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Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith opposes continuing the emergency in peacetime

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith opposes continuing the emergency in peacetime

2010 Nov 11

On Tuesday 9th November, the UPFA government in Parliament passed the continuation of the emergency regulations for a further month by 125 votes to 11. The outcome of the vote was never in doubt for a government, that if it so desired could muster a two-thirds majority in the legislative chamber.

Catholic Christian leaders oppose emergency in peace time
However, a few days earlier His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the head of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, argued against and opposed the continuation of emergency rule in Sri Lanka, as its detrimental to national reconciliation and inter-ethnic healing, in representations before Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). Days earlier, His Grace Bishop Duleep De Chickera, effectively the leader of the Protestant Christian community in Sri Lanka had echoed similar sentiments. Clearly the Christian community in Sri Lanka, both Catholic and Protestant, as represented by their lords spiritual, had made clear that they considered the continuation of the war time emergency in peace time as a very bad idea and detrimental to national reconciliation, democratic governance and the rule of law. The Christian community in Sri Lanka is an interesting sociological entity in that it is the only social segment which is multi ethnic and multi lingual and hence strategic to national reconciliation. Almost all Sri Lankan Buddhists are Sinhalese while all Sri Lankan Hindus are Tamil, there are almost no Tamil Buddhists or Sinhala Hindus in Sri Lanka, those two major religions have mono ethnic adherence in Sri Lanka today. Not so Christians in Sri Lanka, which has both Sinhala and Tamil adherents in almost equal measure. The Church in Jaffna or Mannar, matches its counterparts in Colombo or Negombo. At about eight  percent (8%) of the population, the Catholic and Christian community is about the size of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, but politically diffused amongst the two national political blocs and not particularly parochial in its voting pattern.

The current state of emergency law was imposed in Sri Lanka in August 2005 on the tragic occasion of the assassination of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgarmar by the LTTE. It has not been lifted since, being continuously extended monthly by the government, though the war ended and victory was won by the banks of the Nainthikadal  lagoon in May 2009, over one and a half years ago.

No Emergency from

early 2002-mid 2005

Prior to August 2005, from February 2002 to July 2005, for a period in excess of three years during the period of the cease fire agreement (CFA) between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, Sri Lanka let the emergency lapse and did not prosecute or charge anyone under the prevention of terrorism act (PTA). So for three years from 2002 to 2005, Sri Lanka did not have emergency law and prior to the prophets of doom, did not become undone in the process or come apart at the seams. So Sri Lanka has recent experience in non emergency rule and in a much less congenial security situation. This was during a ceasefire, not a full borne victory we have today. Detractors would argue that the LTTE benefited due to the CFA. However, that is because an LTTE existed. Today it lies buried in the sands of the Nainthikadal lagoon and there is no armed opposition to the Sri Lankan state and no real political opposition to the government either, the main opposition UNP being a divided and disunited bunch.

Rump LTTE foreign network

is unarmed and overseas
The continued presence of LTTE sympathizers in the Tamil Diaspora who are hostile towards Sri Lanka is often given as a rational for continued emergency rule. However any LTTE rump today, is like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, the LTTE has no leader, command and control or armed cadres or presence in Sri Lanka. It’s much vaunted “international network” are a bunch of money launders, human smugglers and other criminal elements who would fall foul of their host country laws very quickly if they sought to fund terrorism overseas in Sri Lanka. The successor to Prabhakaran, KP is a state “guest” of Sri Lanka and Prabhakaran’s one time deputy, Karuna, is now a minister in the government.

The rational for continuing the emergency is hard to see and bad for tourism, investment, reconciliation, the development drive or the peace dividend.

(The writer served as Presidential Spokesman from 2001-2005)

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