Written by Faraz Shauketaly
04 Mar, 2019 | 10:57 am
For amongst the oldest democracies in Asia, current times with new found respect for human rights, respect of real equality for women, simply does not seem to have been the case for Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka it is as though true democracy in its purest form, has never been able to stay. It has been an almost unwelcome guest varying in degree as to who in Sri Lanka wielded power.
The rot possibly set in place with the disenchantment of those that supported SWRD Bandaranaike’s passion for nationalism as opposed to the perceived subservience to the British. Whether in fact this was the case or whether the notion was a creation of the Bandaranaike team to achieve their own goal of power for themselves, is for continuous debate.
Over the years the people of Sri Lanka has seen a growing authoritarianism creep up on them albeit slowly but surely. President Jayewardene although enjoying a staggering 5/6th majority in parliament ignored the apex court in effect and went to parliament to ensure that Mrs. Bandaranaike lost her civic rights. Years later when that Act was repealed his UNP parliamentarians although in opposition with a handful of seats, abstained and let the matter go without too much of opposition. It indicated perhaps clearly that the Act to strip Mrs. Bandaranaike of her civic rights found its roots in a plan to keep the UNP in power for a very long time indeed. In essence the only merit was political revenge.
In contemporary times we have the strange case of Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne. The highest serving officer in the forces, is the Chief of Defence Services. He was a suspect in various matters including apparently helping a naval colleague to flee the country. The man who made quite a name for himself and for the Sri Lanka Navy via his service in the trailblazing Special Boat Squadron modelled after the British Special Boat Service.
The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) was formerly inaugurated on 18 January 1993 at SLNS Elara in Karainagar, the major naval base in the Jaffna Peninsula in the early nineties. The first batch of two aspiring officers and 76 sailors, mostly recruits and a few Leading rates, joined on voluntary commitment to form the future elite commando of the Navy. Nevertheless, the toll of training attrition was high, as only the strong remained and the weak faded away throughout the rigorous training process.
Finally, both officers and 25 of the ratings survived to form the nucleus of the Special Boat Squadron under the charismatic leadership of Lieutenant Commander RC Wijegunaratne. Two subalterns, Lieutenant Channa Jayasinghe and Sub Lieutenant SW Gallage, were willing and dedicated officers who would dare the impossible to strike the enemy, as they had proven again and again in small group raids they did during their stints. Moreover SBS developed training on special boat tactics to fight in brown waters and coastal shallows. Soon the squadron grew up into a versatile force capable of covert and overt operations on land and sea. Capacity building and rigorous training made the force capable of clandestine waterborne entry and even air mobile to operate deep in enemy controlled land. The versatility includes pre-assault special missions in amphibious landing and small boat tactics to battle with the enemy in close-quarters surface combat.
In spite of the Admiral’s stellar service in pursuance of protecting the people of the island, the Admiral was said to have helped an itinerant escape Sri Lanka in of all things a Dora fast attack craft – all the way to Malaysia. The fanciful claim was made by the investigating Police officer, a senior man himself and was not based on any rationale other than a hunch the Policeman had. In the Fort Magistrate Court the preposterous suggestion was made again by the Police that they wished to consider whether the Admiral was suited for his role current role as the CDS. Power it appears had infiltrated the small mind of the Policeman in question. The prerogative of who serves in such senior and sensitive positions is not for him to consider – it is for the President himself. Today although the evidence appears to be far from prima facie the Admiral is yet to be fully cleared. So much for patriotism and says an awful lot about the revenge-based democracy that we see in operation from a government that has come in to govern us the people on a bandwagon of good governance undertakings.
It appears that our legislators are all in the one boat. The current Opposition had the bond gate scam served up on a silver platter. Yet we noted with dismay that it was left largely to the private media to mark the fourth anniversary of the Bond Scam.
The opportunity to make a real change by taking the Bond Scam story from village to village by the Opposition has been lost. Perhaps it is too much of hard work for around the ninety something members of the so-called Opposition which is ironically spearheaded by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. That Mr. Rajapaksa is perhaps the single most popular figure in the country and will definitely have the ear of the people, makes understanding the Opposition inaction all the more galling.
True the former Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal had a press conference and there was pockets of effort to highlight the sad fact that after four years of the greatest financial scam to affect this nation, there was no progress towards accountability, responsibility and legal action. The expert-calculated loss to the economy over thirty years of at least RS 1,000,000,000,000 (Rs One trillion) seemed to have flown over the head of Mr. Rajapaksa.
Or was Mr. Rajapaksa more concerned that the Prime Minister will re-start investigations against the Rajapaksa family with a renewed vigour that may end up in the incarceration of some members of his family – if he pressed ahead on the bond scam?
This is why we bemoan the fact that Sri Lanka is not only still very much high in the list of authoritarian governments but also that in Sri Lanka there is no real difference between those that are in government and those in the Opposition.
The people will have to fend for themselves and may perhaps only have the private media for companionship and solace and to use as a form of civil defense against our mostly elected legislators.
How terribly sad.
19 Mar, 2019 | 11:30 AM
18 Mar, 2019 | 05:56 PM
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