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It is not at all suitable for civil society to promote an army officer – Ruki Fernando

Mr Ruki Fernando Human Rights Defender says it is not suitable that an army officer who served in military for long becoming the president of Sri Lanka. This will be a threat to the democratic structure.

He stated this regarding the candidacy of former Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake for the Presidential election. 

He further stated different parties and civil movements have promoted their candidates for the upcoming Presidential Election. Usually people who contest from the two main political parties have become presidents of the country. Personnel who have contested outside have not got the chance to become president. But this time there are a number of candidates from other parties. One such candidate is Former Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake.

A main concern is it suitable for an Army Commander to be the President? This is not a concern only for him but it is a fundamental and common principle. A main feature of democracy is debate and dialogue. The army does not provide space for both of this. Any army does not challenge or question the orders of the superior.  A person who was in the army for more than two decades will not change overnight. Thus it will be difficult for army personnel to be a leader in a democratic social frame.

In the Sri Lankan context the army has been subjected to many accusations. During the 1987, 88, and 89 period in South and Western parts the army was accused for disappearances and extra judicial killings. Also during the war in the North and East a number of accusations were made against the army. Even after the end of the war in incidents such as Rathupaswala the army was accused. The army has not so far accountable as an institute against the accusations for certain officers. Though there had been positive statements there was no positive action. .

Even during the period of Mahesh Senanayake as the Commander of the Army there were many accusations against the army from Crime Investigation Division, Attorney General’s  Department and courts that the army is not supporting the investigations and court procedures. The best example is the orders by Homagama magistrate to the Attorney General’s Department and Crime Investigating Department regarding the disappearance of Journalist Pradeep Eknaligoda. In this context it is very dangerous to promote an army official as a candidate for civil position. I see it as something inappropriate.   I believe it is a positive thing to promote alternative candidates from the civil movement. We should carry this forward. In any country the civil movement is unable to keep out of politics totally. Politics is directly linked to our life, human rights and democracy. However it is not at all appropriate to promote army personnel from civil movement.

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