A new dawn has broken upon these island shores. With the New Year, Lanka has a new president, a new prime minister, even a new saint; and reflected upon the now sunlit countenance of her people is a new air of freedom, a new smile of hope. Though once trumpeted from the rooftop by the [...]


The guilty must not go free

20m Lankan victims of The Great State Robbery await justice as of right, not revenge as reward

A new dawn has broken upon these island shores. With the New Year, Lanka has a new president, a new prime minister, even a new saint; and reflected upon the now sunlit countenance of her people is a new air of freedom, a new smile of hope.

Though once trumpeted from the rooftop by the previous regime that it was the best of times, it was in reality the bleakest of times. It was an evil era when a nation’s brainwashed people were getting closer and closer to embrace the notion that the three blessings that historically protected Lanka did not emanate from the Triple Gem of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha but instead flowed from the triumvirate of the three Rajapaksa brothers whose attitude, action and conduct conveyed the impression, relentlessly fostered upon the mass Sinhala psychic, that they and their descendents were anointed by a divine right to rule the land forever; and that, if their omniscient, omnipotent selves were not omnipresent to wield the throne, the crown and the sceptre, then Lanka and her people would be condemned to a conflagration of terrible destruction.

Ramayana’s Hanuman, symbolising the foreign conspiracies said to be at work, would burn the house down; with Ravana vanquished, it would be curtains for Lanka, the prophecy held.

Unscrupulously exploiting the entire state propaganda machinery, this was the sinister message hammered home day in and day out into the collective conscience of the Sinhala masses. The war victory was wrung dry to its last remaining drops of glory; and even the tiniest rivulet that flowed bearing the splendour and the triumph was directed in the direction of one man who, claiming sole credit, publicly bathed in its waters, without a blush. While synthetic wreaths were laid to fade upon the grave of the Unknown Soldier, evergreen flowers freshly adorned and scented the towering pedestal of the kudos baggers.

Forunately, the Four Guardian Deities of Lanka, Vishnu, Kataragama, Saman and Pattini seem to have exercised their benign influence by coming to the fore to banish the self-styled known goblin and instead instal the unknown seraph in the seat of Presidency through the power of the ballot last week. Thankfully, the 2,500-year-old status quo of Buddhism’s protection to the thrice blessed land has now been restored. If more benedictions were called for, the nation’s talisman was further fortified with the welcome blessings of Jesus Christ brought aboard the Alitalia flight on Tuesday by His Holiness Pope Francis.

Now it’s time for the new President to start his own road show and keep the promises he made in his quest for the Holy Grail. Chief amongst the reason that led to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s downfall was the total breakdown of law and order and the odious practice of selective law enforcement. This enabled corruption to rise to unprecedented levels. As long as it were the kith, kin and cronies plundering the nation’s coffers to finance the ruling elites’ orgy of lust and greed, power and gratification, the resulting debauchery hardly raised an eyebrow.

The Rajapaksa regime can boast of infrastructure development and ending the war, but what has it done to ensure law and order in civil society?

During the election campaign Maithripala Sirisena painted the breakdown of law and order, selective law enforcement and gross corruption as the dominant stars that blazed on his flag of change. The opportunity has now dawned to keep his manifest promise to the letter. The dynamics of politics may dictate to the present leadership to compromise on certain issues for political expediency. If so they would be committing the same mistakes as their predecessors and the promised change would be but another mirage in the oasis of a people’s hope.

Horse deals done behind closed doors to provide for any exception to the cardinal rule that the law is equal and that each one is levelled in its dust, cannot and should not be tolerated by the people who voted for genuine change in the belief that the pristine credentials of the new president made him the ideal harbinger of promised change. Each and everyone, no matter their exalted stations, against whom any allegation of corruption exists must be subject to the due process of the law and must, if a competent court finds the person guilty, receive the full punishment for the crime committed without any presidential clemency showed before or after the trial.

