31 March 2020
RELEASE ALL PRISONERS OF WAR
Truth manifests Itself in wonderfully diverse ways. On 28 March 2020, the New York Times published as follows under the heading ‘As Pandemic Rages, Sri Lanka’s President Pardons a War Criminal’ :
[Sri Lanka’s president has pardoned a soldier who was sentenced to death for killing eight civilians during the country’s civil war, leading to accusations that the government was taking advantage of the chaos from the coronavirus pandemic to free a wartime ally accused of atrocities.
The pardon reverses one of the very few convictions from the 26-year civil war, during which dozens of militants and military officers were accused of war crimes. The pardoned soldier, former Staff Sgt. Sunil Ratnayake, was sentenced in 2015 for blindfolding eight civilians from the Tamil ethnic group, slitting their throats and dumping their bodies into a sewer in 2000. Three of the victims were children.
The pardon brought outrage from rights activists and opposition politicians, but little obvious reaction from the broader Sri Lankan public, which is under a strict curfew in order to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa instructed the Ministry of Justice to release Mr. Ratnayake from prison on Thursday. Mr. Rajapaksa, who was elected in November, is himself accused of having ordered war crimes during the civil war, when he served as defense secretary.]
When I first learnt about the Presidential Pardon, I did not oppose it but concluded that the Tamil parallels of Sgt Sunil Ratnayake were also pardoned by Mother Sri Lanka. As a Sri Lankan elder I have the moral authority to pardon every other Sri Lankan of any ethnicity – even though they are punished by the judicial process or would be guilty through the lawful process. That is the law of Common faith.
As if to confirm this, I learnt about the spread of ‘impunity virus’ through the following in the Island article headed ‘HRCSL Chief intervenes on behalf of prisoners
... recommends releasing selected prisoners under ‘licensing system’:
[Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Deepika Udagama has requested Prisons Commissioner Jayasiri Tennakoon to take measures for the protection of prisoners. Dr. Udagama has written to Tennakoon after discussing with him over the phone how to safeguard the health of prisoners during the current health epidemic.
The following letter has been sent to the Chief Justice, Attorney-General and the Acting IGP as well as the Prisons Chief:
"Having considered all factors, our Commission wishes to make the following recommendations to the Department of Prisons (DOP), specifically to address the issue of overcrowding that is of particular concern during a health epidemic of this nature:
i) DOP should take urgent action, in consultation with relevant authorities, to release those who continue to remain in remand custody due to their inability to post bail in the required sum. We are pleased to learn that you are already giving attention to the matter; and
ii) DOP should take necessary steps to release under the licensing system that is permitted under the law convicted prisoners who are:
a) Seriously or terminally ill;
b) Those over the age of 70; and
c) Those convicted of minor offences.
We fully recognize the challenges facing the prison system, particularly at present when there is a grave threat to health. Our Commission, pursuant to the mandate conferred on it under Act No. 21 of 1996, is paying special attention to the rights of those who have been deprived of liberty as they are more vulnerable to disease than the general population."
I protested against our Australian Prime Minister’s advice in breach of my ‘sovereignty’ – for over 70s to self-isolate themselves inside their own homes. I needed to protest to maintain my own sanity. As per my own law – unless they have evidence of unlawful conduct, no one has authority above me inside my home where I am the queen. If by the age of 70, I do not know what’s best for me – then I am not a sovereign person. In my own home meaning anything that I bring into my home through my mind also and not just through my body.
I met Dr. Deepika Udagama when the lady was honoured by the Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney. This was before Dr. Udagama became Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission – Sri Lanka. Dr. Udagama is reported to be ‘Sri Lanka's alternate member to the United Nations (UN) Sub-Commission on the promotion and protection of Human Rights’. Yet I have no knowledge of any public criticism by Dr. Udagama about the Presidential Pardon.
As a person carrying high status on the basis of expertise in international human rights law, Dr. Udagama had the duty to protect the institutional values of the UN. Accordingly all prisoners of war ought to have been released under the Licensing system, when the President pardoned Mr Sunil Ratnayake who was found guilty of war crimes by the Sri Lankan Judiciary.
The mind to mind infection of disorder is a higher and more damaging risk than any risk to the physical body. After the Soul, the mind is the most common part of a person. Human Rights are based on the belief that all humans are Equal. If Dr. Udagama had truly believed this to be true and had disciplined herself to adhere to this fundamental value, Dr. Udagama would have used the licensing scheme to release all prisoners of war and upheld the Sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
As for the over 70s concession – it is in breach of anti - age – discrimination laws. An independent 70 year old would survive better in prison than a dependent 50 year old. Taken as a whole, the prison system needs such persons to naturally strengthen its sovereignty as one family.
I call upon Dr. Udagama to rectify her mistake and recommend the licencing system in her territory on equal footing as the President has in his territory.