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December 31, 2009

Sri Lankans need to defeat present anti-people rule and build people power

By Lionel Bopage

The present President of Sri Lanka, who consolidated his power after defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militarily, has spurned the pledges of ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ manifesto of the 2005 presidential elections.

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Lionel Bopage

Now he is working mainly for the ambitions of his family, completely overlooking the common masses. While corruption and nepotism reign, people’s democratic rights including press freedom are being curtailed. No plan of action has been underway even to reduce the rising cost of living.

Having brought the present President to power, the southern polity tolerated the unbearable cost of living and even sacrificed lives of their own children. With the end of the war, they expected reduction of cost of living, solutions to their other socio-economic problems and development of the country would advance.

They deemed that unprecedented prospects would open up for this to happen. However, there are no signs of fulfilling these expectations on the horizon. On the other hand, Tamil people expected a fair political outcome through the ‘All Party’ Representative Committee.

The President has ruined all these hopes.

While uttering falsehoods about imperialist conspiracies to mislead people, the President has joined hands with anti-democratic rulers despised by the civilized world. This phenomenon will have dire effects on the future, the economy and the peaceful environment of the country.

During the past three years, 34 journalists and media workers were assassinated; and ten journalists were kidnapped. Thissainayagam is still being held behind bars. Over 50 journalists live in self-exile for protecting their lives from torture and assassination.

The President has been boasting about a labour convention for a long time. However, he tried to brand all those who demanded their rights, including teachers, railway, electricity and port workers and public servants as traitors. Local industries including textile industry have slumped while unemployment has risen due to the un-futuristic foreign policy of the corrupt rule, based on maintaining an unbearably large ministry.

While the rule of law in the country has completely collapsed, the police, armed forces, gangs of thugs and state media are manipulated for political gains.

The common candidate put forward by the opposition to defeat the present President has undertaken numerous pledges such as, to abolish executive presidential powers, to restore democracy, to eradicate corruption, terror and family bandyism. There is no doubt that people, seasoned with the broken pledges of the politicians, will review these promises cautiously.

The abolition of the executive presidency is not a panacea to redress all the woes of the country. Even the political parties that are backing the common candidate have taken contradictory policy positions regarding these issues. A transitional need of the day is to form a democratic framework that would allow mobilisation and exertion of pressure to resolve these issues.

Moving towards such a transitional state is considered possible because of the following facts:

• For the first time in the election history of the island, a person, who does not hold the membership of a political party has come forward as a common presidential candidate;

• This common candidate, once in power, will need to collaboratively work with peoples’ representatives within and without the Parliament;

• The forces who value democracy are increasingly rallying round this common candidate;

• Those who adopted the current constitution have come forward to change it; and

• All those who support this common candidate have agreed to transfer executive powers to the Parliament.

To utilise this opportunity to make such transitional status effective, all democratic and progressive forces need to mobilise together. People’s achievements will be decided only by the strength and vigor of such social set up. This is an unending struggle. We should not forget the experiences we have gained since 1948 on building people’s power.

Therefore, all citizens of Sri Lanka need to come forward to defeat the present anti-people rule and to build people’s power.

The alternatives we have will only allow the anti-people and corrupt rule to consolidate its power. We strongly believe that such consolidation, under the current circumstances, will cause irreversible devastating consequences to all communities.

Despite the statements of leftist leaders contesting the presidential election on what they believe to be theoretically correct, it is clear that they have failed to create the much needed practicality or the attraction to mobilize a people’s force.

If this situation is considered to be a danger to our country’s future, to our economy and to our future generations, then there should be a regime change in the country.

This opportunity is a decisive one to win back the democratic rights we are deprived of. On this occasion we all have a serious responsibility to fulfill.

The aforementioned matters should be taken into consideration in order to prudently and conscientiously exercise the vote to elect the next President in the upcoming presidential election.

1 January 2010

Transparency International accuses President Rajapakse of "illegal" election campaign

The Sri Lankan branch of the Berlin based anti-corruption watchdog "Transparency International" in a 10 page report released on Thursday Dec 31st has accused Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse of utilising state property and public funds to illegally finance his re-election bid.

Pointing out that members of the Police,armed forces and public officials are being deployed to engage in propaganda activity the report also spotlights the $ 790,000 dollar advertising campaign conducted by the President's son Namal Rajapakse for which public funds are being solicited.

The full text of the report is as follows:

Introduction

The abuse of public resources at elections seems to be a continuing activity in every election in Sri Lanka. The Program for Protection of Public Resource (PPPR) in its reports in 2004 and 2005 pointed out the manner in which these activities have taken place and their outcome. The trend seems even more ominous at the current Presidential Election.

It is extremely important that the public resists the use of public resources for election purposes because it is the public who bears the cost of abuse of public resources. The elected representatives are only the caretakers of public property which is at all times to be used for the benefits of the public. Just as the public condemn rape or murder, they ought to condemn and call upon law enforcement authorities to deal with those powerful persons who abuse public finance for personal gain at elections.

The Programme for the Protection of Public Resources of Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), evaluates the integrity of the Presidential Election 2010 in the light of the misuse of public resources/property and non compliance with the directions/guidelines introduced by the Elections Commissioner in that regard.

A. The Political Environment in which the Election is Held

The Presidential Election due in 2012 was advanced to 2010 by the President as per the powers vested with him. This election was called at a historically important period, in which the government defeated the LTTE ending a bloodiest civil war prevailed more than 25 years.The election is contested in an environment where 110 MPs are holding ministerial portfolios. Even after the nominations for the election, the President appointed another crossed over MP as a cabinet Minister.

In addition to the Ministries and Departments, there are 168 State Corporations and Statutory Boards along with 93 companies with total control by the government. Directors of these public corporations are appointed by the Ministers and there is hardly any doubt that chairmen and directors of these corporations are appointed on political affiliations rather than on merit. The state owned companies are not subject to the government audit by the Auditor General’s Department and thus not reviewable by any of the finance committees in Parliament.

The 17th Amendment to the Constitution that guarantees an independent public service ceased to exist two years ago. Since then all major positions are being filled circumventing the required screening process by the Constitutional Council. The Election Commission which is envisaged to be established under the 17th Amendment was never formed despite the fact that the present Elections Commissioner has passed his age of retirement. As a result, the Elections Commissioner is tasked to discharge all the duties and responsibilities to conduct free and fair elections. Thus the accountability and the responsibilities of a whole commission are now vested with a single person with limited resources.

Sri Lanka has no right to information law to demand information from the state about its conduct. This prevents a transparent election process where the conduct and expenditure of public officers, institutions and political parties during the time of an election are prevented from the scrutiny of the public eye. Thus the legitimate right of the tax payer to know how their money is spent is veiled with a culture of secrecy.

B. Election Commissioner’s Guidelines & Instructions

As per the powers vested with him, the Commissioner of Election issued guidelines/directions/notices with the objective of ensuring a free and fair Presidential election.

For example

- Directions were issued on 08.12.2009 to all Secretaries of the Ministries, State Departments, Corporations and Statutory Bodies to prevent the abuse of public resources during election time. Among others these directions include nullification prohibition of any appointments, transfers and promotions of employees done or intended to be done on or after the 23.11.2009. These directions were publicly announced by publishing in national newspapers on 14.12.2009.

- A set of guidelines was issued by the Commissioner on 17.12.2009 to the electronic and print media to be observed in broadcasting, telecasting and publishing of matters relating to the Presidential Election.

- A guideline dated 07.12.2009 was issued to the Police Department regarding their duties in relation to the election

Although the objectives of these guidelines/directions/notices aimed at a free and fair election it is unfortunate to note these were observed in breach than conformity. The specific abuses highlighted in this report identify such non-conformities.

C. The Cost of Propaganda

It is evident that large sums of rupees are invested by the main candidates for their campaigns in the election resulting competing at election a high cost affair. For example a 4 colour poster (medium size) approximately costs between Rs.08 to Rs.12 for a quantity over 100,000 in the initial print. A cost of a 20X20 feet hoarding to be exhibited in Colombo city limits would cost around Rs.300,000/- and a larger hoarding would cost approximately Rs.500,000/-. At present it is not scarce to see hoardings carrying political messages in almost all major junctions in many towns and villages in the country.

It is legitimate and legally accepted norm that such expenses to be borne by the candidates themselves or their political parties/independent group. Under no circumstances it is permitted to use public resources consisted of monies of the tax payers in the country for individual or political party propaganda.

The high cost of involved in election campaigns is a contributory factor for using public property by candidates who have controlled over them. Despite being immoral and illegal, abuse of public property in any circumstances is unaffordable to a developing country like Sri Lanka where burdens may have to be carried by sectors such as education, health or public transport.

Given the huge sums involved in election propaganda, TISL urge the need of political parties disclosing the sources of their funding. Unfortunately, unlike many democratic countries, Sri Lanka does not have law compelling political parties to disclose their funding together with the source.

D.Specific Instances of Abuses

By 30th December 2009, the Programme for the Protection of Public Resources of TISL has received more than eighty (80) complaints from the public and its investigators about various abuses of public property and election laws/guidelines by the candidates.

Thus far relevant verified instances are mentioned below:

01. Temple Trees

Facilities at Temple Trees, the official residence of the President, are used to entertain people from various sectors for political purposes. At these events, most of the participants were transported to the venue at State expense and were provided with food and in some instances, even with liquor. The President justified such entertainment events where the cost was borne with the public money as a “normal cultural practice.”

Spending public resources for entertainment purposes and to promote candidacy of a party candidate, especially during the time of elections is clearly an unacceptable practice. During the Presidential Election in 2005, facilities at Temple Trees were abused for political propaganda activities by the then Prime Minister (the present President) and the expenditure incurred in those gatherings were never recovered by the State.

Given below are some of the groups entertained at political treats at Temple Trees in December 2009:

7th - Recipients of Swarnabhoomi deeds
8 th - Mediation Board officers
10th – Children of Samurdhi beneficiary families
10th - Officers of the Education Sector
11th – Members of Women Lawyers’ Association
13th - Lawyers
13th - Police officers
14th – Artists
15th - Dairy farmers

(The President also conducted a series of similar gatherings at the President’s House in Kandy, details of which will be given in future reports)

These gatherings are a violation of the essence of the public notice issued by the Election Commissioner on 08.12.2009 preventing the use of public property for the purpose of promoting a candidate during the election.

02. Public Buildings and Machinery

• A property belonging to the Ports Authority situated at 56/1 Mc-Callum Road, Colombo 10 is being used to print propaganda material in favor of the President. The said posters are seen in Colombo city and other parts of the country.

• A large stage to be the property of Sri Lanka Ports Authority was transported to Minuwangoda and used for the public rally on 27.12.2009, patronized by the President. Several employees from the Ports Authority and two vehicles registered as Ports Authority vehicles (registered numbers: 41 – 3995 and GJ – 2312) were discharged for this purpose.

03.Misuse of Vehicles

Vehicles belonging to various public institutions are reported to have been transporting supporters and used for propaganda across the country for the candidate of the UPFA. The vehicles of Sri Lanka Transport Board, different government ministries, departments and local government authorities were abused in this regard. Given below are few such instances:

(a) Nine lorries bearing the numbers WP-LG 4738, WP-LG 4740, WP-LG 4741, WP-LG 4742, WP-LG 4744, WP-LG 4745, WP-LG 4546, WP-LG 4547, WP-LG 4749 of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (purchased in 2009) are being released for election work of the UPFA in the Southern Province

(b) A fatal accident that took place at Koppara junction in Negombo on the night of 12.12.2009 involving a lorry bearing number LG-4608 belonging to the Ministry of Road Development and a double cab bearing no. NB 7414 belonging to the Chief Secretary of the Eastern Province. It was revealed that the lorry was transporting several cut-outs of the President at the time of the accident.

04. Use of Central Transport Board (CTB) Busses

There is almost a pattern of using CTB buses to transport crowds for meetings attended by President Rajapaksa. Two such instances are given below:

(a) The meeting of the UPFA on 27-12-2009, at Minuwangoda (Japalawatta) - Around 26 CTB busses were used to transport crowds free of charge from Nittambuwa, Attanagalla, Mattakuuliya, Udahamulla, Angoda, Wattegama and Teldeniya.

(b) The meeting held on 26-12-2009 in Alankuda Grounds in Kalpitiya - The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), previously displaced from Jaffna and now living in Mannar, were transported by CTB busses free of charge.

(c) Crowds for several meetings in Temple Trees were brought in CTB buses. On 13.12.2009 a large number of CTB buses were used to transport police officers from outstations (in addition to police vehicles) to the temple trees.

05.Use of Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) Helicopters

On 24-12-2009, a SLAF helicopter carried Ministers Dallas Alahapperuma & Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Member of Parliament Wimal Weerawansa and Western Provincial Council Minister Udaya Gammanpila to Kandy where they participated in a public meeting attended by Technical College Staff, Women’s Organisations and University Employees.

These acts violates the regulation of the Commissioner of Election issued on 08.12.2009 which prohibits the use of government motor vehicles and helicopters/aircrafts for the benefit of a candidate of the election.

06. Misuse of public officials and other public servants for political work

There are reports that many public officials from ministries and public corporations engaged in political party activities. Under the Establishments Code, Chapter XXXII, members of Armed Forces, Police, State Officers and Supervisory Officers etc. are prohibited from engaging in political activities, except to vote at an election. The Elections Commissioner, acting under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution has also prohibited usage of public officials/employees in political party activities pending an election. We give below some clear abuses in this regard:

(a) 71 security officers attached to the Ports Authority in Colombo were released for election work in the Southern Province in November 2009.

(b) Chairman of Airport and Aviation Service Ltd. had verbally ordered middle and minor grade employees of the Airport to go on duty leave to Colombo on 23-12-2009 to participate in a protest rally against a statement made by the common candidate of the opposition

(c) Several serving diplomats and officers of Foreign Service (appointed by the government outside the professional Sri Lanka Foreign Service. However the provisions of the establishment code is applicable to these officers during the tenure of their office) have returned to the country for campaign activities, while still being serving in their posts. One such instance is: Mr. Chandrapala Liyanage who is the second secretary to the consulate in Italy is presently in Sri Lanka and actively engaged in the campaign of the UPFA candidate.

(d) The Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, a key public servant of the present government, is actively engaged in political campaign for the UPFA candidate. For example he has addressed a political meeting on 19th December 2009 at a rally in Urapola, Kadugannawa. Among the other speakers were politicians.

07. Information Ministry facilities for the political programme titled 'Esi Disi'

Facilities of the Information Department head office at the Narahenpita is being used for pro-UPFA public discussions/panel discussions attended by professionals, senior public officials and selected individuals with UPFA affiliations. The programme named “Esi Desi” has been introduced to discuss issues having a direct impact on elections. This protramme is operating under the patronage of the Director Information where the entire cost of the programme is borne by the Information Department.

08. State Media

Some of the key officials of few public media institutions are concurrently holding political party positions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the leading constituent party of the UPFA. This results in considerable amount of public resources in those institutions being used for promotion of one candidate and the policies of UPFA. These officials include:

(a) Hudsun Samarasinghe – Chairman of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation who is the organizer for Colombo West of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). He anchors a number of TV/radior progammes which clearly support the candidate of the UPFA.

(b) vSudharman Radaliyagoda – Deputy General Manger of the Independent Television Network (ITN) is the SLFP organizer for Kurunegala District. He anchors few TV programmes based on contemporary political issues which are clearly titled towards the candidate of the UPFA.

(c) Karunaratne Paranawithana – Chief Executive Officer of the Sri Lanka Rupawahini Corporation (SLRC) is a SLFP organizer for Ratnapura district.

(d) Lalith de Silva – Reviewer of newspapers for ITN is a SLFP organizer for Colombo district.

Continuation of office of these individuals is a blatant violation of regulations issued by the Commissioner of Election on 17th December 2009 for the Electronic and Print Media. Particularly the regulation 15 states:

“If an individual (employee or any member of the board of the broadcasting or telecasting and newspaper institution) publicly identified holding an office in a political party, such person should withdraw from journalistic functions until the election is concluded and shall not be permitted to engage in any journalistic function at any broadcasting or telecasting institutions. The management must consider the implications for individuals involved in presentations and who are or might become known to the public.”

Further, the regulation20 states:

“The attention of the Chairpersons of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation is drawn to Article 154B(b) of the Constitution, which requires them to take all steps necessary to ensure compliance with these regulations.”

09. Tharunyata Hetak Advertisements

This youth organisation is reportedly receiving high contributions (by way of sponsorships) from several public institutions such as Bank of Ceylon and National Lotteries Board, both of which fall under the purview of the President. The key officials of this youth organization are the President’s sons Namal Rajapakse (chairman) and Yoshitha Rajapakse (vice chairman). A series of advertisements are carried out by this organization through radio and TV highlighting the need of a strong leader for the country. Although the advertisements do not mention a name of a candidate, it is not a secret or difficult to understand, for whom they stand for, given the direct political affiliation of this organization with the President and his regime and the content of the advertisements. The following data presents the number of spots retained by Tharunyata Hetak in the main stream TV channels and the cost involved:

Number of Spots for advertisements by TV Channels - between 1st to 21st December 2009

Channel - No. of Spots

EYE - 501
Derana TV - 305
ITN - 908
Rupavahini - 1285
SIRASA TV - 301
Swarnavahini - 254

Total spots - 3554

Total cost of the advertisements during this period, based on regular disclosed rate cards of the channels, amount to Rs.84,027,600/-. We have observed that another amount of Rs.5,842,000/- has been spent on radio advertisements. We note that the cost of political commercial is more than the normal rates disclosed in the rate cards. Further there is an additional cost of production, which has not been ascertainable as at present.

This raises the need to have a transparent political party funding in the country in addition to preventing electioneering at public expenditure.

10. Hoardings and Advertisements sponsored by Public Institutions

A large number of hoardings and advertisement sponsored by public institutions are displayed at various places in the country and published in newspapers supporting the President and his election messages. Below mentioned a few examples in this regard:

Display of Hoardings-

(i) Hoarding displayed at Nugegoda sponsored by the State Trading Corporation

(ii) Hoarding displayed in town hall sponsored by the Presidential Secretariat

(iii) Hoarding displayed in Thimbirigasyaya sponsored by Presidential Operational Office

(iv) Hoarding displayed in Matara sponsored by Sothern Development Authority

(v) Hoarding displayed in Matara sponsored by Ruhunu Radio

Advertisements Published:

(i) Advertisement published in Ravaya on 20.12.2009 sponsored by Board of Investment (BOI), Sri Lanka.

(ii) Advertisement published in Lankadeepa (Sunday Edition) 28.12.2009 sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism

(iii) Advertisement published Divayina on 29.12.2009 sponsored by Urban Development Authority and the Ministry of Urban Development and Scared Area Development

(iv) Advertisement published in Dinamina 29.12.2009 sponsored by Lanka Sathosa.

These are only few examples where tax payer’s money is used for the campaign of a single candidate of the election.

E. Specific Examples for the violation of the guidelines/regulations of the commissioner of Elections

(a) On 23-12-2009, Senior Supt. of Police in charge of Hambantota Division (Chandra Kumara) had, at a conference attended by officers in charge of Police stations in the District, said that no one should be permitted to remove, destroy or deface any cutouts of HE the President and that OICs will be held answerable for any incidents in this connection.

This is a blatant disregard of the guidelines issued by the Commissioner of Election to the Inspector General of Police to dismantle and remove illegal cutouts, banners posters etc.

(b) 650 people have been recruited from Matara District for the Railway Department as temporary labourers. The letters of appointment were issued after the Presidential Election was announced on 23rd of November 2009 but they were intentionally backdated to 17th November 2009 to circumvent the direction of the Commissioner of Election which prohibits any appointment to the government service after the 23rd November 2009.

(c) The hoardings, cutouts and other election related materials continue to be displayed in public places irrespective of the guidelines to the IGP by the Commissioner of Election to remove such materials.

F. Conclusion

The width and depth of abuses of state resources can be easily ascertainable from the above instances. What is of more concern is its impact on the integrity of the electoral process and the candidates who supposedly stand in election stages to safeguards the property and the rights of the people. Therefore, TISL urges the public to raise their voices against the continuation of these abuses. - Transparency International Sri Lanka

Education in Sri Lanka: A casualty of nationalism

By Marshal Fernando and Santasilan Kadirgamar

Among the colonies of the British Empire, Ceylon, as it was then known, was far ahead of its neighbours with regard to its primary and secondary school systems. Small both in size and population, there had been no freedom struggle involving the masses. Thus, by 1931, the British government felt confident enough to grant universal adult franchise and a substantial degree of responsibility for governance, under what were known as the Donoughmore Commission Reforms. Indeed, seven of the ten ministers in the executive were Ceylonese, with portfolios including education and health care.

By 1945, the administration had adopted additional reforms providing free education from kindergarten to the university level. In his concluding remarks marking that occasion, C W W Kannangara, then the minister of education, said: “It is my belief that this is a pearl of great price. Sell all that you possess and purchase it for the well-being of the nation.” Today, there is a general consensus among professionals and academics that they would not be where they are if not for the lasting reforms set in motion by the leaders of that era.
Policy changes included, among other things, the provision of more schools. Noteworthy in particular was the establishment of a system of 54 Central Schools in the provinces, and a stage-by-stage transition replacing English with Sinhala and Tamil (also known as Swabasha) as the medium of instruction. The switch to Swabasha took place from grades one to five during the 1940s; by the mid-1950s, it had become the medium of instruction from grades 6 to 12, finally reaching the universities during the early 1960s.

It must be emphasised that Tamil-speaking students (Tamil and Muslim) had the same rights as the Sinhalese students, both with regard to free education and the right to education in their own language. This right has been firmly adhered to in spite of subsequent changes making Sinhala the only language of the administration. Education has, however, lagged behind in plantation areas where the hill-country Tamils (those of Indian descent) laboured.

Meanwhile, the older colonial-era secondary schools were called colleges – a misnomer that has survived – as Lanka did not have an affiliated college system of the kind that prevails in India. There were wide disparities among the secondary schools, with the denominational schools in the urban areas, especially Colombo, Jaffna, Kandy and Galle, better equipped and staffed. The quality of education provided by the state improved with the establishment of the 54 Central Colleges following the reforms of the 1940s. These denominational schools were mostly run by Christian missions, though the Buddhist and Hindu boards later became involved as well.

The American missionaries landed in the Tamil north early in the 19th century, founding the Batticotta Seminary in 1823 and later the Jaffna College. The following year, they also founded the first boarding school for girls in Uduvil, Jaffna. This marked the beginning of the development of schools among the Tamils, eventually making Jaffna second only to Colombo in education, including proficiency in the English language. Indeed, the advances made by the Jaffna Tamils created tensions that ultimately led to the Sinhala Only Act of 1956. The challenge facing schools in Jaffna today is to restore the standards that prevailed until the 1970s, deeply affected if not decimated by 30 years of war.

In addition to the Central Schools, the island also had denominational schools receiving state grants, which eventually came to be known as assisted schools. When free and compulsory education came into force in 1947, these schools were given the option of joining the free education system, meaning that they would receive assistance but come under some degree of state control, or remaining completely private and charging fees. Most of the religious denominational schools entered the government scheme, and were entitled to state assistance, while providing free education. A handful of Christian schools did, however, choose to stay out of this system.

In 1961, the state nationalised all denominational schools under private boards. The private institutions that opted out of the assisted-schools system in 1947 continued to remain private and fee-levying. Fifty other schools also opted to remain private during this new round, all of which were, once again, Christian schools, mostly Roman Catholic. The difference was that these schools were obliged to not charge fees to remain private, something that was practically impossible in economic terms. This takeover of schools by the state in 1961 constituted one of the major radical reforms in the post-Independence years. It certainly set the balance right, taking decisions about the appointment of teachers and the admission criteria for students out of the sectarian hands of the religion-based school boards. Caste and creed no longer counted. All the same, in the process, education became a monopoly of the state.

The system again changed in 1977, when the right-wing United National Party government, led by J R Jayewardene, came to power, bringing with it a commitment to a market economy and private enterprise. Jayewardene, although the father of all of the country’s subsequent constitutional woes, did have one noteworthy benign act to his credit: he restored government grants to those schools that had chosen to remain private in 1961, thereby winning the allegiance of leaders of the Christian minority. Beyond that, in spite of his two-thirds majority in Parliament and the excessive powers he bestowed on himself as executive president, he was not able to privatise education as much as he would have liked. The state’s monopoly of education had become an entrenched and sacred system that no government dared to touch.

All the same, the Jayewardene government provided a way out by permitting the establishment of so-called ‘international’ schools. As a result, and as is evident today, a variety of schools, numbering about 87, with the tag ‘international’ mushroomed, with about 54 of them in and around Colombo. With a few exceptions, none of these schools had anything international about them, with most basically being business enterprises catering to the rich. The notable differences between these institutions and the prevailing school system was that the former did not come under the purview of the Ministry of Education, charged exorbitant fees and provided instruction in English.

In some, French was the second language, while Sinhala and Tamil were optional. The point to note is that the students coming out of these schools are comparable to pre-1956 English educated elites, whose proficiency in the national languages was weak in what had now become a country in which 99 percent of the people were monolingual. With a curriculum geared to preparing for foreign exams, a new class of citizens, linguistically and culturally divorced from the masses, was being created in the country.

Part of the education system are the infamous ‘tutories’ or coaching classes, doing a substantial part of the job that should be done in schools. After school hours, and especially during the weekend, students flock to these tutories, to be taught by individuals outside the formal education structures. This parallel system of instruction, as distinct from education in its fullest sense, has had adverse consequences, with cramming geared towards passing examinations taking precedence over a general and a value-based education.

Even as the nature of secondary education has a direct impact on performance in higher education, the state of the universities had a direct bearing on the school system. University graduates without teacher training were deemed fit to be teachers. With unemployed graduates an embarrassment to every government in power, such individuals were periodically dumped into schools as teachers, and continue to be thus employed even today. In truth, university education came late to the country. A University College had been founded in 1921, paving the way for the University of Ceylon in 1942, which took a place among the best in Asia for its first 25 years. At this level, too, the results of the radical reforms of the 1940s were evident by the mid-1950s, when rural youths entered the faculties of humanities and the social sciences in sizeable numbers.

Overnight, the universities had to adapt to changes in the medium of instruction, without any planning or training of lecturers. Senior academics in the universities had to attend classes in Sinhala and Tamil, in order to be able to teach in those languages, resulting in many eventually leaving the country.

Today, there are 15 universities where classes are taught mostly in Sinhala or Tamil. In the medical, science and engineering faculties, instruction begins in the national languages and eventually transitions into English. Where instruction is in English from the very first year, as former Professor of English Ashley Halpe states, “The majority do not have the ability to follow courses conducted in the English medium effectively – it is significant that 40 percent of the supposedly elite students in the faculties of medicine and engineering who enter with extremely high scores fail their first exams at their first attempt.” As such, the country has paid a heavy price in not retaining English as the language of instruction in the universities, with a drop in standards in content, curriculum and overall education. Students memorise notes taken at lectures and from handouts in Swabasha and regurgitate the information at examinations.

