22 November 2021

Do the real mahamolakaarayas want kangaroo courts and lynching?


It didn’t take too long for diehard Yahapalanists, who had been gung-ho about what they believed was imminent incarceration of political opponents following the victory of Maithripala Sirisena over Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015, to turn their guns on their heroes. They were upset that the ‘wrongdoers’ weren’t being put behind bars en masse.

Now these Yahapalanists weren’t really interested in justice, truth, accountability and other such goodies which lend themselves to easy and disingenuous sloganeering. They weren’t upset about nepotism, cronyism, blatant violation of rights or even daylight robbery perpetrated by their heroes in high positions of power. They had axes to grind and were upset that the ground axes weren’t falling on necks they wanted severed.

At the time, the then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, made a valid point. He observed, in essence, that one of the principles of good governance was upholding due process. Of course by helping set up the FCID, as quickly became evident in the way that body operated and was in fact made to operate by ‘experts’ housed in Temple Trees, it was pretty clear that valid point notwithstanding he was quietly fuelling the persecution-lust of his backers. Kangaroo courts, for the Yahapalanists, were ‘all good’ as long as the enemy was targeted. There was also the precedence of the bheeshanaya years when the Yahapalanists in their UNP and JVP avatars of that time made an art of extra-judicial execution.  

Nevertheless, Wickremesinghe knew that even a milder version of that process wasn’t possible in the second decade of the millennium. The courts had to determine and courts are not commissions of inquiry of the kind appointed by presidents. While there can be sloth on the part of investigators and prosecutors, even if fact-finding and filing papers were done with utmost efficiency, you can never get convictions overnight. Wickremesinghe knew this. The Yahaplanists either didn’t know or didn’t care. They were in triumphalist mode and what rushed through their veins was persecution-lust.

Let’s fast forward to the present. Well, specifically, prosecution related to the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019. It’s been more than two years. Was justice done? No, says certain individuals and groups. Let’s consider the facts.

National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) carried out the attacks. Zahran Hasheem led the suicide bombers. This act of terrorism was carried out in the name of Islam. Terrorists have no religion even though they may say they do, we were told. And yet, as recently as last week, even as the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was an act by an individual and not a faith thereby extracting individual from ideology, religion and all other identifiers, she said ‘Sri Lankan national’; never mind the fact that the attacker was a legal resident of her country. The attacker, according to witnesses, repeated the words ‘Allah O Akbar (Allah/God is great(est)’. Well, it seems that the perpetrator’s self-identification doesn’t count! Of course, one must understand that despite such identification it would be absolutely wrong to castigate the entire community such an individual belongs to. It is certainly not right, however, to negate or erase that aspect of his/her identity for this reason alone.

So these things are not just about truth and justice. Politics and ideology are part of the story or indeed become or are made to become so much of the story that the truth can get footnoted or erased. Speculation and speculators often triumph over truth and justice.

Today, for example, there’s no talk of Zahran or the NTJ. Instead there’s talk of a mastermind, a ‘mahamolakaru.’ Sure, there can be and often there is a hidden hand. The actual perpetrator is often but an instrument. As some who wanted to erase the ‘Islamic signature’ of the attacks pointed out, the ISIS (like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda) was directly or indirectly funded by the USA (never mind that the terrorists didn’t know or didn’t care and did it all in the name of Islam and Allah, after praying to their god in a mosque no less!). The point is that conspiracy theories are cheap.

Anyway, all of a sudden, it’s all ‘Gota’s Plan!’ Zahran is off the hook. The NTJ is off the hook.  Who else? Why, the Yahapalana Regime which included the then President, Prime Minister, current leader of the SJB Sajith Premadasa and presidential hopeful Patali Champika Ranawaka and was backed to the hilt by the likes of Anura Kumara Dissanayake? Off the hook! Remember that there is murder and there are murderers. There is murderers and accessories after the fact of murder. The Yahapalana regime not only did their utmost to dismantle the intelligence apparatus in the country but did nothing whatsoever to prevent Zahran and his god-fearing butchers even after being forewarned. They turned a blind eye to what was obvious; so drunk were they with notions of reconciliation that they failed to understand that terrorists and terrorism love it when the guard is dropped. They are all off the hook.

Instead we have this ‘mahamolakaru’ theory to which they’ve attached a name. Fine.

Let’s state some facts here. 1) A presidential commission of inquiry is essentially a fact-finding body — it can recommend, but cannot enforce; it can cast aspersions but there needs to be investigations so that indictment is enabled; indictment does not necessarily imply guilt — courts have to determine. 2) Over 700 persons were arrested in relation to the attacks, over 300 were enlarged on bail and dozens of others released. 3) We have 11 indictments in which over 40 persons have been named.

Now would justice have been served if at the point of the PCoI releasing its report, all those named and shamed are immediately taken to court and the court without hearing and in fact violating the principle ‘innocent until proven guilty’ trotted out convictions? Would justice have been served if all 700 plus persons arrested were summarily executed? Now, what moral principle pertaining to justice is affirmed by ignoring all these things and engaging in conspiracy-talk?

Everyone, including the Cardinal, needs to know about ‘process.’ The words conspiracy and conspirator are easily uttered, but the utterance itself does not constitute proof that any court would ab initio accept.

So what’s this talk of a ‘mahamolakaru’ right now if not the petty and pernicious dabbling by political con artists and those who out of ignorance and arrogance demand some pound of flesh in contravention of the judicial process? We need justice, make no mistake. We need the truth, without a doubt. Kangaroo courts and lynching, no! Justice and truth cannot be obtained by snapping fingers, lynching of course is a without-batting-eyelid matter as the architects of the bheeshanaya and the Easter Sunday attacks know well, as do their victims. We could walk that path at our own peril.

malindasenevi@gmail.com. www.malindawords.blogspot.com

[Malinda Seneviratne is the Director/CEO of the Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Research and Training Institute. These are his personal views.]