ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s opposition leader Sajith Premadasa has accused the government of plotting its own, albeit bloodless, ‘Night of the Long Knives’ with its controversial commission on political victimisation.
Just like how Nazi leader Adolf Hitler destroyed his enemies in one fell swoop on that fateful night in 1934, the government is conspiring to destroy its political enemies using the report of the commission as a weapon, Premadasa told parliament yesterday.
“It is clear that, with this report, the government has planned the political assassination its opponents. What Hitler did in one night, the government is trying to do through one report,” he said.
The so called Night of the Long Knives, also known as Operation Hummingbird, was a series of extrajudicial executions of at least 85 members of the Sturmabteilung (SA) including military officer Ernst Röhm. Hitler was Chancellor of Germany at the time and the purge was an attempt to consolidate his power, masked as a measure to prevent a coup attempt that Nazi propagandists had claimed was imminent.
The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCol) to probe Political Victimisation was appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on January 20, 2020, to “investigate and inquire into and obtain information in relation to alleged political victimisations of public officers, employees of public corporations, and members of the armed forces and the police service” who were holding various positions from January 08, 2015 to November 16, 2019 — the Yahapalana years.
The commission, chaired by Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne, was also tasked with “inquiring into political victimisation and associated background [that] took place in the wake of investigations conducted by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption, the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Special Investigation Unit of the Police” during the ‘Good Governance’ era.
In January this year, the cabinet of ministers reportedly approved a 34-page memorandum to legally withdraw multiple pending cases based on the recommendations of the commission.
Premadasa said the PCoI should be renamed the ‘commission appointed to exact revenge’.
“If the government thinks they can strip the civic rights of members of the opposition and destroy them politically, they’re mistaken,” he said, adding that lawmakers S B Dissanayake and Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka are great examples of MPs whose civic rights had been taken away but were able to bounce back with the support of the voting public.
“I don’t think by stripping the civic rights of [Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna leader and MP] Anura Kumara Dissanayake, they will be able to stop his political journey.
“[Tamil National Alliance leader] R Sampathan is a living symbol of Tamil democratic politics. What is the message the government is trying to send to the people in the north by robbing him of his civic rights? That democracy doesn’t work and that they must take up arms again?” said Premadsa.
The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leader expressed similar sentiments about TNA parliamentarian M A Sumanthiran and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress leader and MP Rauf Hakim.
“This is a time when democratic Muslim leaders must be strengthened, more than ever before, when the government is talking about Islamic extremism,” he said.
Premadasa also came to the defence of former Prime Minister and his former leader in the United National Party (UNP) Ranil Wickremesinghe.
“Though we might have difference of opinion, Wickremesinghe was the prime minister of this country many times, with a career spanning decades. On what grounds are his civic rights going to be taken away?”
He further said the government is planning to do the same to key opposition figures like Rajitha Senaratne, Mangala Samaraweera, Patali Champika Ranawaka and Ranjith Madduma Bandara who Premadasa said were the “masterminds” of the 2015 Yahapala victory that saw the ouster of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“And yet, the government has no desire to look for the masterminds of the Easter bombings,” he said. (Colombo/April22/2021)