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If the Rajapaksas are not restrained there will be other Duminda Silvas and therefore other Bharatha Lakshman Premachandras

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“A foul, dishonourable crew” Giaccomo Leopardi (To Angelo Mai III)

In the Rajapaksa Security State, insecurity is the common condition of the rest of us

Impunity makes jungles out of civilised societies, where the big and the powerful prey on those smaller and weaker, at will. In such lawless-states, violent death can befall any citizen who incurs the ire of someone stronger. When governance is criminalised, all are unsafe, from beggars to Presidential advisors

Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was a veteran SLFPer. During Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency, Premachandra was that rare thing – a Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalist. In those long, lean years, while Basil and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa were pursuing the American Dream, Premachandra backed Rajapaksa openly, incurring presidential-wrath in consequence.

Then Mahinda Rajapaksa won the Presidency, and his family took over. Basil Rajapaksa claimed Gampaha as his fiefdom; Gotabhaya Rajapaksa appropriated Colombo as his dominion; and Namal Rajapaksa began his own creeping-invasion of the SLFP through Tharunyata Hetak and Nil Balakaya.

The Rajapaksa dynastic project requires a remoulded SLFP. Creating a new breed of politician whose primary loyalty is not to the party but to the Ruling Family is central to this task. Newcomers, who lack a politico-electoral base within the SLFP and thus are abjectly-dependent on the Siblings for their political-lives, are ideally suited to this purpose. UNP defectors such as Milinda Moragoda and Duminda Silva and political-neophytes such as Sachin Vas Gunawardane all belong in this category.

Duminda Silva epitomises this ‘New Rajapaksa-man’, who can act with impunity, so long as he abides by the iron-rule of unquestioning subservience to the Ruling Family. During his tenure as a UNP provincial councillor he rapidly made a name for unruly and criminal conduct.

Apart from being indicted for sexually-abusing a minor, he was arrested for other criminal deeds. In 2004 he was indicted for abduction and on four other counts; the main witness, Roger Allen Francis told the court that, “he was abducted by the accused, Silva, and his armed gang, demanding that his daughter be sent to him” (Sri Lanka News First – 5.9.2008).

In 2006 he was remanded for assaulting Provincial Minister Hector Bethmage, and remanded again for causing “injuries to an American woman sailor and assaulting two other American security officers of the US Embassy at a night club” (Daily News – 6.6.2006).

Despite this unblemished record of criminal-conduct, Silva was tolerated by the UNP and welcomed by the SLFP. Post-defection, he became a favoured-acolyte of the Rajapaksa Siblings. The charges against him were withdrawn by the AG and he was named the ‘monitoring MP’ of the Defence Ministry. Obviously the Siblings were aware of the ilk of the man they appointed to such a sensitive position. Equally obviously for the Siblings, Silva’s criminal conduct was a matter of negligible import; so long as he was servile to them, he could act as he wished towards others.

The feud between Premachandra and Silva was thus more than a political-turf war over Kollonnawa. It was a manifestation of the silent-contestation between the pre-Rajapaksa SLFP and the Rajapaksa SLFP.

As the Rajapaksas consolidated their stranglehold over the state and the government, the power of the likes of Duminda Silva within the SLFP began to grow, at the expense of old-timers such as Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. The Rajapaksas in power desire servile-acolytes, not loyal allies.

According to his family, Premachandra believed his life was in danger and complained to the authorities about it. His sister also wrote to the Speaker, asking protection for her brother. But the power-wielders were indifferent and the police, consequently, apathetic.

Perhaps this lackadaisical response emboldened his rival. Because a belief in impunity lies at the heart of the Kolonnawa killings; those who shot Premachandra repeatedly, at point-blank range, in full public view believed they were above the law. Why else would they be unfettered by the presence of so many eye-witnesses, who can testify against them in a court of law?

According to the testimony of Premachandra’s driver, “MP Duminda Silva fired at Mr. Premachandra after he fell down to the ground” (BBC – 12.10.2011). Rationally, Silva cannot be faulted for thinking that so long as he kowtowed to the Siblings, he could get away with blue-murder.

After all, the AG did withdraw two very serious charges against him and he was anointed as the ‘monitoring MP’ to the Defence Ministry. And the police are yet to move against him, despite the eye-witness testimony, though a less-favoured citizen would have been placed under arrest, even if he/she was dying. Perhaps Silva’s implicit faith in his political-masters is well-founded?

