Zooming on Sooka
Posted on April 21st, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe


Yasmin Sooka was rolling with glee when she was asked, How did the former Defence Secretary get caught?” Her answer was that it was sheer hubris that led Gotabaya Rajapaksa to take one last chance to visit America. According to her thinking his visit to a Trader Joe’s store proves his arrogance. 

She exclaims, Justice may take a long time, but when it does come, it happens”. Her whole perception was, as if, Rajapaksa had already been convicted, thrown behind bars and the key thrown away.


In reality, he had been informed of only two civil cases had been filed against him. It was not even summons for him to appear before court. He has time to respond to the charges and the onus of proving his guilt is squarely on the shoulders of the plaintiff. 

Good luck to the plaintiffs if they are being advised by Yasmin Sooka with the rest of the legal team also, like her, is unable to differentiate between conviction and of being simply informed.


Clearly, for the plaintiffs’ legal team this simple act of getting the papers across to Rajapaksa had been a huge challenge and its success worth popping the Champaign bottle open. 

Though she found it incredible that he had the audacity to visit a Trader Joe’s store, there’s nothing unusual going to the place. It is as if one finds it the height of arrogance to be shopping at Keells, Aripco, Food City or any of the other supermarkets. After all, Trader Joe’s is simply an American chain of grocery stores based in Monrovia, California with 474 stores in 43 States.


This very simple and straightforward process had been portrayed as if all this time Rajapaska had been in hiding, scurrying from one dark corner to the next before he was finally tracked down and served. It is as if a dangerous mission was bravely accomplished. Hence, the question, how did the former Defence Secretary get caught?”


In truth, handing the papers to Rajapaksa could not have been such a difficult task. He as a dual citizen; has assets, a residence (and as such a permanent address) and family in America. He is in the habit of visiting the country at least two-three times a year and almost always coinciding with the holidays. 

When he returns to America he spends a month or so in the country visiting his family and friends. Even people in Sri Lanka, even those who are not ‘monitoring’ him to prosecute him, know of this routine. 

We know because photos of him with his family and friends regularly appear in social media. Therefore, not much skill was needed to ‘track him down’.


Therefore, there is absolutely no justification at all to wait 10 years to file a civil lawsuit against him. Either, this attests to the sheer incompetence of the plaintiffs’ legal team or there is an ulterior motive in the timing.

 In the absence of any conclusive investigations to pin the blame on Rajapaksa or the fact that he is not even a respondent to any of these investigations, many are sceptical of the lawsuits’ outcome.


Long hound


Trying to entangle Rajapaksa in a legal battle has been in operation since 2015. It was just 10 days after the Yahapalana Government assumed power on 9 January, 2015 that Ryan Goodman wrote to New York Times (under the caption, ‘Helping Sri Lanka’s New Democracy’) that ‘The former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, aren’t politically dead yet…Independent observers have long viewed Gotabaya Rajapaksa as an obstacle, perhaps even more than his brother…’. 

Therefore, ‘It is in the new Government’s interest to move decisively to protect its democratic victory by eliminating the threat of Rajapaksa’s return to power…’


However Goodman notes, ‘Proceeding against  Rajapaksa will be politically challenging for the new Sri Lankan government to do on its own…The United States could help by signalling its own interest in opening a criminal case against  Rajapaksa in the event that Sri Lanka doesn’t. That would give the new government both an opportunity and a justification to clean its house. 

Because of  Rajapaksa’s citizenship, the United States would also be less vulnerable to accusations that it was meddling in the affairs of another nation.’


To be fair, it is not as if the Yahapalana Government did not heed Goodman’s advice for they really did try. First there was this brouhaha over the alleged disappearance of the Ekneligoda case.

 An entire Military Intelligence team was taken into remand custody and most were detained for over a year. The officers and men were chained, handcuffed and paraded before the media while been taken to and from the courts.


The officers and some of their spouses submitted affidavits to the Human Rights Commission against the officer in charge of the investigation. He was accused of exerting severe pressure on them to state that they acted on Rajapaksa’s orders.

 The Human Rights Commission is usually very vociferous, especially when the allegations are against the Sri Lanka Security Forces. However, the course of action taken on these affidavits is not clear.


Since then we have had the second senior officer in the Sri Lanka Navy Commodore DKP Dassanayake along with few other officers taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the abduction of 11 persons. Again, the pressure on them was to pin Rajapaksa to the crime.


When that did not work, Major General Amal Karunasekera who was the Military Intelligence Director during the height of the war and later the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Army was detained, over the assault of Nation Editor Keith Noyahr. 

His arrest was considered a major breakthrough in the case. Much publicity was given to the Police team that went to Australia to get Noyahr’s statement. However, the actual statement did not receive the same attention.


Likewise, high ranking officers of the Army, Navy and the Police had been detained over cases such as the 2012 Welikada Prison riots, assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge, and the death of Thajudeen. 

The investigations have gone even to the extent of exhuming the bodies of Wickrematunge and Thajudeen. Yet, none of these investigations have been successfully concluded.


All these investigations appear to be geared on narrowing on Rajapaska. After Commodore DKP Dasanayaka’s arrest, the next move was to arrest the then Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda and from him to Rajapaksa. Due to severe opposition from the public and Buddhist clergy, it had not been possible to arrest Admiral Karannagoda.


Publicity stunts


For all purposes, this new civil lawsuits appear to be another politically motivated media stunt. At the beginning of the Yahapalana Regime, we saw a lot of these kinds of media shows. 

We saw various MPs carrying huge piles of files to CID, FCID and CIABOC with an entourage of reporters and cameramen. Just in front of the gate there would be the inevitable voice cut promising justice. None of these had moved an inch beyond that step. 

Now, even the local media appears to have got bored with these side shows and does not give as much prominence, as they once did.


Justice and Sooka


If Sooka is really after justice, then she is after the wrong person. She ought to turn her radar on the likes of Adel Balasingham. Then, Sooka would not have to canvass others also to join the lawsuit.

 According to LTTE’s own record, they had deployed around 300 men and women on suicide missions. 

This dubious credit goes to Balasingham for she played a pivotal role in creating these human bombs. In doing so, she is not only responsible for the death and destruction of thousands of lives, but also an ancient culture that revolved around deity.


Today, Balasingham is living very comfortably in London along with many other terrorist hierarchies without a single Human Rights lawyer zooming on any one of them.


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