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A Nation’s Shame

Oct 2, 2010 2:30:55 PM - thesundayleader.lk

On Thursday morning, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, fresh after his trip to New York and the United Nations General Assembly, having busted millions on a jumbo entourage of friends, family and bottle washers, endorsed a 30 month jail term handed out to former Army Commander and presidential candidate, Sarath Fonseka in the second court martial which concluded while the President was away.
That endorsement – 30 months of rigorous imprisonment – to a man who almost died just three years ago when a LTTE suicide bomber blew herself targeting him, proves how ruthless the Rajapaksas can and will be to anyone that dares cross their path. Or, their political survival.
Ironically, it was this failed Fonseka assassination attempt that formed the bedrock of the government’s resolve to fight the Tigers to a finish and within hours of the assassination attempt in April 2007, Sri Lanka Air Force K-fir jets were scrambled to bomb “identified targets in the North and East.”
A couple of months later when Fonseka had sufficiently recovered and was back on duty at Army Headquarters the war proper began.
Almost three years and six months  to the day when Fonseka lay bleeding at Army Headquarters, his former boss and Commander in Chief, President Mahinda Rajapaksa confined him to rigorous imprisonment. Ironically, the jail term specified was also for a similar period. It marked the completion of a full circle for Fonseka – from victim to  traitor and finally villain. Probably the most eventful 30 months any man could dream or have nightmare visions of. The next 30, if recent events are anything to go by, will be equally eventful with the powers that be ensuring that the ‘rigorous’ labour he has been sentenced to, will be just that – rigorous.
Having stripped the former commander of his rank and even his pension after 40 years of service to the army, some (certainly not many) expected the President to seize the opportunity and act the magnanimous statesmen by being lenient with the second court martial verdict. But that opportunity was squandered at the alter of petty revenge.
To the man on the street, the courts martial verdicts were a foregone conclusion.  Especially since at the outset itself the composition of the controversial courts left much to be desired with men who had an axe to grind with Fonseka appointed to sit in judgment of the charges.
What is stupefying is that the Fonseka persecution is being carried out when the men the entire nation fought against, Tiger leaders such as KP, Karuna, George Master, Daya Masters and Pillayan are being afforded VIP treatment together with the best of comforts at public expense.
It would indeed be funny if not that this is a national tragedy that close to 10,000 low level Tiger suspects still remain in security forces custody pending ‘investigations’ and ‘rehabilitation’ while their leaders, who apparently need no ‘investigations’ or ‘rehabilitation’ are allowed to roam free and are now in fact leaders in this government!
Should it not be the other way around? Especially because of the Tigers’ established method of forced recruitment where almost all youths in the north and east were brainwashed and forced to join the organisation by the very same leaders the government is now mollycoddling?
Last Thursday newspaper headlines screamed that there are 89,000 war widows. What about the thousands of unmarried men, women and children who were killed in the war? The figures are shocking – macabre – to say the least. Shouldn’t the Tiger leaders the government is now treating with kid gloves be held responsible for this mass murder? If not, by default, the blame will lie at the doorstep of the government.
Which brings us to the crux of the problem – kangaroo justice or the culture of zero accountability where no matter how great the crime, if the powers that be think the perpetrator should go free then it shall be so, legal system and Roman Dutch law be damned. On the other hand if the powers that be want to punish someone, then the simplest of misdemeanors will attract the harshest punishment and the legal system will be pushed to the limit to ensure this. If no other, this newspaper bears witness to this.
At The Sunday Leader we for one, would applaud Sarath Fonseka being questioned and tried for the stinging assaults on journalists Keith Noyahr and Namal Perera.  Both journalists escaped near death. But above all, we wish to see Sarath Fonseka questioned in relation to the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge. The man, is suspect in all of these cases.
Fonseka, we are sure has other misdemeanours, the law can well try him for. Violations and abuses of human rights for which he must surely answer.  If indeed, the whispers, the allegations, hold any element of truth.  Let him prove his innocence.
But the man most certainly cannot be tried and sentenced as he has been for merely having cast his dice into the political arena and sought the people’s mandate to high political office. If this is an example of how the Rajapaksas will treat their political opponents then all of what this newspaper has been highlighting ad nauseam over the last few weeks in relation to the diabolical 18th Amendment will hold true.  It is merely a matter of time.
If you want another example of the kangaroo justice that is now being enacted in this country take the case of Mervyn Silva and the crimes he has committed. Consider the punishment he got. Consider his reinstatement. Now that, is funny.  Hilarious. Diabolical. Insane.
Another glaring example of this culture of selective justice is that not one of the ministers highlighted in the COPE and PAC reports as being held accountable for millions if not billions misappropriated, have been brought before the law.  When in most instances the amounts in question have been quadruple of that which Fonseka has been accused of stealing. An accusation which he has vehemently rejected.
The bottom line is this. There is a reason why the lady holding the scales of justice is blindfolded. There cannot be one set of rules for the rulers’ favorites and another for its detractors. The law and justice must stand equal to all. But sadly in present day Sri Lanka, it is not the case.
This is why the President needs to take cognisance of the fact that when he placed his signature endorsing the sentence handed out in the second court martial to the former army commander, it was not only the three years RI sentence that he approved but more importantly the culture of selective justice which, is the first step to anarchy and lawlessness. Justice after all must not only be done but also seen to be done.