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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 916

Lalin's Column: Court of Inquiry sets the record straight

By Major General (Retired) Lalin Fernando

Lalin_Fernando_3.jpgA thrill starved, gullible Colombo population was once again titillated by the violent behaviour of two vicious sons of politicians. This time the target was an army major who was pistol whipped in the car park/foyer of the Hilton Residencies 2 weeks ago. He looked a sorry sight with two big gashes on either side of his face and others on his head. The alleged assailants looked what they were, wild, addicted and pitiless purveyors of evil.

Colombo, taking time off from the T20s as SL was not playing at Kettarama looked eagerly for a gun fight at noon or any other time to make up for a lack of blood spilling entertainment. They were disappointed. This was not going to be war minus the shooting as it was 1996 when SL became ODI champions. This was an affray involving civilians. The army if not the assailants knew that this was a matter for the guardians of the law and later for the judges and for no one else. Colombo bowled 2 no balls.

It was widely expected in Colombo, not without reason that the case against the two addicts would not go far. There were proved both right, wrong and then right. First, the police took their time to arrest the alleged assailants indulging in a charade of examining CCTV evidence and highly publicized non searches. This phase ended with an acrobatic Minister conjuring up never heard of religious sanctuaries for criminals. The minister father of one thug announced he would have handed over his son if the man assaulted had been in uniform. He had thus declared an open assault season by his son and henchmen for army men not in uniform.

Surely this was an insult and challenge to the forces if not an offence. Supposing some one in the Opposition had said this, what would have happened? But this was a government minister so unsurprisingly nothing happened.

The 2 prime suspects then suddenly surrendered to the police. This was surely a ploy as it was a repeat of a similar incidents in 2007 to avoid retribution or to pacify the public. The suspects were remanded.

Then came the shock that proved the la dolce vita of Colombo right! But not for the reasons commonly trotted out .Those reasons still prevail. The judges know that as do most others.

The victim Major resiled on his statement to the police and said Wijeratne and Silva who he had accused of assaulting him, robbing his pistol and a gold chain were not the actual assailants. He had discovered his missing gold chain at home! Was it an abject surrender arranged by a patron who has infiltrated the army long ago or was it simply an attempt to pre empt damning evidence of conduct unbecoming of an officer being recorded in court? Very curious, getting ‘curiouser’.

The Major now averred he had gone into ‘shock’ after the assault and had named and shamed the wrong rascals. He must have remained in shock only until the accused were remanded. He now recanted to the judges in a sworn statement. He, like Silva, may have thought the courts of law would play ball with him. The judge stood him up. He asked the police to consider charging the major with making false statements. The Police were referred to the CCTV coverage of the incident. That coverage should be very revealing if not damaging to both sides.

While all this was going on journalists went to town with their pet theories. Those who are anti government said an army Court of Inquiry (C of I) was convened to punish the army major for having the brass to accuse the vermin infected duo. Some differentiated Silvas from Wijeratnes and Mano Wijeratnes. Was this about ‘scheduling castes’? A medical document was vouched for by one who was not an examiner.

The ‘rich’ and ‘proud’ about some but not all things brother of one of the miscreants living abroad came waltzing in. He scattered ‘elitist’ family character certificates like confetti. Apparently he had in previous visits to SL gone to Colombo ‘clubs’ and in addition to drink and women, seen drug usage at a level never experienced before. He gave the impression he was possibly living in Nauru (pop: 9378 in 2011) that even SL boat people shun. No one, even family elevated ‘elites’ such as this duo are forced to visit ‘clubs’ for kicks or to be kicked out.

He obliquely blamed Colombo society for the predicament of his brother. He said that instead of ‘waffling on and on’ as he had without restraint, he would address the last part of his article to his brother-like it was an appreciation for the dead! And ‘waffled’ some more. He also said he was a law enforcement officer! He forgot to say whether he was IGP, a constable or being a body builder, a prison guard-law enforcer abroad? There was no apology, expression of regret or any sympathy for the victim by him or the minister.

Some agent’s provocateur hoped for an army rampage so that the attack could be avenged as it apparently was in the ‘old days’. They ignored the fact that when it did so in the ‘old days’ the guilty were severely punished; as when the Fort Police was invested in the late 1970s and one Commanding Officer, who was not on the scene, was sent home. Of course had retaliation taken place it would then be said by the same people with NGO support that the army had gone berserk. They were disappointed but not surprised.

What people of ill will need to know is that the army, by its very regulations, is obliged to hold Courts of Inquiry when ever there is a death, if some one goes missing or is injured/wounded, there is an affray especially involving civilians, there is a loss military equipment (weapons and ammo included), there is fire, a financial loss or a fraud amongst other things. It is not set up to punish anyone. It does not have such authority. It has to find facts. This it did. It found out the major was not on duty as he said he was repeatedly. So what was he doing there? Could a casino operator tell us if not the Major? The C of I would surely find all this out. It looks like the Major is in for the high jump. It is unlikely there will be much sympathy for him within the army or from the public. There was overwhelming support for him at the outset when facts were scarce and only rumours abounded. His dushman (Urdu for enemy) was known to be against all flags. Now he too appears to be beyond the pale.

As for the perpetrators of the violence, let’s see what the courts of justice will do to ensure the primacy of law. It has a long reach, more than the villains or the Major imagined in their limited thinking .It will hopefully make no difference whether one was a Silva or another Wijeratne.

At present, the longer term requirement is the riddance of villainy. Don’t blame the Police what ever their flash retorts are when up against a baying press. They said a mouthful when they admitted that arresting some was not as easy as arresting some others. They only reflect a society which has much more to pay for the wages of its own sins- that of tolerating, nay even supporting evil men.

Will the police who have been asked to report on the CCTV footage at least prosecute their MSD rankers who took part in the affray where also a gun belonging to the army was stolen?

Curiously the police took a long time to study the CCTV footage as though they were deciphering ancient texts. Coincidentally when they did report, the bird cage was opened. The army reflects the highest expectations of the people. Its Courts of Inquiry deliver. It does not tolerate mercenaries. It is a symbol of, and is always with, law and order.

The country now looks to the law courts to rule on what should happen to all involved in the fracas at Hilton Residencies. That the two accused sons of politicians have received court’s permission to go abroad makes this case more ‘curiouser’. It was said that one of them wants to study in the USA to become of all daft things Minister of Education. Has he got the basic qualification to enter even high school in the USA or will he be educated by the SL Ambassador at state expense?. Will his back ground qualify him for entry into USA or something else when he sets foot there? How did US Ambassador Butenis describe his father?

The other ‘suspect’ is also going to be taken care of at the SL Consulate in Turkey. House full in the SL Embassies! There is a lesson to be taken from the stone throwing at one of the T20 cricket venues. It too was house full!

There are other suspects too some from the MSD. Will they get off scot free as it appeared when they fervently worshipped, not God or a relic but one who they think mistakenly is their deliverer.

- Asian Tribune -

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