Birthday tribute to Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa:
Reflections on a patriotic legend of our times
Dr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been recognized
as a ‘born leader’ as he has exercised effective leadership as the
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
Think of all the millions of innocent people who died in this bloody
century because democracies reacted too late to evil and aggression.
Because, the duty of the Defence Secretary was well performed, the past
is gone not with helpless indignation, but with a hopeful affirmation of
human dignity and human rights for the 2010. In a world too divided by
fear among people of different racial, ethnic and religious groups, he
has given confidence to the friends of freedom and pause to those who
would exploit human difference for inhuman purposes.
History tells us that solidarity means strength, progress and
success. Peace, co-operation, development and progress are what the
entire international community is hoping and striving for. The
developing nations must continue to work closely together in the spirit
of solidarity and co-operation and raise their voice and strengthen
their position in international affairs if they are to secure their
One of the magnificent achievements of the UN has been the
transformation that has taken place in global opinion on the
relationship that should form between the governing and the governed,
between the government and the citizen. It was on the basis of the moral
authority of the General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and the determined endeavors of the Commission on Human Rights,
that this transformation was achieved. The dignity of the individual has
now, largely as a result of United Nations leadership in the field of
human rights, been placed, as it should be, among the priorities of
national and international attention.
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is not limited in scope to
ensuring the observance of human rights by governments alone.
The Declaration has a far wider purpose: the observance of human
rights by all governmental and non-governmental parties alike.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration, which requires that everyone
has the right to life; and the provisions of Article 30 of the
Declaration prescribes that: “Nothing in this Declaration may be
interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to
engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of
any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein”.
An act of terrorism by a non-governmental entity against civilians is
surely a violation of the human rights of its victims and, surely, a
crime against humanity as well.
We know the horrific consequences of terrorism: the horror; the
thousands of unsuspecting innocent lives lost or maimed, the thousands
of families then left to grieve; the countless personal tragedies that
terrorism leaves. The horrors of terrorism have devastated the country
and have cast a heavy burden on successive governments and the nation
including all of us and on humanity as a whole. There are also the
larger disruptions of national stability and order as well: of the
economy and the customary ways of life.
We remember the bombing of the Central Bank, the adjacent buildings,
the Temple of the Tooth Relic and other temples, the buses and trains in
Sri Lanka where numerous people of all communities were killed, injured,
the numerous innocent civilians who were killed and each of us would
have a story to tell about the injuries sustained or the deaths of our
Dr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as Defence Secretary was able to direct the
Armed Forces to go ahead with their assertive, offensive and defensive
action which led to the victory over the LTTE. It is in this connection
that the President liberated the Tamil people. The exodus was like Moses
giving freedom to the Jews from Egypt. But the difference is that the
Tamil people were liberated by President Rajapaksa, while some of our
friends overseas have from time to time been misled by those marketing
terrorism for their own corporate interests. We should therefore not be
surprised that allegations of civilian casualties in the present times
generate from certain corporate interests involved in international
terrorism and their complex trade beneficiaries.
Over 30 years or more, we have not been able to solve this problem.
We required a balance between the need to achieve a military victory and
the needs of humanity. In this sense, necessity has been viewed as a
limitation to unbridled barbarity. The application of the doctrine of
military necessity makes use of the principle of proportionality as a
mechanism for determining the positioning of a fulcrum between these
competing poles. Using proportionality thus gives effect to the
recognition that the choice of methods and means of conducting war or
armed conflict are not unlimited.
The means and methods of conducting war operate to achieve a
particular military objective, which consequently assists in achieving a
larger political objective.
While necessity might determine the legitimacy of the armed attack,
proportionality determines the amount of force that might be used. In a
sense, necessity operates at a macro level, while international
humanitarian law operates at a micro level, though both might lie on the
same continuum given the difficulties in the transition.
This difficulty is most apparent when the principles of necessity and
proportionality have been incorporated into conventional international
law, particularly international humanitarian conventions. The
development of these conventions and the application of these principles
require some consideration if one is to arrive at an understanding of
their application in a modern armed conflict. Military necessity has
been described as “a basic principle of the law of war, so basic,
indeed, that without it there could be no law of war at all.” The
acceptance that, while the object of warfare is to achieve the
submission of the enemy, which may require the disabling of as many
enemy combatants as possible, this should only be achieved in a manner
that does not cause any unnecessary suffering or damage.