In one of his final speeches, Premachandra speaks of the threats to him and his supporters. Quoting Pastor Niemöller passionately, albeit inaccurately, he sounds a warning to fellow-SLFPers: “This shadow of death will someday come to their doorstep. I am telling you. Beware!” (www.colombotelegrpah.com).

It is an oddly prescient remark, a warning any SLFPer unwilling to become a Rajapaksa-cipher should heed. Because if the Rajapaksas are not restrained, there will be other Duminda Silvas, and therefore other Bhraratha Lakshman Premachandras

Recently, TULF leader V. Anandasangaree (whose anti-Tiger credentials are impeccable) protested to President Rajapaksa about the regime’s plans to launch a land-registration drive in the North.

Itemising the inappositeness of such a move in a province still reeling from war-ravages, he warned that “the people who had lost almost all their possessions are now scared that they will lose more under this scheme”. Obviously the Northern Tamils fear that this registration drive is an attempt by the state to use the post-war confusion to grab their traditional lands.

It is a reasonable fear, given the regime’s land-grabbing activities in the South. The latest such case is from Anuradhapura: “Residents of Palmadullagama say that they have been severely inconvenienced after their traditional farming lands were taken over by the state

They question the justice of these lands being taken over by the government and being used for development initiatives… Meanwhile, huts that had been built in Chenas in the Udaththawa (Hasalaka), have been burnt to the ground” (News First – 12.10.2011).

Impunity respects no boundaries, geographic, ethno-religious or political. So Presidential Advisor Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra met the same fate as the beggars murdered in Kelaniya and innumerable victims of custodial-killings.

The Sinhala peasants of Anuradhapura and the Tamil peasants of the North are to be dispossessed of their lands. The rest of us too will experience the ravages of this cancer; no citizen is safe when the Rule of Law is replaced by the law-of-the-rulers.

So the UPFA lost Colombo, despite the no-holds-barred campaign by all the King’s horses and all the King’s men, plus the King’s family and the King himself.

Colombo’s poor know of the Rajapaksas’ plan to evict them from their homes and Colombo’s citizens are arguably better informed than their counterparts elsewhere and thus more aware of Rajapaksa crimes and misdeeds. This confluence of economic and governance issues prevented a Rajapaksa-victory in Colombo, despite a weakened and fractured opposition.

But if the opposition fails to unite to prevent mass-evictions and defeat the anti-democratic Colombo Corporation plan, this victory may be its swan-song.

14 Comments

  1. Chinese Charm says:

    Don’t worry The Singhales will forget it once they are given a go ahead to kill, rape ,loot the Tamils and set fire the Tamils and their property. This is what happened in 1977. When UNP won the election there was fight between UNP and SLFP supporters. It was witnessed by many. It happened in Rajawatha too. Next day there was anti Tamil Pogrom and where the fight among the singhalese was diverted as anti Tamil Riots. Many Tamils Killed and the Sansoni commission did Nothing. The UNP and SLFP forgot their fighting and made use of the riot for thier own gain. Anyhow oneday they will perish with their infighting.

  2. Anonymous says:

    With all this written umpteen no. of times, and the murderoua infighting ably
    supported by the Regime, I do not think there is one, repeat one, soul in the
    UFPA that will resign in protest, for the sake of the well-being of this Island!!!

  3. Patta Pal says:

    While everything you have written point to one outcome, I disagree that in the end it will be the end of Sri Lanka as we know it. I am optimistic that there will come a time, when enough is enough and the wrath of the citizenry will be no match for a family, whose hold on power although it appears watertight is at best tenuous. It just gives the veneer of invincibility, it can crumble in a split second when the spark is lit. If only one realizes the internecine struggle within, which is currently not aired, for fear of retribution. There are more people in the country elections not withstanding that wish a return to consensus politics and the swelling ranks of the disaffected in the UPFA ranks are just waiting for the opportunity, once the opposition is able to reform itself to join a force against this autocratic dictatorship. They may not realize it and it is best they do not at the moment, otherwise the element of surprise will be lost as the intention is to catch the lot of them with their “pants down”

  4. Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan says:

    When you substitute the law with the diktat of the ruler, his immediate family and sidekicks presently enjoying the regime’s favour, you are ruled by the Law of the Jungle where the more powerful beast feeds on the less. One recalls a larger country with a much larger population in the region that foolisly took their millions on the path of a religious state. The State now identified with deceit and dishonesty is now disintegrating from many sides. They too placed primacy in their armed forces and gradually undermined the law. It has since been murder and mayhem that continues in that pathetic country. More than one Head of State or leading political figure has been hanged, shot and bombed out. When the State and Religion weds the off spring is death and destruction. We aeem to be at the beginning of issues rather than the end unless there is divine intervention.

