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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2371

Lalins Column: HRCSL –Disgraced and Disgraceful

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

One thing is clear. The government doesn’t give a fig or a jot for the Human Rights Commission Of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). It is clear that it decided to implement the death penalty after 42 years without consulting the HRCSL. The extremely late objection by the HCRSL on the absolutely indefensible decision of the government to resume executions shows that the HRCSL has been taken totally unawares. It is obvious that it was totally ignored by the government on probably the most crucial HR issue of the time.

It concerned life and death. The government with a knee jerk reaction to mounting drug offences ignored the existence of the HRCSL. It chose death above life to promote what it used to call ‘good governance’.

Clearly the government either does not understand or care for what HR is in SL when in power. That is not unexpected from a government that shared in the orgy of 60,000 killings in 1989-90. It however paradoxically makes a selection of offerings to Geneva on HR issues at Nandikadal in 2009. The HRCSL was obviously not even considered worthy to be informed on the taking of life by execution. The government has disgraced, discredited and dishonoured the HRCSL.

The government may even have believed that the HRCSL is a complete waste of time, a farce or worse that has served its purpose by performing in Geneva. It has also delayed for reasons that are hardly secret, the clearance of SL troops selected for UN peace keeping missions. These deployments by the way are only in places the white eyes avoid. Does the very composition of HRCSL appear to make it a limb of the government party and not a proper SL institution? Should it more appropriately be called HRCUNF?

The government took a retrograde decision to carry out sentences of death, unwisely and shockingly. Its’ scope has been limited only to about 17 convicted prisoners improbably said to be running the drug trade from death row. The President of the BASL revealed that one of them (to be executed if this sorry affair is not abandoned) is not on death row. He is serving a life imprisonment sentence. It should be noted that all of them are guests of the government in prisons staffed by 5836 prison officials. This includes 15 jailors (cadre 30) 4,000 jailors (male and female) out of a cadre of 5,000 jailors alone (2014). Convicted murderers and rapists also in death row have however happily benefitted from the largesse of the government. Their necks are not due to be fitted in the government’s noose. People must wonder what priorities the government has and why.

The obnoxious death penalty has not been enforced for over 40 years for sane reasons. This is the 21st century and Buddhism which abhors killing of all creatures is SL’s predominant religion. However, it is under a government suffering spasms of guilt calling itself one of ‘good governance’. It has suddenly decided after batting for 3.5 years that taking selected lives is a pressing needed for survival. But why was the decision taken in haste? Was it motivated by concerns of survival rather than legal or moral compulsions? Once again they have the redoubtable Thai navy Seals on their eye lashes as they retreat to the execution site to make their next (last) gallery bow.

Out ventures the HRCSL under its boss into this death awarding confusion. She has appealed to the President to abandon the reintroduction of the death penalty. She says unoriginally and woefully “what is required at this point of time is not the reintroduction of the death penalty but a long term policy and mechanism to tackle drugs and other serious crimes”. She amplifies but not very firmly about the well known mix of political connections and law enforcement officers being complicit. For any drug cartel/mafia to operate there is always a heady mix of powerful czars, law makers and law enforcers. This, even the fact that very few of the czars get caught, is nothing new.

She adds tiresomely that ‘ineffective solutions such as the re introduction of the death penalty without assessing the reasons will not be successful in the long term to save society from the drug menace’. She has done well to protect the HCRSL’s dwindling credibility. Yet is the HRCSL been side stepped if not dumped when its contribution mattered most? Has its boss been looking up for white eyes recognition and forgetting her own people?

Did she think that the government’s decision to execute death row prisoners is simply a ‘short term’ policy? It actually appears to be in panic without any policy.

Her brilliant idea of a ‘correct’ policy, however long, is that the government should capture drug traffickers ‘efficiently and properly’. Is capturing them as done now neither? Does it mean that there is a lack of ‘efficiency’ despite the many captures and full serial gun battles with corpses scattered here and there consequently?

What about ‘properly’? Is it that the SL catching method is flawed or that the wrong people are being caught? This certainly can happen now and again but not as a rule and not only in SL. However from the sentences in the courts it appears that the judges have no quarrel about the selections. Or does it mean that the HRCSL boss kept her brilliance hidden under the proverbial bushel for reasons the government couldn’t now care less?

She wants ‘serious’ punishments’ to be enforced. She does not hazard a guess or give the people a clue as to exactly what she means when she says ‘serious’. Is execution of a human being not the most ‘serious’ punishment of all? Is there some punishment that she alone knows that is more ‘serious’ than killing? So what more does she want or not want?

What is required is that the government acts humanely and does not take life to solve crime. The HRCSL attitude to the government’s decision to reintroduce executions is sadly muted even exculpatory and of very little significance, except it is from HRCSL.

In fact in some places where the death penalty is enforced remarkable progress has been made to control or even eradicate crime. Arab countries and Singapore are the best known first hand examples to many in SL. However India and Pakistan are not. The point however is not whether executing criminals is efficient and effective but that it is abhorrent.

Sadly the HRCSL’s boss has been pushed of the ‘yahapalana’ bus. Her tepid if not self serving remarks when confronted with her very first real challenge have only compounded the disgrace. She should do the honourable thing, SL style. Look for another yahapalana job.

- Asian Tribune -

Lalins Column:  HRCSL –Disgraced and Disgraceful
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