Trial in Absentia – Declare Guilty Colonial Britain & Governor Brownrigg for crimes against humanity
Sinhale as it was called when the European colonials landed was never invaded but the island was ceded as a result of weak leadership & unpatriotic rulers & selfish advisors. Not much different from the scenario of late. Having ceded parts of the island & the whole of the island in 1815 by the Kandyan Convention, the agreement depended on the parties honouring it which the British failed to do. Reclaiming one’s own land cannot be construed as an act of crime & no invader nation has any right to declare natives as traitors. We must correct histories distortions.
The British & all other colonial imperialists have throughout their invader rule committed unimagineable war crimes & crimes against humanity. Nonetheless, they have thought fit to hold kangaroo courts & have put to death many a million. How valid are these kangaroo trials? Do these innocent victims not deserve due justice? These are a handful of thoughts that come to mind in thinking about the excellent suggestion by attorney Senaka Weeraratna who has proposed the setting up of a Tribunal against Colonial British crimes & Governor Brownrigg with the court exonerating the Sinhale natives who came forward to defend & re-claim their nation after the colonial British relegated on their commitments made in 1815 Convention & did not honor the agreement entered into. Therefore, Keppettipola & all others committed no crime & those that dishonored the agreement have no right to create their own kangaroo courts & declare these men who came to defend their nation as criminals. Keppettipola & 16 others were declared traitors by the British through their kangaroo court. They were captured by Captain O’Neil on 28 October 1818.
No school history syllabus can be complete without extolling the greatness of every Sinhale hero who fought for the freedom of the island from colonial rulers. Their heroic acts must be known by all citizens of this island & should be remembered as heroes. Their heroism is further accentuated by the fact that they rejected the pardon & chose death. They were branded as traitors by Governor Robert Brownrigg in 1818 & if it is to be removed it should be by the British. What the present government should have done was not to gain cheap publicity by claiming to clear the names of these 16 heroes but to hold a fresh trial & declare the colonials as guilty for dishonoring the agreement they promised to uphold. The Uva-Wellassa massacre applying the scorched-earth policy is just one crime that no one British & natives alike can ever be allowed to forget. It has become fashionable to say ‘let bygones be bygones’ when the truth is unpalatable but seek bitter revenge when it is to their advantage. The manner that Milosevic, Saddam Hussein & Gaddafi were eliminated are just a handful of recent crimes from which people should understand how colonial kangaroo courts would have been. Men, women & children were thrown to crocodiles, pregnant elephants were killed for sport, the supposed to be gentlemen-British ate breakfast while watching locals being hung to death!
Post-independent leaders of Sinhale–rechristened Sri Lanka should have known their history before jumping to exonerate Keppetipola & others without holding a fresh trial & revisiting all of the crimes committed that led to Keppetipola & others coming forward to defend the nation and refusing clemency as they had committed no crime. Defending one’s nation is no criminal act – why could the government of Maithripala Sirisena & advisors not understand this fact.
The moment the British dishonored the agreement they agreed to honor, the colonial British had legally breached their side of the agreement. What is important for everyone to take into consideration is that the island was never invaded by colonial rulers but was ceded as a result of a handful of selfish & unpatriotic Sinhale people. Therefore, the natives were well within their right to demand their right to regain their land. These natives committed no illegal act & therefore they cannot & should not be regarded as criminals. As Mr. Senaka Weeraratna has rightfully pointed out, Keppetipola & all others declared guilty by the colonial British kangaroo court must be exonerated from wrongful conviction.
As Mr. Weeraratna points out there is no statute of limitation to war crimes & crimes against humanity, therefore every former colony, victims of unimagineable crimes against humanity by every colonial ruler that forcibly occupied their countries, plundered their wealth, converted their natives & denationalized & de-culturalized them have a grouse & must get their day in the court of justice even 500 years after the crimes have been committed against millions of people across the continents of Americas, Africa, Asia.
No former colony can be termed truly independent if they are unable to take action against the perpetrators of crimes committed on their people by European imperialists. If these European imperialists can hold kangaroo courts throughout colonial rule & even thereafter following the end of World War 1 & 11 against the Nazis & Japanese & even the present manner that tribunals are being held through the auspices of the UN for only African & enemies of the West, why can’t the countries that were victims not take the perpetrators & hold them accountable for their crimes.
How can the West even oppose such when every diplomatic statement they deliver uses phrases & terms associated with accountability, transparency, bringing the guilty to book, fair trial etc. Why should the former European colonial rulers oppose such a trial even in absentia against the crimes they have committed.
Some countries have initiated demands for reparations & accountability
International Tribunal by Puerto Rico against US colonial crimes – https://iacenter.org/ The Caribbean countries too are uniting to seek apology & reparations.
There is even a website www.colonialismreparation.org
No former colony can consider itself a free & ‘independent’ country without setting history’s record straight. That history has to depict every wrong that the Portuguese, Dutch & British did to our island & our people. Those that enjoy singing hosannas for these colonial rulers are doing so completely ignorant of the true past or proud to be associated with those crimes. The colonial crimes against our people were made possible by the willful assistance of a handful of unpatriotic natives for perks & privileges. The same appears to be happening even after 500 years.
Until & unless natives are able decolonize their minds & realize that being modern does not impede or prevent upholding indigenous cultures & values or forgetting their history & heritage, former colonial natives will forever be in a cesspit of living a rootless life. To be modern is certainly not to abhor or look down on one’s ancestral roots, the islands proud history & a glorious past that spans over thousands of years with many a milestone of achievements & world’s firsts to boast of. This must be digested by all.
Therefore, as Mr. Senaka Weeraratna has suggested Governor Brownrigg & all others must be put on trial in absentia and held accountable for their crimes against humanity. No one individual or an association can take up this excellent idea alone but a pool of people comprising lawyers, judges, historians, researchers, academics, media & other activists must now gather, inspired to take up this task which will not only inspire other former colonies but will definitely turn the tables on the bloc European nations that use the podium of the UN to manipulate the doctrine of R2P humanitarian intervention to once again invade & occupy nations without any international legal action being taken against them. 500 years of colonial crimes cannot be allowed to make way for centuries more of neocolonial crimes that are unaccounted, unapologised with no reparations for the damages caused.
Let us gather to set up a Tribunal against Colonial Crimes to our Sinhale nation & set the records straight & declare every man who defended the land as heroes.
By Shenali D Waduge