Sunday, October 24, 2004

Lives of we, Sinhalese are cheaper by the dozen by S. G. Goonawardena

The events that unfolded during the last few weeks would certainly have caused doubts in the minds of the ordinary citizens of this country, to which category this writer too belongs, as to whether, unknown to us, the Constitution of the country which guarantees equal rights to all citizens, had been amended, as will be evidenced below.

Whilst nobody is grudging the July ’83 victims being compensated, it must be emphasized that the number of Sinhalese who lost their lives and properties and who were chased away from their homes, from August ’83, todate are thousand and thousand times more than those who have been compensated. Yet the country’s so called national newspapers go to town spotlighting ‘July 83’ incidents as an annual ritual, totally ignoring to remind the readers of the other anniversaries which could be done not only in July but also during every month of the year.

Isn’t there any value attached to the lives and properties of the Sinhalese which would justify the appointment of a Truth Commission and payment of compensation. Adding insult to injury, the victims of the recent Muttur and Kandapola victims were compensated post haste, while Udatalawinna victims were gifted with lands in spite of pending cases in the latter two instances. While the head of the country tendered an unqualified apology to the July ’83 victims, there were no such apologies coming from any quarter for all the macabre and gory killings and damages that took place during the last twenty years. While the July ’83 incidents were the result of an act of grave and sudden provocation, about which nobody has cared to mention while describing the incidents; all the events that took place during the last twenty years were sans any provocation and were the results of acts of premeditated plans, which in itself increases the gravity of such crimes, when compared with the July 83 incidents. If this crass indifference shown to the Sinhalese victims is not a gross human right violation, this writer fails to understand what human rights violations they are. Every Government which comes to power with the votes of the majority community has acted in such as a way as to make the majority community, the 3rd class citizens of this country, whose lives have no value at all. What is worse is those who have apologized, never cared to mention a word of appreciation of the restraint and compassion shown by the majority community in spite of grave and sudden provocations, by living in complete harmony with the Tamil community with the rest of the country, while the Sinhalese in the North East do not enjoy such magnanimity.

A few months ago, at a hurriedly convened conference of police officers, the President stated that if so much as a pebble lands on the roof of a Church, the OIC of the relevant area would be caught by the neck and made responsible. Unfortunately, there were no such warnings to OICs when temples are subject to bomb attacks and when Buddhist priests are getting killed.

It has now transpired that some of the occupants of the lodges in Colombo are proving to be a security risk. But when a senior police officer who foresaw this risk during the tenure of the 1994—2000 government and started raiding the lodges, such raids were stopped at the request of the late Mr. Thondaman who was a senior minister of the then Government, and bombs started exploding again. That is the Sri Lankan way of providing security. Very soon, we will not be surprised, if when in late Mr. J. R. Jayewardene said at the height insurgency, is repeated once again. i.e. People should find their own security. Kawda Mewata Wagakiyanne.