19 April 2020

Rishard Bathiudeen’s angst unwrapped

Rishard Bathiudeen, leader of the All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) is aggrieved. His grief is understandable. It would be unfair to expect anyone to be thrilled if his/her brother was arrested. He is upset. That’s natural. 

He is upset that of seven people arrested over connections to a suicide bomber responsible for one of the Easter Sunday attacks, only his brother’s name (Riyaj Bathiudeen) has earned the attention of the media.  The principle of equality has not been affirmed, he seems to be implying.

Fair enough.  However, this is a price that a politician has to play. Rishard moreover is a controversial, bullish (he intimidated judges, remember?) and a communalist politician. That’s what makes his brother’s arrest ‘newsworthy.’  That and the seriousness of the allegation. Remember how the human rights cabal, local and international, made much of war-crime allegations? Well, sauce for the goose and gander, one might argue.  Anyway, he of all people should know that close relatives, friends and associates of people in the news do get more carry when they err or are suspected to have erred.

Rishard claims that ‘all medias’ had published ‘many false allegations.’ If any media had jumped to conclusions, that’s wrong. Riyaj, as of now, is a suspect. He has to be presumed innocent until charges against him are proven beyond a shadow of doubt.

Now Rishard is convinced that his brother is innocent.  Perhaps he is. However, if he is a suspect and if the Police and the Attorney General believe they have enough evidence to prosecute, it means that there’s a cloud over him, whether one likes it or not. It’s all good to stand up for your brother, but there’s a process that has to be followed until the man is cleared. Or not, as the case may be. Same with war crimes allegations. Those who are crying foul over THIS arrest in terms of politically correct niceties weren't mute over THOSE arrests. They cheered, didn't they?

Rishard claims in a statement published last Sunday, that until that day neither his family members nor the lawyers of his brother have been allowed to speak to him. If indeed this is the case and if it subverts the law and established procedures, then Rishard (or anyone else) can go to court over it.
Rishard, by way of attempting to establish his brother's innocence, says ‘we (as in his family) were and will always be against terrorism since we also belong to a community that was forcibly evicted by the LTTE in 1990.’ An old and convenient device, that. Claims are cheap and anyway it is rare for the guilty to say ‘yes, guilty as charged.’  There has to a more convincing way of establishing innocence. Saying 'we are nice people' is just not enough. Not that Rishard has been 'nice' anyway! 

That said, the burden is on the prosecution, not the accused. Rishard could have said, ‘ok, prove it!’ instead of laboring over something that happened 30 years ago. Being victim doesn’t mean that one can never be the aggressor or a wrongdoer of any kind. That’s flawed logic.

He believes that the arrest is a matter of political victimization. Riyaj was arrested, he believes, because he was Rishard Bathiudeen’s brother. That’s good for political propaganda, but it remains speculation. There was, as he claims, speculation a year ago that he, Rishard, was involved in the attacks in some manner. Some of it could have been racist, but it must be remembered that Rishard’s own rabid communalism could have fed the counter-communalism. He says he was cleared by a Special Police Committee. Let’s not forget that at the time Rishard was a cabinet minister in a government which, like most governments, ‘took care’ of their own.

Of course, THAT government did its utmost to vilify, prosecute and put behind bars its political opponents (just as all governments have). If this arrest is just an affirmation of that culture, it is deplorable, but it is something Rishard should expect. He was silent when all that happened. He's vocal now. 

Rishard has pledged to support investigations. That’s good, although it’s something he has to say. He can’t say that he would do his all to subvert the process now, can he?  He rants and raves again ‘fake news’.  Well, that what HE says. He hasn’t given any examples so that a dispassionate reader can assess whether or not the particular rendition is ‘racial’ or ‘extremist’ (which are the adjectives he has used). He caps it off with a bit of punditry that doesn’t really serve his case: ‘think wisely an act with humanity!’ This, after calling people racists and extremists! Note also that he simply doesn't have credentials to brag about wisdom and humanity.

It can be argued that Rishard is not helping his brother by his confused and super-emotional rants. Riyaj Bathiudeen is not in a happy place. If indeed, as Rishard charges, there’s been politicization then Rishard is making things worse. If the arrest is politically motivated it is unfortunate and should be condemned outright. The problem is, we do not know yet.  When a communalist comes up to defend someone, it doesn’t look good. Rishard seems to be unwittingly compromising his brother’s case.

It was inevitable that Rishard would be included in the picture for he obviously revels in media currency. What he’s done, sadly for himself and his brother, is to outline himself and make the image pop out. Like a sore thumb, one might add.

That said, we must emphasize that Riyaj Bathiudeen deserves a fair trial. He deserves the kind of trial which the opponents of the Government that Rishard was a part of did not enjoy.  Speculation is never useful and extrapolations should be abhorred. We are talking about a citizen who has not been found guilty. Let the courts decide.