Libraries and reference books in English are rarely used, and very few books are available in Swabasha. Indeed, English is taught but without noticeable results. Ideally, the first year in all universities should be devoted towards intensive English classes; but with a Sinhala-nationalist climate dominating the country, English has been referred to as a kaduwa, a sword that kills. As such, most of the products from the faculties of the social sciences and humanities have generally been referred to as ‘unemployed and unemployable’.

The politics of language, thus, has been played out with adverse effects in the field of education. The initiators of educational reforms in the 1940s rightly decided that a child learns best in her or his mother-tongue. Moreover, since the country did not have the requisite teachers, it would have been impossible to provide education in the English medium to the students in the whole country. Put it another way, it would have been impossible to provide mass education that raised literacy rates. But the failure lay in not effectively teaching English as a second language at the school level, or retaining English as a medium in the Universities. If English had been effectively taught as a second language in the schools, more students would have found it feasible to follow courses in English at the University level.

India is a good example of school education in the mother-tongue, accompanied by English at the higher level. Indeed, the level of English is poor at the undergraduate level. But by the time students reach the Masters, Master of Philosophy (M Phil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) levels their ability to function in English becomes adequate if not good. In Lanka today we have several University academics with local PhDs who cannot present papers in English and participate in international seminars. Nor do they have proficiency to use English as a library language and keep up with the latest international books and journals in their field.

While the advocates of Swabasha often make comparisons with Japan, where the medium of instruction at all levels is Japanese, they fail to note that Japan, from as far back as 1871, had a policy of sending students to England, the US, France, Germany and Russia in fair numbers, and had launched a policy of translating books into Japanese. By the 1980s, Japanese publishers were releasing books in Japanese translation almost at the same time that they were released in English or other European languages. Instant translation and interpretation is big business in Japan, and Japanese editions in translation of best selling books were about half the price of the English ones. Lanka does not have the resources to do things the Japanese way, so the comparison is not useful. With some recognition of the problem, attempts are now being made to rectify matters by providing courses in English in the older universities, like the ones in Colombo and Peradeniya.

A matter of paramount importance is encouraging proficiency in the English language island-wide. This would include training colleges for teachers, and special colleges in every district for intensive English courses for students who have completed GCE Ordinary and/or Advanced Level courses. A return to English as the medium of instruction in certain specified subjects in the higher classes at the secondary school level, especially in the sciences, is an option that can be examined. But then the country does not have the teachers to implement this. This can only be done by allowing a free flow of qualified and experienced teachers from other countries, for example, India, as happened from the 1920s to the early 1960s. At that time, the task was to develop teaching in the sciences.

Today, the mission will be to teach English as well as certain subjects in the English medium. The much expressed view that all Sinhala students should be taught Tamil and all Tamil speaking students Sinhala, desirable as it is, will not take place. Wounds inflicted by a long war and prejudices deliberately cultivated over the decades have created a mind-set in both communities that will not make this feasible. English as a second language is an achievable target given a clear five- to ten-year plan with adequate resources allocated for this fundamental task. Successfully implemented, two vital objectives will be achieved; it would provide a mode of access to knowledge while at the same time function as a link language in the pursuit of unity in diversity.

In all of this, the ramifications of the Sinhala Only Act of 1956 cannot be overstated. The leftwing 1971 insurrection by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s (JVP) against the government was, in one sense, a revolt by the children of 1956 who felt that the promises made and aspirations aroused in that year were not fulfilled. The expectations of jobs, upward mobility and a rise in the status of deprived rural youth did not happen. Soon after the uprising, the four universities of that period were closed for a year, and two campuses were converted into detention centres for insurgents. During 1988-89, the upsurge of JVP violence in the campuses was marked by assassinations and ruthless murders. The state retaliated with unprecedented violence against Sinhalese youths, and campuses were closed more often than open.

In adopting the Sinhala Only Act, Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranaike unleashed forces that could not be tamed by himself or his successors. These forces changed the course of Lanka’s history. There were no doubt positive dimensions in the reforms of 1956; but the year is best remembered, at least by the minorities, as the watershed that marked the end of any prospect of a united Lanka with equal rights for all its communities. Sinhalese nationalism rode triumphant and Sinhalese majoritarian rule was firmly entrenched in the country. Eventually, the Tamils responded with their own brand of destructive Tamil nationalism.

These changes had a tremendous impact on education in the country. It was the intention of those who introduced free education to provide competence in English as a second language to marginalised rural students. However, the aroused Sinhala nationalist passions led to the dethroning of English as the language of the administration in 1956, effectively bringing an end to the teaching of English in schools. Schools became monolingual, while classes became rigidly compartmentalised into linguistic streams, few accepting both Sinhalese and Tamil students. This had a disastrous effect on the country and its politics. Ideally, in a postcolonial society that is multi-religious and multi-linguistic, conscious policies directed towards social cohesion and integration should have been adopted. In Lanka, the very opposite happened.

There was a time when Sinhalese and Tamil students sitting together in the same classroom had eminent teachers from both communities. It was in spaces such as the classroom, the sports fields or, where available, the dormitory that lasting bonds overriding linguistic and religious identities had been established. By the 1960s, that era had come to an end. Even as the policies adopted in creating an egalitarian society with equal opportunities in education were to be lauded, the policymakers and educationists failed the youth by not evolving a curriculum within the framework of instruction in the mother tongue that would have promoted integration. This could have been achieved by giving English the role of a link language.

Ultimately, the state failed to evolve a clear education policy, beyond patchwork reforms. There has not been a single education minister worth remembering in the post-Independence years, a notable exception being Badiuddin Mahmud, minister of education during the 1970s, who, besides upgrading Tamil-medium schools, did a remarkable service to the Muslim community by opening up the education sector to Muslims. Although there was some heartburn among the Tamils that they were losing jobs as teachers and headmasters, the Muslims had been late-comers to education, especially the women. The balance was set right.

During the 2008 ordinary-level examinations for grade-ten students, only 44 percent had passes in the English language. It is unlikely that even those with passes had the proficiency to read a short and simple paragraph from a newspaper or utter two sentences in English, leave alone writing. In fact, the quality of instruction all round has dropped considerably. The country was once known for high levels of achievement in mathematics, yet a few years ago only ten percent of students had passes in geometry at the grade-ten public examinations.

The problem is that even as nationalisation freed education from sectarian management, it allowed the politicians to take over completely. Today, state control of education has degenerated to interference by politicians with a vice-like grip on the appointment of teachers. What happened in the field of education was a telling example of the over-politicisation of every aspect of the socio-economic life of the country. By the 1970s, literacy rates were close to 80 percent, and are today just above 90 percent.

Similarly, great advances were made in the female literacy rate. Having achieved these remarkable indices, the country has not been able to go to the next stage of development. This is because the increasing volume was not matched by quality education, including job-oriented education for a developing country, especially in the sciences, technology, computer literacy and information technology.

Here, again, the state controlled educational system is fundamentally flawed. Sixty years after visionary policies towards an egalitarian society by expansion in education reforms were implemented, there has been no periodic review of the system to assess the value of state control and the content of education. Tinkering with the system has become the norm as governments changed, led by ministers and bureaucrats with inflated egos. Ideally, a policy based on consensus for a National System of Education suitable for the times among all parties in Parliament is called for today. Yet, unfortunately, this is too much to expect from the deeply divided Sinhalese polity that seems unable to arrive at a consensus on the Sinhalese-Tamil relations that have been tearing the country apart.

The purpose of education, it has been said, is to make people fit to live with. Yet many have lost sight of this ultimate objective of an education, as a means to a good life. In Lanka, there has been a loss in terms of offering a values-based education, which in decades gone by promoted tolerance, free debate and rational discussion, a sine qua non for a healthy society. A first step to take the country in this direction is to depoliticise education, freeing it from those least fit to rule. One of the major issues in the current presidential election is that the 17th amendment to the constitution establishing a Constitutional Council be implemented. The task of this council is to establish an independent Election Commission, Police Commission and Public Services Commission. Hopefully, if this is implemented the depoliticisation of education will follow.

(Marshal Fernando is the director of the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue in Colombo.Santasilan Kadirgamar taught history at the Universities of Colombo and Jaffna)

Not Quite Paradise:An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka

by Terry Hong

Three weeks after 9/11, University of Arizona professor Adele Barker arrived in Sri Lanka as a senior Fulbright Scholar to teach Russian literature, feminist literary theory, and American literature to select students at the University of Peradeniya. But her own education about the history and people of the island nation takes center page in her latest title, Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka.

With centuries’ worth of visitors – “[s]ome were blown off course; some came for the spices; some to conquer and rule; some, much later, simply to sunbathe” – much of Sri Lanka’s history can be summarized in its names given by foreigners: the Roman Taprobane, the Arab Serendib, the Portuguese Ceilao, the Dutch Ceylan, the British Ceylon, and finally “[i]n 1972, the people who actually live on this island reclaimed the name Sri Lanka.”

Settling into a sprawling home in Kandy with her teenage son, Barker initially insists, “I didn’t want people who are darker than me fixing our meals and cleaning for us.” With her landlord’s gentle prodding, however, she realizes that not employing the locals is more damaging to the tenuous economy than upholding her anticolonialist principles. With its Sinhalese owners, Tamil caretaker, and ever-changing international visitors,

Barker’s guesthouse compound is an oasis amid the “civil war between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil Tiger rebels ... [that] had already been raging since 1983” and claimed 40,000 lives by 2001. But beyond the walls are daily reminders of war, from grenades to riots to murders. Sri Lanka, Barker learns, is a land of paradox: the endless violence “against the backdrop of something whose beauty is heart-stopping.”

Ironically, language – the universal tool of communication – is at the root of the Sinhalese/Tamil conflict: “Much of the tension between the two sides was initially created by the Official Language Act of 1956, making Sinhalese,... the official language of the country.”

When the British left in 1948, Sri Lankans spoke Sinhalese, Tamil, and the “bridge language” of English. To Tamils, the Sinhalese-only law threatened “not only their language but their rights, their culture, and their status as equal citizens of Sri Lanka....” The initially peaceful protests quickly turned violent, resulting in a geographical separation with Tamils fleeing north, Sinhalese claiming the south.

In spite of perpetual conflict, Barker observes that she has never lived “with such a hybrid mix” of Sinhalese, Tamils, Burghers of Dutch and Portuguese ancestry, Moors, and Malays. Surprisingly, religion – Sri Lanka is majority Buddhist – “has never been a factor in this war.”

Barker’s academic year passes quickly and she leaves with gihin ennam, a Sinhalese parting used “‘when you are saying good-bye but know you’ll be back.’” While her first trip was marked by 9/11, her second, three years later in October 2005, follows the devastating Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that claimed 30,000 Sri Lankan lives:

“I needed to see things for myself.” As she travels through refugee camps, Barker witnesses the disturbing results of “competitive charity,” a term coined by a foreign aid worker, referring to international organizations with too much funding, working without enough understanding of local needs.

While Barker’s first trip focused on the experiences of the southern Sri Lankans, Barker is determined to “find the balance” in the Tamil north, home of the Tamil Tigers, a group labeled by the United States as a terrorist organization. “Suicide missions are part of the ethos of this organization,” Barker learns, and near-daily violence is simply unavoidable. Resigned survival is the only goal.

Eight months of violence and devastation eventually send Barker home. “Differences had been deeply etched since the first Europeans set foot on these shores....” No matter what she did, she “would never be part of [her friends] Velu, Latha, and Loku Menike’s world. Nor they of [hers].” Her departure this time is not gihin ennam: Instead, she is resolutely “just going.”

A hybrid of memoir, travelogue, and history lessons, “Not Quite Paradise” is not quite a success. As a memoir, it’s missing answers to basic questions, such as why Barker chose a year in Sri Lanka in the first place. As a travelogue, a Sri Lankan map detailing Barker’s journey would have been extremely helpful. As a history lesson, the overall effect proves meandering and unfocused. “I had a book to finish,” Barker mentions as she prepares for her second trip, “one that was going to be very different than the one I had envisioned.” Perhaps that shift midway caused a less cohesive text.

The 1982 memoir “Running in the Family” by Michael Ondaatje (whom Barker mentions as a Dutch Burgher), or Shyam Selvadurai’s coming-of-age novels, “Funny Boy” (1997) and “Swimming in the Monsoon Sea” (2007), or Ru Freeman’s recent debut “A Disobedient Girl” (2009), are all readily available alternatives set in Sri Lanka and ultimately offer more rewarding literary experiences.

(This review is reproduced from the Christian Science Monitor.Terry Hong is media arts consultant at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. Her Smithsonian book blog, BookDragon, can be found at bookdragon.si.edu.)

ABNQPTC1230.jpg

Why did LTTE come to being and who really created it?

by Chaminda Weerawardhana

In responding so far to, "Desecration of Tiger war memorials deserve condemnation," by Prof. Michael Robers many readers seem to have ignored these fundamental questions:

1. Why did the LTTE come to being?
2. Who really created the LTTE?

The answer to both questions, to cut a long, horrible story short, are:

1. Due to post-1948 Ceylonese/Sri Lankan government policies and:
2. The majority Sinhalese leadership(s)seeking narrow political gains and political mileage

Now, the SL government and a strongly Sinhala nationalist leadership (with a Sinhala supremacist discourse, coated in the false and dis-orienting stance of 'patriots' and 'non-patriots') has militarily defeated and decimated its own 'bete noire'.

The main challenge now is that of reconciliation, making all Tamils (and other minorities) feel integrally Sri Lankan, and use all available talent and skills (especially from the Tamil community home and abroad) for post-conflict reconstruction, economic development and empowerment. In other words, all segments of the (divided)wider SL society have to be brought together around a common cause: to make Sri Lanka 'take off', make her part of the Asian economic boom and other global processes of fast-track and long-term development.

To reach these goals, a serious SL government needs to launch a massive project, based at least on two primary axes:

1. Political accommodation in terms of high politics - i.e. a political arrangement based on power-sharing in the N-E provinces, within a wider framework of devolution from the Centre (not the best gain, but the best available and realistically achievable option at the present stage)

2. National policy on reconciliation, mutual respect/understanding and coexistence - this is necessary to attempt at healing wounds of a 30-year conflict - A Truth and Reconciliation Commission should provide those affected by the war with a safe haven to 'express' their experiences and trauma - and record them for posterity. People's perspectives on the 'other' should be changed through government policy (i.e. Sinhalese views on Tamils, issues within the Tamil community - developing harmony and dialogue among Northern, Eastern and Up country Tamils, and better mutual understanding in the wider Sri Lankan community).

In this process [axe 2], what Prof. Roberts mentions in this article comes into play crucially - continuing a sophisticated tradition of honouring the 'fallen', LTTE memorials should be left undeterred - this will help develop a sense of appreciation of the SL govt among supporters of hardline Tamil nationalism, especially in the Diaspora. To make it more 'politically correct', similar memorials could be built to remember fallen members of other Tamil armed/non-armed political groups (from FPC to the Eelam Left, including civil society activists such as Dr. R Thiranagama).

Most importantly, these memorials will enable future generations from across the ethnic divide to witness and learn about a bitter phase of the 20th century history of their motherland.

Why Tamils leave

The point here is that nobody in Sri Lanka's political establishment is concerned as to how Tamils, especially young Tamil men and women feel, perceive and live the ground situation in the island.

Article such as "Land without checkpoints feels free to Tamil refugees," could be easily condemned as 'propaganda' or efforts by the so-called West and the exiled Tamils to tarnish the 'image' of the Sri Lankan government....but what this blind critique blatantly forgets is that the government is thoroughly insensitive and totally unwilling to be sensitive to the real issues and concerns of young Tamil men and women. As long as this situation continues, illegal immigration will thrive, a whole lot of young Tamils will suffer, and the task of post-conflict transformation will remain un-achieved.

If Colombo 'sincerely' wants to change things for the better in terms of ethnic relations, it has to change its ideology and discourse, and resort to a new ideology of inclusion, de-militarisation, mutual respect and ethnic accommodation.

This by any means,does not look achievable on realistic grounds in the near future - as the country plunges from one crisis to another.

If the Tamils vote for the General he may win

By Lal Wickrematunge

For little Sri Lanka, 2009 was a year of celebration and heart break. The aftermath of an improbable victory against the LTTE brought a massive wave of support from the Sinhala majority to President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The Tamils were dumbfounded. In a near thirty year period of the LTTE’s dominance, the Tamil community, though not by choice, looked upto the LTTE to bring about devolution or some semblance of self rule in the North and East of the country. With the end of the war, a vacuum has been created even amongst the Tamil moderate polity. This has yet to be filled.

Large cut-outs and posters of the president flanked by his brothers and the heads of the tri-forces appeared on the skyline of this tiny resplendent island. That President Rajapakse was deified would be an understatement. Meanwhile the equally popular commander of the army, Sarath Fonseka was being retired. The general was irked and whispers were emanting from informed persons that he was a very disappointed man. An astrologer who predicted that there would be serious changes in the political firmament in the country with the advent of a new face was promptly arrested and later released.The cut-outs and posters depicting the general, even in the company of the president, began to come down, only to be replaced by more of a solitary president and his siblings.

The cracks deepened before long and the left wing JVP made initial forays to rope in the general into politics together with the now ousted Mangala Samaraweera, a former minister of foreign affairs and telecommunications in the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge government in which President Rajapakse was the prime minister. Mangala Samaraweera was the architect in spearheading the victory of President Rajapakse in his first term when he led the campaign with the JVP, but was soon sidelined and family members of the Rajapakse clan jostled and took control of the most important positions in the Rajapakse government of 2005.

President Rajapakse had been coercing members of the United National Party of the opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, to defect to the government ranks and were promptly rewarded with ministerial portfolios. That President Rajapakse ruled over the largest cabinet of ministers (over a hundred) was not lost on the hapless public, now burdened with the fall out of a global recession and rising prices.

Though many expected Ranil Wickremesinghe to run for the presidency when it was hinted that the president would call for one after four of his six years (he is legally entitled to do so), in a deft move the joint opposition thrust General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka as their common candidate.The rudderless opposition was given a new lease of life. The United National Party, bruised and battered by the provincial council elections, was up beat. The fractured JVP was jubilant. The very slogan on which President Rajapakse campaigned (the war victory) had now, at best, to be shared. A shocked government resorted to lampooning a war hero which turned the sympathy factor in favour of the retired general. People started questioning the government: “If they could treat the general in this fashion, how would they treat us?”

That General Fonseka was asked to quit his official residence when he did not have a house fit enough to live, annoyed the public. The general was thus portrayed to be an honest officer as against a century of corrupt ministers led by one family. A hint at a possible coup by the general and the response by the Indian government in helping the current regime was soon found to be hoax. Initial reports show that President Rajapakse will not have a cake walk at this election. The respective polls show a close fight and only in the coming weeks, a clearer picture if at all would emerge. General (Retd) Sarath Fonseka drew first blood when he filed and publicised his declaration of assets when handing over nominations on the December 17. The president failed to do so.

The government’s bashing of the West to appease the local market has come to haunt them in the form of the European Union withholding the GSP plus facility, through which as many as 7000 products were exempt from duty to the EU countries. The suppression of the media at the height of the war continues, but now it’s for political benefit. As many as eleven journalists have been murdered, over twenty have been abducted, assaulted and scores have fled the country. Self censorship and the resultant apathy have surprised more democratic nations and this island in now scraping at the bottom of the barrel where freedom of expression is concerned.

This election is going to be bruising battle between two patriots and the island is going to emerge fractured after the election. Already, charges and counter charges are being traded. The minority Tamils are more confused. Both front runners are prime movers in the war against the LTTE. It was the absence of the Tamil vote at the behest of Velupillai Prabhakaran that saw President Rajapakse defeat Ranil Wickremesinghe at the last Presidential elections.To abstain at this election would be unthinkable, but they are between a rock and a hard place. Having been confined to camps against their will, they are disillusioned.

If Ranil Wickremesinghe is able to get the die hard UNP vote bank to go to the polling station and the JVP gets the grass roots campaign into gear, which they are famed for, President Rajapakse has a fight on his hands. But the die will be cast if the Tamils vote for the general. If that becomes a reality, he may win. Will General Sarath Fonseka abolish the all-consuming powerful position of the Executive Presidency ( President Rajapakse also promised to do so in his Mahinda Chintanaya manifesto in 2005) and concentrate on removing corruption if he wins, or will it be “more of the same” if President Rajapakse wins a second term? The answer will be known by the January 27, 2010.

(The writer is managing editor of "The Sunday Leader"in Colombo)

Govt gets ready for witch-hunt against prominent Sarath Fonseka supporters

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

retaliatory

Moves underfoot to "attract" MP's from opposition ranks to govt side as retaliatory measure for crossing over by CWC stalwarts

panic

Govt in panic after CWC cross-overs. More cross-overs of MP's and even ministers anticipated.Monitoring of those suspected to cross is on

witch-hunt

Govt gets ready for witchhunt in new year against prominent Sarath Fonseka supporters. Special unit begins monitoring Sarath supporters

excuses

Lists of persons to be arrested under various excuses (including tiger links) are being compiled now. This includes some journalists also.

London

Veterinarian Viumukthi Kumaratunga son of Vijay and Chandrika will not enter politics says Mangala Samaraweera.He has gone back to London

President

Headline in Daily Mirror says President says he made mistakes in his appointments Many feel they made mistakes electing some to high office

voters

"I erred in selecting some people to top posts"says President Rajapakse. Some voters may feel they have erred in selecting some to top posts [click for updates ~ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

December 30, 2009

Mano Ganesan taken by surprise at CWC stalwarts crossover

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

join UNP

Ramiah Yogarajan and Murugan Satchithanandam of Ceylon Workers Congress cross over from Govt ranks to opposition & join UNP

CWC national list

Yogarajan former Colombo & national list MP is CWC national organizer. Sathchithananda from Badulla is national list MP & dep education minister

surprise

Mano Ganesan taken by surprise at CWC stalwarts crossover.UNP and UNF leaders did not inform their ally Mano of the political defection

base

Deomocratic Peoples Front leader and UNP ally Mano Ganesan concerned about his political base in Colombo being eroded by Yogarajan's entry

Colombo

Yogarajan has popular support in Colombo and is perceived as potential threat to Mano Ganesan's political fortune [click for updates ~ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Presidential aspirants must reveal where the beef is and how they would cook it

by Dr. Packiyasothy Saravanamuttu

Two thousand and nine will be a year to remember and with relief, regret, sadness, hope and joy or a mix thereof depending on one’s political sympathies and affiliations. It began with the smashing of the MTV studios and assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga, its mid point was the defeat of the LTTE which brought relief to most after three decades of debilitating war and the incarceration of some three hundred thousand Tamil civilians in camps thereafter.

It ends with a presidential election campaign in which the two main contenders were key players in the defeat of the LTTE and closely identified with the culture of impunity in respect of human rights violations. Public discourse throughout the year was dominated by the war and the categorization of opinion into two camps – patriots and traitors – a categorization that endures into the presidential election campaign with accusations of betrayal following the disputed Sarath Fonseka interview with the Sunday Leader.

Two thousand and nine also ends with the hope and expectation in some quarters of change – to dynastic rule, corruption, nepotism, the erosion of respect for the Rule of Law and constitutionalism. In others, there is the fear of greater militarization of government and governance, international conspiracies determined to effect regime change.

It is a mixed bag no doubt and the interest generated by the presidential contest is underpinned by uncertainty as to its result, whoever wins. It will be followed by a general election and in all probability hiatus and uncertainty will only subside by the middle of the year, the earliest.

At the same time however, will the key challenges and issues confronting the country be addressed and the means of their resolution put into motion? Granted it is from one perspective, still early days of the campaign. The campaign will hot up in the New Year.

However, the way that it has proceeded so far does not inspire much confidence that the real issues and challenges will be confronted beyond the slogans and broad platitudes of change and a better future, abolition of the presidency, corruption and nepotism, betrayal and hidden agendas.

Where’s the beef? How will it be cooked?

The incumbent has yet to enlighten us as to what he will do once re-elected and assure us that it will not be more of the same. Will he change the constitution and in what direction? Will he complement military victory with a political settlement?

What does he intend to do with regard to the Rule of Law and his intentional violation of the constitution as exemplified by the fate of the Seventeenth Amendment? What about corruption and nepotism?

Will there be even an acknowledgement of the extent to which it continues to erode governance?

Human rights, the cost of living and the economy? Gratitude and appreciation for having defeated the LTTE alone may not be enough to win this election nor a mere promise of a better future. We need to know what this future looks like, if a future of any promise it is to be. Another edition of the Chinthanaya cannot be another edition of platitudes and homilies.

The opposition makes much of its commitment to change and it appears to be the case that this is what has the most resonance with voters. The change it proposes is in the form of a new constitution, the immediate implementation of the Seventeenth Amendment and an Anti- Corruption Commission.

Yet the direction of constitutional change has not been fleshed out and some have been disconcerted by remarks about the executive presidency being replaced by an executive prime minister. What will be the modalities of constitutional change?

Will the process prescribed in the current constitution be followed or will there be a resort to populism and arguments about mandates which have been advocated in the past?

Part of the opposition’s argument about change is that the end does not justify the means. It would be politic for it to assure the country that it will adhere to this when effecting change in the event it has the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, what will be the structure of governance – the powers of the president, the prime minister, executive, legislature and judiciary?

There is admittedly a minority of the electorate that is interested in these issues and in a tight election, which this one may turn out to be, their interests and anxieties cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Significantly, the opposition does have questions to clarify on the economic front, given the conflicting ideological orientations of its two key components – the UNP and the JVP. Is it the case that the Fonseka campaign is of the opinion that the economy should not feature prominently or at all in this campaign because the issues are of governance and corruption and that in any event their candidate is running to abolish the office he aspires to and therefore economic issues should be reserved for debate in the general election campaign?

From a more realpolitik perspective, if this is its view it may not have to be as much concerned with the minority of the electorate alluded to above, but with the rural masses to whom constitutionalism and corruption may well be of less concern and significance than the cost of living.

Human rights and the allegations of war crimes is one area in which there is more heat than light and little prospect of any action though action on this front is badly needed. The controversy over the Fonseka interview with the Sunday Leader and its fall-out is significant in revealing that every attempt is being made to deny that the LTTE leaders who came out carrying a white flag were killed in cold blood.

This is shoddy and it casts an aspersion on aspirants to leadership in a country that has just defeated terrorism and is urgently in need of reconciliation and unity. Will there be a commission of inquiry? The reputed journalist D.B.S Jeyaraj has written an article with details about this incident. Will action only be taken if it will be at all, internationally?

The irony of this election is that in order to create a contest, the issues that go to the heart of the future of this country are in real danger of being obscured. Two thousand and ten may well end up generating more excitement and hiatus than change.

