By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene
Two manifestly glorious ironies occurred this week. A former President cautioned against a return to what he termed ‘the Premadasa era’ and a former Chief Justice lamented that, during the ‘yahapalanaya’ years, the independence of the Sri Lankan judiciary had been lost.
Strange logic and stranger contradictions
These claims may have been dismissed with nary a scornful sniff if it was not for the stunningly hypocritical context in which they were made. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reference to the ‘tyre killings’ of Sinhalese youth during the Ranasinghe Premadasa Presidency at an event hosted by local entrepreneurs in Colombo drew, on predictable cue, cries of assent from an adoring crowd. But these repeated references by the former President sharpens a major paradox of which surely he must be all too aware.
The pointing of one finger at killings of civilian Sinhalese during the quelling of the second Southern insurrection during Ranasinghe Premadasa’s time as inhumane butchery invariably results in four fingers of that same accusing hand being directed backwards at the Rajapaksas themselves. So when civilian Tamils were killed during the Rajapaksa decade, was this reckoned to be a necessary evil?
Legend has it that when King Dhutugemunu was mourning over the killing of the invader, King Elara and hundreds of Chola soldiers, his sages came to him and asked him why he was disturbed. On being told the reason, they asked him not to grieve, saying ‘O King, do not be sad, only one and a half persons have died.’ Is this the logic employed to explain the strange contradiction whereby a politician can wax eloquent on ‘Southern’ killings as it were, but summarily disregard their ‘Northern’ equivalent?
Let us not forget further that the Rajapaksa Presidency was marked quite extraordinarily by the killings of editors, journalists and dissenters and for good measure, anyone who offended the ‘first family’, (of which the most egregious example was the murder of ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen). As the former President lectures to the public regarding ‘the Premadasa era’, he may well keep in mind that this is a loathsomely slippery slope that he is on.