23 August 2019

Let us exhume, ladies and gentlemen!

When the koha calls we know it is avurudu. When certain names are mentioned over and over again, we know elections are around the corner. Yes, Thajudeen, Lasantha and Ekneligoda. Throw in Keith Noyahr and Upali Tennekoon if you like. And of course white vans.  The first two were killed. The third disappeared. Keith and Upali were attacked; Keith in fact might well have been killed had not it been for the untiring efforts of the CEO of the newspaper house he worked for at the time. They both live in other countries now.

All of these things happened when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President, his brother Gotabhaya was the Secretary, Ministry of Defence and Sarath Fonseka was the Army Commander.  It was natural that they became poster boys of all political campaigns of the United National Party (UNP) and its allies. 

There’s a problem though. Well, two problems certainly (and probably more). First, in the case of the first three, they are all dead. There’s a need to bring to justice their killers. There’s a need for truth to triumph over deceit, lies, foot-dragging and duplicity. There is a need for ‘exhumation’ literally and of course metaphorically. And yet, there’s a certain indecency that borders on or moves into the despicable in exhumation and burial followed by re-exhumation and re-burial ad nauseam. 

There’s a second issue that also demonstrates disrespect for the dead. Selectivity.  

It is not unnatural, just as the Rajapaksa-haters do, for those who are against this regime to dig up the past. They too can talk of abductions. They too can talk of extra judicial killings. They can talk of proxy arrests, torture, the operative equivalent of ’white-vans’ in the late eighties, the tyre pyres’ and the numerous vigilante groups. Then there was censorship. 

It’s all old hat. Right? Wrong. For two reasons (and possibly more). First, the perpetrators of those crimes, their approvers or staunch loyalists of the relevant parties, are all still around. Secondly, THAT time has been invoked by a would-be presidential candidate of the United National Party (UNP), Sajith Premadasa. 

So let’s get some perspective here. 

There’s ‘concern’ over Lt Gen Shavendra Silva being appointed as Army Commander. Who is upset? Well, officially, the USA, Canada, the EU and the UNHRC. Two thing (and possibly more). First, that’s our business. Second, the cause of concern that they’ve stated, ‘accused of war crimes,’ is as of now just an allegation. We assume innocence until guilt is proven. That’s what the Book of the West (aka ‘Book of the White Man’) says. 

Second, these ladies and gentlemen had no issues whatsoever when Barack Obama literally ‘oversaw’ the capture and murder of Osama bin Laden. Extra-judicial killing. Same goes for Col Gaddafi. 

Ok, here’s a third. Ranil Wickremesinghe is accused of overseeing terrible events in 88-89. Did any of these people or rather their predecessors in the relevant country or UN agency ever express similar concern? 

No. Ok?

Censorship? There was a name that was known to all journalists. Ariya Rubasinghe. He facilitated the production of the strangest newspapers in the world: full of entire columns, boxed off in black. Censored. That however hardly warranted ‘concern’. There was much worse. 

Right. Let’s talk exhumation.  For that, there has to be burial, but let’s take liberties and extend it to incineration. Cremation, if you want to be cute about it. Yes, all this has to be preceded by ‘death’. And so, there are names. 

Wimal Surendra. Photojournalist of the ‘Divaina’. Abducted, murdered. His helmet was found in the house of a prominent UNPer and a minister in the present cabinet. He took a photograph of a ‘lady’ playing netball. Was that his ‘crime’?

H.E. Dayananda, a freelance contributor for the ‘Divaina’ who wrote a column titled ‘vame kathava’ (The story of the Left). Killed outside the petrol shed on Union Place. 

Richard De Zoysa. Poet. TV presenter. Dramatist. Abducted. Killed. 

Rohana Wijeweera was captured, allegedly tortured, tossed into the incinerator at the Borella Cemetary AND BURNT ALIVE. 

Add to all this, 10,000 Thajudeens, 10,000 Ekneligodas, Noyahrs and Tennekoons, but let us not forget Rohana Wijeweera.

No issue there? No concern? All ok? Alright! 

Then we have what the ‘revolutionaries’ did, i.e. the uncles of Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the brothers of Tilvin Silva. They showed the way to their long lost but later found cousins in the UNP.  Here's a very, very short list: Nandalal Fernando, Harsha Abeywardena, Premakeerthi De Alwis, Sagarika Gomes, Prof Stanley Wijesundera, Lionel Jayatilleka, Vijaya Kumaratunga, Thevis Guruge, Prof Chandraratne Patuvatavithana, Daya Pathirana, A. Jayantha, Chandrawimala, Devabandara Senanayake. 

Was Chandrika Kumaratunga 'clean'? Ask Rohana Kumara. Wait. He was 'done in' during her tenure. Dead men don't talk. 

But that’s the story of abduction, torture, murder, burial/cremation and ‘exhumation’ ladies and gentlemen. You either want the entire sordid story or else you want none of it. If you want some of it, then you are indulging in political humbuggery. Seriously. Thajudeen, Lasantha, Ekneligoda, Richard, Wimal, Rohana and of course the 10,000 plus Thajudeens, 10,000 plus Lasanthas and 10,000 plus Ekneligodas who are just numbers and not names and whose memories deserve something better than this burying-exhuming circus that we are seeing come election time.

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