Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 2 March 2014





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Revenge and vengeance as a tool of justice

The moral issue, which encompasses the driving force behind punishment, is based on the concept of revenge. Human development and progress has not impeded the base and animalistic feeling of revenge.

A protest in front of the US Embassy in Colombo.

Most religions have yielded to the pressures of the community to accept the barbaric theory of ‘Tooth for a Tooth’ and ‘Blood Money’ which has governed barbaric societies from prehistoric times.

The only way to ensure peace and equanimity among the people is to give them an opportunity of taking part in causing pain and harm to the aggressor. This was found to be the most humanistic way of appeasing the victims.

Even today, the masses, driven by their hidden subconscious psychopathic desire to cause pain to the wrongdoers, have motivated novelists and film makers to translate such psychological trauma and the baser instincts into their works to attract readers and film-goers to enjoy the ‘just desert’ to the villain. From Homer to Hamlet and Don Corleone, in God Father, are examples of such barbaric traits.


This concept of revenge, even if it is fulfilled, fails to satisfy the ultimate ambition of the person who entertains this feeling. It is now a scientific fact that has been observed by behavioural scientists, that instead of fulfilling the desire to cause the utmost harm to the perpetrator of the alleged crime, the people dream of punishment in the most cruel and barbaric methodology to satiate their desire to cause harm, not only to the perpetrators of that crime, but to their families too. Therefore, simple methods of punishment or even ultimate punishment, which could be imposed legally; the death penalty, would not suffice the cruel expectations of the victim.

Scientists believe that according to popular belief and culture, venting aggression ultimately purges one’s soul and rids it of the pangs of emotional psychological feeling in the victim or their families. But, it has been found that the human feeling is largely governed by the society they live in, and the morals they believe in.

The researchers have found that even after the punishment of the perpetrator of a crime, the human mind is such that they would retain the wounds, created by the aggression, unhealed and, therefore, the concept of punishment would not end the desire of the victim to continue the thought of causing further harm to the person who had been punished.

In the United States, in some states, when the death penalty is imposed, the family of the victim is permitted to witness the ordeal of the condemned man, either suffering on the electric chair, or the suffering one undergoes when a lethal injection is administered to him.

This clearly exhibits the American Society, and its values, and its cultural and moral ethos. As many people have predicted, the Americans have taken one very giant step forward from barbarism to decadence.

No amount of killings by gunmen, who shoots at random at school children or innocent pedestrians, will permit the American public to change the gun laws. They revel at the notion that one could use a gun to defend one’s limb, property, and trespassers could be shot at will, in defence of one’s property.

Terry Aladjem, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Harvard, published a book, ‘The Culture of Vengeance and The Fate of American Justice’. In that book it was clear that this reactive American justice, driven by vengeance is a threat to democratic justice, and which eventually justifies the invasion of Iraq, as invasion against evil.

He exposes the myth of American justice which supports Capital Punishment, and believes that no nation should seek to justify vengeance as a force behind its justice system.Today, we are faced with insurmountable opposition to the manner in which we won the war against Prabahkaran. The US resolution would be tabled at Geneva on the basis of the innumerable reports and a final report prepared by Ms. Navi Pillay. One of the things that I cannot comprehend is that they want to seek a so-called International Independent Investigation to look into the alleged war crimes committed by the heroic forces of Sri Lanka. The West in supporting the resolution is imposing on us the theory of vengeance, as a mode of obtaining justice for those killed during the last few days of the war.

They believe and continue to believe that the only reconciliation possible is through an International Investigation, and punishing the guilty by sentencing them to long years of imprisonment.

Past conflicts

But, those who propose and support such investigation, fall back to the system that should be deplored by every civilised human being as it would support the theory of vengeance to obtain justice.

To understand whether this would lead to peace and reconciliation between the two communities, the Sinhalese and the Tamils, it would be prudent to examine the past conflicts and the resulting position which arose after such incidents.

