The family of the late Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra plans to seek international backing in seeking justice for their slain brother. Now that is ironic.
After all, the Premachandras have maintained close connections to the ruling political party. Their slain brother, whose involvement with government goes back at least thirty years, was an advisor to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the time he was killed.He had been a close ally of Rajapaksa even during the time the latter was sidelined by former President Chandrika Kumaranatunga.
That the Premachandra family is disheartened by the internal process is an indictment on the Rajapaksa governing style and also a clear indication of the politicization of the law enforcing authorities in Sri Lanka. This is evident in the recent press interviews given by the Premachandra family.
Speaking to the Sunday Leader, Bharatha Lakshman’s sister, Swarna Gunaratne had this to say, “The government is trying to show everyone that this was just a fight between two gangs and someone ended up being killed. The government is cooking up stories and we are not happy with that and I do not think Bharatha will get justice this way. Because of this, we have decided to go outside with this matter and ask for justice”.
On January 2, 2006, five young men were killed in Trincomalee. As usual, authorities attempted to justify their killings by claiming they were LTTE cadres and that their deaths were caused by a grenade they had in their possession exploding. Witnesses had said otherwise.
They claimed a grenade had been thrown at the group from a three wheeler and soon after they had been shot by security officials. The post mortem report had found evidence of gunshot wounds. Following a public outcry the government was forced to include the killings for investigation by the now defunct Commission of Inquiry.
Five years have gone by since the killings. A civil suit was filed this year in the United States with the hope of bringing closure on this case. Dr. Kasippilai Manoharan, the father of one of the victims in an interview with BBC stated that this course of action was taken as the Sri Lankan courts dragged its feet; calling the case each month and then postponing it citing incomplete investigations. Dr. Manoharan added that the case seeks apart from damages to shed light as to who the guilty parties are.
Over the last several months, the callous disregard by the authorities to the rule of law in Sri Lanka has been debated upon, with those disheartened by the process seeking international invention. Those supportive of the regimes tactics meanwhile continue to sing its hosannas and parrot the oft heard refrains of conspiracy theories.
In some of the living rooms of Canadians of Sri Lankan origin, we often hear the subject of human rights being dismissed with contempt. These Sri Lankan Canadians who enjoy the protection of some of the most sophisticated human rights laws in the world appear to believe that people living in the land of their birth do not deserve the same rights and privileges.
Those comments were loudest in 2008 and 2009 when the war on the LTTE was coming to an end and civilian casualties was the topic of the day. Since then too, civilians have been maimed, killed or threatened irrespective of their ethnicity. Victims and their sympathizers are tarred with the unpatriotic, plotters of conspiracy against a sovereign state brush both locally and internationally.
Perhaps the Premachandra siblings who are domiciled in Canada would have expected to find a similar justice system in Sri Lanka. It would not be incorrect to assume, that they would have expected an independent and just inquiry given their close connections to the government of the day. That their brother’s antagonist, Duminda Silva seems to enjoy more state patronage and the possibility of never being charged for their brother’s death must certainly be difficult to accept.
Despite being at the scene of the incident, and eye witness accounts of the altercation between Duminda Silva and Bharatha Lakshman, claiming that Silva shouted “shoot him”, Silva is not even considered a suspect.
It is interesting to note that the Premachandra siblings claim that they had requested additional security for their brother as far back as February this year on learning of a plot to assassinate him. They claim however, that their request fell on deaf ears. Rather they had learnt that Silva’s security had been increased.
Dr. Manoharan whose links to the authorities are seemingly nil, and who waited patiently for a Sri Lankan outcome, took five years to seek justice outside the country for his son and the other boys killed along with him.
The Premachandras who would have quite rightly expected a fairer deal from a regime of which their brother was a member, are considering international intervention, less than a month after he was slain.