The charge against the Rajapaksa regime is not only for being responsible for the gross corruption that raged unchecked but also for being responsible for the debasement of the traditional values any society, if it wishes to exist and thrive, cannot do without, cannot afford to have trampled in the mud. At the heart of any society lies the fundamental foundation stone of law. All roads built, however well carpeted it maybe, will not lead to prosperity but to anarchy for without the rule of law reigning supreme and applying equally to all, even platinum carpeted roads would lead to chaos caused by social implosion.

The Rajapaksa regime can well boast that they built Chinese-funded roads, a Chinese funded harbour, a Chinese funded airport, a Chinese funded coal plant, that they ended a terrorists war by meeting force with an even greater force but what have they done to ensure law and order in civil society and to promote the respect that must be accorded to the rule of law for laws to have any efficacy? Did the Rajapaksa government even discharge its constitutional duty of promoting the Buddha Sassana when they turned a blind eye to the violent acts of a small group of renegade monks, the nefarious Bodu Bala Sena that degraded the sublime ‘ahimsa’ message of the Buddha and brought dissension within the Sassana itself?

Even communist China is stable and functions competently because it is governed by Chinese laws which, no matter its reddish hue or rancid taste, apply equally to all its citizens. There is no one law that applies to the followers of Chinese President Xi Jinping; and another that damns those who do not swear by him and hail him as God King of China. Today with the edifice of law brought to the ground and the respect lowered to its nadir it is vital, before all else, that the new government first resurrects it to its pristine state. In the long run, development depends on it. Thankfully the people had realised this salient truth; and, when they got the opportunity on January 8, demonstrated their conviction that what was indispensable was not a Rajapaksa to rule over Lanka but an impartial rule of law to preside over the affairs of all Lankans.

Maithripala Sirisena now faces the Herculean labour of cleaning up the Augean Stables. However hard it is, he must start at the beginning, from scratch. But this task must be done and shown to be done. During the election campaign, he and his fellow members alleged gross corruption in the Rajapaksa ranks. This was the signature tune of the entire campaign, the rhapsodic song which held the masses gripped in enthusiasm to dawn change when it sang of how a people, lashed to submission, were being systematically robbed and their legitimate inheritance blatantly used by their political masters to finance the stupendously luxurious lifestyles of an unworthy few.

And now, after the allegations had waxed lyrical and had become the moving music that served to bring down a falsetto regime from its prolonged crescendo, the demand must be made from the new government to produce the proof, to substantiate the charges made against the previous regime, to indict them in court and allow the due process to punish the guilty for the crimes committed under the existing laws.

If the Government fails to do so, for whatever reason, it will stand indicted before the bar of public opinion for making false allegations against innocent men, for deceiving the public by casting calumnies against their rivals and deceiving the masses to gain their votes to come to power. Absence of action to bring the culprits to trial will cast doubts on the Government’s own bona fides and enable members of the previous regime to later claim that they are innocent men whose innocence has been proved by the Government’s own failure to come up with a shred of evidence of corruption. If the Government does not pursue the investigations to its logical conclusions it will be indirectly handing over good character certificates to those whom they once labelled as rogues.

Secondly, it must apply to all. Maithripala Sirisena and the then opposition decried the breakdown of law and order and bemoaned the repugnant practice of selective law enforcement. With the former president dividing the nation into two communities, declaring there were only patriots and traitors it soon became apparent that the patriots were those who were loyal to the Rajapaksas while all those who showed even the slightest difference of opinion were branded as traitors.

The patriotic stooges could run amok, tie men to trees, storm media offices, kidnap suspects in police custody from police stations while the police looked askance, attack Muslims wantonly, attack Christian churches, kill a British tourist and gang rape his Russian girl friend, brandish pistols and run on public streets in broad daylight to attack visiting opposition Parliamentary members without the police conducting their duties of law enforcement which was a subject directly under the former president as Minister of Defence. They could amass large fortunes, buy up valuable properties, own expensive sports cars, flaunt opulence and display wealth far greater than their legitimate incomes revealed without the tax department, which came under the direct purview of former President Rajapaksa as Minister of Finance, being prodded to make even an inquiry, let alone ordered to take action.

