“What is unhuman is inhuman, what is palpably criminal is palpably so irrespective of the status of offenders. That is the Rule of Law and that is the foundation of the Yahapalanaya concept.”
Rusiripala, a former banker in Sri Lanka, who has taken to writing in Daily FT, is perturbed by the red flag I have raised (Daily FT article 18 September) over the shocking charge that our Navy had operated a ransom gang that had abducted and killed 11 persons including children for ransom.
That shock was compounded into an unbelievable magnitude when another charge had been recorded by the CID that the Navy Chief of Defence may have tried to shelve the offender; and still worse, when suspicions arose that no lesser a personage than President Sirisena had been trying to shelve the issue and reprimand the CID. Al Jazeera picked this story because it saw its news- shock value. I am sure many world leaders were aghast. But not Rusiripala!
I guess Rusiripala found it uncomfortable that this incident occurred during the family regime of the Rajapaksas and under the watch of Gotabaya, his Viyathmaga leader. What is unhuman is inhuman, what is palpably criminal is palpably so irrespective of the status of the offenders. That is the Rule of Law and that is the foundation of the Yahapalanaya concept.
Rusiripala had held high office in the old regime. He mentions my response over the much-hyped bond case. Yes, I did respond to Rusiripala when he emailed me with his own private report about the bond issue while the Presidential Commission was investigating it. Knowing that this banker had been campaigning against the Yahapalanaya Government and Ranil Wickremesinghe, implicating the latter in what he described as a “massive fraud,” I politely wrote back telling him that I prefer to see the conclusions of a formal investigating body than read the views of individual persons.
The Commission’s findings are now out for all to see. To the consternation of Rusiripala, neither the UNP Government nor its leader had been implicated in the findings. The suspects are in custody and the money involved is frozen with no loss so far caused to the Government. I would follow up with Rusiri and tell him that the actual guilt or otherwise has yet to be determined and that that can be done only by a court enquiring under judicial procedure. Besides, a forensic study must be completed for the court to allocate any guilt.
I am aware of a forensic expert here who explained that there wasn’t any fraud as such in this case although there was a clear case of conflict of interest. Hence, Rusiri must wait a little more patiently before he jumps to final conclusions.
The Navy story
Back to the Navy case, I stand by my view expressed that the President had erred badly in his judgment here and that there is prima facie evidence that he had attempted to protect the Navy Chief of Defence, who had been summoned by the CID for questioning. The latter could never have left the island for overseas without the permission and knowledge of the President. President Sirisena should never have assumed that the latter was treated on a political agenda of the CID; his brash lash of all top-level investigating bodies – FCID, CID, etc. – had been embarrassingly unwarranted and irresponsible. President Sirisena should have summoned the CID to discuss this matter and to hear their side of the story before his outburst. His jumping the gun unveils his intent and was beneath his dignity.
Says Rusiripala, “The treatment to be given to the Chief-of-Defence Staff was different. There is serious concern about possible ulterior motives behind this move. He was summoned by a CID officer even without informing the next higher up in status line at least for protocol sake.”
The CID is under no obligation to ask others. There aren’t protocols involved here. Had the charge been that the officer murdered his wife and put her in the car boot, does the Police go and follow protocols? Rusiripala has misunderstood the role of protocols altogether. The cat will be out if of the bag if that be done. This is common sense. Here in Australia, ministers and archbishops are arrested without resort to protocol wherever serious issues of fraud, sexual abuse or assault are involved.
Rusiripala must understand the operation of the Rule of Law under which nobody is above the law – regardless of his office. Probably having been used to Rajapaksa rule, Rusiri isn’t accustomed to the new order that Yahapalanaya announced on 8 January. We of the civil movement for good governance are waiting for the completion of that process by eliminating the immunity granted to the President.
We congratulate our efforts when we observe how high profile Ministers like Ravi Karunanayake are summoned by the CID and how once big guns in the family regime like Gotabaya are also summoned. The Yahapalanaya and its ingrained Rule of Law concept rules out big men-small men discriminations when it comes to the administration of justice. That is how it should be.
Rusiripala echoes President Sirisena’s Ranaviru logic. He states, “The people of this country both in the war-affected areas and down south equally respect the Army and the senior officials for what they have done to save the country from a group of the worst bloodthirsty terrorists who shook the whole world.”
While I have myself great love for the soldiers who fought and won the war, I have demonstrated the absurdity of the logic that soldiers who commit crimes in a civil context must be exempted from any consequential punishment. I like to forward here an extract of my reasoning as that appears in my article:
The weakness of an argument can be demonstrated if one logically extends its play to show its absurdity. This is called in logic, reductio ad absurdum. In this particular instance, the Navy is charged with having run a mafia-like clique that kidnapped rich families for ransom. Following the line of reasoning here, if that kidnapping arm extended itself so widely as to operate in open space as it wills that should be alright. No rich family would be safe. They could even rob banks or rape in public if they found an attractive woman or girl. Your wife or daughter can be raped by a soldier alias ‘ranaviruwa,’ but that would be fine. Leave him all alone. In my case, I wouldn’t dare to argue with a soldier for he can shoot me if he thinks he must get rid of me. A soldier can relieve you of your purse. Leave the guy alone. The worst of all, a soldier who fought in the war can assassinate the President or any given high profile VIP; but ‘hush,’ don’t touch the soldier!
Non-soldiers, however, cannot do any of these “illegal,” things. We must answer to court and be prepared to go to jail. In this way, two systems of law would operate-one for soldiers and one for us. The first one let us call ‘Ranaviru Law,’ and the second one, ‘Civilian Law.’
Again, there is a danger in such a situation because the non-soldier component can use the soldiers to commit any crimes they want to engage in-bounce off an enemy, rob a bank, rape a girl or, simply, pick a pocket. Who knows even in this particular case non-soldier mafia may have employed the Navy to do their dirty work. Such a development is inevitable in this dual system as it would give the non-soldier offender protection to perform his crimes.
In a veiled attack on me for writing on Sri Lanka while living abroad, Rusiripala says, “There are many refugees in all parts of the world who preach ‘vedi bana’ without having made any positive contribution.” To this, I must assert that I am no refugee and that my heart is Sri Lankan even if I happen to be living overseas.
I am sure, I have made a considerable contribution to my country of origin both in the arts, in writing and in the Public Service. Unlike much younger Rusiripala, I have no more ambitions in Sri Lanka. In this digital world with mobile cameras relaying Sri Lankan happenings over video and with a fluent social media, we remain competently connected. Telephone calls and overseas travel are cheap.
(The writer can be reached via email@example.com.)