This limitation to the means of waging war is not, however,
necessarily humanitarian in nature and much of the early restraints were
based on economic, political and military considerations. However, the
need for a balance between the considerations of humanity and the
military actions necessary to win a war is regarded as defining the very
nature of international humanitarian law, making military necessity a
central principle in this balance.
The ‘principle of distinction’ is fundamental to humanitarian law,
but its precise content varies according to the kind of conflict. In
national liberation struggles - and international armed conflicts - the
distinction is between ‘civilians’ and ‘combatants.’ Combatants have no
right to life under humanitarian law. Every individual is classified as
either a combatant or as a kind of protected person, such as a prisoner
of war (a captured combatant) or a civilian. An individual’s rights
change when his classification changes. A civilian has the right not to
be targeted for attack and the right to receive some protection from
attack. If the civilian joins the armed militants, he exchanges the
rights of a civilian for the rights of a combatant. A combatant has the
right to take part in hostilities.
The Urban Development Authority now comes under the purview of the
Defence Ministry. ‘The Development Plan for the City of Colombo,’ the
theme of the Sujatha Jayewardena Memorial Speech by Rajapaksa at the Sri
Lankan Foundation Institute, was presented in a coherent and scholarly
manner and was well-received and ably strengthened public aspiration for
the transformation. Desire to move toward a sustainable eco city to
optimize quality of life for its community gained significant momentum
soon after the end of the war against terrorism and dividends of peace
in Sri Lanka.
By encouraging the innovation of green architecture and technology,
Rajapaksa lucidly clarified the way in which a coherent framework for
applying sustainable design to all sector of society in developing
Colombo City would enhance the quality of life of the community, in
consequence by making the city vibrant and modern. The rate of
unprecedented population growth over years increased the urban
population while thinning the rural population.
Urbanization was a major cause for increased urban dwellers living in
poverty. The cultural, social and political consequences of this
transformation are enormous and the long-term effects difficult to
foresee and therefore difficult to plan for.
Urbanization is inherent in economic and cultural development and the
trends are common. Local conditions may temporarily speed up or slow
down the process, but urbanization can neither be stopped nor reversed.
Ways to meet the challenges and manage rapid urban growth and mitigate
subsequent economic despair have become important and imperative in
order to smooth the progress of equitable income distribution and
creating wealth for the nation. Modernization of the city provides
opportunities and benefits and the rapid transition over time with good
governance overcomes inherent urban problems and poverty. Increase in
per capita incomes come with the modernization of the city, which could
contribute even more to the national economy, thus reducing poverty and
creating more habitats, health, clean water, prosperity and happiness.
Spontaneous shanty towns sans essential services where conditions are
depressed are also the products of failed policies of the past, bad
governance, inappropriate legal and regulatory frameworks, dysfunctional
markets, unresponsive financial systems, corruption, and not least, a
lack of political will. Developing the Colombo City in an
environmentally-sustainable manner in Sri Lanka may require action by
both the private sector and civil society and political leadership that
support laissez-faire including proficient and essentially transparent
Planning, developing and managing our urban environments more wisely
will benefit health and improve environmental outcomes: Public health
intervention to reduce dependence on motor vehicles thus improves air
quality, locating jobs, services, schools and shops close to where
people live, promoting active modes of transport (walking and cycling)
and providing mass transit options. Good for the environment because it
reduces carbon dioxide emissions and good for business because it
reduces the cost of traffic congestion. Mass transit is particularly
good for young people, the elderly and the disabled, who may not have
access to a motor vehicle. The profile of our population and their needs
and aspirations will also be very different in the future. How can
Colombo continue to be a special place for its community, a home that
offers hope and opportunities, a home that offers a high standard of
living and above all, a city that is socially inclusive, where no one is
Concluding his deliberation, Rajapaksa appealed for national
consensus to make that vision a reality. This is the moment when we must
come together. Let’s commit to share our knowledge in order to build the
‘Grand City’. The scale of our challenge is great. With courage, with
heart and hand and let us all combine to take Sri Lanka forward.