    ISS

  5. Kanda says:

    Get all the protection and powers (varams) through the constitution and treat the provisions of the very constitution like s**t and not worth the papers they are printed on. Could you think of a better irony? We have had illustrious monarchs who did this and their story of demise is worth thinking about. We celebrate Deepavali in memory of ‘Sura Sanhara’ or vanguishing the evil ruler who secured the ‘varams’ of protection from death by all elements, by devas, by animals, by any weapons, by gods or by men during day or night by Lord Vishnu who appeared in the form of ‘Narasinha’ half lion and half man at twilight. He killed him with his bare hands. We read in the old history that he blatantly violated the Gods’ jurisdiction who bestoed the very varams. Theoretically we are in a similar situation. Days of reckoning?

  6. Hela says:

    TG,

    What about Kalu Lucky’s and Gonawela Sunils? This is an issue transending political affiliations. It is people like TG (& ISS et al) who does greatest damage to society by trying to use such issues to further their parochial agendas, rather than seeing it as a common evil affecting the whole political system. It is well known that many of those criminal elements were former UNPers who switched sides to gain favour from the new political order. They would perform a reverse summersault if there is a regime change and UNP comes to power. If one is genuinely against it, then they should be fighting agaist criminals of all potical persuasions as a common evil.

  7. Chatura says:

    We deserve our rulers.
    Till there are sheep there will be shepherds!!

  8. AjayH says:

    Hela, it is unfair to accuse TG and particularly ISS of ‘ trying to further their parochial agendas ‘.
    What parochial agendas ? These are issues of vital concern to every citizen of this so called democracy. There is no point in talking of the Kalu Lucky’s and Gonawela Sunils each time a heinous crime is committed. The question should be about what is happening today. Past leaders made mistakes particularly in using some of the underworld for their benefit and most of them paid the price, not just them but the country too. Is the present leadership not aware of all this ? The reality is that they have bettered all previous leaders in this respect !

  9. Hela says:

    AjayH,

    Let’s talk about today. Please go through PS members list of UNP and find out how many thugs are in that list. My point still stands. This is not an issue against Rajapakse. This is an issue against the entire political leadership both govt & main opposition combined. Using the situation to only target MR is pure dishonesty.

  10. Ranjan says:

    If Duminda was a member of the UNP, shouldn’t the UNP has to answer why a person involved with drugs was allowed to be in the party? Surely, his drug activities did not start after he crossed over to join the current government?

    All the commentary and comments that I have seen on this issue are about how he was allowed to be in the current government. What about his past and why are we not demanding explanations from his past associations as well?

    TG’s headline says that Rajapaksha’s have to be restrained. I would say that all politicians have to be restrained. They are basically out of control and it is time that the common people took a stand. Will that happen? I guess pigs will fly sooner.

  11. Henry M says:

    Well said TG.UNP is weak and frctured.Except those in Colombo rest having the sagacity to adjudge that correctly refused to have faith in them.Yes indeed if they are not able to solve the problems in their own organisation how do you think they could find solutions to those formidable issues of a Country.

  12. Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan says:

    Hela, AjayH and fellow travellers might as well do some reading of these Rajapakses from Dr Brian Seneviratne and you will then realise they, Bharatha, Duminda are birds of the same feather. No wonder they flocked together.

    Only the other day CBK told the US Ambassador “these Rajapakses are uneducated rascals” Seneviratne, in far away Melbourne and of the Bandaranaike clan, went on to add Nirupama Rajapakses father, also from the same area, and his family are a more honourable, learned, cultured and sophisticated breed. I am only quoting what others have said and all this is in the public domain.

    ISS.

  13. John Wayne says:

    Hela – A really weak argument. Pity, you have lost the ability to recognize the wrong when you see it.

  14. rukmal says:

    People who voted Mahinda Rajapaksha at the presidental election on 2010 can see the results of ‘Suba Anagathyak’ now. People didnt understand the truth about the Mahinda Rajapaksha although there were so many evidences against him. Only our great hero Sarath Fonseka loved our motherland truely. But people falied to identify it. In this case, Mahinda will protect Duminda Silva as he spent a lot of millions for Mahinda’s elections. So it is true that Mahinda is promoting and protecting thugs and anyone can see it now. Due to the wrong decision of the people at the previous presidental election, all srilankans will have to suffer. So, dear srilankans there is nothing to do now. All problems were made by ur wrong choice. So you have to suffer for that now.

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