Photo courtesy UNESCO-GLOBE
Reading what appeared on state media, I got the impression that the ego of the Government, or at least that of the so called “independent” editors of state media has been challenged by Navi Pillay’s visit. I can understand why. If people ignored her visit, the state media would have beaten their drums of triumph, and so will the opposition – saying that the citizens of the country are confident of their representatives, that they do not need any sympathy from outside. However, what we saw was a bit disturbing. People flocked around Navi Pillay with whatever the documents they could find to validate their concerns, and Navi Pillay herself said that time was not enough to meet all parties who had something to say about the violation of their basic rights, including the former chief justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake.
Now, blaming Navi Pillay is the usual easy political tactic the Government and the opposition can do through media. Let us try to be a bit more productive here. Just think for a while. If President Rajapaksa or opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinha visits the places Navi Pillay visited and made the same amount of time available to the people to meet, of course with that level of coordination, why do you think even a fraction of those people wouldn’t come to see both of you? They are your own citizens and you are the elected people who are supposed to address their problems right? Of course we will see in media that people are dying to meet you, but you and I know how that would happen. You may not want to believe that people have felt that there is an element of dishonesty in both of you. But, people have come to feel that their problems go into your minds as far as their potential to be a political slogan goes. Not so much as concerns of citizens that you are bound to address.
Lets step back. When the UNP was in power, how many genuine inquiries were launched to identify the culprits behind burning the Jaffna Library, or killing so many Tamill civilians in 1983? Feel free to take any other human catastrophes in the South too. Think for yourself how honest you were in any of those investigations if at all. Now, take the LLRC under the present Rajapaksa Government. Honestly think about your intensions. Why was the mandate limited to find out why the 2001 ceasefire failed? However, why did you give the impression that LLRC was to address a broader set of issues to avoid any future catastrophe? When LLRC addressed a broader set of issues, why did the Government got people like Champika Ranawaka and Wimal Weerawansa to come out and lash out LLRC for over-stepping their mandate? If you had the will power to pass the 18th amendment abolishing the independent commissions in the 17th amendment and two term limit for a presidential candidate so swiftly, even cutting down the time to Gazette it, why don’t you get that same level of will power to implement the core recommendations of the LLRC? Does this reflect honesty or dishonesty?
So, there is no wonder people flocked around Navi Pillay risking their personal safety. The productive approach therefore, is to use what happened during her visit as a mirror to see your own dishonesty and the realization among the people. The danger of not doing so is that a future Government will have to take a lot of effort to restore public confidence in their own Government than any outside institute. The opposition UNP can take more courage to acknowledge the flaws in their own past. That would give us some hope in the opposition as some future choice. But in the absence of any steps to show that the opposition is taking credible efforts to be honest, and not limit people’s concerns to political slogans, why do you expect that people will have the energy to come out to express, or not choose a third outside party as their refuge?