Desecration of Tiger war memorials deserve condemnation

Symbolic postscript: A terrible violence

By Prof. Michael Roberts

The photographic images that have been deployed on web in my essay on “The Tamil Tigers and Their Practices of Homage” (http://thuppahi.wordpress.com) as well as a host of less accessible academic articles convey the importance placed on the commemoration of the fallen by Pirapāharan and the Tiger leadership. The institutionalisation of mortuary rites of burial for their fallen from circa 1989 – in a radical move away from the cremation for those of Saivite faith[i] – was a way of sustaining meaningful bonding between Tiger personnel and those who had sacrificed their lives for the cause of Eelam.[ii]

MRTC1230A.jpg

There were, of course, other facets to this vast investment in rites of commemoration: Māvīrar Nal on 27 November every year served as a means of legitimizing the Eelam project and the de facto LTTE state, while also inspiring the Tamil people in ways that encouraged mobilisation. It implanted firm bonds between Tigers, the Eelam cause and people. By 2001 there were 21 immaculately maintained tuyilam illam, or “resting places” for the Tiger fallen.[iii] They were widely regarded as “holy places” and “temples.”[iv] My photographs of the preparations for Māvīrar Nal at tuyilam illam at Kopay and Vadamarachy, as well as indelible memories of the vast concourse of perhaps 60,000 people at the tuyilam illam at Murrippu south of Kilinochchi in late November 2004, highlight the degree to which the sites were profound symbols for the Sri Lankan Tamils associated with the LTTE’s Eelam project.

That was then in 2004. Now, in mid-late 2009, after the LTTE was vanquished, these tuyilam illam are no more. My information from journalists and Tamil people[v] is that they have been bulldozed and obliterated by the army as the enforcing arm of a Sinhala dominated government. This can be deemed an act of desecration. It calls for condemnation. This essay is an indictment of this act, a protest that flows logically from the essay on “The Tamil Tigers and Their Practices of Homage.”

This was not the first occasion for such practices of obliteration. After the Army swept out of their beachhead around Palaly in late 1995 and reconquered the western two-thirds of the Jaffna Peninsula, they bulldozed the existing tuyilam illam at Kopay and Vadamarachy. When the ceasefire period from late 2001 enabled the LTTE to restore these holy sites, they took care to build a little memento of smashed-up epitaphs in glass cases with plaques delineating this act of desecration (see Figures 3 and 3).[vi]

MRTC1230B.jpg

When I mentioned the bulldozing demolition of the mid-1990s to Nanda Godage[vii] a few months after I had visited Kopay, he said that he had been appalled by this series of events and had expressed his displeasure within high quarters.

His reaction, as well as mine, bespeaks norms that are rooted in liberal humanism and in the principles reigning in the Western world in modern times. These norms have spread across the universe after the triumph and spread of Western imperialism in the 18th-to-20th centuries.

When leading Western countries inflicted two horrendous world wars upon themselves and on the rest of the world (with some aid from Japan in the second instance), many peoples had to deal with mountains of dead. It is through such experiences that those of us in the colonies learnt that these Western nations did not generally disturb the cemeteries of their enemies. The dead could usually rest in peace within their graves.

Such a code may not have been a universal phenomenon among the peoples of the world in pre-modern and early modern times. I do not know enough about this issue to make a pronouncement either way. But my disciplinary background inclines me to be sceptical about any universality in this field of human practice.

As it is, cremation was the most widespread mortuary practice in the lands of the Indian sub-continent so that burial sites did not exist to honour or dishonour the dead (the memorial stones for special forms of sacrificial death known as nadukal in parts of India being exceptions).

Paradoxically, Sri Lanka provides an outstanding counter-example to this suggestion. It is widely believed that when the Sinhala hero-king Dutugämunu “slew his Tamil rival, Elara” in the second century BCE, he “paid him in death all the honours due to a soldier and a king.” So, “the spot on which the Tamil king was cremated was to be venerated for all time: no music was to be played there and all persons, even kings had to pass by on foot.”[viii]

We are indebted to the Mahāvamsa of the sixth century CE for this tale. This particular detail is all the more remarkable because Dutugämunu is presented therein as a Sinhala Buddhist saviour who had rescued the island from foreign Tamil rule and unified it under one parasol for the benefit of the Buddhist dispensation.[ix]

Even though the veneration of Elāra’s shrine is said to have prevailed for many a century, I question any effort to take the moral import of this tale as a reference to standardized practices towards the enemy dead in the history of warfare in ancient, medieval and early modern Sri Lanka. For that matter, I doubt if such a principle held true within India in general over the two millennium CE: if anything, fragmentary data points in the other direction.

In the Tamil world of southern India in ancient times one has the mythological image of the kalavelvi, where the pey, or evil spirits, dance on the battleground and make ponkal (gruel) from the gore of the fallen.[x] Ponkal, significantly, is central to most Hindu festivals in the south and denotes regeneration, renewal and creativity.[xi]

Note, too, several contemporary instances of mutilating capital punishment from Sri Lanka’s ‘rich’ history of modern atrocity. When the Janatā Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) held sway as a subterranean government in the south-western parts of Sri Lanka in 1987-89, in “one confirmed instance,” they killed “a notorious seducer of village girls [by cutting him] ten times with a sword [and slicing] his genitals, supposedly the traditional punishment of the King’s justice for such crimes.”[xii]

The state’s death squads were no less beastly in their killings of suspected JVP personnel; and some of their counter-graffiti referred to impaling through the anus in the manner favoured by Sinhala kings in the past as a suitable method of execution befitting JVP persons.[xiii]

Indeed, evidence from such sources as Baldeaus and Knox as well as indigenous records indicate that both impaling (ulatiyennava) and the tearing apart of murderers, heinous criminals and rebels by elephants were common forms of punishment in the 16th to 19th centuries.[xiv] Here, of course, Sinhala practices were not all that different in broad ‘principle’ from those deployed in medieval Europe.

Nevertheless, there was (and is) a specific cultural logic at play in the practices favoured by the Sinhala stats and its peoples. We are indebted to Bruce Kapferer for developing the reasoning behind such processes and revealing how understandings of personhood bear on the passions of just retribution. By fragmenting the body of a victim, agents of vengeance ensure that s/he is cast adrift in the world of perētayō (ancestor spirits) in future lives.[xv] In effect, this form of death ramifies in both this world and the next by bedevilling the mutilated victim’s circle of kinfolk. In this manner the method of punishment is a way of maximising the outcome over time along extended networks of kin.

This is a complex issue of course. My brief summary and the instances from Tamil, Indian and Sinhala pasts as well as more recent examples from Lanka do not add up to a conclusive case. But they do suggest the probability that respect for the enemy dead was not standard practice when the Colas, Pandyans and Pallavas fought each other or when the Sītāvaka and Kandyan dynasties resisted the Portuguese and other imperial forces.

The war poems of the Sinhalese -- dating from the 1580s to the early nineteenth century -- are quite fierce in the denigration of their enemies.[xvi] The inference that one can extract from these hatan kavi is that the Sinhala militia may have cut up those enemy dead who were not already cut up.

Concluding Remarks

Such cultural groundings notwithstanding, the actions of the Sri Lankan military agencies in both 1995 and 2009 call for severe condemnation. We exist today in a context of modernity threaded by humanism and look to a future that cannot be moulded by indigenous practices that are indefensible and do not abide by the Asian value on compassion.

I will let others better placed than I am expand on the moral outrage that can be extended to this set of events. Let me, rather, conclude by arguing that the bulldozing of the tuyilam illam is also an instance of bad politics. That is, it contradicts the kind of “pragmatic politics” that Dayan Jayatilleka has enjoined on the regime he has so been so closely associated with.[xvii]

It is reasonable to surmise that the military chiefs who decided to demolish the tuyilam illam were motivated less by the type of cultural logic that I have brought to the fore than the instrumental reasoning that is so pervasive in the modern era: namely, they did not wish the defeated LTTE to have any focal points for resurgence.

That goal alone could have prompted such action – so that the cultural groundings that I have touched upon can be dismissed as esoteric nonsense by those readers attached to wholly instrumental thinking. In short, this line of destruction was pragmatic politics of the same type that inspired the government’s determination to ensure that no top-rung Tiger leader remained alive.[xviii]

With regard to the tuyilam illam, however, I challenge the pragmatic value attached to this course of action. For one: from circa September 2008 the Tamil people of the Vanni, perhaps some 300,000 to 350,000 all told, subjected themselves to multiple displacements or were pushed to do so by the LTTE. From January 2009 they found themselves corralled within increasingly limited space, subject to starvation diet and to the escalating jackboot of the LTTE. From that point they were a bargaining chip in the LTTE design, prisoners in the Eelam cause.

This meant that they were within the epicentre of modern warfare, caught between the withering blasts of gunfire and bombardment. Modern warfare is rarely ever anything but brutal. Death, injury and fear are its ‘daily fare’. UTHR No. 34 documents that which anyone familiar with warfare would have known – something which, indeed, was anticipated by a question raised and discussed in groundviews at the height of emotional concerns.[xix]

Within this body of entrapped Tamils, therefore, the circumstances were revolutionary in impact, though this turn of mind does not seem to have embraced the diehard supporters in their midst.[xx] Thus, the evidence provided by reporters behind army lines as well as the recent UTHR report confirm the conclusions one could draw from the many efforts by those entrapped to flee LTTE containment – even in the face of fire and death from Tiger interventions.

In brief, many (though not all) of these Tamils were thoroughly alienated by their experience of the last months of LTTE control. Such sentiments had the capacity to spread among other Tamils living in Sri Lanka. Such profound disquiet could have served as a foundation for some lines of reconciliation between these Tamils and the rest of the population -- even though the government too was blamed for the turmoils they went through.

In this limbo situation, think then of those Tamil families whose kinspersons lay commemorated in the tuyilam illam as fighters in a lost cause. The epitaphs serve as concrete links to loved ones. Standing in 2010 each epitaph would tell a surviving member of the family that their kinsperson had died in vain. The epitaphs, therefore, had the potential to stand as a monument to the futility of the LTTE enterprise rather than the other way round.

This conclusion would have been further animated by the experiences of those who walked through the shadows and shrubs of death in the north-eastern corner of the Vanni in early 2009. Those who had come to hate the LTTE during that inferno would have their thoughts consolidated by the epitaphs documenting the martyrdom of their Tiger kin of the recent past.

But, now, the acts of desecration have reduced such potential to nothing. The absence of tuyilam illam, in other words, will serve as a focal point for enhanced embitterment towards the government.

["Kallaraiyil villaketri" - Homage at the "resting place" ~ song in Tamil, featuring slides of memorials for the fallen]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

De Silva, K. M. 1981 A History of Sri Lanka, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Jayatilleka, Dayan 2009 “Prudent Two-Point Program for Pragmatic Tamil Politics,” www.transcurrents.com, 13 Dec. 2009.

Kapferer, Bruce 1988. Legends of People, Myths of State. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Kapferer, Bruce 1997a The Feast of the Sorcerer. Practices of Consciousness and Power, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kapferer, Bruce 1997b “Remythologizing Discourses: State and Insurrectionary Violence in Sri Lanka,” in David E. Apter (ed) The Legitimization of Violence, New York: New York University Press, pp. 159-208.

Knox, Robert 1911 A Historical Relation of Ceylon, ed. by J. Ryan, Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons.

Ludowyk, E. F. C. 1966 The Modern History of Ceylon, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Mines, Diane 2005 Fierce Gods. Inequality, Ritual and the Politics of Dignity in a South Indian Village, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Narayan Swamy, M. R. 2003, Tamil Tigers, 2nd edn., Colombo: Vijitha Yapa.

Natali, Christiana 2008 “Building Cemeteries, Constructing Identities: Funerary Practices and
Nationalist Discourse among the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka,” Contemporary South Asia 16/3: 287-301.

Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009 “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity,” The Hindu Online, http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/27/stories/2009052755811500.htm.

Roberts, Michael 2004 Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period, 1590s to1818, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Associates.

Roberts, Michael 2005a “Tamil Tiger ‘Martyrs’: Regenerating Divine Potency?” Studies in Conflict& Terrorism 28: 493-514.

Roberts, Michael 2005b “Saivite Symbolism, Sacrifice and Tamil Tiger Rites,” Social Analysis 49: 67-93.

Roberts, Michael 2006a “Pragmatic Action & Enchanted Worlds: A Black Tiger Rite of Commemoration,” Social Analysis, 50: 73-102.

Roberts, Michael 2007 “Blunders in Tigerland: Pape’s Muddles on ‘Suicide Bombers’ in Sri Lanka,” Online publication within series known as Heidelberg Papers in South Asian and Comparative Politics (HPSACP), ISSN: 1617-5069.

Roberts, Michael 2008 “Tamil Tigers: Sacrificial Symbolism and ‘Dead Body Politics’,” Anthropology Today 24/3: 22-23.

Schalk, Peter 2003 “Beyond Hindu Festivals: The Celebration of Great Heroes’ Day by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Europe,” in Martin Baumann et al. (eds.) Tempel und Tamilien in Zweiter Heimat, Wurzburg: Ergon Verlag, pp. 391-411.

UTHR (University Teachers for Human Rights, Jaffna) 2009 Report No 34: When People Do Not Matter and Tyrannical Egos are Dressed-Up as Nations,

[i] Roberts, “Regenerating Divine Potency?” 2005a: 499-500.

[ii] See Schalk 2003 and Roberts 2005b, 2006 & 2008.

[iii] Information conveyed by the late Joe Ariyaratnam (Kilinochchi, 27 Nov. 2004).

[iv] Christiana Natali 2008: 298-99.and www.TamilNet.com, 27 November1998. Tuyilam illam can also be rendered as “sleeping house.”

[v] This includes one Tamil quite hostile to the LTTE whose parents live in Jaffna and another who happens to be visiting the Peninsula on holiday as I write.

[vi] Note Natali 2008: 293-94 and Narayan Swamy, Tigers, 2003: 355.

[vii] Godage had served in the Foreign Ministry and was a confidante of Chandrika Kumaratunga (who was President when the first act of demolition occurred).

[viii] Ludowyk, 1966: 5. I find the whole story quite puzzling. Deities are honoured with specific forms of music and a whole theory of pancaturyanāda (that is, sabda pūjā) elaborates on the value of religious music. Veneration via silence is contrary to this code.

[ix] For fuller analysis of the Dutugämunu-Elāra episode, see K. M. De Silva 1981: 14-16.

[x] Information from Professor K. Sivathamby, Nov. 2004. Also see Roberts, “Regenerating divine Potency?” 2005a: 85-87.

[xi] Mines 2005: 151-52. See the photographs (figs. 31-32) reproduced in Roberts, “Blunders,”

2007.

[xii] Kapferer, “Remythologizing Discourses,” 1997b: 181.

[xiii] Kapferer, “Remythologizing Discourses,” 1997b: 177-78. Also see Kapferer 1988 and 1997.

[xiv] Knox 1911: 63 and Roberts 2004: 152 and Figure 30 from Baldeaus.

[xv] Kapferer 1988, 1997a and 1997b.

[xvi] Roberts, Sinhala Consciousness, 2004: chaps. 7 and 9.

[xvii] Jayatilleka 2009.

[xviii] Obvious surmise in mid-May 2009, but also see UTHR (J) Report No. 34 just out.

[xix] See http://www.groundviews.org/2009/05/03/would-killing-50000-civilians-to-finish-off-the-ltte-bring-peace/

[xx] Reddy 2009.

TULF President's 15 point proposals for urgent consideration of all Presidential candidates

Given below the full text of the statement released by V. Anandasangaree, President of the Tamil United Liberation front relating to the Presidential election:

The Tamil United Liberation Front having very carefully considered all the aspects of the present political situation, decided to place before his Excellency the President and all the other Presidential Candidates, a set of proposals for implementation in the event of any one of them getting elected as the President of Sri Lanka.

The proposals of the TULF are nothing new and are not necessarily related to the rights of the Minorities but concerns every section of the people of Sri Lanka and for the promotion of good Governance under which all the ethnic groups can enjoy all rights equally with the others. It is the candid view of the TULF to create a contented society wherein no one will feel superior or inferior to one another.

People have short memories and we Sri Lankans are no exception. The problems we face in our country today have directly or indirectly affected every one. The loss of several thousand lives, several billions worth of both public and private property and the un-imaginable amount of money spent on the recently concluded war, several millions spent every day in the maintenance of camps and service personnel etc. should have taught all of us a very good lesson that we will never again want this situation to be repeated.

This can be prevented only by sensible means and not by setting up army camps here and there, amidst a frustrated lot of people giving them a feeling that their 30 years of subjugation has not come to an end, but only replaced by another group. The TULF sincerely and strongly believes that implementation of the following proposals will put an end to the mess the country is now forced into.

The TULF therefore pleads with every voter to pressurize the candidate of his or her choice at the forthcoming Presidential Election, to accept the following proposals which if accepted and implemented will lead to a lasting solution to the ethnic problem and bring back peace and tranquility for our people, and pave the way for the much needed unity and prosperity in the country.

1. The Tamil United Liberation Front being aware of the fate of section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution, the only safeguard the minorities had in it, strongly feel that any solution for the ethnic problem, if found under the Unitary System, may be subjected to review by a future Parliament and all efforts taken so far at heavy loss of life and property will go waste. The TULF during the past five years had been advocating for a solution under a Federal Constitution and have also offered to accept the Indian Model as the only alternative to a federal solution. This proposal should satisfy those who are opposed to both the Federal and Unitary Systems. The TULF is fully convinced that no acceptable solution can ever be found under the Unitary System.

2. The TULF does not believe that the merger of the North and the East will prove detrimental either to the country or to any ethnic group. Instead it will help to promote good-will and communal harmony among various communities living there. The TULF is of the view that if it is left in the hands of the people of those two provinces, as promised by the Hon. Prime Minister in Parliament, a lot of misunderstandings could be cleared.

3. The TULF genuinely feels that the delay in re-settling the Internally Displaced Persons in their respective residences is very unfair. Whether they are Sinhalese, Muslims, Tamils, Tamils of Indian origin or of any other ethnic group, they should go back to their original places of residence before they were displaced. If the re-settlement is left in the hands of the respective Government Agents, re-settlement would have been completed by this time. The arrest and detention of the Kilinochchi G.A and some Grama Sevakas is delaying the re-settlement process.

4. Full compensation should be paid immediately for the loss of lives and properties of the IDPs be they Tamils, Muslims, Sinhalese or Tamils of Indian Origin.

5. Quick action should be taken to compile a list of missing and dead persons and other relevant details of those people who lived in Vanni during the war.

6. Action should be taken to hand over the 10,000 odd children detained in rehabilitation camps, wrongfully branded as Tiger Cadre. There may be a few of them who had joined the tigers voluntarily but all the others were forcibly recruited. What these children now need urgently are care and affection from the parents. Take steps to hand over these innocent children to their respective parents with any conditions, if necessary, so that the parents can decide as to what type of education their children really need. Most of these children, due to the war or for some other reasons like fear of conscription, had lost their schooling for a few years. The Government should create opportunities for them to continue their studies. The Indian Government can be requested to accommodate a few hundred students for various courses in Tamil Naad. One of the Foreign Secretaries from India during an official visit agreed to consider the TULF’s request for some Scholarships.

7. "Vadakkin Vasantham" – Spring of the North has become a mockery. There is a silent but strong cyclone constantly disturbing the calmness of the North and the East, here and there, depriving the innocent people, who lived in fear and tension for several years, of their fundamental rights like freedom of movements and freedom of speech. The presence of armed groups and their conduct disturb the peaceful life of the civilians. Action should be taken to relieve them of the weapons they are in possession.

8. The activities of the Human Rights commission should be extended to the North to go in-to the abductions and killings of innocent people. Many are willing to give evidence to trace the culprits.

9. Now that the war is over and without even the slightest chance of the LTTE reviving, the high security zones should be disbanded and the houses within the high security zone handed over to the owners. Immediate action should be taken to compel the armed groups, now occupying houses forcibly, to return them to the owners or their heirs.

10. When hard-core LTTE cadre had escaped from the grip of the Government and from the IDP Camps, it is unfair to keep in detention, youths who are arrested and detained for very trivial offences that cannot be classified as offences in the proper sense. All of them should be released under a general amnesty and the PTA also should be repealed.

11. Most people in The North and The East were compelled by the LTTE years back to contribute a fixed quantity of gold with a promise to return same on a future date. A few got their gold back but many did not. Apart from this, people had been pawning their articles and also depositing their money with the Elam Bank illegally run by the LTTE. All the gold and the cash recovered in Vanni belong to the people of The North and the East. Hence whatever Jewellery and cash recovered should be kept in custody until all claims are met.

12. A University for Vanni should be set up forthwith to accommodate children who missed their admission for various universities during the past few years. Hence at-least courses like Agriculture and Arts degrees should be started for the benefit of the Vanni Students.

13. The business community in Vanni has lost everything and is now paupers. The Government should ensure that all sub-agencies authorized dealership Petrol Stations etc should be given to those dealers who had them before they were displaced.

14. Two special units should be set up, one to take charge of the re-settlement of the unfortunate Muslims of the North who were displaced in 1992 and the other to re-settle the most unfortunate Tamils of Indian Origin who had migrated to Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mulaithivu, more particularly between 1958 and 1983 from the Up Country region and from many other areas in the Country.

15. Introduction in the statute book a strong chapter on fundamental rights with very severe penalties for violations.

December 28, 2009

LTTE leaders who surrendered were killed by Army Special Forces

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

“Who Killed Cock Robin”?
Not I, said the Sparrow
With my Bow and Arrow”

The above lines from an old nursery rhyme recur constantly in my mind when looking at the controversy surrounding the deaths of some senior leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) in the early hours of May 18th 2009.

The LTTE’s political commissar Balasingham Mahendran alias Nadesan and head of tiger peace secretariat Seevaratham Prabhakaran alias Pulidevan and some other tiger leaders and members had allegedly been executed in cold blood after surrendering with white flags.

In the current climate both Government and opposition ranks are in a state of denial about the alleged incident. The focus now is not whether the alleged incident occurred or not but on whether any reference should have been made about it at all.

In such a situation the important question of “Who killed Cock Robin” or in this instance who killed Nadesan and Pulidevan and how they were killed is being sidetracked, overlooked or ignored. [click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Election not about is Army Commander unfit to lead the nation nor is President unsuitable for second term

The Election is for people to have a real voice on the social and economic challenges before us as a nation and deciding on our collective future and common destiny

by Harim Peiris

The presidential election of 2010 has been called by President Rajapaksa two years ahead of time and giving up two years of the term mandated by the people in 2005. The rationale given for this by the President himself, is the end of the war and for the nation as a whole, including the people of the North and East, to be able to provide a genuine national mandate for a president. Who in turn will be required to lead the post war, reconciliation and reconstruction process that will both see us coming together as a nation and rebuilding after two decades of a devastating war as well as a tsunami disaster.

The President and the General need to spell out the issues

There are huge social and economic challenges before us as a nation. Namely to heal a deeply divided society and to ensure equitable and sustainable economic growth. This has to be done in the context of an external environment where the Tamil Diaspora remain hostile to the Sri Lankan State and a global economy that is fundamentally reshaping after the financial meltdown and global slowdown of 2008/09.

That being the case, the two principal contenders for the highest office in the land, incumbent President Rajapaksa and challenger General Fonseka must of necessity spell out the issues as they see it and the solutions that they propose. Thus far though, both major candidates have spent most of their time telling the country why the other person is unfit to govern. The UPFA camp tells us that General Fonseka is a great betrayer for his comments in the Sunday Leader interview and the General’s camp will tell us that Mahinda Rajapaksa is not fit to lead us due to inept governance and undemocratic ways.

This election was not called two years ahead of time for the people to decide on the basis that the Army Commander is unfit to lead the nation or that the President who has served his first term is unsuitable to serve a second. It was called by President Rajapaksa to allow the people to have a real voice and say in our collective future and common destiny.

Frankly there are several key issues that are crucial to us as nation and a people and the President and his challenger(s) and their parties and political supporters should address them.

A free and fair election

Firstly we as a nation require a free and fair election, one which will allow the people to trust the result as reflecting their true collective will at this point in time. From Afghanistan to Iran, we have enough examples of the social and political unrest that result from flawed elections. The consequential lack of legitimacy of the victor leads to instability and rebellion. Accordingly the key independent institutions of the State, namely the judiciary, the police and the elections commissioner have a special responsibility to ensure that a free and fair election is conducted. The opposition must be given the freedom to campaign and their security ensured. Both the state and private media should ensure equitable and balanced reporting and views enabling the voter to make an informed and rational choice. All IDPs must be given the chance to vote. That the IDP’s are first displaced from their homes due to conflict and then denied their franchise is unpardonable.

Reconciliation and reconstruction

We remain a deeply-divided society. The war might have ended, but its causes remain. The Sri Lankan state in its language, institutions, recruitments, governance, processes and services needs to reflect the full diversity of its society. Particularly the Tamil and Muslim people of the North and East that bore the brunt of nearly three decades of armed conflict, today remain displaced whether in Vavuniya or in Puttalam and need to be resettled and their lives rehabilitated. A full accounting is required for the most tangible loss from conflict, that of human life. All those missing and disappeared, need to be documented and their next of kin compensated to bring closure and healing to their families. A reconsideration and redemarcation of the High Security Zones especially in Jaffna that has displaced many civilians from their hereditary private lands needs to occur. Other critical conflict-related issues include prosthetic devices for the nearly hundred thousand conflict-related amputees, civilian and military, as well as special care for war widows and orphans. Post traumatic stress counseling for the many combatants and civilians in the conflict zones are required as they seek to readjust to a post conflict situation and integrate into normal civilian life.

Economic growth and development

Sri Lankas most value adding export is neither tea nor apparel but rather semi skilled and unskilled labour. The net foreign exchange earned annually by remittances is now close upon three billion US dollars and neither apparel nor tea, come close. The social cost of this export of labour, especially of women and mothers come at a high cost of neglected young ones, abused children and failed marriages. Sri Lankas brightest and best students go abroad for higher studies and never come back, a very serious brain drain. As an emerging economy we face both a skills shortage and a knowledge gap. Our universities need to be more research oriented than teaching oriented. We need viable and serious economic alternative to going abroad, for both our rural poor and the urban young. Our creaking infrastructure, our archaic systems and largely unreformed education needs to radically change if we as a people are to position ourselves and prosper in the global knowledge economy of the ICT era.

Democratic rights and freedoms

Through armed rebellions, Machiavellian constitutional gerrymandering and a debilitating near three decades long civil conflict; Sri Lanka has maintained the basic fabric of a democratic society, though with admittedly considerable flaws. Chief amongst these have been the suspension of civil liberties that has arisen due to the existence of a state of emergency or emergency regulations gazetted under the Public Security Ordinance, that essentially strip away all constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, who now enjoy them only at executive convenience and pleasure. With the end of the war, the emergency measures need to be reviewed and gradually reduced, there can be no more justification for a suspension of civil liberties in the South than there was for confining the entire population of the Wanni in IDP camps. Further the suppression of democratic dissent as we learned at our own cost in the past, is that dissent then goes outside the democratic process, it doesn’t just disappear. Also increasing the rights and liberties of individuals also reduces the need and pressures for collective and community rights. Also strengthening democracy at the centre in Colombo and in the South, is an inclusive reconciliation measure, which provides avenues to redress grievances and injustices.

