Promoting A Conscience For Peace And Reconciliation

Taken from the Editorial in the Catholic Messenger of the 29th April 2007

The Indian newspaper Hindustan Times commenting on the statement issued by the Vatican quoted thus: “According to the Vatican communiqué, the Pope told President Rajapakse that in the light of the current situation in Sri Lanka, there was a need to respect human rights and restart negotiations, as this was the only way to put an end to the violence that had “bloodied the island”. Furthermore the Vatican Communiqué states “The Catholic Church which offers a significant contribution to the life of the community will intensify the commitment to form consciences, with the sole aim of favoring the common good, reconciliation and peace.”
We reluctantly and sadly refer to the Abductions, Kidnappings and extra -Judicial killings that are taking place in the north and east as well as in Colombo. We note the statement of the Defense Secretary that politicians in the south do not have to worry about them since only supporters of the LTTE have been abducted. Last week allegedly the Defense Secretary threatened the Editor of the Daily Mirror with un toward actions by the Karuna faction for its reporting of incidents in the East by the Karuna faction. The President has commendably intervened but has sought to trivialize the incident. Since the Defense Secretary is the President’s brother he would have to do more to allay the fears of the news media and the Tamil population in the country.
The Defense Secretary has said that the CFA is defunct and is being maintained merely to please the International Community. Is it credible for the President to proclaim that the government is for a negotiated political solution when the Defense Establishment says and does otherwise?

Every person in a democratic country is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty in a properly constituted court of law. As the jurist Blackstone pointed out it is better that ten guilty persons should go free than one innocent person being executed. So democratic countries have put in place “due process of law” and insist that no person should be killed or punished except in accordance with due process of law. Such due process is to ensure that the rules of natural justice are observed by the state. The Government recently amended the Prevention of Terrorism Act to allow the authorities to arrest and hold in custody suspects up to three months. So is there any necessity to allow abductions, kidnappings and extra-judicial killings of LTTE supporters? Suspects can be remanded for sufficiently long periods even after the three months on an order from a Magistrate.

The President has admonished the Police hierarchy and directed them to be directly involved in stopping such illegal acts without leaving the task only to lower rank officers. The Inspector General of Police has appeared on television and pointed the finger at some groups within the Armed Forces. So the President’s admonition should be made to the Armed Forces officers as well for it is their duty too to ensure that lower ranks follow due process of law in dealing with LTTE supporters, instead of taking the law into their own hands.
It is in the interest of the government and of all genuinely patriotic people who believe in one country one people and one state to see that the LTTE is not given the opportunity to question the legitimacy of the rule of the State over the Tamil people by citing instances where the State has failed to protect them. Such a claim would undermine the de jure sovereignty of the state over the Tamil people. Any failure of the state to stop abductions, kidnappings and extra-judicial killings of Tamil people will lay open the road for the International Community to recognize the LTTE as freedom fighters fighting on behalf of beleaguered Tamil people who are denied protection by the State.

So it would be prudent for the President to take all necessary steps to put a stop to all abductions, kidnappings and extra-judicial killings of Tamils whatever the allegations against them. He should direct the Defense Secretary to ensure that any rogue elements in the Armed Forces and any para-military groups among the Tamils desist from abductions or extra-judicial killings of LTTE supporters. They must be ordered to comply with the due process of law in dealing with the LTTE and its supporters. We draw the attention of those in authority to a quotation from Martin Luther King “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”