The traitors or those not flaunting the Rajapaksa colours were, on the other hand, hounded repeatedly and were subjected to the full force of the law and faced its wrath repeatedly. White vans ceased to be identified as vehicles carrying children to schools in the morning but as phantoms of the night bearing another ‘traitor’ to meet an unknown tryst with the grim reaper. And very often the victim of an extrajudicial attack by a Rajapaksa patriot became the persecuted. Many remained silent nursing their wounds rather than make complaints to the police and face even greater injury. Some even fled the country in fear of death whilst the patriotic cronies of the Rajapaksa clan ambled across the land as sacred cows of the Rajapaksa barn.

No wonder then that respect for the law, coupled with interference in the judiciary, became nonexistent in the eyes of all right thinking men and women. Remember the famous President Rajapaksa comment when asked why he was taking action against a person who had turned against him when earlier he had appointed him to a top position in a bank even though he faced an allegation of corruption, “He was one of us then and I tried to ‘shape’ it up.” The efficacy of the law ceases to exist when people find that it is not their actions but their political colours that determine whether the law of the land applies to them or not.

In the event of the present Government taking action to prosecute those suspected of corruption and bribery, President Sirisena must not commit the same fatal error as Mahinda Rajapaksa did and spare those on the basis that immunity has been granted to them as a result of secret deals made to facilitate smooth transition of government or to strengthen his position in the SLFP party as president of the party. He must ensure and publicly demonstrate by his action that in his legal text book on criminal procedure no exception section or subsection exists to excuse any one, however exalted the position maybe, from criminal prosecution for criminal acts done during tenure of office. If Maithripala succumbs to the expediency trap, and allows a few big sharks to slip through the net, he too will be guilty of selective law enforcement and will be no different from his predecessor.

Like the rain that falls, the provisions of the law must fall on all, with no umbrella offered for a still powerful few to shield themselves from the falling rain of justice. Lanka’s wealth is the property of her people, not the personal inheritance of even the president and thus no one has the right to grant dispensation to those who stand in the dock, accused of plundering the nation’s coffers.

Thirdly the guilty must not go free, if only to convey a potent message to the new ministers that their actions, too, will be minutely scrutinized and allegations of corruption and bribery will be effectively probed and charges filed against them in court by this government or by a future government. The precedent that will be set by prosecuting all the culprits in the Rajapaksa regime will bring about this change. The era when this land was treated as one furrowed and made fertile for the benefit of politicians on both sides of the fence will then be over.

Lanka’s first agriculturalist President Maithripala Sirisena must ensure that the field is not one used by the UNP in the Maha season and the SLFP in the Yala, with both expropriating the harvest with a mutual understanding not to reveal the others thievery on account of concealing one’s own fraud while the Lankan people, the true owners of the land are robbed of their dues and left with only a handful of grain.

Finally it must be made clear that taking action against the traitors of Lanka, some of whom have already fled the country to take up residence in countries they are citizens of and to enjoy the spoils of their treachery undisturbed, is not one designed to wreak revenge but a vital necessary exercise to give justice to the victims of The Great State Robbery of all time, justice to 20 million victims, the hoodwinked, cheated pauperised citizens of Lanka who have had their treasure trove plundered in by those who paraded the roads as the true patriots of the nation. The Lankan Government must not rest until the last rogue in the cave of thieves is hunted down and swiftly brought to justice; and ensure that the last stolen cent is returned to the national coffers.

Until this Monday the entire facade of the ICC drug store building at Bambalapitiya junction in Colombo was covered with the bill board proclaiming in banner headlines the statement in Sinhala, “I awoke the nation – (sgn) Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Now that the former president has roused us from our deep slumber, it is perhaps time that the new President Maithripala Sirisena awoke us to the Truth.

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