Danger of ICPAPED
Posted on October 2nd, 2017

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Confronting us is the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Bill (ICPAPED). If the provision of this bill is incorporated into local law, we give foreign governments jurisdiction over our own citizens – namely the agents of the State, which may be political or military. Some take comfort in the false belief that it will ensnare not only those in the Rajapaksa administration, but also the United National Party (UNP) Government during the late ’80s responsible for the many disappearances of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) insurgents.

The fact that we are okay with foreign elements persecuting our own citizens just because they belong to the opposite political divide is truly appalling. In order to see our political opponents thus punished, we are willing to sacrifice our security forces is simply sadistic.

People are thus apathetic because they have lost faith and confidence in our political and legal systems and the way successive governments conduct itself explains General Daya Ratnayaka.

He points out that for 30 years we fought a war against terrorism. During which time the military sacrificed 30,000 lives, twice as many sacrificed their limbs and hundreds of thousands gave their service to save our country from this terrorist grip.

The soldier must go to battle when the government fails. Yet, it is those who created this problem and failed to resolve it who are questioning now what have the military been doing all these years, what crimes they have committed and are trying to punish them on baseless allegations, observes General Ratnayaka. “If anybody has behaved with a criminal mindset during an operation we’ve always dealt with it within the military and even handed them to civil Courts,” he stated very categorically. “We’ve put them behind bars, sentenced them to capital punishments, life sentences and other very serious punishments. Even now, if someone comes with evidence with specific information, the government and the military will investigate it.”

However, he notes, seven-eight years after finishing a 30-year war some people are still trying various ways to attack the soldier, leveling baseless allegations. Given the passage of time, where evidence may be blurred or even fabricated, anything could be said.

“By the time you prove your innocence, you are destroyed because you are taken into custody before you are proven guilty. It is in this context that the ICPAPED bill is worrying.”

People cannot be blamed for confusing this as a political issue states General Ratnayaka when even senior parliamentarians are unsure of this Bill’s stipulations. The government is of the opinion that this Bill has no bearing to the past operations.

“When you read it though, it is clear that this is not meant for the present or the future, but the North and East conflict as specified in certain places of the Bill. Not even the military personnel, even those who are currently barred from travelling outside Sri Lanka, have a clear idea about this matter. I keep up with current affairs and have tried to study this Bill a number of times. I understand this is a very serious thing, but I still have not been able to fathom the gravity of it.”

What is lacking in this exercise is the legal understanding of the many tricky implications of this Bill, he notes. It has not been adequately discussed in the society, and in proper academic forums. It is on that basis that he met the prelates, explains General Ratnayaka.

“I requested them to pressurize the government to have an open discussion so people understand this before getting it into the Parliament and approved as a law in our country. It is my understanding that not many countries in the world have ratified this Bill. So we have to see why they have not.

“This is a completely a new thing for us, a completely new charter. Before deciding on this the legal professionals and other professionals must extensively study the length and breadth of this whole thing and understand the problems we will face. It’s up to our academics, legal experts, and media to explain this in detail to the society and educate them. Actually the intellectual community must get together and protect the soldier now because when they were in trouble, soldiers sacrificed their lives for the security and the protection of the larger society. Now it’s up to the responsible people and the society to protect the soldier.

“The way things are happening now, we have to have an organization specially to protect our soldiers. Certain officers have already been taken into custody, and there’s no proper organization to even support them.”

This absolutely despicable Bill that only targets the agents of the State, and not the terrorists, paramilitary or the underworld comes as a direct result of this government co-sponsoring a resolution against itself. In doing so, we agreed to address accountability issues by implementing four measures. Namely,

(1) A judicial mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international human rights law.

(2) A Commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence.

(3) An Office for Missing Persons (OMP) and finally (4) An Office for repatriations.

The ICPAPED is to be established in support of the OMP. As President’s Counsel Manohara de Silva explains OMP is to be nothing more than an evidence producing factory. With the ICPAPED, which is the other link of the chain, he explains, the cases are to be exported.

Furthermore, this unprecedented act is also paving the way for a new constitution.

“Although war crimes allegations hadn’t been at least verified let alone proved, Geneva has prescribed a change of Constitution as the remedy. Perhaps, their intention has been to bring about far reaching Constitutional changes to achieve what Velupillai Prabhakaran couldn’t accomplish through terrorism. It seems unsubstantiated war crimes allegations have been propagated to justify Constitutional changes. It would be pertinent to mention that the change of the Constitution, in response to war crimes allegations, would also justify LTTE’s terrorism, on the basis that the group, too, sought the same.”

A writer in his column repeatedly points out that it was the previous government’s steadfast refusal to make representations on behalf of Sri Lanka that facilitated the UN project. We had all the evidence and proof to rebuttal the West’s allegations. However, the previous government took the stand that this is an unwarranted interference on our sovereignty. With the firm backing of our international friends such as China, Pakistan and Russia, the then administration stood their grounds, even though it invited the West to be increasingly confrontational with us.

As the writer points out: “The government certainly believed that it could exploit the battle with the UN to its political advantage whereas the UNP-led campaign warned of international sanctions in case President Rajapaksa secured a third term.”

The incumbent government in its efforts to realign with the West cosponsored the US led resolution, despite it being severely inimical to our national security and interests.

“These are the two extremes,” observes General Ratnayaka. “We have one administration who said no to everything. The other administration as if opening the sluice gates lets everybody to come. Finally, we feel that we’ve been taken for a ride.”

There are however a number of national organizations that have always been vociferous and active in creating awareness of these national issues. They have however failed to be effective for a number of reasons noted General Ratnayaka.

“Our governments tend to be thick skinned and immune to these concerns. Though we’ve been a democracy for 70 years, with all the elements of democracy, we are at a very primitive level of democracy. Civil societies are supposed to be the most powerful in a democracy, but ours are not organized or structured. When a group of people get together, we think of them as a civil society.

However, they are just some individuals and not a civil society representing the wider spectrum of the society. They have no proper understanding of what’s happening at the government’s level. If the civil society is properly structured, politicians can’t do as they please.

“The Buddhist clergy, who had always been in the forefront in protecting this country since the inception of Buddhism in our country, also does not seem to be very effective right now. They too have to organize themselves and come out. It is the right time for them to organize themselves, to re strategize and pressurize the government into the right track. We as responsible people must support them to come out.”

He observes that we are trying to enjoy five-star democracy when as a society we are not disciplined. First the society must have discipline, then development and only then can democracy survive.

“Today everything in our country is in a mess. This is the result of not having a proper master plan. We don’t have a think tank to develop that master plan. That think tank must identify our strengths and weaknesses and evaluate the opportunities we have and take into account the domestic, regional and international implications. The master plan must take all these things into consideration. It is that master plan we must implement – irrespective of who is in power.

“We don’t have a proper structure – even in our Constitution. However, people are divided how the Constitution should be changed. Whatever one administration does the other will change it when they assume power. These are the problems we have in our country.

One Response to “Danger of ICPAPED”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    It is useless to have think tanks as long as politicians make decisions based on advice from their astrologers, soothsayers and kovil administrators in South India. It is said that an astrologer in the north central province runs the country today. She is provided with personal security more than a minister and politicians of all colours visit her regularly. This has been the case for a very long time. At least 3 presidents relied on these dubious advisors on important decisions affecting the nation.

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