Pressing need for a Press Council to smother evidence of genocide
[Editorial, Eelam Nation]
If one is naive enough to imagine that the Press Council is being revived in Sri Lanka to ensure the restoration of free speech as an adjunct to its farcical democracy then they are grossly mistaken for it is meant to work in the opposite direction towards the complete suppression of the media, to stifle all remaining dregs of dissent, to entrench the Rajapakse family firmly in power and more importantly to muffle all information on the genocide of the Tamil people manifesting in the ongoing crimes against humanity and war crimes. Just as much as human rights in Sri Lanka have faded into irrelevance so has democracy which is becoming increasingly home made as its justice system.
Unfortunately, one gets the impression that Buddhism as practiced in Sri Lanka is not entirely based on its original scriptures as preached by Lord Buddha but often in so far as the attitude towards the Tamils is concerned are superseded by the doctrines of the authors of the Mahavamsa written nearly 1300 years after Lord Buddha and 800 years after the war where the Sinhalese king Dutu Gemunu vanquished the Tamil king Elara some 2300 years ago. To a repentant Dutu Gemunu for having massacred thousands of Tamils, the Mahavamsa says that he was consoled by the saints thus: “From these deed arises no hindrance in thy way to heaven….Unbelievers and men of evil were they (the Tamils), not more to be esteemed than beasts. But as for thee thou wilt bring glory to the doctrine of the Buddha in manifold ways…” This has since influenced Sinhala nationalism and to a great extent the Sinhala chauvinist consciousness. The significant contributions made by subsequent Tamil kings towards agricultural development, irrigation and Buddhism are conveniently shrouded in obscurity but that is besides the point in question. To get the picture in the current context, one has only to substitute President Rajapakse for King Dutu Gemunu. As to whether Rajapakse is repentant after the wanton massacre of at least 35,000 Tamil civilians in Mullaitivu alone, is now evident in the treatment of the IDPs in the concentration camps. Having lived in the second century BC Dutu Gemunu was fortunate in that no accusation of war crimes and crimes against humanity haunted him except his conscience with no media to nag him and disturb his sleep.
The impunity that Dutu Gemunu enjoyed does not apply in this 21st century in the treatment of humanity. The notion that a Head of a State can do no wrong enjoying impunity was thrown out with the execution of King Charles I of Britain in 1649. Thanks to Hitler, instrumental for the creation of an international criminal law , Rajapakse, his brothers and their sycophants, responsible for their war crimes and the crimes committed against humanity will have to answer for them. They have therefore to destroy and / or seek to destroy all evidence surrounding their misdeeds and consequently have to destroy a principal impediment, the media, a vehicle for the transmission of such evidence. When the war against the LTTE was on, the media both foreign and indigenous, were debarred from reporting on the war on the ground that it would amount to treason. Now the suppression of the media takes a different complexion in that no trace of any evidence could be transmitted on the ongoing obliteration of the any remaining evidence of the massacre of the civilian Tamils a crime against humanity and on the inhuman treatment of the IDPs in the concentration camps in Vavuniya, a war crime. The Tamil doctors who are key witnesses to the massacres of the innocent inmates of hospitals by destroying hospitals by wanton bombings are in custody for their crime of attending to their patients and speaking out the truth. If they had been selective in treating their patients according to their political loyalty then they also would be guilty of a crime against humanity as is the state they work for.
The Press Council will have the powers of a district court where in it can imprison and or fine journalists for “falsehood and defamation”. With such repressive measures on the media by law, the extra legal measures currently adopted to muffle dissent and free speech such as the killings of journalists, abductions and false arrests and detentions of journalists, attacks on TV stations burning newspapers are perhaps not sufficient deterrent to keep the media stifled especially at a time when all evidences of crimes against humanity are being obliterated with such desperate speed. Mobile incinerators are working overtime to erase any remaining evidence of massacres by heavy artillery, attacks on hospitals, fire bombings and mass burnings, the use cluster bombs and the use of poison gases in the carnage of civilians in the Mullaitivu areas, who were also Sri Lankans, an integral component of the citizenry comprising the Sri Lankan nation in Rajapakse’s quest to liberate them as he often claimed. It has to be remembered that Ban ki Moon the UN, SG after flying over the scene of the civilian massacre in his characteristic ambivalence, with his conscience conflicting with his hypocrisy, in returning a favour to Rajapakse, declared that there was “no clear evidence” of any such carnage while saying that what he saw was appalling.
The ongoing war crimes are also being covered up. The 300,000 IDPs in the concentration camps in Vavuniya are regarded civilians but also considered prisoners of war entrapped within the razor wires with any person attempting to leave for freedom, that they deserve, shot at sight. Several weeks have elapsed and they have not been told why they are being detained. Have they been remanded after an inquiry on any evidence of being terrorists ? or have they been sentenced to a period of imprisonment by a court, to be served out?. If they are prisoners of war they should be treated with at least the minimum dignity afforded to such prisoners and the least civility deserving to a human being. This is not only a war crime but also a crime against humanity as are the disappearances, abductions, women being sterilized, breaking up of families etc. It is claimed that in their midst are also near and far relatives of the LTTE militants for which they have to pay the price. The LTTE cadres amongst them are said to be around 12,000 still to be identified but some already abducted to be tortured. Did the rest of the 288,000 (with some dead) take part in active combat against the State? When will the government finally determine who among them are terrorists? There is the ludicrous view, for instance, that all short haired women in the camps were militants, but in actual fact women militants in the top cadres wore their long hair in a characteristic fashion peculiar to women cadres. Besides the fundamental criterion that the detainees are all Tamils, what other tangible criteria do they have to establish that they are terrorists to be subjected to such degrading and inhuman treatment?
In stereotyping journalists, the Sri Lankan media minister says”… journalists enjoy unlimited rights in reporting, it naturally becomes counterproductive when they employ their rights to harm the reputation of others. In the light of this danger, there must be an institution regulating such injustices…”, to justify the heavy price that democracy would permanently pay, giving a ridiculously absurd reason for their repression just to deflect the spotlight falling on the humanitarian crimes being committed and on those who commit them to keep them insulated.
The eminent QC and authority on humanitarian affairs, Geoffrey Robertson in his classic work, “Crimes Against Humanity, the Struggle for Global Justice” (third edition, Penguin, revised, 2008) states: “Individuals who commit such crimes must have no hiding place: there is universal jurisdiction to punish them. The legal principle draws practical support from the consideration that crimes against humanity will be deterred only if would be perpetrators –whether political and military leaders or foot soldiers and policemen—are given pause by the prospect that one day, under a different regime or in another country, they may be called to account. And irrespective of claims of state sovereignty, a government which inflicts crimes against humanity on its own people risks armed intervention , from an international community which now accepts an obligation to interfere in the internal affairs of collapsed or criminal states…”. Cannot be more apt than to Sri Lanka.
The Tamil people must not wait for Ban ki Moon to again piss in the wind (pardon the colloquialism) taking the quest for justice against crimes against humanity and war crimes to nowhere as was the latest spectacle in Myanmar and their disgraceful double standards. It is however encouraging that the Tamil Diasporas in conjunction with other humanitarian agencies are relentlessly endeavouring to bring these criminals to justice in the name of justice.