Saturday 6 July 2019

Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

06 July  2019

Did we actually vote for or against Death Penalty?

In democracy the voter is ultimately responsible for the actions of the Government. When Mr Sirisena was elected President in 2015, we claimed that Tamils were the marginal group that made this possible. Hence Tamils have now the responsibility to blame themselves for the Capital Punishment by the current President.
Al Jazeera reports as follows in relation to the declarations by Mr Sumanthiran who represents Tamils in National Parliament:
[MA Sumanthiran, a Sri Lankan legislator and a lawyer representing a condemned prisoner, said death by hanging was a "cruel and degrading punishment".
"It is the fundamental right of any individual not to be subjected to cruel and degrading treatment," said Sumanthiran. "It is on that basis we want courts to hold that execution of capital punishment is a violation of the Constitution."]
What measures has Mr Sumanthiran taken to discipline his electorate in regards to the development habits that would ultimately become punishable in this manner? Is it not his responsibility to discipline such voters – so they would not become punishable?
Yesterday for example, I complained to the local government member for Thunaivi – Mr Arumugam Nadesu – about a group of youth who bend the fence wires and come into the temple grounds to chat. I suggested that their family welfare handouts be stopped because the tax-payer who provides such funding is being disrespected. Mr Nadesu may not have the knowledge to implement this but he knows that the complaint is valid and he has enough influence in that village to quietly discipline them. That is the value of democratic representation.

The essence of this has been bought out by Mr M S M Ayub through his articleWho is genuinely against capital punishment?’ – published by Daily Mirror

Mr Ayub presents his thinking as follows:
[There are political party leaders and leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) among those agitated by the announcement. Are all these voices against the implementation of the death sentence honest?   
In a close scrutiny of the history of most of these political parties and NGOs one would get a negative answer to this question. They might have always expressed their opposition against the re-implementation of the capital punishment that was carried out last in 1976 in the country. But almost all of them, at some point of time in the history, have carried out or justified extra-judicial killings of their opponents or those who held views opposed to theirs.]

In essence, only those who worked to actively oppose such outcomes  and/or  those who as part of the group disciplined them internally through everyday life – have the power to defeat such punishment by the authorities – be it the Executive or the Judiciary.
Mr Ayub highlights as follows:
[The country for the first time in the history saw dead bodies floating in rivers and burning on what were later called the “tyre pyres” during the first insurrection of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1971. It was said that over 20,000 suspected insurgents, most of whom were believed to be innocent youth had been killed in this manner during that insurgency. 
These bodies on tyre pyres and in rivers were not of those killed in fighting or crossfire between the armed forces and the insurgents, rather they had been killed after being captured.
Never a member of any of the then ruling parties - Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) had regretted those killings. They were not only extra-judicial killings but also committed as a method of capital punishment for the victims’ alleged involvement in the insurgency or sometimes for the mere moral support for it.  
President J.R. Jayewardene set December 31, 1979 as a deadline for the then Security Forces Commander, Jaffna,  T.I.Weeratunga to eliminate the Tamil rebels, especially the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Brigadier Weeratunga failed to fulfill his assignment, but the people of Jaffna saw for the first time mutilated human bodies floating in the Jaffna lagoon during his assignment.   

As per my experience, where the law and custodians of its power fail, the truth prevails. Tamils who failed to question the LTTE’s own killings lost their right to question the capital punishment meted out to them. Only those who internally disciplined them for such killings or mentally separated themselves from the ‘wins’ shown by the LTTE have the authority to question the government’s parallel at national level. Even now, there is very little public recognition for my work amongst the Tamil Diaspora due to this ‘internal discipline’ and from time to time punishment through express opposition to militants’ outcomes that have become public. From time to time, someone does privately express deep appreciation for my work – as happened this time also in Jaffna.
Most of the time, I believe in the support I get from those whose work I genuinely value and uphold through my own work. I may not know any of them personally but when I uphold the laws that we inherited from them – I become their medium for current manifestations. This in effect overrides the time based separations of power. The parallel of that in democracy is the merger of my work with those who demonstrate similar depth in the issue – as Mr Ayub has demonstrated through his above mentioned article.  Being recognized purely through current members is democratic politics. This overrides the place based separation of power. In both there is a component of Natural powers even if we do not recognize them.
The Judiciary that uses with due respect - laws developed by others before in that nation – is naturally supported by those ancestral powers. Judiciary that uses with due respect  - laws developed by those living in other nations are naturally supported by  global powers.
As per current reports – the current Opposition Leadership in National Parliament has expressed opposition to the death penalty. But is that based on their own past? I identify with the following conclusion in this regard:
[The allegations of extra-judicial killings and disappearances of civilians against the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime landed the country in an UNHRC mess. The famous white vans was a phenomenon that belonged to the Rajapaksa regime. The Presidential commission (Maxwell Paranagama Commission) appointed by President Rajapaksa to investigate into the allegations of  “disappearances” had received more than 19,000 complaints. Except for a few cases, the term “disappearance” seems to stand for killing after abduction.  
There is no doubt that almost all these extra-judicial killings were a method of capital punishment carried out for expressing views or acting against the incumbent government, despite a relatively small number of death sentences delivered by courts being under a moratorium, falsely signifying the sympathy and respect of the leaders of the government for human lives. 

I raise the question also in relation to Tamils who remain/ed silent about LTTE’s extra-judicial killings. If we are part of a community and we remain silent including mentally  when the leaders  act unjustly – then in the Court of Natural Justice, we lose our right to vote. When we are deterred from expressing our feelings due to fear of physical injury and/or death – we need to more strongly mentally oppose such wrongs to protect our right to vote in the Court of Natural Justice.
Our true votes are as per our conscience. If we are not able to express our vote due to fear of losing status – then we lose the right to criticize other community leaders. Right or wrong – the community that we claim to be part of is credited or debited with our rights and wrongs. If  an act that is claimed to be wrong by others was unavoidable by us – then we need to refrain from finding fault with others for the same wrong.

I do not know the details of the following report but I identify with the common value – of ‘an eye for an eye’ syndrome practiced by militants and those with little knowledge of law. This is highlighted by Mr Ayub as follows:

[There is no gainsaying about the brutality of the southern or northern rebels either. The pinnacle of the JVP /DJV cruelty might be the butchering of the entire family including elderly women and children of the then DIG Southern Range Premadasa Udugampola in 1988. Two years before, in 1986, the LTTE had excelled all other armed groups in the country by cold-bloodedly murdering more than 400 members of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO) including its leader Sri Sabarathnam, not in clashes but for not falling in line with them. More than 600 policemen who had surrendered to the LTTE in June 1990 were eliminated allegedly under the orders of the then Eastern commander of the outfit, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna]

The question is – if South was under JVP rule and North under LTTE rule – would their genuine vote be to oppose  the Death Penalty by a democratic government or would it be to endorse it?
Mr Rajapaksa’s would have been to endorse it and likewise his junior in that regime – Mr Sirisena’s. Likewise – if  LTTE leader were alive today – his true vote would have been to endorse it and likewise his current junior that Mr Wigneswaran has become. Anyone who ‘takes’ the benefit produced by someone else becomes their beneficiary / junior.

The death penalty is deserved by majority Sri Lankans who are heirs of those who remained quiet even in their private quarters – when such death sentences were being carried out by the custodians of power. This includes journalists who failed to express support to Lasantha who was also given the death sentence. We do not see many Sri Lankans protesting against that in Sri Lanka today.
So one is entitled to conclude that majority Sri Lankans accept death penalty by their home-group and therefore by the government that represents such home-groups.

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