The above are some of the key issue areas that we face as a nation. President Rajapakse may well have promised and delivered and General Fonseka may well have put country before self. But nonetheless the above are issues that impact the people and our collective future. Our political leaders including the presidential candidates owe it to us to address them. - courtesy: Daily Mirror -

(The writer served as an Advisor to President Kumaratunga from 2001-2005)

December 27, 2009

Track record of Tamil Nationalist politics is repeated failure capped by defeat

by Dayan Jayatilleka

When in the individual sphere there is a long continuity of failure, a rational human being re-examines his/her life, while an irrational one blames everyone else. The latter condition usually requires professional assistance to overcome. The empirically evident track record of Tamil nationalist politics in Sri Lanka is that of repeated failure capped by defeat.

However the dominant tendency in Sri Lankan Tamil nationalist politics, including in this postwar moment, has been quite other than one of self scrutiny. The hallmark of –and the trouble with— Tamil nationalist politics in Sri Lanka and therefore the underlying Northern Tamil social consciousness, is the combination of the utter unwillingness to recognize reality (dealt with in my recent articles) with the utter unwillingness to take responsibility.

The Tamil responses to my pair of recent articles on Tamil politics reveal the same old narrative of blaming the Tamils’ travails entirely or mainly on the Sinhalese, the Indians, the international community, i.e. anyone but themselves, their attitudes, their political aims and their leadership. Self awareness and self criticism seem alien to the Lankan Tamil temper.

The "best and brightest" of the Tamil Diaspora are not immune from these flaws of intellectual and ethical character. I refer to the latest report of the UTHR Jaffna ( "Let Them Speak", Dec 13, 2009), which blithely concludes that "…the key to military dominance lay not in brilliant strategies, but in an utter disregard for the lives of civilians and combatants alike, driven by their leaders’ single-minded pursuit of personal power". The subtext through which the pathetic racist myth of Tamil superiority is perpetuated is that "the key" to the Tigers defeat was not "brilliant strategies"— instead the Southern side won because it was the more bloodthirsty and barbaric! Unfortunately for the UTHR-J (and its family of Sinhala fellow travelers), not a single military commentator with credentials anywhere in the world has said this or is likely to, whatever doubts they have about a " Sri Lankan model" which can be applied elsewhere and the criticisms they may have of the Lankan armed forces’ heavy-handed tactics.

The UTHR-J report’s own survivor testimonies prove that whenever the Tigers mounted or attempted a counter attack and breakthrough, they found themselves drastically short of ordnance, of ammunition, unlike in earlier campaigns. Now in the UTHR-J’s absurd mental universe this may be due to "an utter disregard for the lives of civilians and combatants alike, driven by their leaders’ single-minded pursuit of personal power", but every sane analyst knows it was by means of a brilliant strategy which deployed Sri Lankan naval assets in unprecedented blue water operations, interdicting and destroying the LTTE’s much vaunted logistical chain, consisting of its unparalleled (for a non-state actor) shipping network and guarded by Soosai’s dreaded Sea Tigers.

Secondly, the UTHR-J asks the Lankan people and the world community to believe that the Sri Lankan armed forces were more bloody-mindedly barbaric than Velupillai Prabhakaran and the Tamil Tigers. Thirdly it ignores the great number of states whose far better armed militaries would have as little or less compunction in using massive force against terrorists, especially separatists, but haven’t yet succeeded in eliminating them militarily. Fourthly it ignores the actual ongoing use of firepower with a ghastly rate of collateral damage by some of the world’s superpower/major power militaries (98% civilian casualties in drone strikes), without achieving anything like the success of the Sri Lankan security forces.

The UTHR-J report also argues that after the liberation of Kilinochchi, the Sri Lankan state should have resorted to a political solution. This begs the question of what political solution short of immediate, unconditional and total surrender, would have been acceptable to any state and any military in that situation, and which state would not press home its advantage and militarily destroy an enemy as fanatical as the Tigers after thirty years of war punctuated by peace talks wrecked by the foe.

The misplaced arrogance of Tamil nationalism is also manifest in a philippic in the Sunday papers (Sunday Island Dec 27, 09) and comments on websites concerning my advocacy of S Thondaman as a role model and my underscoring of his success. The remarks attribute Thondaman’s success – unsurprisingly – to the Northern Tamil struggle and depict it as a by-product of that struggle. This smug self congratulatory interpretation, once again confirmatory of inflated self regard, begs the question of how S Thondaman was able to achieve something out of the Northern Tamil struggle while the Northern Tamil leadership was not! For instance, Ceylon’s independence was a by-product of the giant struggle of the Indian masses for Independence, but that latter goal was achieved, and it was not the case that Ceylon, the by-product, succeeded, while the main struggle, that of India, collapsed. In Sri Lanka, the hill-country Tamils succeeded in regaining citizenship while the Northern Tamil nationalists could not achieve a single one of their demands, however justifiable or not, starting with "fifty: fifty" and (a bit) later, federalism, and winding up with Tamil Eelam, confederation and the ISGA! What they have achieved thanks to India — a measure of provincial autonomy— they are not willing to settle for or accept!

The Tamil responses to my remarks on Thondaman also focus on the continued poverty of the hill country Tamils. What these arrogant observations obscure is that S Thondaman did not lead a comfortably-off ethnic community to totalitarian and then military rule and IDP status, as did the nationalist Northern Tamil leadership. He did not lead a community from functioning households into shellfire devastated and mine-ridden neighborhoods without the compensation of even an honorable truce. He led a community that was disenfranchised and in semi-serf conditions, to full political citizenship while Northern Tamil nationalism led an enfranchised community to conditions of quasi-occupation.

Contrast the chronic refusal of critical self scrutiny within Tamil society and social consciousness, with the behavior in the South, within the Sinhala social formation, in my lifetime. After the uprising of April 1971 and its brutal yet inevitable suppression, the intelligentsia went into a mode of self searching, ranging from LSSP’s theoretician Leslie Gunawardene in the Daily News to Leel Gunasekara’s short stories, originating in his experience as a public servant involved in rehabilitation. No area, from literature and theatre to temple, church and public policy was insulated from this self critical gaze.

Then again after the anti-Tamil attacks of 1958, 1977, 1979 and July 83, enlightened responses from among the Sinhalese ranged from and were reflected by Tarzie Vittachi’s Emergency ‘58, MIRJE, the SSA’s volume on ethnicity, Gananath Obeysekara’s ‘The Institutionalization of Political Violence’ and his reflections on ‘Dutugemunu’s Conscience’, the seminal debate on Jatika Chinthanaya in the newspapers, to the huge volume of material published mainly in the Lanka Guardian, and contained in Dr Kumar Rupesinghe’s two volume bibliography. Wilhelm Reich was mandatory reading for any discussion of the behavior of the Sinhala mob. Mervyn de Silva kept critiquing and satirizing "the Sinhala psyche" and the "Mahavamsa mindset". Latter day explorations into role and function of Sinhala Buddhism include the path-breaking The Work of Kings by Prof HL Seneviratne of the University of Virginia.

To provide one last example, the hideous carnage practiced by (and later, on) the JVP’s during its second insurrection, led to excavations of violence in the Sinhala heritage. While University of London based Australian Bruce Kapferer’s was the most sophisticated of the genre, a young Sinhalese radical, CA Chandraprema got there first with a racy polemic that picked up on the sadistic scenes of Yama in Buddhist temple art. (Chandraprema’s immediately following book on the Sinhala South was both precursor of and an indispensable background reading for the understanding of the Southern resurgence in its Rajapakse-ist and now Fonsekan variants).

Where are the Sri Lankan Tamil equivalents? Where are the critical explorations, revaluations and deconstructions of Tamil politics, culture and the collective Tamil psyche that have honestly confronted and analytically explained the justifications of the massacre of old men and women worshipping the Sacred Bo tree in Anuradhapura, the burning of TELO youth on the streets of Jaffna, the social marginalization of the Eelam Left which sought links with the Sinhala south, the cult of Prabhakaran and the suicide bombers, the reviling of the IPKF and the cheering on of Tigers’ war against it, the excuses made for every escalation of demands, shift of goalposts and unilateral walkout from negotiations, the subordination and subservience to tyranny, the arrogant dismissal of the murdered Tamil leaders and learned victims of Tiger violence — such as, but not only Amirthalingam, Tiruchelvam, Yogeswaran, Kadirgamar, Dr Rajani Thiranagama, Mrs Sarojini Yogeswaran, K Pathmanabha and L. Ketheeshwaran?

Throughout the war, Tamil nationalism displayed two alternating mentalities: one of pretensions to superiority or over-lordship and the other of perennial victimhood. This manifests itself in two modes: inventing and venting. "Over-lordship" manifested itself in the Tigers’ conduct during the anti-IPKF war, the lethal transgressions of the CFA, the demand for the ISGA, the themes of the Pongu Tamil demonstrations, and the demand (voiced in Tamil Nadu itself) that India intervene to stop the war notwithstanding the unapologetic stance of pro-Tiger Tamils regarding the murder on Indian soil, of Rajiv Gandhi. "Perennial Victimhood" manifested itself even after the brusque sequestering of the Sri Lankan armed forces in the North and East by the Indian peacekeeping force in pursuance of the Indo-Lanka accord which empowered the Tamil people of that area.

It continues shrilly in the truth-varnishing of Vany Kumar (Damilvany Gnanakumar, to be precise), the demonstrations against the Kerry-Lugar report and in everyday mainstream Lankan Tamil nationalist discourse: all failures and defeats are the fault of obdurate Sinhalese, those who supported them and those who have failed to support the Tamils sufficiently (as if India didn’t pay the price in Perumpudur, for such support and trust, with most Tamils justifying the war against the IPKF and the Rajiv assassination itself).

In the dominant Tamil discourse, no minority is as oppressed, self sacrificial and deserving as it is. While any politically literate person would remember Bloody Sunday, mass internment without trial and the "dirty protest" death fasts of Bobby Sands and his comrades in Northern Ireland, for most Tamils, a Good Friday type settlement which is good enough for Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority (devolution within a unitary state) somehow wasn’t and isn’t good enough for them.

Northern Ireland’s Catholic church and its priests condemned the terrorist use of violence (violence against noncombatants and unarmed civilians) by the Provisional IRA, but Sri Lanka’s Catholic and Protestant Churches (and priests and nuns) in the North never went on the record unambiguously doing the equivalent. Instead, the admirable postulates of liberation theology were distorted to justify terrorism and opt for Barabbas. As a Christian, I trust that the moral failure of collective Tamil nationalism in worshipping evil, not in the form of the Golden Calf but of the Black Tiger, is understood to have resulted in a classically Old Testament outcome in Nandikadal.

Here’s my bottom line: why can’t the Tamil nationalists adopt the progressive perspective concerning Sri Lanka’s politics and the Tamils of Lanka, advocated by politically sophisticated, successful Tamil friends and well wishers such as N Ram, Malini Parthasarthy and The Hindu? What does this unwillingness or inability indicate?

Both Mahinda and Sarath playing the lyre like Nero

By Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

“Nero’s excesses were overtaken by disaster. Whether it was accidental or caused by the emperor’s criminal act is uncertain – both versions have their supporters. Now started the most terrible and destructive fire which Rome had ever experienced …The flames could not be prevented from overwhelming the whole of Palatine including (Nero’s) palace. Nevertheless, for the relief of the homeless, fugitive masses he threw open the Field of Mars… also constructed emergency accommodation…and the price of corn was cut. Yet these measures for all their popular character, earned no gratitude. For a rumour had spread that, while the city was burning, Nero had gone on his private stage and, comparing modern calamity with ancient, had sung of the destruction of Troy” ( Histories. Re quote from Arrogance of Power)

Today, we need not listen to rumours as we can see Rajapaksha for ourselves who has got on to his private stage at “Temple Trees” and is comparing the new calamities with the old. The only difference is that Nero lacked a tele-prompter which Rajapaksha has. It is too early to prophecy when, where or how this disaster will end.

The number of people who believe that this disaster will end when Fonseka becomes President is ever increasing. With Fonseka becoming the President a sensitive person will get only a hollow satisfaction. This is because the causes of the disaster had been side-stepped and the Presidential elections have become an election campaign.

The late Dr. Newton Gunasinghe, who wrote an article on “New Trends in Party Politics” in the mid-eighties, came up with an important observation. He said that the future orientation of party politics would not be by class but would occur on whether or not there would be a solution to the ethnic problem. In other words, the ethnic problem would be over-determined by the class struggle. Although his observation held throughout the last twenty years, in the context of the post-Tamil armed struggle, whether resolving or not of the ethnic issue has been abandoned. This is the main sad fact in this Presidential campaign. Neither of the two main contestants seems to speak on this issue. Instead the polarization is on “Vote for the Motherland” with the usual dual slogan of opposition politics “Executive Presidency, Corruption, Terror and Nepotism.”

What is the message of these to the Tamils, especially to the Tamil youth and the Tamil diaspora? In retrospect, it is difficult not to conclude that the isolation brought about by the Tamil armed politics and the feeling of being completely victimized were unhealthy and, at the end, tragic for the Tamils.

Nevertheless, it enabled to bring about the fact that Tamils have to share political power with the central government. By evading the discussion on the sharing of power with the Tamils, what both political currents represented by Rajapaksha and Fonseka are telling the entire Tamil population means “Until you re-arm yourself and fight we will not consider your problems as the main issues”?

At the end of the 30-year civil war, in the hustings for the position of the Head of the State, at least, how reconciliation can be forged between the Sinhala and Tamil ethnicities and others is not included in the manifestoes of this presidential election campaign. Instead, what prevail are charges, countercharges and refuting allegations on the war crimes between the two Sinhala heroes and spurious figures of speech on the betrayal or otherwise of the Motherland. Once the Sinhalese actively take responsibility for what was done in their name, they can expect the same from the Tamils.

Subsequently, an honest discussion and a genuine rapport can be expected. The prevailing situation is that there is no one to account for what they said and did. Those who abused power and those who wallowed in satisfaction in genocide do not take responsibility for their actions. This an exercise by design to cover up where each race expects the other to forget what it has done. This is happening in a situation where responsibility for questioning the armed forces in the North and East as to their actions has been shirked. This is unfair to both civilians and the armed forces.

It is in this context that the necessity and importance arise to appoint a Truth Commission (or truth and reconciliation commission) for reconciliation. This is the second most important issue missing in the manifestoes of the Presidential elections. A truth commission or truth and reconciliation commission is a commission tasked with discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending on the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflicts left over from the past. They are, under various names, occasionally set up by states emerging from periods of internal unrest, civil war, or dictatorship. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established by President Nelson Mandela after apartheid, is popularly considered a model of a Truth Commission.

Truth commissions are sometimes criticized for allowing crimes to go unpunished and creating impunity for serious human rights abusers. Their roles and abilities in this respect depend on their mandates, which vary widely.

A difficult issue that has arisen over the role of truth commissions in transitional societies has centered on what should be the relationship between truth commissions and criminal prosecutions. Although egregious criticisms were leveled against these commissions for not punishing those who violated human rights such a commission helps reconcile differences (to find Truth and Reconciliation and further details visit www.truthcommission). On the other hand, the dedication shown during the elections to establish a truth commission would help both Rajapaksha and Fonseka to get some reprieve to some extent from the international accusation levelled at them for war crimes. A genuine effort to establish such a commission will help not only to find facts but to heal the festering wounds of the people.

Writer’s email address: uvinduk@gmail.com

Sri Lanka Conducting Its Own ‘war-crimes’ investigation Is Becoming Imperative

by Kalana Senaratne

General Sarath Fonseka claims during an interview (The Sunday Leader, interview of 13 December 2009) that he had learnt that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had given orders not to accommodate (kill) any LTTE leaders ‘attempting to surrender’.

Later (on 20 December), General Fonseka states that as Commander of the Army during the final stages of the war, he ‘did not receive any communication that some LTTE leaders were planning or wanting to surrender’ and that he was ‘not told at any stage they wanted to do so and that some kind of an agreement had been reached that they must come out carrying pieces of white cloth’. He further states that: ‘nobody carrying white flags attempted surrender in those final days of the war. Therefore all of the LTTE leaders were killed as forces completely took over a remaining 100m x 100m area of land north of Vellamullivaikkal’.

But in another interview (Daily Mirror online), Fonseka asserts and emphasizes the fact that Gotabaya Rajapaksa did try to contact junior offices in the Army, that he gave ‘stupid’ instructions concerning the white flag (i.e. the above claim that he ordered to kill those attempting to surrender holding white flags), and that these ‘stupid’ instructions were however not carried out by the Army. In sum, Fonseka’s accusation then boils down to this: that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered the Army to kill the LTTE leaders who would attempt to surrender with white flags.

As Minister Prof. GL Peiris claimed correctly at a press conference, the statements, coming from no lesser person than Sarath Fonseka, will be taken with utmost seriousness by the UN as Fonseka seem to be giving direct evidence to the charges and accusations leveled by numerous persons and organizations concerning alleged war crimes; and as he further notes, the statement of Fonseka will be used against Sri Lanka ‘with a vengeance’. This is in stark contrast to the utter ludicrous and ignorant observation made by the country’s Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama (The Island, 23 December), who questions why the UN needs to take the Fonseka statement seriously!

The consequences, which are of a very grave and serious nature, that emanate from Fonseka’s statement are quite clear. It enables one to clearly, without doubt, question whether a senior and responsible high ranking public official had intentions of committing war crimes or crimes against humanity, by attempting to kill combatants who were willing to surrender themselves to the Army. The statement also throws a lot of doubt as to whether this was in fact ‘government policy’, and casts shadows on the explanations given by the Government concerning other accusations (eg. the Channel 4 clip). And given the fact that the statement was made by none other than Sarath Fonseka, by calling for the observations of the Government, what the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has done is understandable, inevitable.

Within this context, it is becoming abundantly clear that an investigation into these accusations is now required; and that if one is not carried out by Sri Lanka, an international-probe would be pushed through.

A UN-Security Council backed inquiry – i.e. the setting up, for example, of an ‘International Criminal Tribunal for Sri Lanka’ under Chapter VII of the UN Charter – could be considered by some to be a remote possibility (especially due to the support Sri Lanka will, or may, receive from the veto powers China and Russia). But today, the government cannot be too sure about the veto-powers coming to our rescue (as will be discussed below).

There is then the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even though Sri Lanka is not a Party to the Rome Statute, one should not forget that the Chief Prosecutor could decide to launch an investigation (under Article 13, para (c) of the Rome Statute) - an investigation proprio motu. This is subject to the process that needs to be followed as per Article 15 of the Statute. If the Prosecutor is convinced that there is a reasonable basis to proceed, he needs to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for an authorization of an investigation. And in addition to this, the Pre-Trial Chamber in turn needs to conclude whether or not Sri Lanka falls within the jurisdiction of the Court, as required under Article 15(4), and see whether the preconditions to the exercise of jurisdiction set out in Article 12 apply to Sri Lanka. And as I have argued before (in ‘An ICC Investigation: Why it is Doomed to Fail’, The Island of 15 May 2009), the provisions of the Rome Statute would still be somewhat favourable to Sri Lanka.

However, this does not mean that all doors that lead to an international investigation are firmly shut.

On the one hand, one needs to be mindful, for instance, that the Chief Prosecutor could make a strong case by analyzing the seriousness of the information he receives by those who allege the commission of serious international crimes (Article 15(2)). As provided for under the Statute, he can seek information from numerous sources such as the UN, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs; and can even receive oral/written testimony. And the statements made by Sarath Fonseka can only add to the evidence that is piling up in the Chief Prosecutors office, right now (sent in by the likes of Bruce Fein, et al). With this, the political pressure that can be exerted, if the Chief Prosecutor is convinced that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, is tremendous. If the Prosecutor comes up with a serious case, the Security Council would need to take note of it; which could result, not in the setting up of a Special Tribunal, but in approving and directing the ICC to initiate an inquiry – which is possible under Article 13(b) of the Statute.

There is also the principle of ‘complementarity’ that the Government of Sri Lanka needs to be concerned about. The principle of complementarity suggests (as per Article 17 for instance, in relation to States Parties) that the primary jurisdiction to investigate war crimes is with the State Party concerned, and that the ICC could only investigate if the State Party concerned has failed, or is unwilling, to investigate allegations of international crimes. Now while one could argue that this principle applies only to States Parties to the Statute, it is always possible, for the Chief Prosecutor or any other organization or individual to point to the fact that Sri Lanka has failed, or is unwilling, to carry out investigations in the face of mounting allegations leveled even by persons such as a former Army Commander.

And this point will be driven home by reminding us of our own commitments which we pledged to undertake, the political promises we made, not so long ago. We would be reminded of the Joint Communiqué that was issued at the conclusion of the UN Secretary General’s visit, highlighting the need for an accountability process, as well as the commitments we gave in this regard whilst endorsing this Joint Communiqué during the Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, in May this year.

In addition to these, of course, there is, as has been pointed out on previous occasions, the possibility of Sri Lankan military and senior government officials being arrested under the principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’. The latest international case (or incident) of that happening being that of former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, wherein the Westminster Magistrate’s court issued an arrest warrant for alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the war in Gaza in December 2008. The point, for the moment, is not whether it is legitimate to arrest Sri Lankans for defeating the LTTE. Rather, the crucial issue that given current developments concerning the accusations that have surfaced, it is always possible that such an arrest be issued vis-à-vis Sri Lankan officials as well.

And on the diplomatic front, we are faced with a number of hurdles; the most immediate and serious one being the Human Rights Council in Geneva, to which Philip Alston would be handing over a report on the matter. There is doubt whether the Member States of the UN HRC view the country’s situation in the same light as was done a few months back. Since Sri Lanka’s victory at the Special Session, many things have happened. They would note that the promise of the full implementation of the 13th Amendment has not been kept.

They would note also that a serious inquiry, or an accountability process, has not yet been initiated in Sri Lanka, to look into the numerous accusations leveled against the country. And of course, even the sacking of one of the most able diplomats (Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka) soon after the remarkable and successful effort he put in Geneva to defeat a resolution sponsored mainly by a few Western States, seemed to have baffled many countries; further hampering our efforts to garner the confidence and support of all those States which stood by us during the Special Session in May. A state of affairs which does not look all that hopeful, given also the news that the EU has decided to withdraw GSP Plus concessions due to the poor human rights record in the country.

This is then in addition to the knowledge many others would have about numerous commissions of inquiry set up in Sri Lanka which have failed miserably in the past to effectively investigate human rights violations (the most recent one being the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry, led by retired Justice Nissanka Udalagama). Within such a context, it would be impossible for the Members of the HRC, as well as the UN Human Rights Commissioner, to ignore scrutiny of the Sri Lankan situation with greater precision, force and even ‘vengeance’.

Hence, given the seriousness of the accusations and evidence that have surfaced within the country, and the accusations leveled by other States (such as the US, in its recent report to the Congress), the need for a domestic inquiry into allegations of serious crimes committed during the final stages of the war has become, perhaps unfortunately, imperative. We told the world, we proclaimed, that we were clean in defeating the most brutal terrorist organization in the world. The world seems to be questioning us.

Missing Tsunami donor funds and current development of North East Sri Lanka

"Review and deliberation of Tsunami recovery process important in the context of current development of North and East Sri Lanka," Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), said in a statement marking the fifth anniversary of the 2004 tsunami.

TISL joins other several quarters that are urging for a tighter control against graft this time around, anticipating that the recent new North-East development initiatives by the World Bank and other donor agencies will build a good foundation for continued peace, rehabilitation and reconstruction if provided with adequate transparency.

Many express concern that new donor funds earmarked for North-East may get spent for other "unauthorised" projects just like in the case of the tsunami recovery programs.

TISL, in pointing that the authorities in Sri Lanka are failing to explain to what happened to tsunami recovery funds of over 471 million USD out of 1075 million USD provided by the donors, said:

"The difference between the disbursed and the expended has been a controversial issue that does not have a credible explanation. While some officials were reluctant to divulge the information, there were some responsible bodies, who implied that the funds have been utilized by the government for other purposes."

In its statement to mark the fifth anniversary of the devastating Asian tsunami, Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) said the donors have also failed to keep their word.

More than 2126 million USD has been pledged by the donors but only 1075 million USD has been disbursed, according to the watchdog, TISL.

TISL's conclusion and recommendations regarding the Tsunami Reconstruction process as follows:

a. TISL believes that it is a prime right of the people in Sri Lanka to know the true picture of the Tsunami recovery process. Therefore, the government should take every possible step to assure and respect the right to information of the general public of the country. Thus an audit should be done by the government to explain the utilization of the money received and the challenges faced.

b. All steps should be taken to arrest and remedy the existing problems in the recovery process. The participation of the public is paramount in this regard.

c. A special Committee of the Public Accounts Committee or an Independent Commission be constituted to review any remaining issues relating to the Tsunami Recovery Process and make necessary recommendations and lessons leant as related guidelines for the future.

d. TISL reiterates the importance of collating and documenting all the information of Tsunami 2004 in relation to both the relief and recovery process. Such deliberation is important in the context of current development in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

Unless the political leadership is committed to these recommendations, similar unfortunate experience will be repeated in the reconstruction of the North and the East of Sri Lanka.

Other media reports also stated that the World Bank, which recently concluded an audit of its $150-million tsunami rebuilding work, found out that a multitude of government agencies slowed down recovery programs leaving room for misuse of funds.

Sri Lanka was forced to refund the bank in cases where funds were misused. The bank said the government had bought 168 motorcycles for other work and claimed them from tsunami aid budgets.

The bank asked for a refund of $134,000 from the government in 2006 and finally had its cash refunded in May this year.

Land without checkpoints feels free to Tamil refugees

by Farah Farouque

''IT FEELS like freedom, now,'' says Sanmugam Sarpatheepan.

Around him are the markers of his new life; the modest home in Melbourne's west is well maintained but has few personal touches, except for a couple of unwashed teacups in the kitchen.

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At home in Melbourne: Sanmugam Sarpatheepan (right) and Kanapathippillai Thajaparan, who chose to flee Sri Lanka and were rescued with other Tamils by the customs ship Oceanic Viking. Photo: Pat Scala

Mr Sarpatheepan, 25, and his intellectually impaired housemate, Kanapathippillai Thajaparan, 24, are no ordinary new arrivals: they are the only Sri Lankans off the customs ship Oceanic Viking to have been resettled in Australia after the October stand-off involving 78 asylum seekers.

The duo, who are distant relatives, landed at Melbourne Airport on December 20 from Jakarta, but their route here has been tumultuous.

It was reported during the impasse that each passenger had paid $US12,000 to a people smuggler, but these young men say they paid $US6000 each for passage on the ''no-good boat'' from Jakarta. When it started sinking after about four days, they were picked up by the Australian ship, but in Indonesia's search and rescue zone.

Although in Australia barely a week , Mr Sarpatheepan is alive to some of the nuances of the refugee debate that followed the boat's interception. He agreed to speak, he says, because he wants to show the desperation that drives Tamils to get on to ''bad boats'' to seek refuge in a far-off continent.

''Being born as a Tamil in Sri Lanka, you have no freedom … the ultimate choice is to flee the country,'' says Mr Sarpatheepan. His family home near Jaffna, in the north, was at the frontline of the bloody ethnic conflict between the Government and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Tigers have now been defeated, but thousands of displaced civilian Tamils are fearful, he says.

Although he mostly speaks through an interpreter, he barely pauses to draw breath as he recalls neighbours and friends, all young men, who have ''got disappeared'' after an encounter with the Sri Lankan army. The interrogators, he alleges, would accuse every civilian of being a Tiger operative. Young women in his home town would regularly be sexually assaulted.