In the 1971 insurrection, thousands of people were killed by misled youth, who believed that they could stage a revolution and overthrow the legally elected Government by the use of force, mainly having in their arsenal old 303 rifles, stolen from the police and contraptions made at home called ‘hand bombs’. Eventually, thousands were arrested, some were met summary justice and the others faced court trials. But, the public at large were not hostile towards the young revolutionaries, nor did they seek vengeance from them for the untold crimes they committed. When Wijeweera was finally released from jail by JRJ, he addressed one of the biggest rallies ever to be held at the Town Hall.

People cheered and applauded the convicted criminal who had been pardoned by the President. Similarly, in 1987, when the JVP and the DJV created mayhem and killed thousands of innocent people and shot at people who came to vote, the Sinhalese were very angry and after the dust settled down, those who were not killed in the fighting came back to society and many of them were elected as Members of Parliament.

Even today, there are families who have lost their family members due to the JVP-DJV insurrection and people bear no remorse or anger or vengeance against them. Even during the Peace Accord, hardcore terrorists were released as a condition of the Peace Accord.

These were terrorists who had killed thousands of people and when they were released there were no protests from even the main opposition party. Some of them were facing life imprisonment and went back as free men and joined the movement again. When the Peace Accord was abrogated and when the LTTE resumed fighting for a separate state, those hardcore terrorists led the campaign against the Sri Lankan Government.

Even today, Karuna who was the Head of the Military Wing of the LTTE, and Commander Eastern Province, renegade and joined the Government and came to the South. It was the Sinhalese who gave him protection and now his young second in Command has become a Minister of the Government of the Central Province and the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province. Karuna Amman, has become a very popular Minister, loved and respected by the Sinhalese. There were intermittent news items that he was responsible for the killing of the Arantalawa Buddhist Priests, and the 600 police officers who sacrificed their lives without a fight. They were supposed to have been killed by him. This, Karuna Amman vehemently denies. But, I have not heard or seen anyone seeking vengeance from Karuna Amman.

Similarly, Kumaran Pathmanathan, the man who was responsible for supplying arms and the sole supplier to the LTTE, is now under the protection of the Government. No one has sought vengeance from him. In fact he is being protected by the Government of Sri Lanka as India wants him as a person who was a co-conspirator in the Rajiv Gandhi killing.

There are demonstrations every day but I am yet to see a demonstration seeking vengeance or justice from these two individuals. Similarly, Daya Master lives freely in the country without any threat or intimidation from anyone. Even the rehabilitated hard core terrorists, who have been released after rehabilitation, could live in any part of the country without any difficulty.

Different tradition

The reason why the Sinhalese are not seeking revenge, justice or vengeance, is, I believe, because for the last 2,500 years, we have been nurtured in a very different tradition than the old biblical principal of, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. One of our main characters is Angulimala, who chopped fingers from innocent people and tied them up into a necklace. But Buddha emancipated him and he attained Rahath hood. If any learned members of the TNA or the Diaspora feels that peace and reconciliation between the two communities could be achieved only through an international impartial investigation into the alleged war crimes that were perpetrated in the last few days of the war, they have never realised the truth about the Sinhala community.

Even today, it is an indisputable fact that the Sinhalese are a forgiving race driven by the tenets of Buddhism. The Sinhalese are a nation who voted in the 1994 elections when Chandrika came and canvassed votes, the main political promise was the establishment of peace between the warring LTTE and Sinhalese. Sixty Two percent of the people, mainly Sinhala Buddhists voted for Chandrika to usher in lasting peace. At that stage they did not mind even if Prabahkaran was given a portfolio. That is the essential difference between the Sinhala Buddhists whose driving force is compassion as dictated by Buddha.

If the West feels that by prosecuting Army Officers for alleged war crimes they committed, that would create another indivisible wedge between the two communities and any hope of peace and reconciliation would be doomed. We do not believe in revenge and vengeance as a tool of justice. Today, the international community should really seek whether they could ever satisfy their mythical ideals of reconciliation and sow hatred among the communities. Most Sri Lankans have forgotten or are trying to forget the horrendous war on terrorism which lasted for more than 30 years. The resolution based on the US and Western concepts is rubbing salt into the wounds that are slowly healing.


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