What do we know? Before his recent threats, we know him best through his brazen, daylight attack against the News Director at Rupavahini in 2009. We know that, quite tellingly, instead of investigating his gratuitous violence, the Police instead called in over twenty journalists for questioning on the incident. Through Wikileaks, we know that according to a former Sri Lankan security services official, drug kingpins in Sri Lanka have political patrons in the government, chief among them this same person. Days ago, we know that he openly and with complete impunity said he would tear the limbs off noted human rights activists if he were to encounter them in Sri Lanka. We know that he stressed he made this threat in all seriousness, in case any one thought he was joking. We know that he took responsibility for chasing away a journalist who at the time he went into exile, had been abducted, tortured, humiliated and hospitalised. We know that around week after these threats, he reiterated them, again in public. He also went on to strongly suggest that killing dissent, quite literally, was desirable. We know that amidst the first enfilade of threats and abuse, he noted he was a good Sinhala Buddhist. The second salvo of hate was delivered in public at the Kelaniya Temple. We know that this newspaper’s editorial last week called for the arrest of this individual. We know that Sri Lanka’s foreign minister and other ministers have decried and distanced government from these statements, and that the Police are ostensibly investigating him. We also know that not a single word of condemnation, leave aside an official statement, has been uttered or issued by the President or his brother, the Secretary of Defence. This is important because it was publicly noted that it was in their names these threats were made, and that they alone had the power to chasten his voice.
What do we have? A lout, in the service and enjoying the protection of the Rajapaksa’s, who going by the past week’s utterances alone, is free to defame and threaten anyone, with complete impunity. This is a man with a history of wanton violence. This violence is a matter of public record, and beggars belief. It is also a matter of public record – just a Google or YouTube search away – the number of times government ministers have promised to bring him to book or set up disciplinary committees to look into his violent behaviour. He is still a free man, unfettered in his violence. What we have then is someone who should, if the rule of law in Sri Lanka wasn’t just a good idea, be in jail, instead protected by the highest powers in government.
Why should we care about all this? When reported internationally, this is the kind of individual who – more than any ‘traitor’ he says has acted against country – hardens international opinion against us, and results in precisely the international scrutiny and penalisation the government is so afraid of. When reported domestically, he insults us all, especially those who staunchly support the present government. When his language, actions and threats are considered, it is singularly tragic that a country with so many individuals who are exceptional in talent, learning, skill and culture – resident within its shores and abroad – it is his asinine behaviour and vulgar language that the media is focussed on.
Who is he? Thing is, you already know him. He is today the face of government. He is today the person our children hear and see, and with the impunity and protection he enjoys, can begin to legitimately and disturbingly believe in as a role model. His language and exploits defines, more than any official policy, the government’s true democratic credentials. Sadly, he defines and defiles us all. He is untouchable only because of your silence.
Say his name, and say enough of this madness.
Published in The Nation on 1st April 2012.