Mr Sarpatheepan remembers, most graphically, his friend, Danu, then 22. ''He got arrested one day, and he didn't come back,'' he says. Determined that their son avoid this fate, the salesman's parents raised the money to buy him an air ticket to Jakarta in 2006 that could eventually secure a sea passage to Australia.

But in Jakarta on a one-month tourist visa, he was jailed by police and then spent about 10 months in a detention centre in Makassar, South Sulawesi. When he was released, the International Organisation for Migration placed him on Lombok Island, near Bali, where he stayed in a hotel for two years.

Mr Sarpatheepan said it was in Lombok, where he had ''freedom of movement'', that he was able to make arrangements to cross to Australia. His cousins, many of whom had already resettled in Western countries, raised the money for the passage.

''Australia is a land of freedom,'' he said. ''There is no checkpoint, and I don't get stopped by the military.''

He smiles, but there is a touch of longing for things lost. ''You know, every Tamil would go back to Sri Lanka if there is no war.'' - courtesy: The Age - Australia

December 26, 2009

"War has brought misery and barbarism to all people of Lanka"

by Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne

The local “bourgeois democracy” including Lakthilaka, Victor Ivan and the rump of platform for freedom has decided to save democracy by getting General Sarath Fonseka elected. They have made a pandemonium in educated circles about the prime need to get rid of corruption; and hence pressed the point that the removal of executive presidency is the prime task today, for the Lankan masses.

Discussions, seminars, and debates started in practically all the media where they have a say. It was a calculated attempt to push the campaign for devolution and discussion on the Tamil national problem, to the backyard. Sarath has been educated by these gentlemen, to stick to the subject of executive presidency and the corruption flowing from it. It is like going back to the days of autocratic monarchy where democracy had to work in secret societies and whispering messages.

But the setback in the armed struggle has not removed the burning interest of the Tamil people for freedom. It is still the most damning attack on the corrupt and unjust regime. If the struggle against executive presidency is an important aspect of the campaign for democracy, then the fight for devolution and autonomy is thousand times more important. What does Sarath Fonseka has to say on that subject? He has said the13th amendment is now obsolete and in consequence he has made the topic of devolution itself obsolete.

Just because a tough general has ignored the pressing problem of the Tamil nationality, it cannot disappear like mist. Somebody reminded of the words of the late S.J.V. Chelvanayakam: “When asked by a journalist [Walter Schwarz of the Guardian] how the TULF would achieve its goal, Chelvanayakam replied prophetically: ‘We would make such a nuisance of ourselves that they [the Sinhalese] would throw us out.

The trouble with these gentlemen of democracy is that they do not realize that the Tamil national problem is not an isolated problem of the Tamils but a gangrene developing in Lankan society eating into the Sinhalese as well. It will be stupid to campaign for release from the executive presidency and for a new constitution for that purpose, without the necessary item of devolution of power being given to the Tamil nationality. Whether it is in a constituent assembly or the Parliament, the Tamils and consistent democrats will vote only for a new constitution with a devolution acceptable to the Tamil people and the other minority communities.

Devolution itself is a mechanism to arrest the power of the executive presidency. Even the 13th amendment reduced the power of the president in several aspects. In the first place, the president cannot dissolve the provincial councils nor could he remove an elected chief minister. The executive president who could remove any cabinet minister or even the prime minister was humbled by the 13th amendment; at least to some extent. If we give more powers to the provincial councils, particularly in relation to the police, judiciary, land and finance, then to that extent the power at the centre will be reduced. This will be so, whether the power at the centre is in the hands of an executive president or the cabinet of ministers. Why are these gentlemen of democracy, eager to neglect the pressing problem of democracy, namely the national problem, and concentrate only on the executive presidency?

Clearly they do not want to take the bull by the horns. Mahinda could be pardoned for his attack on democracy made by his chauvinist war against the Tamil people.The plain truth is, that this war has brought misery and barbarism to all the people of Lanka. Obviously, the general who brags about his heroism in the battle against a rag tag army of the Tamil youth cannot condemn the war. General Fonseka cannot raise a finger against Mahinda and say “you are a war mongering corrupt dictator”. Because both of them are responsible for the hell-hole that we are in today. On the other hand, Mahinda has shown his fraudulent nature, by accepting the 10 points programme of Douglas Devananda that includes autonomy for a Tamil homeland and the right of self-determination to the Tamil peole! It is very necessary to avoid both the fake and the fraud and to vote for the truth.

Notebook of a Photojournalist: The wave of killer, and the wave of compassion

by K.T. Kumaran

The aftermath of the Dec 26th 2004 tsunami and the continuing devastating impact on all affected communities in Sri Lanka’s North, South and Eastern provinces have been brought via pictorial journals on HumanityAshore.org since January 2005. No other journal has covered all areas of Sri Lanka in this extensive manner.

HumanityAshore featured places such as Pathirajagama in the South, Satkottai in the North, and Alles Garden in the East among several others in the photo essays by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai.

Today's pictorial, “Nobody’s people” caught in the “buffer zone” discusses the plight of people in Sainthamaruthu, in the Eastern Province on the fifth anniversary of the tsunami.

But a run down the memory lane today help remember the tragic aftermath, tasks that were ahead then and the humanitarian challenges that still remain.

In the following article Journalist Dushiyanthini Kanagasbapathipillai writes about her experiences of beginning to cover the tsunami by recalling the immediate aftermath:

“I feel guilty, that I could not save Arabi. I lost control and let her die. I am responsible for her death. I cannot forget her, because I loved her so much” says 13 years old Niranjala Balakrishnan and she burst into tears in Mullaitivu, North East of Sri Lanka , under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

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Niranjana Balakrishnan wanted to be a Tamil teacher

“Tender Sprout” was located in the coastal area of Mullaitivu, North East of Sri Lanka. This home for the war orphans had 175 children when Tsunami hit, now only 30 children are alive. And they are relocated to a different place inland now. Most of the children here are affected by the Tsunami. Either they have lost their beloved brothers and sisters or struggled to survive. They can’t eat, sleep or play. The cherished memories of the loved ones keep bothering these children. They are unable to forget the past. The lost loved ones stayed, ate, slept and played together. They get up in the night and shout.

Mullaitivu was one of the worst affected areas by Tsunami.

“I was putting cover for the new exercise books ,and getting ready for the new school term, which was supposed to begin in early January 2005. I heard a noise and everybody started to run. I also ran and climbed on a tree. I saw my little sister under that tree. And later she was washed away. I witnessed it. But I never saw her body. I was told that, she died on the way to the hospital” says 9 years old Susi Sinnathurai, who burst into tears.

There are more children, who do not know what has happened to their loved ones. These little children are already affected by the two decades of ethnic conflict.

I was in London in December2004 undergoing training, when Tsunami roared Sri Lanka.

I had a very late night on 25th of December 2004, at my uncle’s house in London, as we had a Christmas party. I could not fall asleep at all, as I was thinking of traveling to Manchester to see my uncle and aunt who have come from Toronto to see their daughter.

I got up at 4am and had a shower. I packed my bag, and got ready to catch the coach to Manchester, where my cousin lives., whom I have not seen for many years. I was planning to be with her, and my uncle who came to Manchester from Toronto. I made a cup of coffee.

And switched on the television, and watched BBC World. Then I found out that Tsunami has hit Sri Lanka.

I immediately called my parents in Colombo to see whether they were keeping well But the telephone lines to Sri Lanka were not east to get through. I informed my uncle and aunt that I have to return to Sri Lanka as soon as possible. Then I have decided to cancel my trip to Manchester, and return to Sri Lanka.

I called my cousin and uncle to say that, “I am not coming to Manchester as I have planned”. They were not happy to hear that from me, but there was no other choice. Then I called my good friend and former colleague Frances Harrison and explained what has happened in Sri Lanka. She wasn’t happy either. And later my mobile was jammed. I was unable to get through to anybody from my mobile or others couldn’t get through to me on my mobile.

But I managed to send text messages to my colleagues. And I have already started to make arrangements to my colleagues, who were rushing to Sri Lanka for news coverage. Further I informed everybody that I am returning to Sri Lanka. My uncle and his children came to the Heathrow airport to bid goodbye.

But my aunt couldn’t come to the airport, as she was not feeling well.

I can still remember very well, that she advised me “Dushi I know that, you have taken risks in the past. But make sure that you take care of yourself, while being on the field and keep us informed how you are keeping”. I boarded the Emirates flight.

The President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, flew on the same flight. I called home, and my sources from wherever and whenever possible to update myself.

And watched the television in the flight. When I left London the death toll has already gone up to thousand. And it kept on increasing. I arrived at the Katunayake International airport on 27th of December 2004 morning.

I went to the office straight to pick up some equipments. I pulled out some hot weather friendly clothes from my bag, as I had all winter clothes to wear in London. And went to the Ratmalana Domestic airport to catch a military flight. The scheduled flight was cancelled due to the bad weather.

Managed to speak to the Sri Lankan Air force officers and got the permission to fly to Koggala Air Force Base in the South of Sri Lanka. I flew with the military officers, who were dropped off at Peraliya, where the train accident took place. I saw the devastation from the aerial view first, while flying to Koggala.

And I started to click, by using my little Canon, which produced enormous amount of unimaginable images from North, East and South of Sri Lanka later.

Landed at the Koggala Air Force Base at 6.30pm. But there was no transport to go to Galle, South of Sri Lanka., because the roads were devastated. I saw foreigners who were on holidays in the South, were queuing up at the Koggala Air Force Base to fly to Colombo as soon as possible.

Spoke to Air Force officers, and they provided a jeep to get myself dropped at Galle Light House Hotel, where my other colleagues were staying.

I traveled in the jeep, which had food parcels for the affected people. But they have already started to spoil, as time flew by. The road was deserted. It took three hours to get to Galle. I went to the Light House Hotel in Galle at 12 midnight. I had to start work immediately.

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Watching the damaged properties

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Media was kept busy

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Identifying the loved ones

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Galle Town after Tsunami

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"Queen of the Sea",which was hit by the Tsunami."Queen of the Sea" was bound from Colombo to Matara on 26th of December 2004. It was roared by the Tsunami in Peraliya. Approximately 1,500 people were killed. The villagers of Peraliya boarded the train to seek refuge, and most of them were killed as well.

I went to the Karapitiya Base Hospital in the morning. I witnessed dead bodies coming endlessly to the hospital. The hospital morgue and corridors were full of dead bodies. Most of the bodies were beyond identification. Wailing relatives rushing to the hospital to identify their loved ones by their belongings such as rings, clothes, identity cards, and wrist watch. I witnessed the mass burial in the South and in the North later.

The dead bodies were wrapped in polythene sheets. The military was transporting the dead bodies from the sea shore to the hospital and burial place in the South. But in the North the cadres of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam cleared the area quicker than expected, disinfected the places, and transported the survivors to a safer place. I saw nobody in Mullaitivu town, except the cadres who were carrying out their duties and dogs, which were searching for their owners.

And especially in the nights it was very disheartening to see a place, which was bustling after the Ceasefire Agreement signed between the then Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2002.

Then I went to the eastern province of Sri Lanka, where the most number of people killed by the Tsunami.

Witnessed the suffering by all three communities- Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese. There was no proper place to stay in the east, unlike other places in the country. The roads were cut off by water. I managed to find a guest house to stay in Kalmunai, East of Sri Lanka. But there was no water to drink or bathe. I used mineral water to bathe. The owner of that guest house knows my dad very well, as he comes from the same place as my dad’s. Therefore he was extra hospitable to us.

As the shops were shut, he served us French fries, sausages and coca cola. But I didn’t have any appetite for food, because what I have witnessed so far started to bother me so much. Especially I witnessed in Kalmunai that the dogs have started to eat the dead human bodies which were unattended, which was staggering to see. I immediately informed the relevant authorities, but no action was taken. As a Hindu I even respect a dead body.

So I have decided to do the mass burial for five females, three males and three children –one male and two females . My parents, brothers and relatives live in Sri Lanka and abroad kept calling me to keep themselves updated. I requested all of them to send anything possible from edible to money to Sri Lanka as soon as possible to help the survivors.

They acted very promptly and quickly. Some of have decided to sponsor Tsunami orphan through out the life time, widowers and men who lost their livelihoods. And some of them lobbied in their countries and got long term monetary assistance for the tsunami affected victims in North, east and South of Sri Lanka, for which I salute all the kind hearted human beings who extended their fullest co-operation to me, without any hesitation.

Further, from the day one I have fully dedicated myself to the people of all communities. As I travel widely to the Tsunami hit areas very often people recognize me by my name, especially in the North, where I call my home always. Most of them call me in Tamil “Amma”-Mother, “Magal”-Daughter, “Thangachchi”- Younger Sister, “Akka”- Elder Sister, “Monai”-Dear , and share their heart breaking sad stories without any boundaries.

I still treasure those unforgettable and unhappy memories. And I gathered new experiences in my a decade long career, by covering the worst ever natural disaster-Tsunami , and the largest ever relief operation in the world. I had the opportunity of working with several world renowned Journalists.

On 26th of December 2004- boxing day, Tsunami shook the world for seven hours. Approximately 200,000 lives killed, so many million people made homeless and many of them still live in the temporary shelters. In Sri Lanka about 38,000 people killed, and most of the survivors still live in pain while thinking of their lost loved ones’ memories.

And most of their voices are still to be heard, by touching the peoples’ lives with passion. There were two waves, the first was- a wave of killer, and the second was a wave of compassion.

Nine months flown by since Tsunami, but the nightmares are never far behind them!

In my journalistic career, I have tried my best to live up to Walter Lipman’s dictum “Facts are sacred; Opinion is free!”

The above article was written based on the experience of covering Boxing Day Tsunami, which hit the Indian Ocean on December 26th 2004. The article was first published in December 2005.

Realted: In Pictures on BBC - By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai - Jan 23, 2005

More in HumanityAshore.org ~ Archives from 2005

In Pictures: “Nobody’s people” caught in the “buffer zone”

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, 4 April 1928

Today is the 5th anniversary of a tsunami that devastated our country. Five years on, but how many of us still care for the people who suffered?

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The tsunami hit the Indian Ocean, killing nearly hundreds of thousands in eleven countries and inundating coastal communities with waves unto one hundred feet. According to experts, it was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India were the hardest hit. [click here to read in full ~ in humanityashore.com]

Internally displaced persons on the A9 highway – victims of heartless politics

By: Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) had become the bone of contention between the government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), many governments and institutions in the international community, and the Tamil community at large-both within Sri Lanka and the Diaspora, after the war ended. Many tears – some genuine but mostly ‘crocodile’- were shed on the plight of these unfortunate people. The predominant motive was to use the IDPs and their plight to bludgeon the Sri Lankan government rather than finding enduring solutions to the problems of these IDPs as a people and as individuals.

Politics of the worst sort came into play and the IDPs became its victims, as much as they were the victims of a brutal war that was insensitive to human suffering. The government was accused of,

1. Incarcerating these people behind barbed wire fences,

2. Holding them in Nazi-type concentration camps,

3. Not providing enough food,

4. Not providing adequate water supplies,

5. Not providing adequate health care,

6. Not providing adequate toilet facilities,

7. Forcing the IDPs to live under squalid conditions and exposing them to the ravages of the now raging monsoon

8. Having malicious intent to convert the IDP camps into permanent settlements

9. Sexual harassment of female IDPs

Large numbers of these IDPs have been released from these camps in the past two months and purportedly resettled. The government has largely complied with the deadlines it had set for itself to resettle these victims of a brutal war and man’s inhumanity at its worst. The Tamils and the international community that had applied considerable pressure to release and resettle these IDPs, are pleased the GOSL had responded to their pressure. The truth as I saw recently seems to expose the farce the whole issue of these IDPs has become.

I have just returned from a four day visit to Jaffna through the A9 highway. I was one of the first to travel through the A9 highway by private vehicle, once the travel restrictions were relaxed. What I saw was only confined to the A9 highway and either side of it. There were yet restrictions on moving off the A9 highway in the Vanni. What I observed between Vavuniya and Muhamalai of note are:

1. The land adjoining the A9 highway have been cleared of scrub and trees, and demined up to a width of 100 meters on either side.

2. The IDPs are living in shelters, made of twelve galvanized iron sheets and a sheet of blue water-proof plastic. These galvanized iron and the plastic sheets are provided as a standard free issue to the IDPs leaving the camps irrespective of their family size.

3. There are no toilets visible. The IDPs are very likely using the adjoining scrub jungle as open toilets and these definitely pose a serious health hazard.

4. There are no visible sources of available water near most shelters.

5. There are army security posts at approximately 50-100 meter intervals on either side of the highway and these are also of the most elementary type.

6. The IDP shelters are set between these security posts.

7. Due to the heavy rains and accompanying winds the re-settled IDPs are living under the most inhuman conditions. There was water inside many shelters and the shelters themselves were surrounded by water. The conditions in which these IDPs are living are heart rending to see.

8. The conditions under which the soldiers in the security posts are living are only marginally better than those of the IDPs. However, the soldiers are provided with their food , water, transport and health needs by the government in an organized manner.

9. The IDPs are being provided with food stamps to obtain only their dry ration requirements.

10.The IDPs had been paid about Rs 25,000/= in cash and a further Rs 25,000/= had been deposited into saving accounts in their names.

11. Medical faculties are not available in the vicinity and ready transport is unavailable. The few buses that travel on this route are over-crowded and do not stop for these IDPs.

12. The IDPs have been re-settled in areas close to their original villages and most of these temporary settlements I saw only extended from Omanthai up to Mankulam. The IDPs I spoke told me their original homes are damaged badly and the area beyond the 100 meter zones along the highway is yet mined.

13. The few schools that are yet intact are functioning as transit camps for the IDPs being re-settled.

14. Schools are yet not functioning in the areas seen.

15. Kilinotchi town is in shambles and has to be almost completely re-built. I saw only a handful of civilians in Kilinotchi town.

16. There were no visible signs of NGO presence along the stretch of A9 highway between Vavuniya and Muhamalai.

The situation along the A9 highway can be best described by the words (almost identical) of the IDPs- male and female I spoke to, “Ahathihal Muhamileyey Irrunthirakkalaam” ( “We should have continued to stay in the IDP camps”).

It is an indictment on the Tamil community in particular and the international community at large they did not act in a sober and rational manner to the plight of the IDPs. An opportunity to resettle these IDPs into safer, securer and better organized villages and towns has been idiotically missed. The agony of these IDPs has been wantonly and criminally prolonged. Individual rights to survival and care have been sacrificed at the altar of expediency. Lofty concepts such as human rights have been vulgarized, because of their use out of context and blind of circumstances.

These IDPs are now free to enjoy their misery! The female IDPs who are widows and yet young are now free to become victims of sexual exploitation! Young girls have been made to live in close proximity to soldiers! The child IDPs who are without a father are now free to roam free and become the dredges of society! The able bodied men have no access to gainful employment! The Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan community at large have been absolved of their responsibility to discharge their responsibilities towards these unfortunate people.
Tamils as a people have proved themselves to be heartless political animals and short sighted fools!

The Sri Lankan government that had the guts to stand up to international pressure to carry the war to a finish has failed to stand up to the same pressures when it came to the issue of the IDPs and making the resettlement process an opportunity to bring about national reconciliation. The Tamil politicians have once again proved they continue to be hypocrites of the worst type, by not highlighting the plight of these unfortunate re-settled IDPs.

Photographs of the scenario along the section of the A9 highway described above are given below:

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Puliyangkulam to Mangkulam

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Muhamalai

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Puliyangkulam to Mangkulam

December 25, 2009

Southern Indian State Engulfed in Protests

Massive protests in Andhra Pradesh accuse the government of reneging on an earlier promise to create a new state

by Anjana Pasricha

In India, the southern state, Andhra Pradesh, has been engulfed in protests by campaigners accusing the government of backtracking on an earlier promise to create a new state, called "Telangana".

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Elderly citizens in a relaxed mood at a busy road in Hyderabad-pic. courtesy of Hindu-more pics.

Police fired tear gas in Andhra Pradesh's capital, Hyderabad, to disperse thousands of protesters who took to the streets, Thursday, following a late-night announcement by Home Minister P. Chidambaram that the creation of a new state called Telangana will have to wait until consultations with all political parties.

The protesters, many of them students, set buses on fire and stoned vehicles. Many businesses shut down.

They are accusing the government of backtracking on a commitment made two weeks ago to carve out a separate state, called Telangana, from the northern regions of Andhra Pradesh.

Several lawmakers from the Telangana region resigned from the state legislature and the lower house of Parliament, in protest.

K. Chandrasekara Rao, who is spearheading the campaign for the creation of Telangana, says the home minister has gone back on his promise.

"We have been once again betrayed, because the statement which he has made has no clarity at all," Rao said. "There is no time frame fixed. He mentioned a word called wide-ange consultation. How much time is it going to take? Another 50 years or what?"

Campaigners for Telangana are demanding that the government announce a time schedule for creating the new state.

But the federal government says it needs to hold more consultations on the creation of Telangana, because political parties in the state are divided on the issue and because the situation in the state has changed.

Ever since the government agreed to create Telangana, Andhra Pradesh has become sharply polarized about the move. In recent days, the state has witnessed counter protests by those who oppose the move to split Andhra Pradesh.

The demand for Telangana has dragged on for decades, fueled by complaints that the development of the economically backward region has been neglected. [voa news]

"In a country of deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act"

by T. Earakan

Sri Lankans of several walks of life, from politicians to everyday readers have been ratcheting opinion on General Fonseka's interview with The Sunday Leader, in several media outlets in the recent days. The remarks are mostly negative on the reported allegations by the General in the Sunday Newspaper, at least the ones being carried by prominent media organizations.

In the political front Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe in various interviews continue to say that Gen. Sarath Fonseka's recent statement to the Weekend newspaper has brought the country into disrepute. Several other government ministers, notably Minister of Export Development and International Trade Prof. G.L. Peiris and Cabinet spokesman Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa have been harping about common candidate Sarath Fonseka in various forums, over the Philip Alston query.

Yet the however small number of comments that have come across - in the form of “citizen journalism” – reader comments to articles on websites say significant number of Sri Lankans are out there deeply concerned about the reality and ramifications about the "bottomline" of the issue at hand regardless of political wrangling.

Case in point is Sri Lanka newspaper Daily Mirror online recently publishing several reader comments below its reporting on the aftermath of the letter to Amb. Kshenuka Senewiratne from Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions seeking clarifications on the alleged killing of the LTTE leaders.

While the comments moderated by the newspaper appear to show an overwhelming negativity towards the ex-General of Sri Lanka Army, there were at least three comments seeking “reason” and “upholding the true values” of the “silent majority” of Sri Lankans - as follows:

* In a country of deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. If heinous crimes have been committed on humanity it is time we hanged our head in shame and seek apology. We should rethink the character of our leaders whether they consist of the same human principles and observe the teachings of Lord Buddha. Only then will the Sinhala race shine and thrive otherwise it will be damned in the sins that we commit. - Posted By: spark

* Let us stop the 'betrayal', 'Traitor' Nonsense. As a true Buddhist, I am bit concerned and started to worry, if what this guy say is true. As I was thinking the Pro LTTE diaspora is making this claims and that was denied by our ministers. If this is true, then for god sake let the culprits face the music and they can't rule my country at any cost. - Posted By: Nanayakara

* Thank you very much SF mother Lanka is very proud of You - Posted By: Fayad

While there are plenty of raucous against the Common candidate Sarath Fonseka in the print and national media, also being largely ignored is the fact this matter has been around since May 2009 when well-known British journalist Marie Colvin who herself played a role in trying to arrange for the safe surrender of LTTE leaders wrote an article in the Timed of UK then outlining some of the events.

Political wranglings overshadow conscience and concerns of ordinary people

by M.S.M. Ayub

With the issues surrounding the alleged comment made by the opposition’s common Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka to a newspaper gaining ground, almost all issues concerning the ordinary people have been overshadowed. Also the election campaign has turned into a smear campaign, as President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, days ago.

The debate over the controversial remark allegedly made by General Sarath Fonseka too has become an appropriate case in point. Some people have gone to the extent of misleading the voters by launching fake websites that are full of “mud.” It is not clear as to how much impact could be made on the voters with “mud” in order to change hearts.

However, the controversial comment allegedly made by General Sarath Fonseka has raised so many vital questions that have not been answered by the people concerned, in spite of the fact that it has eclipsed the real issues of the masses; and also it provides us a platform for a discourse on media practice, political ethics and international politics.

It is natural that various issues that have nothing to do with the main theme or the context concerned would crop up during media interviews. However, given the well known tussle between the former Army Commander and the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a comment such as the one in question coming up at an interview by the paper concerned with General Fonseka is in no way incomprehensible.

Whether the alleged comment was voluntarily made by the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or it was made in response to a question is not important here, since even if the journalist concerned asked a question in this direction, it is justifiable on her part to be curious on the circumstances under which the LTTE leaders were killed during the final days of the war.

Because stories had been in circulation some months ago about the unsuccessful attempt by two prominent LTTE leaders to surrender through the LTTE’s international Wing leader Selvarasa Padmanathan alias KP, the then UN special envoy to Sri Lanka Vijay Nambiar and Marie Colvin, senior journalist with The Sunday Times (London) at the final stage of the war. But then the name of the Defence Secretary was not dragged in.

However, the alleged comment in question was too serious in spite of the Editor of the newspaper that carried it being too bold to publish it. It is now up to the courts to decide whether carrying it was derogatory or not, as the Defence secretary has taken legal action against the newspaper. The court proceedings in this regard would be an important case study on defamation, for the students of journalism.

On the other hand this would also be a significant case study on the collective as well as individual conscience of a nation. It might most probably be provocative for one to question the propriety of killing of the surrendered LTTE leaders, had that happened, despite the countrymen boast of their nobility, as all other nations do. It would also push us towards a struggle with our own conscience. It might be equally provocative, in all probability, to question the propriety of concealing of information on such killings, again, had they happened.

There is another aspect of the issue. Sri Lanka is now free from bombings, mass killings and fears of war after three decades, despite the underlying problems of the conflict remaining unprobed, leave alone resolving them. There were attempts to probe them in Geneva with the LTTE and it was put off until the end of the war only to be again postponed until the re-election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

However, even the Tamils in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, whom the LTTE claimed to be fighting for, are now relieved of violence. They now do not have to fear their teenaged children being conscripted, their houses being flattened by air raids on LTTE fortifications. Roads and bridges in the two provinces are now being developed; transport facilities and telecommunication facilities in the provinces are being improved.

Therefore, one can justifiably question whether this situation would have been so, had the LTTE leaders been left to go underground or abroad or at least left to be arrested or surrender. Then again, we are to confront a dilemma of conscience as to whether we are rejoicing over the decimation of the LTTE leadership including those who might have surrendered and also whether it is proper to rejoice, irrespective of the circumstances under which they were killed. This might be a debate within the conscience of some, who believed those stories, despite it not being preferred to be debated openly.

