab power and they will start to amass money afresh. This is not good for the country. The UPFA members do not want to earn further,” he declared.

With that kind of character certificate issued to his colleagues coupled with a guarantee to the nation that they, after having gorged themselves on the country’s resources to the full, have conquered their thanha by vanquishing insatiable desire to earn more in the future, do you think that the voter will clap for Maithri more and place him in the saddle, merely because these tainted men of dishonour decide to crossover to his side? Nay, the voter’s mind will be focused upon the two contestants and the final decision will be based on their performance alone.

Contrary to what a few may think, the entire voting populace are not voter buffaloes who will be swayed by the actions or sayings a few MPs take or make to save their own hides. With many, like Minister Mervyn Silva, renewing their oaths of allegiance to UPFA, what should worry the Government more is not who will leave but who will stay.

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