Hands Off

Army war heroesThere is today a misplaced notion propagated by the pro Rajapaksa Opposition that our soldiers should not be arrested, whatever misdemeanours on their part. True to form, at the forefront of this “Hands off our War Heroes” campaign are Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila. The latest to join the bandwagon is the National University Teacher’s Association and the Kandy Association of Scholars and Professionals. According to Prof. G.L. Peiris who addressed a forum of these twin organisations, the teachers and professionals have expressed concern at the release of LTTE suspects and the arrest of soldiers.

Peiris, at this forum, of course went to town elaborating on his favourite theme these days, of a nation in peril and the return of the Tiger – all because of the Government’s decision to de-proscribe certain Tamil Diaspora groups in faraway Canada and other Western countries. Peiris is perhaps of the view that these groups have the capability to resume the war in Sri Lanka, perhaps inspired by the tale of the French resistance group in Algeria who staged a spectacular but aborted bid on the life of French President Charles de Gaulle, as brought out in vivid detail in the blockbuster movie The Day of the Jackal, based on the novel by Frederick Forsythe.

Why Peiris has to uncharacteristically rave and rant about the danger to the nation from some motley group of Tamil Organisations in faraway lands we have previously questioned in these columns. By continuing to harp on this theme is he daring to challenge the contention of his boss Mahinda Rajapaksa that the LTTE is done for good sahamulinma nethi keruwa?

Be that as it may, giving carte blanche to soldiers to do as they please, whatever their contribution to the war victory, or letting them off the hook for criminal acts committed at the instance of VVIPs of the last Government, is a move that is not only fraught with danger but also a callous disregard for the law which requires that any wrong doer whatever his station or position in society has to suffer the consequences of his/her acts. What the likes of Peiris, Weerawansa, Gammanpila et al. should be made to understand is that the law is no respecter of persons. Soldiers who committed crimes or aided and abetted in the commission crimes has to be brought before the law. Period. There are precedents to go by. The soldiers responsible for the murder of Kataragama beauty queen Premawathie Manamperi had to pay dearly for their crime, so did the culprits in the Khrishanthi Koomaraswamy rape and murder, much later, during the height of the Eelam war. There was no outcry from the public as there is certain to be no outcry when those members of the forces who were directly responsible for the murders and white van abductions of journalists, political opponents, Tamil businessmen and other innocents are brought before justice.

Already clear evidence has emerged on the role played by military intelligence personnel in the murders of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, TNA MPs Joseph Pararajasingham, Nadadarja Raviraj and the abduction of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda. Are the likes of G.L. Peiris, Dinesh Gunawardena and Udaya Gammanpila suggesting that no cases should be filed against them because of their role in defeating terrorism? Will this not open the floodgates for these same rogue elements to carry on with their criminal activities, knowing they have blanket cover, for being “War Heroes” which itself is a term much abused these days. How would their conduct reflect on the real War Heroes who remain unhonoured and unsung?

These sentiments coming as it does from Peiris who is a former Law Professor who no doubt had inculcated in his chargers the maxim of the law being no respecter of persons, to say the least, is shocking indeed. It is time that the likes of Peiris, Gunawardena, Weerawansa, Gammanpila et al. see things in their correct perspective. Not just them, there are even certain television channels who peddle this hidden form of racism by attempting to juxtapose the arrest of soldiers and the release of Tamil detainees in their news bulletins and talk shows. This particular news channel went to town on the so called celebration of the Maveerar Day in the North.

Speaking to an English Daily, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Karunasena Hettiarachchi said there was no reason to be excited because the people in the North commemorated the Great Heroes Day. He said that there was absolutely no threat to national security and the three forces are ready to face any challenge, if there is a collapse of peace in the country. He further went on to say that a group of extremists in the South are trying to create much chaos making the commemoration of the Great Heroes Day in the North by a very small group, into a massive issue. These are stories that are internationally spread, similar to that of Tigers coming again.

Whatever happened to the anti hate speech legislation that was being contemplated by the Government? It is time to revive these laws to rein in the communalists and hate mongers who could do much damage to the Government’s mission to foster amity, brotherhood and reconciliation among the different communities. (Daily News)

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