There have been other instances in the history where political leaders tended to expose the violent and brutal behaviour of the state or the armed forces of their own countries. A local case in point was the one where Mahinda Rajapaksa as a radical opposition parliamentarian tried to smuggle out to Geneva hundreds of photographs of dead bodies of youth killed by the armed forces and the vigilante groups which then existed, for their alleged links with the JVP, during its second insurrection in 1988/9. Also in South Africa, the anti- Apartheid leaders demanded sanctions against their own country to pressurize the White rulers of that country to end brutality against Blacks.

The then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once argued that the sanctions would further aggravate the hardships faced by the poor Blacks, the victims of Apartheid, a contention that was not practised in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, the issue now before us can be termed as a far cry from the cases with Rajapaksa taking photographs to Geneva or Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela calling for sanctions. Here is a case where a former Army Commander is allegedly accusing his own immediate superior and his close subordinate aides during the war for what could be termed as war crimes. It is also difficult to imagine what the response of General Sarath Fonseka himself would be, had such a comment reportedly been made by someone else when he was in command of the Army, even if the person concerned were to deny the report later. The criteria for the UN and the international community to take a country to task for violating human rights are not clear. How come the UN which did nothing when the reports about the alleged attempts by the LTTE leaders to surrender and their deaths first appeared in the media, now call for clarification from the Sri Lankan Government? Also it must be recalled that when JVP founder leader Rohana Wijewera was killed allegedly after arrest in 1989, the UN did nothing.

However, the political wrangling between two parties has created a national issue that would be detrimental to both parties and already has undermined the people’s real concerns. Here is a candidate who has allegedly accused his own past, and here is a government that wants to enliven a serious allegation against itself. [courtesy: Daily Mirror]

In Thiraaimadu, Batticaloa: Self-confidence and courage amidst multiple tragedies

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

"I lost my house in Tsunami in 2004 in Kallady. I built the house not with my sweat, but with my blood " recalls Rajeswary Sithravadivel.

"I took a big loan & built the house,I could not bear it was completely destroyed" says Rajeswary Sithravadivel with tears filled eyes.

She got some help from the Government & an NGO and managed to build a small house in Thiraaimadu, where Tsunami resettlement houses are built.

She got displaced twice in her life-In 1983 from Colombo to Batticaloa after Black July riots & in 1990 from Batticaloa to Colombo.

She went back to Batticaloa in 1996. She works as a minor staff at the Batticaloa Teaching Hospital. Her average monthly income is Rs.18,800/=

Triple sister became widows in 1990.Rajeswary Sithravadivel and her two elder sister's husbands went missing from Batticaloa in 1990.

"It was a tragedy.All three of us with children had to face the same situation.We consoled each other" says Rajeswary Sithravadivel

At 44 Rajeswary Sithravadivel is still struggling to survive with her daughter.She got her husband's death certificate after 10 years.

"It was an arranged marriage.My husband was from Velanai in Jaffna.We led a happy married life.When my husband went missing,I was lost".

"But I have decided to live,because of my daughter.Now she is grown up,she is 21 years-old&I have to find a good job&life partner for her".

"I have searched for my husband,but found him nowhere.I began to cultivate self-confidence&led my life all alone from 18th June 1990".

"I raised my daughter alone with so many difficukties,and educated her.She lives a life without father's love".

"I have double tragedy in my family,and I wish nobody in the world should face the same situation.It's heartbreaking!".

She makes candles&incense sticks at home & sells in order to earn an extra income to support her family&earns monthly Rs.8,000/=-Rs.10,000/=.

She encourages single women to have self-confidence, and work hard. She advices her fellow women not to give up under any circumstances.
___________________________________________
HumanityAshore.org ~ Email: dushi.pillai@gmail.com

Click for latest updates~from the twitter pages of Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

December 24, 2009

The 2010 Elections: Finishing the War on Terror & Beginning the Battle for Democracy

By Kanishka Ratnapriya

The 26th of November 2009 went by without Vellupillai Prabhakaran making his annual Mahaveera Speech. We can effectively say that he and the LTTE died on the beaches of the Nandikandal Lagoon in May 2009.

The Sri Lankan Government won the war against the LTTE and declared that Terrorism had been defeated. Some Sri Lankans danced in the streets, ate Milk Rice and lit fire crackers celebrating that Terrorism had been defeated. The wiser sections of Sri Lankan society knew that the defeat of the LTTE gave Sri Lanka only a glimmer of hope and that there will be much more to do in a post war Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. They bowed their heads, said a quick thank you and bravely carried on silently with their lives.

Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction are key words and images that flash across our media and society today. Getting the economic and material resources to rebuild our country will be a tough task but it is achievable. Just like it took a colossal effort and the support of Sri Lanka’s ‘silent’ yet brave majority to win the war, we will be able to pull ourselves together and with the help of friends from Western or Eastern Bloc’s Sri Lanka will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of its scorched economy and infrastructure. There is however, one key necessary factor which will be needed to sustain peace in Sri Lanka. This factor has been lacking in Sri Lanka for the last 30 years of civil war. It was responsible for the rise of violence and militancy in Sri Lanka. It is maybe one of the most important root causes of the Sri Lankan conflict and if it is not addressed Sri Lanka will slowly but surely slide back into conflict. This factor is Democracy.

We need Real Democracy, not the ‘symbolic’ Democracy that has been granted to us by name. We have grown increasingly comfortable with our symbolic democracy and become de sensitized to the absence of a Real Democratic system. Sri Lanka needs a representative, free and fair ‘Real Democratic’ system. Without this system we will never be able to inclusively resolve our differences, disagreements and achieve our aims without having bloodshed. But many a democratically aware citizen in Sri Lanka would ask how exactly we could go about bringing about Real Democracy in Sri Lanka. There are many ways that Democratic principles can be genuinely enshrined in society and state. This article will illustrate a politically contextual approach outlining initial steps to bring about genuine Democratic change in Sri Lanka.

The conduct of an election is the fundamental indicator or ‘measure’ of Democracy. Sri Lanka has experienced a number of important elections throughout its Civil War decades. The victories of the UNP during the 1980’s, Chandrika Bandaranaike’s Peoples Alliance victory in 1994, the UNP’s return to power in 2001 and Mahinda Rajapakse’s victory at the 2005 Presidential Election are to name a few. Sri Lankan elections have had their share of rigging and violence. However, nothing rejuvenates and invigorates Sri Lanka’s flailing Democracy like an election, preferably a General Election but those like us who beg for Democracy cannot be choosers and there is also the distinct possibility of a General Election in 2010 after the Presidential Election. Yet we can safely say that the Presidential and General elections of 2010 will be one of the most decisive because of the fragile peace that currently binds Sri Lanka together. Furthermore, these elections will be the first Presidential and General elections to be held after the defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka and hence their importance is unquestionable.

Naturally, we all have our doubts about these elections. But the time has come for our people to become mobilized around building a Democratic Sri Lanka. This is not an idealistic statement but an inevitable consequence from the end of war. While the war destroyed lives and property, it also eroded Democratic Principles in Sri Lanka. It did not matter on whether a Tamil Militant shot a Member of Parliament or the Sri Lankan Government created new draconian laws to counter militancy thereby resulting in the ‘stagflation’ of freedom, there was no need to choose sides as warring parties took turns in wiping out Sri Lankan Democracy, it was war itself that promulgated the destruction of Democracy. However, the war is now over. Sri Lankans will gradually realize that there is more to peace in Sri Lanka then victory itself. There are a hundred million issues that need addressing in Sri Lanka from infrastructure development to the reduction of crime, from the revamping of the education system to the integration of domestic markets with international demands and more importantly the rehabilitation of individuals and property laid waste by decades of war. Our people will slowly start to realize, and in fact some have already realized that they need to have a say in the conduct of these matters. This realization will bring them to the logical conclusion that Sri Lanka’s Democracy must be re established. Our people will realize that the war is now finished and the time has come for them to win their democratic rights back.

Hence, this first expression of post war democracy in 2010 is very important. It will be the foundation upon which the ‘Citadel’ of Sri Lanka’s 21st Century State will be built. These elections will be historic. They will either herald the dawn of a new plural democratic Sri Lanka or create the seeds of struggle against an Anti Democratic authoritarianism. To avoid the latter, we as Sri Lankans must be ready to wage a non violent struggle to protect our Democratic rights while preventing future bloodshed and repression. Our Sri Lankan Democracy will be at its most fragile during the 2010 elections and its aftermath. To rejuvenate and rebuild our Democracy, and indeed our country it will take a colossal effort on the part of individuals, pressure groups, political parties and Presidential candidates. Future generations beckon to us, it is in this moment in our history that we must come together and in one voice say ‘Preserve Democracy in the Motherland’.

As a first step both candidates in the Presidential Election and all parties that will participate in a future General Elections should declare that they will implement the following provisions;

Fight against Corruption: According to Transparency International; Sri Lanka moved from position 67 in 2004 to position 97 out of 180 in 2009. There is something rotten in the Sri Lankan state and its corruption. No complex arguments need to be given about this topic because everyone in Sri Lanka knows that something has to be done about corruption. The old ‘the parties in the opposition or who came before us did it, so we can too’ argument has increasingly become non negotiable. There can be no arguments and no negotiations on this issue, the Sri Lankan people have had enough of bribing everyone from the local Grama Sevaka to Government Ministers. All parties and candidates must declare their assets before they run in an election or spell out a 5 or 10 point program with a timeline on how they will combat and drastically reduce corruption when they come into power.

Sanctify Media Freedom: How many journalists have been killed, injured, abducted and threatened from 2000 to 2010? What about the question of self censorship? If a particular journalist supports the governing party there’s nothing wrong with it, likewise a journalist who supports views opposing the government should also be allowed his or her right to express freely. Media Freedom in Sri Lanka is a major issue. Any candidate or party running in the Presidential or General Elections must pledge to protect media freedom by guaranteeing they will abolish the draconian Press Council Law and establish state mechanisms and laws that will protect journalists from violence and intimidation. It is one thing to initiate legal action against a journalist because of defamation and another to have a white van gang abduct or kill him.

Implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution; it is a part of the constitution. If a section of the constitution is not implemented it violates the constitution. This degrades democracy and democratic principles in Sri Lanka. Without the 17th Amendment, no independent parliamentary commissions including a police commission and an elections commission can be established. This basically means that citizens of Sri Lanka have no direct access to an independent parliamentary mechanism to complain to when they are unsatisfied with State services and obligations.

Implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution; no matter how political parties posture themselves the 13th Amendment to the constitution is a part of the Sri Lankan constitution. Political parties opposing the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the constitution are encouraging Sri Lankan citizens to violate the Sri Lankan constitution. Either they should change their stance or join in a debate to rewrite the Sri Lankan constitution.

Abolish the Executive Presidency; it was created to control a State which was facing multiple insurrections at the time. The executive presidency is a centralized state mechanism which suited the 1970’s to 2009 Sri Lanka civil war phase and it should be abolished so that a more democratic post war Sri Lanka can be built.

© Kanishka Ratnapriya

SL Govt. withdraws Rajiva Wijesinghe’s letter to UN

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

Much to its embarrassment, the Sri Lanka government on Thursday announced that the letter sent by the Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Professor Rajiva Wijesinghe, in response to a letter sent by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston, on charges made by former Army Chief Sarath Fonsenka against the Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa about the sequence of events in the last phase of the Eelam War IV (May 16 to 19), should be treated as withdrawn.

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Professor Rajiva Wijesinghe, depicted in the DailyMirror ~ courtey of DM

The letter and its subsequent withdrawal could not have come at a more inopportune moment as ruling combine and the opposition were building it up as an issue for the January 26 presidential election where the retired General is pitted against the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In his letter, Prof. Wijesinghe had argued that since the retired General Fonseka and the presidential contender had distanced himself from the comments attributed to him in the December 13 interview to the English weekly the Sunday Leader, the questions raised by the UN on Fonseka’s charges against the Defence Secretary, Gothabaya Rajapaksa on events of the last phase of the war against the LTTE were irrelevant.

“The Secretary had written the letter without consulting the Foreign Office and other relevant authorities in the government. The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva had been instructed to withhold the letter sent by the Secretary,” a senior official in the Presidential Secretariat told The Hindu.

Prof. Wijesinghe, known for his penchant to join issues with all and sundry, was perhaps blissfully unaware of the fact when he shot off the controversial letter that the government had not only taken a serious view of the remarks attributed to the commander turned politician, but was also contemplating legal action against him.

On Wednesday evening, a Cabinet meeting presided over by Sri Lanka Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake took serious note of the recent allegations made in the media by General (Rtd.) Sarath Fonseka and the consequences even as it was announced that it was contemplating ‘whatever action necessary including legal’ against the retired General.

It is immediately not clear if the contemplated action against the former Army Chief, pitted against the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 26 poll, would have any repercussions on his candidature.

Last week, President Rajapaksa had constituted a ministerial committee to look into the implications of the comments made by the General and what needs to be done to counter them. On Wednesday morning, the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe told a news conference here that the focus of the international community has once again turned towards Sri Lanka.

Referring to Gen (Rtd.) Fonseka’s statement to the Sunday Leader alleging that the Defence Secretary ordered to shoot surrendering LTTE cadres, Minister Samarasinghe stressed that it is unfortunate that Sri Lanka is once again under scrutiny when in May this year, Sri Lanka achieved a great victory at the UNHRC special session by defeating a resolution presented by the Western States that seek an investigation into possible war crimes in Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan resolution which called the international community to assist Sri Lanka in the reconstruction and development in the aftermath of the war against terrorism was adopted with a majority of 29 nations voting for, 12 against and 6 abstentions.

“Being the former Army Commander, Gen (Rtd.) Fonseka has committed treachery against all those who sacrificed their lives, those soldiers and officers he was leading and the entire nation. People who love the country do not accept this kind of statement,” emphasised Minister Samarasinghe.

The Minister further stated that the letter by the UN Special Rapporteur will be closely studied and an official reply will be sent by the government in due course denying such allegations.

The controversy has raged on though less than 24 hours after his sensational statement that Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa had instructed a ground commander in the battle zone during the last phase of the Eelam War IV to shoot all LTTE leaders that had come out waving a white flag with the intention of surrendering to the military, the retired General took the line that his comments have been misinterpreted.

The former Army Chief said he is responsible for all the actions of the security forces commanders and forces on the ground throughout the war against the LTTE and no field commander acted in violation of any international law.

Political circles here believe that Gen. (retd.) Fonseka chose to distance himself from the controversial statement in the course of the interview after senior opposition leaders pointed out to him that it would not only deprive him of the plank of ‘sole hero’ of the war against the LTTE, but would also be self-inflicting, as he cannot disassociate himself from the actions of the military he led.

In the The Sunday Leader, General Fonseka has contended that he had no information communicated to him in the final days of the war that three key LTTE leaders had opted to surrender to the military.

“Fonseka charged that communications were instead confined between the LTTE leaders, Norway, various foreign parties, Basil Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament and the powerful senior adviser to the President, and such information was never conveyed to him as he supervised the final stages of the war,” the weekly reported.

The three LTTE leaders he is referring to are Balasingham Nadeshan, a former police constable of Sri Lanka police and the political head of the LTTE. Seevaratnam Pulidevan the head of the “LTTE peace secretariat” and Ramesh, a senior special commander of the military wing.

The retired General told the weekly that he later learnt about what exactly had taken place as a result of journalists who had been embedded at the time with forces in the battle field.

Predictably the government hit back at the retired General. Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister had said, “The interview of the retired General is a great betrayal of the nation, people of Sri Lanka and his former colleagues. Since the end of the Eelam War IV in the fourth week of May, there have been so many attempts by so many quarters to defame the security forces of Sri Lanka on charges of human rights violations but the simple truth is up to now no one has been able to prove anything.”

The Minister had maintained that the charges made by Gen. (retd) Fonseka are a contradiction of his own statement on July 10 at a function where he was facilitated for successfully leading the forces to militarily defeat the LTTE. He said that the contents of the speech have not only been reported by the local and international media but found a place in the 68-page U.S. State Department report of October 22 to the Congress on the war between the security forces and the LTTE.

“It is instructive for every one to remember that Sri Lanka has emerged after 30 years of protracted war and there are forces still out there working for destabilitation of the island nation. We are sad and disappointed that Gen. (retd) Fonseka is wittingly or unwittingly working on their script,” the Minister said. – courtesy: The Hindu

[Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasingha speaks on Philip Alston’s letter and responds to reports that the government has already responded to it-courtesy: Daily Mirror]

Lankan cricket star Dilshan manhandles Indian Photojournalist Dutta

Tillekaratne Dilshan, the star Sri Lanka opener who perfected the “Dil-scoop”, became so angry at being photographed in a nightclub that he chased a photographer of The Telegraph, Bishwarup Dutta, from the fifth-floor club down to the street to confront him on Tuesday night.

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Tillekaratne Dilshan (right) partying at a nightclub late on Tuesday with teammate Sanath Jayasuriya.
The Telegraph would not have carried this photograph had Dilshan not accosted the photographer and forced him to delete the pictures he had clicked on assignment. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta

“How dare you? Don’t you know who I am?” shouted Dilshan, refusing to let go of the photographer until he was sure all the pictures had been deleted. The incident unfolded outside 22 Camac Street.

Dilshan, who is married to a Sri Lankan television actress, threatened to smash the camera before handing it over to a friend to delete the pictures. It was not clear why Dilshan did not want to be photographed.

Dutta, who later salvaged a couple of pictures from the digital memory card, narrates the sequence of events.

A senior colleague and I were winding up an assignment on Park Street around 11.45pm on Tuesday when someone called to say that two Sri Lankan cricketers had just walked into the nightclub Shisha on Camac Street, less than a kilometre away. Our office car hadn’t yet arrived to pick us up, so we hailed a taxi and reached Shisha within 10 minutes.

As we walked in looking for the duo, we saw Dilshan and Jayasuriya sitting with an unidentified woman (picture blurred by The Telegraph as she had no role in the incident) wearing a black dress. They were shouting into each other’s ears in an attempt to be heard above the din.

The lighting being inadequate for photography, I pointed my camera at them with the flash on and clicked, hoping that I would get a couple of shots. The moment Dilshan saw the flashbulb popping, he raised his right hand and said something that I couldn’t hear. Jayasuriya then gestured towards me to ask who I was.

When I introduced myself, he said: “You should ask for permission before taking pictures. I will walk out if you point that camera at me again.”

I apologised and decided not to disturb them again, but Dilshan accosted me and ordered that I erase all the pictures in front of him, which I did except for one that I had “delete-protected” seconds ago.

Dilshan’s attitude made me change my mind about not taking any more pictures. I had told him that I was as much a fan of his as some of the guests who were fawning on him but he seemed to be overly suspicious of my intentions. Neither he nor Jayasuriya was objecting to the guests taking pictures of them dancing with the woman in black.

It was a little past midnight when I took out my camera again to shoot pictures of the cricketers on the dance floor. In the dim light, I did not realise that Dilshan had moved away from the dance arena and was following my movements. I suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder and there he was, glaring at me.

“Didn’t I tell you to leave us alone? Show me the camera,” he shouted.

I immediately showed him that the memory card did not contain any picture of him but he wasn’t convinced. As he walked back to the dance floor, something told me that I should leave or my camera could be damaged. I hurriedly walked out of the club and entered the elevator.

I heard voices behind me even as I pressed the elevator knob to take me to the ground floor. It was Dilshan, followed by a couple of guests he seemed to have befriended. I got out of the elevator and ran towards the street, hoping to find a taxi. There was one standing there but the driver refused to go. I turned around and saw Dilshan running across the street with vehicles dangerously zipping past him. I froze. What if a car were to run him over?

The next thing I knew was Dilshan’s hand on my collar. He didn’t assault me but his demeanour — and that of his non-celebrity friends — made me look like a criminal. “Take his phone number. Check his identity card,” the cricketer ordered, snatching my camera.

The others followed his instructions. I feared for my camera as Dilshan fiddled with the flash. He then passed it to one of his friends, who apparently knew how to erase pictures from a memory card. Satisfied that all evidence had been wiped out, the group left. My only source of support when I was being surrounded by them were the Shisha staff, who had apparently come down to ensure that I wasn’t assaulted. Some police officers were standing there but they preferred to be mere spectators.

The President, the General and the Geo-politics of the Indian Ocean

by Gus Mathews

The unpredictability of Sri Lankan politics is a godsend to journalists and political analysts alike. It was only seven months ago that General Sarath Fonseka was riding high in the opinions of ordinary Sri Lankans as the architect of the ultimate demise of the Tamil tigers.

He shared this accolade with President Mahinda Rajapaksa who the Sri Lankans dubbed ‘The Saviour of the Nation’. A week is a long time in politics as expressed by Harold Wilson the ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Compared to the seven months since the victory over the Tamil tigers it seems that eons have elapsed in the political landscape that is Sri Lanka.

While political machinations and electioneering continue for the forthcoming Presidential elections on January 26th 2010, the seminal realities of Indian Ocean geo-politics seem almost transparent to the Sri Lankan electorate at large. The main group of protagonists in this melee for the political soul of Sri Lanka are China and Russia as one group while India in tandem with the Western powers of Europe and America is the other part of this strategic divide.

It is by no accident that Sri Lanka entrenched itself in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as a dialogue partner after its victory over the Tamil tigers. (The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a military dimension that was formed when the demise of the Soviet Union and the bi-polar nature of the super powers rivalry became singular with America as the only global super power.)

Sri Lanka’s entry into the SCO as a dialogue partner is in keeping with the President’s political view on what is good for Sri Lanka in the global political arena. It was partly prompted by India and the western powers of USA and Europe’s major global strategy. A strategy that is effectively the containment of China by curtailing China from building bases outside of China – in effect a policy that renders China militarily encircled. However the agreement to grant China the facility to build a deep water harbour in Hambantota in 2007 by Sri Lanka rang alarm bells in Washington and New Delhi alike. China’s strategic interests lay in unhindered sea route from the oil fields of Arabia and Iran to China. Sri Lanka is a part of the strategic jigsaw in this scenario as all shipping to China has to pass the southern tip of Sri Lanka. It also blends well with the Chinese strategy of ‘string of pearls’ where similar ports in Pakistan, Bangaladesh and Myanmar (Burma) have been granted to the China.

President Rajapaksa has been able to successfully exploit the two opposing elements of global politics for the good of Sri Lanka. The President exhibits this political skill with Machiavellian adroitness. This is symptomatic of a man honed on the political skills that has had a long period of gestation in domestic as well as a good understanding of international politics. The political reality also is that Sri Lanka has to maintain friendly relations with India - the super power in the region. The relationship however must be such that interference in the internal politics of Sri Lanka is curtailed .During the eighties this relationship was tense, when Rajiv Gandhi’s attempt to dictate to Sri Lanka muddied the political waters between these two nations. Hence dialogue membership of the ‘SCO’ to intimate to India that Sri Lanka’s sovereignty is not to be impugned. India is fully aware of Article 14 of the SCO Charter where a dialogue partner can request protection and defensive aid if under threat from an external foe.

China’s economic domination in Asia is also a future reality and as Lee Kuan Yew (the former Prime Minister of Singapore) remarked ‘the relationship of countries in Asia to China will be economically similar to that enjoyed by countries in South America and the Caribbean to America’- a fact that was not lost on President Rajapaksa and his advisers. Latterly Chinese aid to Sri Lanka has superseded that of the USA. China’s aid to Sri Lanka totalled over a billion US dollars in 2008 while USA aid to Sri Lanka was a paltry eight million US dollars. Another major factor was the refusal of the USA, EU and India to supply arms to Sri Lanka during the Eelam wars. China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan stepped into this vacuum and were very generous in the required arms shipments. This action was decisive in the victory against the Tamil tigers.

Even after the comprehensive defeat of the Tamil tigers America and the EU flexed their diplomatic muscles to humiliate and scupper the relationship that Sri Lanka has with China couched in terms of human rights violations. This was not altruism but a cynical ploy as the same yardstick is not utilised when major human rights violations are committed by Israel on the Palestinians. Even the illegal Iraq war had in its wake far more civilian casualties and casualties still continue to this day. International politics is not a subject of morality or altruism it is based on powerful countries utilising the United Nations and their own political, military, financial and diplomatic clout to extend their influence and self interest. In this context India found itself in a quandary, the very same quandary that had prompted it to provide military intelligence to Sri Lanka during the Eelam war – it had no option but to support Sri Lanka when the accusations of human rights violations surfaced. To do otherwise would be to drive Sri Lanka further towards China and Russia.

The question remains can General Fonseka emulate the international ‘tight rope walking act’ of President Rajapaksa of ‘running with the fox and hunting with the hounds’ that has served Sri Lanka so well in International affairs. While the General is broadly aligned in a similar fashion to China and Russia his relationship with India has not been entirely cordial. He is also burdened with the anti-Indian Marxist leaning ‘JVP’ and the pro-western ‘UNP’ – an uneasy relationship of strange bed fellows with opposing views on International matters.

In the domestic arena the General is admired for his clarity of purpose in augmenting a vision towards a just and un-corrupt society in Sri Lanka. He has made the abolition of corruption and nepotism in Government the heart of his campaign. While these qualities may win plaudits and indeed votes from the Sri Lankan electoral masses, will the same qualities of straight talking and honesty ‘cut the mustard’ when the minefield that is International politics is played. For the Western powers of Europe and America it becomes ‘Hobson’s Choice’, on one hand a China leaning Presidential novice who is an unknown quantity in International politics and the unpredictability that it eschews or the incumbent President who is ‘the devil they know’.

For India the election of the General to President could probably mean a loss of influence and the political tilt towards China and Russia that will have security implication for their geo-political Indian Ocean strategy. Unfortunately the qualities of a President that is required to play the game that is International politics are very different to that of domestic politics. Recently the General made a ‘faux pas’ of ‘hoisting his own petard’ by accusing the army of human rights violations that he later retracted and attributed to a misquotation by the press – an error of judgement that the International press, the Tamil Diaspora and countries and forces opposed to Sri Lanka exploited with glee. In International politics an ‘off the cuff’ remark such as pronounced by the General makes International diplomacy that bit harder, as the recent reaction by the UN for an explanation from the Sri Lankan Government has transpired.

In recent times Sri Lanka has exhibited its diplomatic skills very astutely and has punched above it weight, with the support of China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and indeed India. Sri Lanka has mastered the diplomatic game and has reaped the benefits for the good of Sri Lanka. This delicate balance in International politics has been the signature tune of the current administration. Can General Sarath Fonseka rise to the challenge in the International stakes if he does take the helm in Sri Lanka on January 26th 2010? The election is but a month away – and a month is a long time in politics.

A nasty, cruel war followed by a nasty, dirty election

by Dr. Packiyasothy Saravanamuttu

P hilip Alston the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions has asked the Government of Sri Lanka for explanations regarding the deaths of three senior LTTE leaders and members of their families in the final stages of the war.

He wants in particular information pertaining to the the “circumstances of the death of three representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Balasingham Nadesan, Seevaratnam Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as members of their families in the night of 17 to 18 May, 2009”.

Alston’s inquiry follows the allegations made by presidential candidate Fonseka in an interview with the editor in chief of a Sunday paper. Fonseka claims that he was misquoted and the editor stands by her story.

