Diversion and distraction from big issues Unjustified focus on Gotabaya
Posted on March 5th, 2018

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

The recent Cabinet reshuffle is neither a farce nor a joke. This is a matter of great concern when one implicated over our country’s biggest bank heist, becomes the Minister of Law and Order. Circumstantial evidence against Ranil Wickremesinghe stacks high, for unprecedentedly taking the Central Bank under him from the Finance Ministry and appointing Arjuna Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor, despite Maithripala Sirisena’s protests. He pledged personal responsibility for Mahendran.

Yet, this Government is unable to deliver summons as Mahendran ‘has left Singapore’. Even as this column is being penned, Mahendran continues to defy the Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne’s order to appear before the CID on or before 8 March and make a statement, which was later extended to 15 March. The Joint Opposition’s request from Sirisena to ask the Singaporean Government to deliver Mahendran has fallen on deaf ears.

Rejected by the masses
Wickremesinghe has bigger worries up his sleeve, the rumblings within his Party against his leadership is fast developing into a revolt, after yet another dismal election performance. With the Provincial Council, Presidential and General elections all lined up for the next two years, the United National Party junior rankers are agitating for a change of leader rejected by the masses, 30 times, successively. If within the next two weeks the necessary reforms do not take place, they threaten very strong action. As it is unconstitutional in the UNP manifesto to pass a motion of no confidence against the party leader, they have vowed to bring such a motion against the premier in Parliament to oust Wickremesinghe.

In the midst of this high drama, two very curious news items appeared on 25 February, on the front page of a reputed English Sunday newspaper. Both articles dealt with the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga, the Sunday Leader editor. The first article, ‘Police Cover Up in Lasantha Murder Emerge after Key Arrest’ insinuated that it was a killer squad comprising military intelligence. The article erroneously stated that this so-called killer squad was headed by Kapila Hendavitharana, who the article claimed to have directly reported to the war-winning Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. This article interpreted the drubbing the Government got at the Local Government polls was due to their failure to arrest high profile killers. Thus, reports the article, the arrest of this team, which was to have happened in July 2016 but prevented due to ‘political interference’, is now imminent.
Interestingly, this article pasted on the front page was directly from another site. Rajapaksa’s response to this highly defamatory article, which was published in this daily on 27 February under the heading ‘Police, military personnel under pressure to implicate me falsely’, points out to the deliberate falsities and its illogical conclusions in the article. It is perplexing how such an article better suited for a gossip column got past this newspaper’s editor, who is an extremely principled and experienced journalist, adhering to his profession’s ethics.

The second article, written by this newspaper, appeared immediately below this article is based on the statements made by unnamed senior government sources, and fails to mention when and why these statements were made. Apparently, these sources had claimed that “both Wickremetunga and Thajudeen cases have reached a stage where the killers would be arrested within a week… the evidence did not point at former Army Commander and current Regional Development Minister Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka”.

The objective of these two articles is obvious. For three years, this Government has been digging deep to find an excuse to lock up Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is widely speculated to be their next Presidential contender. They have looked into the Avant Garde Maritime Services, Rakna Lanka Security Services, the ‘MiG deal’ and even to the memorial built for his parents. So far, nothing incriminating has surfaced. Thus, these articles are aimed to create a judgement against Gotabaya outside the Courts. If successful, even when the Courts (if these cases get that far) exonerate him, in the people’s mind he will continue to be guilty of a crime he never committed.

Bid to arrest Gotabaya
However, given the present quandary Wickremesinghe presently finds himself in, many onlookers feel the fresh bid to arrest Gotabaya is for more immediate gains, than long term. If Gotabaya was arrested, it would create a severe unrest in the country, which would take the spotlight away from Wickremesinghe.

While this drama unfolds, things are faring worse for Sri Lanka in Geneva. At the ongoing March session, the outgoing United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Al-Hussein, once again, in his inaugural speech of the sessions, has called for the implementation of universal jurisdiction on Sri Lanka. Just as the State Minister of Foreign Affairs Wasantha Senanayake noted few months ago, this Government’s foreign policy is in the hands of foreigners. Thus, this Government does not seem interested in defending Sri Lanka, when the topic comes on 16 March.

Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera, a leading member of Global Sri Lanka Forum(GSLF), on the other hand has a bold plan to make a complaint against the Human Rights Council for failing to subject the 30/1 Geneva Resolution against Sri Lanka for a debate and for passing it without a vote. Speaking exclusively to Ceylon Today on 27 February, he explained the origin of this treacherous resolution is the controversial OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) Report, which was based from the illegal Darusman Report.

The Darusman Report commissioned by the then United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon to undermine the then Sri Lanka Government’s own exercise, speculated without basis, that 40,000 Tamils were killed by the Sri Lanka security forces, during the war’s last phase. This figure was refuted by Lord Naseby on 12 October 2017 at the House of the Lords, who quoted dispatches sent by the British Defence Attaché, Lt Col Anton Gash. He pressed on the British Government to pressurize the UN to stop hounding Sri Lanka on war crime charges, for the actual number of deaths hovers between7,000-8,000, out of which one fourth were terrorists in civil garb.

Again, as a representative of the GSLF Admiral Weerasekera met with Lord Naseby on 7 February; to personally thank Lord Naseby for his dogged efforts to find the truth about Sri Lanka, also, for trying to influence the British Government’s stand, on Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby had commented that no patriotic citizen would co-sponsor a resolution against their own security forces.

Explaining his mission, Admiral Weerasekera noted that using this OISL Report, which is full of contradictions, obfuscations and falsehoods, we are being charged for violating four international humanitarian laws and four human rights laws, none of which are true. “For instance, one of the charges was that we have deliberately prevented aid from reaching the Northern Peninsula. At last year’s March session we submitted a Report countering this OISL Report with material such as the minutes of the consultative committee for humanitarian assistance chaired by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and attended by the then U.S. Ambassador Robert O’ Blake and representatives of the UN and HRC. Along with it we have also annexed the six reports from leading war crime experts like Sir Geoffrey Nice, Sir Desmond de Silva who have clearly stated that we have not committed any war crimes. These reports are in the Foreign Ministry, but the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera did not submit it to the Human Rights Commission. Instead, he co-sponsored the Resolution against us without even Cabinet approval.

“The UNHRC acknowledged our submission, but did not respond to it. So, this year we are going to make a complaint against the HRC. Even though this was co-sponsored by Samaraweera, the HRC still should have assessed the OISL Report.

“This March Geneva session is very crucial for Hussein has called for universal jurisdiction for Sri Lanka because he claims that there is a delay in dealing with cases like Lasantha Wickremetunga and Eknaligoda. These are our local affairs. He in effect ridiculed our judiciary and implied that it’s ineffective. He does not say these things to U.S., UK or Israel. India does not even allow a special rapporteur into their country. “He says these things when the Office for Missing Persons has been approved undemocratically in Parliament. He then made a fuss that the office is not opened and the very next day this Government opened the office. This shows that this Government is working for western masters.”

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