Tapan Bose is no stranger to violence and human rights abuse in South Asia. As Secretary General of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights, and based in Nepal, he has seen and investigated many atrocities.
That is why his reflections about a recent visit to Sri Lanka are worth reading in full.
Here are some extracts which capture the situation:
“President’s son and Gotabaya and Basil, his wife, family, brother-in-law, everyone is in the government. His son has now become an MP. He runs a paramilitary force called the Blue Brigade. What the Blue Brigade does, we all know. They are being trained by the Sri Lankan army. So there is a situation on one side as total suppression of dissent and on the other side, you have a family rule which is worse than what Suharto of Indonesia did. And this is something that will take a long time to correct.”
“You see, it is the worst kind of police state. In the Soviet Union there was the practice where only a very few people were allowed to have a typewriter and you had to return the typewriter ribbon in order to get new one so that they could be examined to see what you had written. It is worse than that in Sri Lanka today because technology services have become all powerful. There is no privacy, there is no safety and this is something that the world outside is not realising. The level at which the rights are threatened is terrible. Rights don’t exist in Sri Lanka today and the unfortunate part of it is that no institutions function.”
“I have a lot of friends in Sri Lanka, so I asked one of them to have an informal meeting in one of our homes, so that we can talk. Very few came. Even my close friends. Others sent apologies. One of them told me, Tapan, this the first time we are having a meeting like this since May, 2009. It may be seen as a threat. Even if 10 or 15 people get together for a party, it may be seen as a threat. So this is the level of control by the government.”
“Some of the countries like India, China, Pakistan and Iran for their short term interests are making deals with the Rajapakses. In the long or even mid-term, this is going to boomerang on all of us because the Sri Lankan interests cannot flourish. Sri Lanka is a bucket without water. Unfortunately Sri Lanka does not have oil and natural gas like Burma. If it did, it would be a different story. So this is something that has to be deal with.The point is the Rajapakses may have billions of dollar abroad already. They will go away but what will happen to the Sri Lankan when they leave. And that is what the international community has to start worrying about.”