New appointments and a blast from the past | Daily News


 

New appointments and a blast from the past

It’s the oddest thing having to write about the same subject the second time in a month, but this writer guessed that he will have to write about Ali Sabry, PC, soon after the first piece a few weeks back. There is a new Constitution on the front burner, but the President has to take time off to say that certain folk should not complain about appointments that were made with full consideration of national security issues, loyalty and subject competence.

No prizes for guessing that he was talking about the new Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, in the main. Much of the pushback on the appointment has come from certain quarters that have considered themselves indispensable to the national and national security cause.

So where do we start on this? A good point of departure is the question as to who saved this country from terrorists.

Yes, the Armed Forces did it, and it goes without saying there was the high command and the political leadership that offered direction. But what was the most valuable component of a fighting force, especially one that was pitted against a group of marauding terrorists that were waging asymmetric warfare and had no scruples about killing civilians, as long as they could bomb the daylights out of chosen economic targets?

That would be military intelligence. But people who romanticize a war would visualize tanks and combat troops and valor and the macho aspects of war, and that is fine, that’s par for the course. All wars have blood and guts and the good guys and the bad guys. But Military Intelligence is the unsung strength in any Army, it is most potent force without which military muscle or spit and polish will be quite useless and redundant.

So what has any of this got to do with Sabry? To cut a long story short the real working core of Military Intelligence in this country was, particularly where it mattered in the Northern and Eastern theatre of war, was made up of Muslim intelligence officers, most of whom once upon a time had to pay the supreme sacrifice when they were brutally murdered almost to a man by the LTTE after the then Wickremesinghe government signed a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) that basically handed the fighting Sri Lankan Forces to the terrorists on a platter. When the intelligence cadres were being murdered in unprecedented numbers, Tilak Marapana the then Defence minister came on national television and said something to the effect that they worked for us, we paid them so now we are done with them, no worries.

GRATITUDE

That’s just one example of the sacrifices made by Muslim members of the Military Intelligence and there is nobody who probably knows more about that aspect than our current President who was the then Secretary of Defence — not during the cited time of Marapana obviously, but much later than that when the Muslim intelligence cadre was used effectively to decimate the LTTE in the Eastern theatre in particular, and in the North and the rest of the country in general.

Are these Muslim Intelligence officers and their contribution forgotten?

I remember them with great gratitude, and among the recent several occasions was when I cut across to a part of Mt. Lavinia on Tuan Muthaliff Mawatha to visit a relative. Muthaliff Mawatha is a narrow stretch of road which qualifies more as a path if not for the little bit of tar that’s seen on its surface, but no matter, it’s the thought that counts in naming it after a gallant fighter.

The authorities chose to remember him, because the late brave warrior who laid down his life for the country lived in the Mount Lavinia, Templer Road environs. These brave men were Muslims, no one questioned their loyalties, and woe unto to anyone who did because you cannot find a truer Sri Lankan patriot than a man who laid down his life for the country.

I think it’s fair to say that President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa — ex defence czar now Commander-in-Chief — knows more about such patriots than most, and he has probably a trained eye to spot patriots of the calibre of Sabry, a Muslim, a lawyer, not an Intelligence man, but a highly intelligent man.

USHERED

The 20th Amendment is now gazetted and it has taken some odious provisions out of the constitutional document.

The Parliament could be dissolved in one year when the 20th Amendment is passed, for example.

It is to the credit of a Government that the pundits often decry as being ‘militaristic’, that real democracy is being reinstated. Remember, it is the ‘liberal and democratic’ Government ushered in 2015 that introduced the fixed-term Parliament, and called that democratic.

Those who drafted those provisions have now jumped ship and are enjoying the cooler air closer to the Swiss Alps.

Sabry, PC, has worked with extremely competent lawyers such as Romesh de Silva, who is now tipped to head the drafting Committee for the new Constitution.

The now self exiled architect of the hilarious 19th Amendment did not work with such a team but even from exile he didn’t fail to announce to anyone who would listen that the new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa cannot hold the Defence portfolio under terms of the 19th Amendment he is supposed to have authored.

UNDERGIRD

So, a war winning Defence Secretary cannot hold the defence portfolio according to this liberal has-been but Sabry who presides over a Constitutional Amendment that reverses the said provisions and enables the President to hold the Defence portfolio is not supposed to be a patriot according to some doubters?

The 20th Amendment will be a precursor to deeper Constitutional change but what’s almost as important is the fact that some fundamental liberal democratic principles will undergird the new legislation that would be brought in, in order to transition from an old hidebound system to a new more humane and tolerant legal regime.

To this end, it is Ali Sabry who would be the best to mediate with the Muslim community this transition from raising the marriageable age for Muslim women to the acceptable adult age — something that the conscientious elements in that community have been agitating for, for the past several years.

Ushering in a new liberal regime is left to the devices of the so called ‘militaristic’ Government whereas the loud self proclaimed liberals of the previous regime such as Mangala Samaraweera who is so liberal he thinks he is odourless and pure as the driven snow, could not preside over any of these liberal measures that are being pushed under the supervision of the new Justice Minister.

The Samaraweeras fomented extremism, wittingly or unwittingly and the Easter Sunday attacks under their watch was a direct result of their being unable to manifest practically their so called liberal ideals.

Their idea of liberalism was lawlessness and anarchy, and a turning away from important issues such as banning child marriages, because that stance too was considered liberal to the extent that it catered to the whims of a minority community — albeit in fact a radical fringe of a minority community.

Thanks for being vigilant citizens, but as far as certain appointments as Sabry’s go, move on, because there is nothing to see there. Relax and chill.


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