What the Newspaper reported was that according to Fonseka who had obtained this information from journalists “embedded” with the 58th Brigade of the Sri Lanka Army, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had instructed the Brigade Commander Major General Shavendra Silva to shoot and kill the above named LTTE leaders as they came out carrying a white flag to surrender. Fonseka has subsequently insisted that these orders were not carried out and that he as the then Army Commander takes full responsibility for the conduct of the troops. He also maintains that he was in full command, even when he was out of the country in China in the last days of the war.

These allegations are self evidently serious. Every school boy and girl knows that a white flag means surrender and every soldier surely knows the basic rules of war – people carrying white flags are not to be shot at and killed. The fall out from them, generating more heat than light, underscores the challenge of the choice before us in this presidential election and the prospects for democracy, peace, reconciliation and unity. One thing seems clear, there are questions, serious, unanswered questions about the way in which the war was won and what happened in its final stages.

Allegations of human rights violations and war crimes persist. They are not going away, notwithstanding the belief of the main political formations that the credentials of their candidates must reside in their indubitable claim to responsibility for military victory.

In the context of the presidential election and prevailing political culture it is not surprising that Rajapaksa supporters have all screamed betrayal at candidate Fonseka. Supporters of candidate Fonseka, on the other hand, have resorted to a number of responses.

They range from accusations of partisanship against the Leader to commending his courage in spilling the beans on the heart of darkness of the regime to even those who believe that whatever may have been retracted, the allegation will garner votes for him amongst the Tamil community which according to the conventional wisdom will have a decisive say in the choice of the next president. No doubt there are those who will buy the argument about betrayal and Fonseka’s handlers may hope that the damage having being done in the relatively early stages of the campaign may be undone, subsequently.

What they do need to take note of are the costs of their candidate going solo and expressing his visceral hatred of the Rajapaksas. This if let out often will obscure whatever other qualities and attributes his supporters and handlers believe he brings to his quest for the presidency and undermine it.

Betrayal suggests that whatever is alleged in the newspaper interview, happened. It certainly constitutes grounds for reasonable speculation. There is a presidential panel mandated to respond to the US State Department report to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka, commonly referred to as the War Crimes Report. Fonseka’s Ambalangoda speech is cited in the State Department report as well as the killing of LTTE surrendees. Will the recent controversy be looked into as well and when will the findings of the panel be made public? Or is all of this irrelevant because there will always be doubts about the independence and impartiality of any commission or panel in this country and in any event, the allegations are such that neither side of the political divide in the current election is exempt from suspicion and culpability? Is the regime interested in investigating these allegations? In a response to Alston, Prof Wijesinghe, Secretary of the Human Rights Ministry states:

Since your letter was based on a report of allegations by General Fonseka which he has clarified in a manner that negates the story, I assume you will now withdraw your letter.

At the same time, the Daily News headline referring to the Fonseka allegations and Alston letter reads in bold letters – Great Betrayal. Now it may be argued that the betrayal referred to is of the troops he commanded irrespective of whether the allegation is true or not. In his overwhelming desire to throw muck at the Rajapaksas, Fonseka does not, it is argued, give a damn about muck sticking to the soldiers who were under his command, now commonly referred to as the heroic troops.

There must be an occasion on which he states clearly and unequivocally as to what he knows of what happened. More than just his presidency or that of the current incumbent depends on it. Accountability, reconciliation and unity do. On this score, there is hardly any difference between the incumbent and his principal challenger. Each one has publicly, loudly and proudly proclaimed that he alone will bear responsibility, if any, for war crimes.

We need to know what happened and yes, it has a bearing on who we choose to be our president.Voters who want to be better informed should read the latest Special Report No 34 by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) titled Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lanka’s Victims of War.

This report by the internationally recognized UTHR whose reports have been quoted by successive Sri Lankan governments should be made mandatory reading for all Sri Lankans and for generations to come.

Chilling and harrowing it records the experience of the civilians who were targeted by both sides in the war. The UTHR report alone surely must constitute grounds for an investigation of the allegations and incidents that marked and marred this war, if nothing else. The report states that:

What these survivors’ stories make clear is that for both parties, the key to military dominance lay not in brilliant strategies, but in an utter disregard for the lives of civilians and combatants alike, driven by their leader’s single -minded pursuit of personal power.

A nasty and cruel war is being followed by a nasty, dirty election. We must vote and thereafter ensure as best we can that whoever becomes president sheds as much light on this nastiness and cruelty and commits to ensuring that it is never repeated.

Even if peace, reconciliation are not accorded the prominence they demand in this election campaign, they must be acknowledged as the imperatives for government and governance thereafter.

Presidential aspirant views sought on 14 issues by Tamil professionals

Presidential elections are always of great importance to all citizens. In the context of the recent civil war defeat of the LTTE, as well as other developments over the years, the forthcoming Presidential Election is of very special relevance to ethnic minorities, human rights activists and journalists. The voter needs to know the positions of the various candidates so as to assess their suitability and credibility on several critical issues, and collectively seek to make a difference to the outcome.

Since there is provision to mark a second preference, it provides an opportunity for the voters to articulate their priorities and also to ensure that their votes could be decisive; either the first or second preference should be for one of the two leading candidates. It would be a disaster to abstain or to spoil the vote or to avoid voting to indicate a preference as between the two leading candidates.

We need to participate and be relevant so as to ensure that Tamil voters and their concerns will not be totally disregarded by the main candidates. The urgent and critical election issues include the following:

1. Abide by all provisions of the Constitution.

2. Terminate unlawful internment not later than Thai Pongal Day of January 2010 and release those interned after paying all due compensations, subsistence and resettlement allowances. Account for all those earlier interned and who are now missing.

3. Stop unlawful arrests, extortions and disappearances forthwith and appoint a credible Commission of Inquiry to investigate and identify those responsible for such crimes. Stop violence by State, non-state and vigilante groups, and punish those responsible for such violence.

4. Promote media freedom of expression, especially the right to publicly express dissenting opinion, and protect journalists and human rights activists. Appoint a credible Commission of Inquiry to investigate and identify those responsible for attacks on journalists and human rights activists.

5. Disarm all those unlawfully carrying arms.

6. Demilitarise and depoliticise the state administration and restore the integrity of the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and public services. Civil administration functions now performed by the military should be reverted to the civil sector and military officers holding administrative positions should be replaced by civilian officials.

7. Restore the Constitutional Council and the legitimacy and potency of the Human Rights Commission, Public Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, Police Commission, Elections Commission and the Bribery Commission.

8. Restore freedom of movement of all citizens to all parts of the island and, in particular, of IDPs to the homes from which they were displaced.

9. Speedily re-settle all IDPs, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim, displaced from all parts of the North and East and the border areas over the last three decades, in the homes from which they were displaced.

10. Allow a lead role for the local Members of Parliament, Provincial Council, Local Government Institutions, Community Leaders and IDPs in formulating and implementing resettlement, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development programmes.

11. Address issues of continuing ethnic, linguistic and religious discrimination and proceed to initiate reforms including empowering communities discriminated against as well as providing for effective power-sharing at the centre and between the centre and the regions. The latter will require going beyond the 13th Amendment.

12. Repeal the PTA and release all those charged under the PTA such as journalist Tissainayagam.

13. The bulk of the high security zones in the North and the East should be de-gazetted and revert to the control of civil administration within the first quarter of 2010.

14. Take steps towards national reconciliation including reversing all ethnic cleansing that occurred in the last three decades, stopping state-aided changes in the ethnic distribution of the population, and ensuring the language rights of Sinhala-speakers and Tamil-speakers everywhere.

Dr. Devanesan Nesiah

Mr. S. Sivathasan

Dr. Kumar David

Dr. S. Ganesan

Dr. K. Ganeswaran

Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran

Mr. K. Suntharalingam

Mr. E. Vivagananthan

On behalf of a collective of Tamil Professionals

December 23, 2009

Tamil politics: Too much thinking might be going on

by Rajan Philips

It is not that there is no thinking in Tamil politics; there might be too much thinking going on. There is no institutional apparatus to screen out bad thinking and try out better options. And the free license of the internet has provided the medium for unsupervised circulation of idiotic thinking.

ATNRH1223.jpg

Namal Rajapaksa, the son of President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Hatton on Dec 23, together with Minister Arumugam Thondaman and met the plantation community. He is seen here greeting the people after arriving in the area. Pic: Minister Arumugam Thondaman’s media unit

Transnational government is a prime example – the kind of political idiocy only expatriate electronic expertise can create and sustain. There is also too much idiocy in the political thinking about the forthcoming presidential election, and it is particularly evident in the unsolicited advice that is being dished out to the Tamil voters. To wit, the idiotic advice that the Tamils should be smart and vote for Mahinda Rajapakse and leave it to His Excellency and his handful of Tamil hangers-on to decide how much of the 13th Amendment is good for them.

A perennial commentator offering this advice has charitably conceded that even after the extermination of the LTTE the Tamils need not role over and play dead. Rather, they should steer clear of the old ways that have brought them to the current crossroads and look for new modes and models. A brave new model is apparently that of the late S. Thondaman, the “proud and upright leader” of the upcountry Tamils who took “his people out of the depths of disenfranchisement without losing a single life”. What is more, “he knew how to get the better of and the best out of the Sinhalese, not bring out the worst!”

It is not only the thinking behind this patronizing advice that is muddled, but its premise also falsifies a good part of Tamil and Sri Lankan political histories. For starters, Thondaman got his political leverage after 1977 from one and only one source: the rise of Tamil separatism in the North and East and the political violence associated with it. He was a party to the now defunct Vaddukoddai Resolution and he was the first person to publicly reveal in Parliament, in the wake of the 1983 riots, the secret understanding that the TULF and JR had reached between Vaddukoddai (1976) and the 1977 elections. He did not turn his back on the TLUF after 1977, unlike the more native Tamil turncoats, and he did not flinch from raising his voice on behalf of the TULF whenever and wherever there was need for him to do so. He always maintained that up till 1983 the TULF kept to its bargain but not JR or the government. After 1983 and the Sixth Amendment, there was no TULF.

JR, Premadasa and Kumaratunga did not grant Thondaman anything out of charity or altruism. They needed peace in the ‘thottam’ (a simple Tamil word that the circumspect and consistent Mervyn de Silva turned into a potent political term) and needed to avoid it being infected by the Tiger virus from the North and East. They were also constrained to be on their best behaviour by the global spotlight that had been turned on Sri Lanka after JR opened the economy to the world’s robber barons. In addition to tea, the plantations became the nursery for the first wave of local and foreign NGOs who were appalled by the plight of the plantation communities. After 1983, the spotlight became glaring and New Delhi found the excuse to flash its own torch light on Sri Lanka.

The original sin

Thondaman played his cards superbly. He harnessed the global attention, India ’s oversight, and the threat of militancy within the thottam inspired by the exploits of Tamil Tiger nationalism outside the thottam, to extract from JR and others the maximum he could for his people. He did get the better of and may have got the best out of the Sinhalese, but he had no illusion that he succeeded in not bringing out the political worst in them. The Sirima-Shastri Pact may have been a worse deal for him and his people than disenfranchisement, and as he publicly lambasted he was not spared the political rudeness and disrespect of some of the Sinhalese ministers at cabinet meetings.

More important, the maximum that Thondaman achieved was by no means the full reparation for the injustice of disenfranchisement that was inflicted on the upcountry Tamils on the morrow of our independence. By the time the long simmering citizenship question of the upcountry Tamils was settled forty years later, their population was halved, the inter-ethnic electoral balance designed by the Soulbury Commission was destroyed, and the most cohesive social base for class politics in Sri Lanka was ethnicized.

Anyone who lays claim to being a leftist in thinking or in action has to agree with my paraphrasing of Hector Abhayavardhana’s characterization of disenfranchisement as the origin sin that triggered Sri Lanka ’s postcolonial disintegration. The crushing defeat of the LTTE has not arrested or reversed that process of disintegration. It has merely changed its direction. Rather than installing stability and normalcy, the victorious Sri Lankan government has imploded in internal fights over the political spoils of victory. The squaring off of the Commander in Chief and his erstwhile Chief of Defence Staff as the principal presidential candidates for the January election captures in one fell swoop the farce and tragedy of our country. Let me leave the farce of it for another time, and focus on the tragedy for now, especially Tamil tragedy.

The Tamils cannot overcome their tragedy, goes the second part of the advice, unless they turn away from the old ways of Tamil intransigence. An unbroken string of so called intransigencies – from fifty-fifty, federalism, the 13th Amendment and the northeast mearger, to LTTE’s maniacal obduracy – is flaunted as what the Tamils should avoid today, after their dream of Eelam has been blown out of the lagoon waters of Mullaitivu. What is conveniently forgotten in this simplistic summary of history is that compromise and intransigence have alternated in Tamil politics, and until the horrific hijacking of Tamil politics by the LTTE, Tamil compromise always preceded its intransigence, with the latter almost always begotten by Sinhalese intransigence in spite of Tamil compromise.

G.G. Ponnambalam’s Fifty-Fifty demand was the sequel to D.S. Senanayake’s manipulation of the Committee system of the State Council to create the infamous pan-Sinhala Board of Ministers under the Donoughmore Constitution. But the practical lawyer he was, Ponnambalam backed down from Fifty-Fifty and took the case to the Tamil people to support “responsive co-operation” with the Sinhalese government under the Soulbury Constitutional compromise (the “communal compact” according to A.J. Wilson). But the compact was broken by the Citizenship Act, the disenfranchisement of the upcountry Tamils and the state directed colonization of the Eastern Province and parts of the Northern Province . Ponnambalam stood his ground despite these reversals and was thoroughly vindicated by the Tamil voters in the 1952 election. At the same election the Tamils totally rejected the Federal Party that called for Tamil intransigence accusing Ponnambalam of sellout and demonizing him a traitor.

Someone has to be really creative to suggest that the Tamils precipitated the Sinhala Only movement in order for them to vote for the Federal Party in 1956. To its credit, the Federal Party too strove for compromise in reaching agreement with S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. But to the utter discredit of his widow-successor, the SLFP turned its back on its founder’s principled policy on the Tamil question. And these reversals were constitutionally entrenched in 1972 and 1978, both milestones on the path of Sinhalese political intransigence that became millstones weighing down Sri Lanka ’s political development.

Not the end of Tamil history

The 13th Amendment of 1988, whether too little or too late, addresses many of the old issues but most of it has so far remained only on paper. The warning now is that the Tamils have no realistic option but to rally behind Mahinda Rajapakse and hope that he will implement a portion of the the 13th Amendment in return for their votes. What is implied is ‘the end of history’ for Tamil politics in Sri Lanka and that there is nothing for it beyond Rajapakse’s generosity and the framework of the 13th Amendment. The warning is also premised on mendicant triumphalism that western compassion for Tamil human rights has gone dry, that the US (based on Senator John Kerry’s ill informed Foreign Relations Committee Report) has finally acknowledged the Sri Lankan government’s military victory over terrorism (although these greetings were passed on immediately after the war), and that the US perforce has to recognize the importance of the Rajapakse government for US interests in South Asia. This is not very different from the Tiger thinking and mendicant triumphalism that sent the LTTE to its grave.

The assumptions of ‘end of history’, final solution to the Tamil question, and Western accommodation of the Rajapakse government fly in the face of historical experiences and current realities. The disenfranchisement of the upcountry Tamils, the passage of Sinhala Only, and the enactment of the two constitutions were all thought to be acts of finality. No one – not even the Tamils – thought they would become sites of permanent contestation. They have and they will continue to be. The LTTE arrogated to itself the task of imposing a final solution on the matter and had defeat imposed on it by the government. But the defeat of the LTTE has not eliminated the issues that gave rise to it.

The meaning of politics in our time is not the resolution of contradictions and inequalities from one time period to another, but their resolution throughout societies at the same time. The demands on politics are more spatial and cross-sectional than temporal and longitudinal. The rights and lives of individuals and groups and nationalities matter and no government can ignore them. Nor can they be ignored by the so called liberation movements as justification for some future good. The Tigers got it wrong when they forced the Tamils to shut up and put up with them purportedly for the sake of future generations. The government is getting it wrong in subjecting the rights of the Tamil people and their life requirements to some form of rationing on the pretext that they may or not have supported the Tigers in the past. The spotlight on Sri Lanka is not going anywhere and it will be difficult, even impossible in the long run, for any government or its leaders to violate people’s rights and shortchange them on their material needs without paying a global price for it - either through trade penalties and sanctions or individual accountability. The Tamil Diaspora may not be equipped to force a political solution in Sri Lanka , but it has the wherewithal to create hell overseas for an intransigent government in Colombo .

For the Tamils in the north and east of Sri Lanka , it is the worst of times. They are war ravaged and traumatized and their world has been turned upside down ten times over. Nonetheless, these conditions will create a new mode of politics to continue the contest and the struggle for their rights and equality within Sri Lanka . Tamil politics cannot function or perform in isolation from others in Sri Lanka and outside of the Sri Lankan political framework. That was the misplaced beginning and the tragic end of the LTTE.

The LTTE did poke its hand into Sri Lankan politics but always in the most abominable way. What was also its remarkably stupid intervention was to order the Tamils to boycott the 2005 presidential election. In January 2010, the Tamil voters have 22 different ways of avoiding a boycott. Of the 22 candidates vying for the highest office, Vickramabahu Karunaratne and Siritunga Jyasuriya present the most rational and progressive positions in regard to the Tamil question. They may not win the election, but their positions are neither unwinnable nor are they unsupportable by the Sinhalese. It was practically with a similar position on the Tamil question that Chandrika Kumaratunga won the presidency twice in 1994 and 1999. If it could happen then, it can happen again.

The Tamil voters may want to think ahead of future elections even as they vote in the present election – and to vote in a manner that will recreate the political possibilities of 1994 and 1999, sooner than later. That means they have to vote for change, if not in this election, but soon after. That will rule out voting for the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapakse. His chief contender, Sarath Fonseka, is no knight in shining armour. But he represents change although he is not the best change, and any change is better than no change. In throwing himself into a political battle with characteristic courage, he has done all Sri Lankans a great service. For even if he were to lose the election, he has effectively lame ducked the Mahinda Rajapakse presidency and has ensured that there will be no Rajapakse family dynasty after the second term is done. Sri Lankans who think clearly will acknowledge this.

Weapons-carrying cargo plane headed for Sri Lanka

By Denis D. Gray

A plane seized in Bangkok with a cache of North Korean weapons wasn't headed to Iran, a senior Thai police official said Wednesday, Dec 23rd- contradicting a report from arms trafficking experts.

Separately, the five-man crew insisted their final destination was Sri Lanka and not Iran, their lawyer said after visiting the jailed men.

Defense attorney Somsak Saithong told The Associated Press the crew also denied any knowledge of accused international weapons trafficker Victor Bout, who is in the same prison battling extradition to the United States on terrorism charges.

There has been much speculation since the plane was impounded Dec. 12 about where it was headed and whether it was linked to Bout.

"They told me they don't know Victor Bout," Somsak said. He quoted the five men -- four from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus -- as saying their flight plan called for a refueling stop in Bangkok before flying on to Sri Lanka. They have been charged with illegal arms possession.

Police Col. Supisarn Bhaddinarinath said investigators have so far found no evidence that the aircraft was bound for Iran, or any link between Bout and the arms seizure.

But according to a flight plan seen by arms trafficking researchers, the aircraft was chartered by Hong Kong-based Union Top Management Ltd. to fly oil industry spare parts from Pyongyang to Tehran, Iran, with several other stops, including Bangkok, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.

Union Top was set up by a company called R & G Management Consultancy, according to a woman who answered the door at Union Top's registered office. She said she didn't know a man called Dario Cabreros Garmendia, who signed Union Top's incorporation in Hong Kong on Nov. 2, and did not know how to reach anyone at the company.

After answering several questions she asked The Associated Press reporter to leave the office.

Garmendia listed Barcelona, Spain, as his address on another document related to the set up of the company.

Thai authorities, acting on a U.S. tip, impounded the Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane after uncovering 35 tons of weapons, reportedly including explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles.

"They always deny any involvement with the weapons or any charges they are accused of. They told me that their job was just to fly the cargo plane to its destination. They don't know about or had anything to do with the cargo itself," said Somsak.

The U.N. imposed sanctions in June banning North Korea from exporting any arms after the communist regime conducted a nuclear test and test-fired missiles. Impoverished North Korea is believed to earn hundreds of millions of dollars every year by selling missiles, missile parts and other weapons to countries such as Iran, Syria and Myanmar.

Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based North Korea watcher for the International Crisis Group think tank, said while the incident remains murky, it was clear that U.N. sanctions have not stopped North Korea from trying to engage in arms sales.

"It's a major source of foreign exchange and earnings for the Korean People's Army," Pinkston said. "I don't think anyone believed they were going to desist or just say, 'OK, well, you guys wrote up a tough resolution so we're gonna get out of this business now.'"

But he said cases such as the Bangkok seizure will likely have an impact on those willing to purchase North Korean weapons.

"It's very clear that if you are a buyer you run a risk of losing your cargo or getting intercepted," he said.

The Thai government has been investigating the arms cache and says it will send the results to the United Nations.

Somsak said the five men complained that they had been forced by police investigators into signing documents written in Thai. They asked to be provided with a translator.

The report on the flight plan from the nonprofit groups TransArms in the United States and IPIS of Belgium was funded by the Belgian government and Amnesty International. It could not be independently verified.

The report says the plane was registered to Air West, a cargo transport company in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Asked to comment on whether the plane was bound for Tehran, company owner Levan Kakabadze told The Associated Press he was unaware of the plane's final destination.

Speaking by telephone from Batumi, Georgia, Kakabadze said he leased the plane to the SP Trading company and could bear no responsibility for what happened next.

Researchers say the plane's previous registration documents link it to Air Cess and Centrafrican Airlines, which are allegedly connected to Bout, who has been in prison in Thailand since he was arrested March 6, 2008.

But the report, which was released Monday, said there was not enough evidence to link the plan definitively to Bout.

Associated Press writers Deborah Seward in Paris, Aoife White in Brussels, Aida Sultanova in Baku, Azerbaijan, Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia, Kelly Olsen in Seoul, and Min Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report

courtesy: Associated Press

December 22, 2009

International LTTE seems to be divided into twin factions

By Col. R. Hariharan

The overseas supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been in disarray ever since the founder leader Prabhakaran and the entire insurgent leadership were eliminated in May 2009. The expatriates who had unquestioningly followed Prabhakaran's orders are now trying to come to terms with the reality of decision making on their own.

They appear to have a major dilemma in deciding the future course of action, particularly as they do not want to carry out an impartial analysis of the LTTE’s course of action in the past. If they had done it, by now its positives and negatives could have provided useful pointers to the direction for taking the struggle back to Sri Lanka. But that would be a sacrilege as Prabhakaran and his leadership continue to be treated as holy cows beyond the pale of public scrutiny.

In the absence of a united leadership to lead them, the pro-LTTE expatriate Tamils appear to have pitched upon ‘referendum’ as the democratic method to find out popular opinion on the future course of struggle. Had they adopted this method earlier, when the war was nearing the point of no return, lives of thousands of youth who perished in the war could have been saved. But unfortunately, that was never an option open to them in the LTTE lexicon.

They held a series of “referendum” first in European countries. The organisers probably knew that if they had carried out a referendum on continuing the LTTE's armed struggle for Tamil Eelam, not many might have voted as it would be inconvenient to remain in their adopted land.. So they appear to have pitched upon the Vaddukoddai Resolution adopted in May 14, 1976. It holds a nostalgic appeal for expatriate Tamils as it represented the united and assertive Tamil political opinion of that time calling for the creation of independent Tamil Eelam. It formed the basis for the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF)’s overwhelming electoral victory in the general election that followed. It is an irony of fate that expatriate Tamils have to fall back on this resolution after the LTTE had systematically hunted down TULF leaders out of existence. The fact that this resolution was dusted up shows the pro- LTTE expatriate elements have indirectly acknowledged the failure of the way the LTTE conducted the struggle. Of course Vaddukoddai Reslution has been made irrelevant in the course of subsequent history of blood and gore.

The recently conducted “referendum” in Canada was also a part of this exercise. According to Tamil expatriate media (which have turned their colours from the bright red of LTTE to Sri Lanka blue immediately after ‘thalaivar’s death) most of the 48,000 plus people who turned up (out of an estimated 300,000-350,000 Sri Lanka Tamils) voted for the Vaddukkoddai Resolution. Some of the media have dubbed it as a minority vote and hence of no consequence.

It would be incorrect to look at it only from the point of view of total expatriate population. The organisers of the referendum, by and large, were pro-LTTE elements or its fellow travellers. Referendum is important because it provides a barometer of existing potential support for the revival of LTTE. It should come as a relief to the organisers that 13 to 15 % of the Canadian expatriates voted and still subscribed to the notion of an independent Tamil Eelam. This comes even after the LTTE itself had given up hope of an independent Eelam and accepted Tamil autonomy within a federal Sri Lanka when it opted to negotiate the peace process 2002. Of course, the referendum also helps in establishing the legitimacy of organisers as inheritors of the Tamil leadership that fell vacant after the demise of LTTE leadership in Sri Lanka.

However, the referendum would have been more meaningful if there had been an honest soul searching among expatriate Tamils who had supported Prabhakaran.That would have revealed glaring short comings in the way he operated which has now left the Tamil community in Sri Lanka disunited and weak. As this had not been done, the purpose of the referendum would appear to be only to garner expatriate help to revive the old cry of an armed struggle for Tamil Eelam. And that may not come through in the near term as there are neither any takers nor a foothold in Sri Lanka. So it will continue to be in the realms of emotion for sometime unless the revival is helped by Sinhala obscurantists in Sri Lanka.

While tasking the army in the north and east after the war ended, the Sri Lanka government and the security forces appear to have gone on the premise that the revival of the LTTE was possible. So the process of eliminating the LTTE from its internal and overseas roots is going on rigorously. This is evidenced by the Sri Lanka navy’s recent seizure of MV Christina, said to be the largest ship of LTTE’s tramp fleet. Of course chances for LTTE’s revival diminishes as more of its caches of arms and military equipment are recovered and cadres eluding arrest are rounded up and identified. Already 12,000 LTTE cadres of various kinds are in custody.

Tragically the war also displaced around 280,000 Tamils living in areas under the LTTE control. They had to undergo a grim process of screening at the hands of Sri Lanka army. They now face a bleak future as they have lost their livelihood and homes. This is more so in the absence of charismatic and assertive leadership of Prabhakaran.

In a recent interview to the Daily Mirror, Colombo, Dr Rohan Gunaratne, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, had said the LTTE has been “dismantled” in Sri Lanka. This is probably correct as no worthwhile leader is in the horizon to collect the remnants, marshal the assets, unite supporters and coordinate their activities to rebuild the organisation either at home or abroad. Given this internal environment, the revival of the LTTE within the island does not appear feasible in the near future.

In this context, a recent report of The Times, London, about the formation of a new Tamil militant outfit - the Makkal Viduthalai Ranuvam (People’s Liberation Army) – is interesting but not credible. In an interview of a self styled commander Kones (pseudonym) of the new Tamil militant group claimed the PLA comprised mostly of ex-militants with Marxist ideology and opposed to the LTTE brand of militancy was formed four months back. At present it was 300-strong and it hoped to raise a force of 5000. Sri Lankan Tamil media considers this as a Sri Lankan intelligence ploy politically motivated to keep the Tamil militant threat in the public eye. This may well be true.

