Sunday, 2 July 2017

United front - Otara Gunewardene, Sajeewa Chamikara and Bodu Bala Sena

It is perilous time. So, the obvious also has to be stipulated. 

The authority which is in-charge of an action or inaction and orders something to do or not to do shall be accountable for relevant actions or inactions taken. The authorities could react officially ignoring the issue at hand too.

Each politician, bureaucrat and institution shall be accountable for the actions, inactions and ignorance within the scope of their relevant mandates. If cheap politicians are driven only by the votes, not by long term national interests, then the bureaucrats are there to preserve the interests of locals, which shall always align with the long term interests of nation. The strength of civil society and its organizations are measured upon the influence they possess on the politicians and the bureaucrats making them accountable upon when they evade their professional responsibilities aligned with the interest of people and nation. When politicians and the bureaucrats fail to adhere to their mandate, disciplinary actions need to be taken against them. When the politicians are disoriented from the real interest of nation, the pillars of civil society should come together in the interest of nation to bring those politicians and bureaucrats to justice creating examples for future generations. Otara Gunewardene, Sajeewa Chamikara and Bodu Bala Sena could establish a united front against the much discussed archeological and forest reserves destruction.

It seems though, these obvious facts on authority and accountability are becoming very vague in many aspect in Sri Lankan state-making. Our interest in this article is to bring attention to the destruction of national forest reserve and archeological sites. There are no greater crime than neglecting the duties to protect forest and archeological inheritance. These crimes shall not come only within the relevant local jurisdiction but also through universal jurisdiction.

It is all over media that archaeological sites are being vandalized and national forest reserves are being encroached. The beginning of destruction of Wilpattu goes back to 2015. And unethical practices in archaeological sites like Kuragala and Kalu Diya Pokuna in Kandalama have been very well documented. Lands encroachment activities in eastern province of Buddhist temple have also become like a mantra these days.

Who is accountable for neglecting duties for these crimes?

Who is accountable for initiation of destruction of Wilpattu? And who is accountable ignoring the distraction of archaeological sites?

It has to be obvious that who is in charge of preserving the National Forest Reserves and Archeological sites in Sri Lanka. Extraordinary gazette may exist and they shall be respected within due reason – reason is remained and determined within the nation interest. But generally speaking no complications should exist as to whom duty is it to protect the land of Wilpattu. Nor shall any complications should exist as to who is accountable neglecting Kuragala or Kalu Diya Pokuna archaeological sites and land encroachments in the east.   

As the main political parties are always up to minority votes and therefore will not raise these issues - as Magalkande Sudaththa Thera also states – in public we, as a members of civil society, have to rely on institutions and bureaucrats in place to protect our national interests. In these cases local Gramasevakas, divisional secretariats and secretaries in relevant departments come to my mind.  
One thing has to be very clear to us. It is that politicians and their departments have two different jobs. Politicians may come and go but these departments and their bureaucrats stay. And the bureaucrats in these departments are responsible for their actions, inactions and ignorance.  And they are accountable to the public by their mandate and public law.

No secretary is obliged to sign in for an irrational request made by his or her superiors. Each and every action of secretary shall comply with the interest of nation and his or her relevant mandates. If the mandate is not cohesive with the long term interests of our nation then it is another issue – an issue need to be dealt separately.

And if the bureaucrats insist that the political pressure is too strong to stand against an irrational political development the bureaucrat always possess few options as a patriotic individual. These options may will not be codified options but a true bureaucrat always know when and how to materialize these tools when the national interest at stake. From trying to convey the right from wrong to the superior to leak the information to opposite political party as a resort always exist. The media and the civil society organization are also there to come to rescue these bureaucrats. The whole point is that the bureaucrats shall stand firmly with the interest of nation. When all the resorts are exhausted the resignation of the bureaucrat remains as the most dignified action left. Those good deeds are always remembered by worthy dignitaries reassuring future prospects of these firm individuals.

A lot of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ keep these the bureaucrats playing according to and with politicians. Therefore, then civil society organizations and pillars of them need to come together for those worthy causes.  Setting precedence in a developing country like ours has to take place now. We shall know how to maximize the legal tools available against the bureaucrats and politicians in the interest of our nation.

Otara Gunewardene is a pillar of our civil society who is really passionate about the preservation of Sri Lankan nature. Her leadership skills are unquestionable. Sajeewa Chamikara is also another pillar in nature preservation. For definitive answers everyone tend to listen to Chamikara on nature issues. Some concerns of Bodu Bala Sena could also be tunneled together towards a strong working coalition to bring those perpetrators to justice for the sake of our nation. Allegation for being an extremist organization need to be dwarfed by the greater good that these parties could achieve together. Furthermore, few social media groups, which indicate that they could be worthy stakeholders in such coalition, could also be welcomed. But an ideal coalition would be a small group but a united front behind one true leadership towards few specific goals - may this be a temporary assimilation if needed.

One true goal shall be bringing the perpetrators justice on destroying Wilpattu National Park and Archaeological sites. No matter what who gave the definitive order to cut down the trees in Wilpattu, who neglected the duties in Kuragala and Kalu Diya Pokuna have to be investigated. Going there to file the individual cases and following up all the cases with financial assistance would be paramount. If the domestic legal framework proven to be biased and ineffective a such united front shall prepare to materialize all the international resources available until precedence are made for future generations that no such negligence of duties would be carried out in the future.

If we do not unite to bring perpetrators to justice today no one will take them in the future too.

It is our duty, as well-informed and most-privilege members of civil society, to act.