Government in need of saner
Clearly, the Thursday raids were the
worst in terms of state bungling in recent times. The act
smacked of apartheid and racial discrimination. They heaped
humiliation and suffering upon the Tamil community. What little
hope Tamil civilians had in the Rajapaksa regime would have
evaporated as they took that bus journey from Colombo to
Mahinda Rajapaksa regime (or the Rajapaksas’ regime, as his
critics would call it) can never be faulted for being dull and
monotonous; it seems to thrive on making news as if believing
that any publicity is good publicity.
If businessman turned newspaper publisher turned alleged
terrorist conduit Tiran Alles grabbed the headlines last week
for his arrest and detention by the Terrorist Investigation
Department (TID), he was unceremoniously pushed out of the front
pages this week.
The shocking abduction and murder of the two Red Cross
volunteers, Shanmugalingam Kandiah and Mahadevan Chandramohan
sent the government into a spin. The volunteers were abducted
publicly – at the Fort Railway Station – by persons in civil
clothing who claimed they were needed for interrogation. Their
bodies were found in Kiriella the following day.
This incident earned wrath of the international community and
President Mahinda Rajapaksa no less went on record stating these
incidents were designed to embarrass him on the international
stage. A probe was ordered with a deadline given to the police
to nab the perpetrators.
As that furore was about to subside news filtered that hundreds
of Tamils residing in Colombo’s lodges had been put on buses
bound for Vavuniya and despatched to the north. The police
raided the lodges at dawn and carried out the exercise,
described by Minister Keheliya Rambukwella merely as a means of
assisting those wishing to return to the north!
Understandably, there was a strident reaction to the move. For
once political parties as diverse as the Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP), the United National Party (UNP) and the Tamil
National Alliance (TNA) saw eye to eye on the issue. The very
next day, the Supreme Court intervened, halted the raids and
ordered that those sent to the north be offered return transport
Who was responsible for this fiasco, is the question now. This
incident did not materialise out of the blue. A few days ago,
lodges in Pettah were raided and lodge owners were warned
against providing shelter to those from the north. Even that
move drew criticism but apparently the defence establishment
didn’t take note.
The raids were simultaneous and carried out in different police
divisions in the city: Wellawatte, Maradana, Pettah, Kotahena
and Keselwatte. Therefore, they would have been co-ordinated as
it is unlikely that that officers in charge of all these police
stations thought of this brilliant idea, all at the same time.
And it is also unthinkable that the police top brass acted on
their own in this manner, without political blessings. If they
did, they should be punished pronto by the government, even if
it is only to show that their own hands are clean.
Clearly, the Thursday raids were the worst in terms of state
bungling in recent times. The act smacked of apartheid and
racial discrimination. They heaped humiliation and suffering
upon the Tamil community. What little hope Tamil civilians had
in the Rajapaksa regime would have evaporated as they took that
bus journey from Colombo to Vavuniya.
That is very unfortunate indeed, simply because the Rajapaksa
regime has been, in recent times, the only government which
realised the importance of crushing the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militarily in order to frog march them to
However, this regime appears to lack the sagacity to realise
that any such attempt must necessarily be accompanied by a
strategy of wooing the average Tamil citizen away from the LTTE,
instead of pushing them into the waiting clutches of the Tigers.
And that is exactly what happened on Thursday. Citizens of this
country were told that could not reside in Colombo, simply
because they happened to be Tamil. And what more could
Velupillai Prabhakaran need in terms of state assistance?
With a few dawn raids, the Police (or the government, if they
masterminded the operation), has succeeded in alienating the
minority in a manner which was described by Muslim Congress
Leader Rauff Hakeem, as being worse than that of July 1983
because of direct state involvement in the exercise.
Security concerns of course, will always be paramount,
especially when two mine explosions hit Colombo and Ratmalana a
week ago and another claymore mine was discovered at Maligawatte.
It is also a fact that terrorists would have used the Colombo
lodges as a safe haven.
If this was the issue, the prudent course of action would have
been to detain those who were found to be resident in lodges,
under suspicious circumstances until their bona fides were
verified, not to transport them en masse to Vavuniya, like
condemned criminals. And in any event, if the justification for
this ‘ethnic cleansing’ (for that is what it was) was that
terrorists may be have been taking refuge in lodges, what
earthly purpose would it serve to transport them to Vavuniya and
unleash them there?
With this incident, the government got egg on its face. Even
parties such as the JVP –known for their hardline stance on the
ethnic issue – have got goose pimples at what the government is
trying to do. The corridors of power are badly in need of saner
counsel –counsel of the kind that Lakshman Kadirgamar provided
At present, with the opposition, the international community and
the Supreme Court breathing fire, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is
in damage control mode. But for his credibility to emerge
untarnished after this sorry episode, it would take a lot of
transparency in the investigation into the incident that the
Commander in Chief has promised.
But then, just as the government is wiping all that egg off its
collective face, comes the news that nine more bodies have been
recovered in Dummaladeniya in Wennappuwa. So, it seems as if the
human rights saga of this regime will continue for some time to