No consequential punishments imposed
This by itself is a remarkably understated conclusion given the level of aggravation which occurred, with soldiers chasing and assaulting journalists who were legitimately reporting on the fracas and abusing men and women of the cloth when panic stricken villagers sought shelter in a nearby church. Even so, what has happened in due course?
The ambiguous role of the Rule of Law
The Weliweriya incident encapsulates basic questions about the Rule of Law which unfortunately tends to get downplayed each time the sessions on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) comes round, catapulting the country into what has become a familiar ritual on war crimes and accountability.
In this furore, the Rule of Law comes to occupy a somewhat ambiguous role, being all things to some people and none at all to others. This fundamental lack of unanimity in thinking, in turn, has made effective collective interventions in a way that actually changes government policy, difficult if not impossible. Let us see what some of these differences are.
The trajectory of the LLRC report
On the other hand, this government has demonstrably little understanding of what the Rule of Law means, even in its most basic sense. Its knee jerk reaction to the 2011 Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report which centered on Rule of Law concerns was first to say that the LLRC had exceeded its mandate. Then when the resolution of the United Nations Human Rights Council asking that the LLRC’s recommendations be implemented in 2012 came about, government spokespersons talked of a road map for implementation as if the implementation of the law needed a roadmap!
In fact, the energy that the LLRC report has generated in focusing on a serious Rule of Law crisis is interesting. For perhaps the first time in years, government propaganda that all those who criticize government actions or policy were traitors began to be perceived as distinctly ridiculous. It was soon realized at least domestically that debunking the LLRC report to rely solely on international pressure to bring about a war crimes inquiry beyond Sri Lanka’s shores was shortsighted and, in the long run, dangerous.
The issue is not only about the law
So as Sri Lanka goes before the Council yet again, it is quite clear that hard core reforms recommended by the LLRC are yet to be implemented even though we are assured by one Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission (who seems to have taken on the task of chief spokesperson for the government in blatant defiance of his statutory role) that a Right to Information law and a Witness Protection law is on its way. Yet the issue is manifestly not merely about the law. Instead it is about political will in implementing the law. It should be assumed that this is not something that must be peculiarly said. But the sheer asininity of the defences mounted by government defenders provokes such tart responses.
Called to account by the people
The ominous nature of the ‘security state’ that we are inflicted with is now without question. In fact, the Weliweriya incident is the clearest example of this post-war ‘security state’ which has displaced the Rule of Law. It is this fundamental transformation that this Government must be called to account, by the people, quite apart from the annual convulsions at the UNHRC.