However, as Dr Gunaratne said in the same Daily Mirror interview, the LTTE international presents “a challenge to Sri Lanka progress, ethnic harmony, and unity. Future peace in Sri Lanka can only be sustained, if the LTTE is dismantled comprehensively, both at home and overseas.” There is no doubt about it.

The LTTE’s international elements appear to be split into two factions. The “militant faction” led by Norwy-based Nediyawan that continues to advocate an armed struggle to pursue the goal of an independent Tamil Eelam. It would like to keep up the memory of Prabhakaran to draw strength.

The “political faction” led by Viswanathan. Rudrakumaran, New York based attorney, wants to carry o on the Tamil struggle politically. In June 2009, LTTE sympathizers and remnants overseas put together an advisory committee for the formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (PTGTE), with V Rudrakumaran as the coordinator, in a bid to keep the quest for self determination alive. It swore to follow a fundamentally democratic path. It opened its platform for those who accepted the tenets of “Tamil Nationhood, a Tamil homeland as recognized in the 1987 Indo- Sri Lanka Agreement, ……and the Tamils’ right to self-determination” as per the 1976 Vaddukoddai Resolution, the 1985 Thimpu Declaration and the LTTE’s 2003 Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA) proposal.

Although Rudrakumaran has in his Heroes Day message of November 27, 2009 reiterated the PTGTE would wage “a non- violent political struggle”, it is clear that the PTGTE has close connections with the LTTE international This is evident from the display of the LTTE’s Heroes Day message 2009 sporting images of Prabhakaran and LTTE flag in the PTGTE website. It is not clear how the PTGTE had wished away three decades of LTTE’s armed struggle which sacrificed nearly 300,000 Sri Lankan lives of all ethnicity, and decided to adopt a non-violent strategy without a critical examination of the earlier strategy. Of course there are also other political contradictions in this stand; but that only shows the dilemma faced by the political faction in trying to talk of peaceful means without disowning the history of Prabhakaran.

Apart from diehard supporters of the Eelam Cause and faithful followers of Prabhakaran, majority of expatriates probably realise that an independent Tamil Eelam would continue to remain a distant dream. So Rudrakumaran’s prescription appears to be pitched to attract support from this majority.

At present Sri Lanka Tamil political parties, including the political conglomerate of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are looking for financial and political support from this majority expatriate segment. The expatriate Tamils are divided into small groups with their own personal and political agenda just as the Sri Lankan Tamil parties are. So how they can be convinced to extend support for political campaigns in Sri Lanka remains to be seen.

In this context, the conference of Tamil speaking people under the theme “The role of the elected representatives of Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim population in a process of national reconciliation, reconstruction and reform” jointly organized by the Tamil Information Centre (TIC), the International Working Group on Sri Lanka (IWG) and the Initiative on Conflict Prevention through Quiet Diplomacy (ICPQD) at the University of Essex from 20 to 22 November 2009 is of significance.

More importantly the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and the All Ceylon Muslim Congress representing the Muslims of Sri Lanka as well as three Tamil parties representing plantation Tamils also participated in the deliberations .The conference hosted by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs appears to be only a beginning. It had carefully treaded the common ground, recognising the difficulties in forging unity.

The conference has set the modest goal of committing “to the engagement by all segments of society towards a just and durable political solution” through a dignified, respectful and peaceful process. However whether the well intentioned effort would politically result in concerted action for the promotion of interests of Tamil speaking minorities in Sri Lanka remains a big question mark. This is going to be a long and tedious process as evident from the vertical divide among them in supporting the rival candidates in the presidential poll.

With the Tamil ethnic issue still remaining wide open, it is doubtful whether the expatriate actions as of now would help in resolving the problems of Tamil speaking people in the island. The only way they can contribute would be to strengthen the process set off in the November 2009 conference for a unified movement inclusive of all Tamil speaking people of Sri Lanka. Resurrecting separatism either politically or militarily would require selling a soured dream to the disillusioned. That would be embarking on another self defeating proposition

Ramifications of Corruption and Their Impact on Human Rights

Full Text of Kanchana Abhayapala Memorial lecture

by JC Weliamuna

Venerable Sirs, Religious Dignitories of other faiths, Chairperson, Excellencies, Hon. Judges, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen

As you know, Kanchana Abhayapala Memorial lecture is held in honour of a distinguished young colleague who was senselessly assassinated during one of the darkest periods of our recent history.

Now, at a time when civil liberties are curtailed once again, in the name of patriotism, we are reminded of Kanchana’s quiet life, his courage and commitment to protect and realize human rights and dignity, even in the gloomy periods of our history. This evening, we commemorate his courage and commitment to abiding values – even though we realize that the collective conscience of a nation can collapse at any time unless each one of us take on to our shoulders the responsibility to protect values. This reminds me of the famous saying: "The moral leadership of the world has been entrusted to us; the fate of humanity is in our hands, the world looks to us for survival”.

When I was invited, quite suddenly, to deliver this memorial oration, I had the liberty to select any topic, relevant to human rights.

It is indeed a privilege to be with you today, not merely to deliver a lecture to commemorate a young human rights defender but to address you on a topic that would have, without doubt, been close to the heart of Kanchana. I know for sure, if Kanchana was among the living, he and I would be together in the fight against corruption and gross human rights abuses in Sri Lanka; probably the anti-corruption discourse would be much stronger.

Human rights, governance and corruption are topics that have now been fairly well researched. We no longer have the luxury of artificially separating the human rights from other social discourses; nor can we undervalue the multi-dimensional contributions that shaped the human rights discourse at large. Human rights regime does not operate in a vacuum and one cannot draw an assumption that human rights will find its legitimate space in a society because it is influenced by various other external factors such as corruption.

In that context you would no doubt agree with me that the topic I have chosen is a complex one and certainly not a topic that can be fully dealt with in one oration. [click here to read the full text of speech – Adobe format] – [MS Word format]

December 21, 2009

Trapped civilians in Sri Lanka cut off from aid deliberately, says Médecins sans Frontières

"Top Ten" Humanitarian Crises: Aid Blocked and Diseases Neglected

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Releases 12th Annual List:

Civilians attacked, bombed, and cut off from aid in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), along with stagnant funding for treating HIV/AIDS and ongoing neglect of other diseases, were among the worst emergencies in 2009, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported today in its annual list of the "Top Ten" humanitarian crises.

View the Top Ten Humanitarian Crises of 2009:

Continuing crises in north and south Sudan, along with the failure of the international community to finally combat childhood malnutrition were also included on this year’s list. The list is drawn from MSF’s operational activities in close to 70 countries, where the organization’s medical teams witnessed some of the worst humanitarian conditions.

[Tens of thousands of people in Sri Lanka's northern areas of Vavuniya and Vanni are displaced or caught in fighting between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil Tiger rebels. MSF teams operate on nearly 200 wounded patients every week in Vavuniya's hospital-Apr 2009]

Three distinct patterns dominated in 2009: governments blocked lifesaving assistance to trapped populations, including in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Sudan, where aid groups—including some MSF teams—were expelled from Darfur; respect for civilian safety and neutral humanitarian action further eroded, such as in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, DRC, and Somalia, where people—and in some cases aid workers—were either indiscriminately or directly attacked; people suffering from a host of largely ignored diseases were again neglected by the international community, and those living with HIV/AIDS saw their chances of receiving life extending therapy further diminished.

“There is no question that civilians are increasingly victimized in conflicts and further cut off from lifesaving assistance, often deliberately,” said MSF International Council President Dr. Christophe Fournier. “In places like Sri Lanka and Yemen, where armed conflicts raged in 2009, aid groups were either blocked from accessing those in need or forced out because they too came under fire. This unacceptable dynamic is becoming the norm. Our teams on the ground are witnessing the very tangible human consequences of these crises directly, either in war zones or in the AIDS and nutrition clinics in which they work,” he said. We’re therefore compelled and obligated to speak out.”

In Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of civilians were trapped with no aid and limited medical care as government forces battled Tamil Tiger rebels in the spring. Aid groups, including MSF, were banned from entering the conflict zone. In Somalia, civilians continued to bear the brunt of a vicious civil war. More than 200,000 people fled the capital, Mogadishu, in just the first few months of 2009 and aid workers were increasingly targeted – at least 42 relief workers have been killed since 2008, including three MSF staff.

In Yemen, civilians and hospitals were heavily affected by fighting in the Saada region in the north of the country as government forces fought rebels. The fighting forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and compelled MSF to close the only hospital serving an entire district after it was shelled. And in a glaring case of abuse of humanitarian action for military gain, civilians gathered with their children at MSF vaccination sites in North Kivu, DRC in October, came under attack by government forces. The attack threatened to severely undermine the trust necessary to carry out independent medical humanitarian work in conflict settings.

In Pakistan, where tens of thousands fled fighting, hospitals were struck by mortar fire and two MSF workers were killed in Swat Valley, where the organization ultimately suspended its operations due to the violence there.

On the medical front, years of success in increasing treatment for the numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS was threatened with punishment in 2009. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) announced plans to reduce or limit funding.

“Just when more and more people were accessing crucial medicines and medical experts were acknowledging the need to put people on treatment sooner, patients will be turned away from clinics because the funding just won’t be there,” said Dr. Fournier. “The timing could not be worse.”

The neglect also extends to childhood malnutrition, a treatable disease that is the underlying cause of up to half of the annual ten million preventable deaths of children under five each year. Global leaders gathered at the World Food Summit in Rome in 2009 failed to commit to combating the disease, which groups like MSF have shown can be prevented and treated by providing growing children with proper foods that meet their nutritional requirements.

Right now, international assistance to fight malnutrition amounts $350 million dollars, while the World Bank estimates $11.8 billion is required to adequately combat the disease in 36 high burden countries. Additionally, most food assistance is made up of costly and inefficient in-kind donations containing products of poor nutritional value that must be shipped overseas. Resources could be better spent on obtaining nutritionally appropriated foods closer to their source.

Other diseases, such as Chagas, kala azar, sleeping sickness, and Buruli ulcer continue to be neglected, with very few new commitments to expanding access to available treatment or carrying out research for much needed newer and more effective drugs.

“The tremendous resources devoted to the H1N1 pandemic in developed countries illustrates the response capacity for global health threats when the political will exists,” said Dr. Fournier. “Regrettably, we fail to see the same commitments made to combat diseases claiming millions of more lives each year.”

MSF began producing the "Top Ten" list in 1998, when a devastating famine in southern Sudan went largely unreported in U.S. media. Drawing on MSF’s emergency medical work, the list seeks to generate greater awareness of the magnitude and severity of crises that may or may not be reflected in media accounts. - courtesy: http://doctorswithoutborders.org

UN Asks Sri Lanka to tell the truth about killing LTTE leader surrendees

(Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has written to Amb. Kshenuka Senewiratne, requesting the "truth" about alleged cold-blooded killing by the Sri Lankan Armed forces of LTTE leaders who surrendered. Here is the full text of Alston's letter to Amb. Kshenuka Senewiratne, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations office at Geneva)

18 December 2009

Excellency,

I have the honour to address you in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251 and to Human Rights Council resolution 8.3.

I write to your Excellency's Government with regard to the circumstances of the death of three senior representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mr. Balasingham Nadeshan, Mr. Seevaratnam Pulidevan and Mr. Ramesh, as well as of members of their families, in the night of 17 to 18 May 2009.

According to information I have received:

On 17 May 2009, the day before your Excellency's Government announced that its forces had completely defeated the LTTE. Messrs, Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh were trapped with other senior cadres of the LTTE in a small area north of Vellamullivaikkal. Through intermediaries they sought to establish contact with your Excellency's Government to inquire how they could surrender to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). The reply, coming from the Secretary of Defence in your Excellency's Government and from a Members of Parliament who is at the same time a senior adviser to the President, and conveyed through the intermediaries, was that they should walk towards the positions of the SLA in a way that made their intentions clear and holding a white cloth.

The Commander of the SLA 58th Brigade, the unit on the front line with the last LTTE position, however, received a telephone call from the Secretary of Defence instructing him to order his forces to shoot those surrendering. When Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh walked towards the SLA positions carrying white cloths in the first hours of 18 May 2009, soldiers opened fire on them and killed them. An unspecified number of family members of the three men were killed as well.

These allegations were made by the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army at the time of the events and subsequent Chief of Defence Staff (now retired) General Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, in an interview to the newspaper The Sunday Leader. The accounts of journalists embedded with the SLA 58th Brigade confirm some of the alleged circumstances of the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh and their families.

While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these reports, I would like to refer your Excellency's Government to fundamental legal rules applicable to all armed conflicts under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Common Article 5 (applicable to armed conflict not of an international character) of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which your Excellency's Government is a party, dictates that "[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely [....]". To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at anytime and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds".

Similarly, an authoritative study of customary international humanitarian law finds that attacking and killing persons who are recognized as hors de combat is prohibited. Persons hors de combat include anyone who clearly expresses an intention to surrender, provided he or she abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape (Rule 47 0f the Customary Rules of International Humanitarian Law identified in the study of the International Committee of the Red Cross).

It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Human Rights Council to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as of the members of their families, I would be grateful for the cooperation and observations of your Excellency's Government. In particular in relation to the following questions:

1. Are the allegations summarized above accurate, If not so, please share the information and documents proving their inaccuracy.

2.What information does your Excellency's Government have on the family members of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh allegedly killed on 18 May 2009.

3.Please refer to the results of my military, police, judicial and other inquiry or investigation carried out in relation to the allegations summarized above.

I undertake to ensure that your Excellency's Government's response to each of these questions is accurately reflected in the report I will submit to the Human Rights Council for its consideration.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

On Sri Lankan Killings, Alston Asks Rajapaksas, Why Not UN's Nambiar?

By Matthew Russell Lee

While the UN in New York has been mute about the admission by Sri Lanka's former General Sarath Fonseka of orders by Presidential brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to kill those who sought to surrender, an independent rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva Philip Alston wrote to the government on December 18 formally requesting answers.

If the past is any guide, the Rajapaksa administration will either not provide direct answers, or will issue vituperative denials. It did this in response to video footage depicting Sri Lankan soldiers killing bounded and naked people, footage that has since been authenticated.

BMVNTC1221.jpg

Placard held at a Tamil Awareness Rally, Sep 22, 2009-pic by: Aquaview

So one wonders, given not only the UN's role in the final days of what even it called the "bloodbath on the beach" in Sri Lanka, but especially UN chief of staff Vijay Nambiar's reported role in the deadly surrenders, why Rapporteur Alston has not already demanded answers from the UN itself.

UN's Ban and Nambiar, Alston's questions on killings not yet shown

On December 15, Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky

Inner City Press: John Holmes has appeared on an interview with CNN’s [Christiane] Amanpour, and seemed to confirm that during the final days of the fighting in Sri Lanka, that Vijay Nambiar was telephoned by leaders who sought to surrender, who ended up being killed. So, there is a big controversy right now in Sri Lanka about the charge that the Defence Minister, with whom Mr. Ban has met, gave the orders to kill surrendering prisoners. I wonder if it’s possible, is that… Number one, can you, it’d be good to hear instead from Holmes about Nambiar, or maybe from Mr. Nambiar, but what was the UN’s role in these attempted surrenders? And where does it stand on Mr. Ban’s call for accountability or some type of an outside investigation or panel of inquiry into possible war crimes?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: What Mr. Holmes said yesterday, he speaks for himself in this particular case; of course, I am not going to amplify what he said. He knows what he’s talking about. What I would suggest is that you let me find out some more details and then I can answer you with more certainty.

Inner City Press: All right. Maybe from Mr. Nambiar on some basis, because I think he’s confirmed that he got these calls from people who ended up being killed while waving white flags. So, it seems important to nail down what happened.

Spokesperson Nesirky: Once he’s back in town, we’ll see what we can do.

After that, with Nambiar in Copenhagen ostensibly unreachable by the UN, he gave a quote to the New York Times trashing a former UN official fired for openly blowing the whistle on what he called the UN's cover up of electoral fraud in Afghanistan. So on December 17, Inner City Press again asked

Inner City Press: Earlier this week there was an issue that came up with Mr. Nambiar and his role in the deadly surrender at the end of the Sri Lankan conflict, and you were like, well, when he comes back we’ll talk to him. Clearly he is reachable, apparently, to at least the New York Times. Mr. Nambiar, I mean. Is he in Copenhagen? Is that where he gave those comments?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I will have guidance.

Later, the UN inserted into the transcript an answer -- but not about Nambiar, much less the killings in Sri Lanka:

[The Spokesperson later announced that the reason Peter Galbraith's appointment as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan was terminated was that the Secretary-General determined that such action would be in the interests of the Organization. Further elaboration would not be appropriate at this time since Mr. Galbraith has chosen to challenge the termination of his appointment.]

Now Alston writes to the Sri Lankan government, but not to the UN's own Vijay Nambiar, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff. Ban Ki-moon will speak before Christmas about Copenhagen. What about extrajudicial killings, and the UN's own role? Watch this site.

Here is Alston's letter to the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations office at Geneva

18 December 2009

Excellency,

I have the honour to address you in my capacity as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251 and to Human Rights Council resolution 8.3.

I write to your Excellency's Government with regard to the circumstances of the death of three senior representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Mr. Balasingham Nadeshan, Mr. Seevaratnam Pulidevan and Mr. Ramesh, as well as of members of their families, in the night of 17 to 18 May 2009.

According to information I have received:

On 17 May 2009, the day before your Excellency's Government announced that its forces had completely defeated the LTTE. Messrs, Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh were trapped with other senior cadres of the LTTE in a small area north of Vellamullivaikkal. Through intermediaries they sought to establish contact with your Excellency's Government to inquire how they could surrender to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). The reply, coming from the Secretary of Defence in your Excellency's Government and from a Members of Parliament who is at the same time a senior adviser to the President, and conveyed through the intermediaries, was that they should walk towards the positions of the SLA in a way that made their intentions clear and holding a white cloth. The Commander of the SLA 58th Brigade, the unit on the front line with the last LTTE position, however, received a telephone call from the Secretary of Defence instructing him to order his forces to shoot those surrendering. When Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh walked towards the SLA positions carrying white cloths in the first hours of 18 May 2009, soldiers opened fire on them and killed them. An unspecified number of family members of the three men were killed as well.

These allegations were made by the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army at the time of the events and subsequent Chief of Defence Staff (now retired) General Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, in an interview to the newspaper The Sunday Leader. The accounts of journalists embedded with the SLA 58th Brigade confirm some of the alleged circumstances of the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh and their families.

While I do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these reports, I would like to refer your Excellency's Government to fundamental legal rules applicable to all armed conflicts under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Common Article 5 (applicable to armed conflict not of an international character) of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which your Excellency's Government is a party, dictates that "[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely [....]". To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at anytime and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds".

Similarly, an authoritative study of customary international humanitarian law finds that attacking and killing persons who are recognized as hors de combat is prohibited. Persons hors de combat include anyone who clearly expresses an intention to surrender, provided he or she abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape (Rule 47 0f the Customary Rules of International Humanitarian Law identified in the study of the International Committee of the Red Cross).

It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Human Rights Council to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as of the members of their families, I would be grateful for the cooperation and observations of your Excellency's Government. In particular in relation to the following questions:

1. Are the allegations summarized above accurate, If not so, please share the information and documents proving their inaccuracy.

2. What information does your Excellency's Government have on the family members of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh allegedly killed on 18 May 2009.

3. Please refer to the results of my military, police, judicial and other inquiry or investigation carried out in relation to the allegations summarized above.

I undertake to ensure that your Excellency's Government's response to each of these questions is accurately reflected in the report I will submit to the Human Rights Council for its consideration.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Philip Alston
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Courtesy: Inner City Press

"Up to 95 percent of IDP's might be deprived of their voting rights"

By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Many of Sri Lanka's war refugees may be unable to vote in January polls, the first national election after the government's crushing defeat of separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May, election monitors said on Monday.

That could provide a fresh grievance for the country's mostly Hindu ethnic Tamil minority, many of whom believe the Buddhist Sinhalese majority has a habit of discriminating against them.

Administrative obstacles and a lack of proper procedures for those in camps to register could mean nearly all of the more than 300,000 war refugees, who are overwhelmingly Tamil, will be unable to vote in the Jan. 26 presidential poll, independent election monitors said.

"Up to 95 percent of IDP's might be deprived of their voting rights at the presidential elections as a proper mechanism has not been in place," one of the monitors, Keerthi Thennakoon of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE), told Reuters.

But he added that "if the elections commissioner acts swiftly he can rectify the mistakes" before the election.

Over 280,000 ethnic minority Tamils fled their homes due to intense fighting between the Tamil Tiger rebels and the military during the last phase of the 25-year civil war, which effectively ended on May 18 with the killing of top separatist leaders. They joined tens of thousands who fled earlier.

Officials say 70 percent of the war refugees have relocated from the main military guarded camps and thousands of others are being allowed to come and go from the camps where they have been held since the end of the war.

The government has faced pressure from foreign countries and aid and rights groups to speed up resettlement of the thousands of Tamils displaced by war. However, many of those who have left the camps have not returned to the original residences where they would normally vote.

Election officials says voter registries are up to date and refugees will be allowed to cast their vote, if they apply in advance.

"We are setting up special polling booths for people in camps to vote but people who are displaced from their original place of registration have to apply for voting in their present location," Assistant Elections Commissioner for the northern district of Vavuniya A.S. Karunanidhi told Reuters.

However, independent election monitors said there was no proper voter education process to tell refugees where they can vote, how to register and how they can apply for a temporary identity card, nor is it yet clear how the refugee ballot boxes will be identified and located.

Tamils make up almost 12 percent of the Indian Ocean island nation's population of 21 million. In past elections the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who led the losing battle for an independent Tamil state, discouraged Tamils from going to the polls. This time they could emerge as a key swing vote.

The refugees' situation has been a political issue since the war's end, and increasingly so in the weeks since former army commander General Sarath Fonseka said he would challenge incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January ballot where some 14 million Sri Lankans are expected to choose from among 22 candidates.

Rajapaksa and Fonseka are considered far out in front of the rest of the field.

Whoever wins will need to reach out to the Tamil minority to avoid new unrest among the group, political analysts say, but going too far could antagonise Sinhalese nationalists whose support is needed in parliament for an effective government. (Editing by Jerry Norton)

courtesy: Reuters

December 20, 2009

Sri Lankan guards 'sexually abused girls' in Tamil refugee camp

by Gethin Chamberlain

Tamil women interned after escaping the horrors of the civil war in Sri Lanka were sexually abused by their guards who traded sex for food, a British medic has revealed.

Vany Kumar, who was locked up behind barbed wire in the Menik Farm refugee camp for four months, also claims prisoners were punished by being made to kneel for hours in the hot sun, and those suspected of links to the defeated Tamil Tigers were taken away and not seen again by their families.

Kumar, 25, from Essex, was released from internment in September, but has waited until now to reveal the full scale of her ordeal in the hope of avoiding reprisals against friends and family held with her. They have now been released after the Sri Lankan government bowed to international pressure this month and opened the camps.

The Sri Lankan government confirmed to the Observer that it had received reports from United Nations agencies of physical and sexual abuse within the camps, but maintained that it had not been possible to substantiate the allegations. It denied that prisoners had disappeared. In response, a UN spokesman accused Colombo of "doing everything it could" to obstruct attempts to monitor the welfare of the hundreds of thousands interned in the camps.

Kumar, a biomedical graduate, was incarcerated in May in what she describes as a "concentration camp", along with nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians who managed to escape the slaughter which accompanied the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels, who had been fighting for 25 years for a separate state on the island. Working amid heavy shelling in an improvised field hospital, she had spent months helping save the lives of hundreds of civilians wounded as they were caught between advancing government soldiers and the cornered Tigers.

Sri Lanka has consistently denied mistreating the detainees, but Kumar's damning new evidence will bolster the claims of human rights organisations which have repeatedly criticised the government in Colombo.

Speaking at the family home in Chingford, she accused the Sri Lankan government of persecuting Tamils as it sought to round up rebels who had escaped the fighting. "It was a concentration camp, where people were not even allowed to talk, not even allowed to go near the fences," she said. "They were kept from the outside world. The government didn't want people to tell what happened to them, about the missing or the disappearances or the sexual abuse. They didn't want anyone to know.

"Sexual abuse is something that was a common thing, that I personally saw. In the visitor area relatives would be the other side of the fence and we would be in the camp. Girls came to wait for their relatives and military officers would come and touch them, and that's something I saw.

"The girls usually didn't talk back to them, because they knew that in the camp if they talked anything could happen to them. It was quite open, everyone could see the military officers touching the girls," she said.

"Tamil girls usually don't talk about sexual abuse, they won't open their mouths about it, but I heard the officers were giving the women money or food in return for sex. These people were desperate for everything."

She said prisoners who complained about their treatment were singled out by the guards. "One time I saw an old man was waiting to visit the next camp and this military officer hit the old man. I don't know what the argument was, but the officer just hit him in the back.

"In the same area people were made to kneel down in the hot weather for arguing with the officers. Sometimes it lasted for hours."

Sometimes white vans appeared in the camp and took people away. White vans hold a particular terror in Sri Lanka, where they are associated with the abduction of thousands of people by death squads. "They were asking people to come in and take their names down if they had any sort of contact [with the Tamil Tigers]. They did an investigation and then a van would come in and they would take them away and nobody would know after that. I know people still searching for family members."

Kumar said that on arrival at the camp, near the northern town of Vavuniya, she was put in a large tent with several people she did not know. The camp was guarded by armed soldiers and ringed with high fences and rolls of razor wire. "The first two or three days I was alone there still scare me. When I arrived at the camp I put my bag down and just cried. That feeling still won't go. I just don't want to think about those two or three days in the camp, the fear about what was going to happen to me.

"For the first few days I didn't eat anything. We didn't know where to go to get food. I thought, 'Am I dreaming or is this really happening?' I never thought I would end up in a camp." Tens of thousands of people were crammed into flimsy tents which provided little respite from the intense heat. Toilets and washing facilities could not cope with the demands and food and water were in short supply.

"You have to bathe in an open area in front of others, which I find very uneasy. I stayed next to the police station, so every day I had a bath with the police officers looking at me, men and women. Everyone can see you when you are having a bath. So I would get up early in the morning about 3.30am, so it was dark," she said.

Kumar was held in the best-equipped part of the camp, but even there conditions were dire. "It is not a standard a human being can live in. The basic needs like water and food [were] always a problem. Most of the time you were queuing for water.

"The toilets were terrible, and there was not enough water, so we could not clean them. There were insects and flies everywhere. After two or three days of continuous rain, the sewage was floating on the water and going into the tents and everyone [was] walking through it, up to knee height." She was finally released into the custody of the British High Commission in early September.

The Sri Lankan government says it is aware of allegations of sexual abuse and punishment of prisoners, but denied large-scale abuse. Rajiva Wijesinha, the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, said "there was a lot of sex going on" inside the camp, but he claimed that most reports involved abuse by fellow detainees. "I can't tell you nothing happened, because I wasn't there," he said. "Individual aberrations could have happened, but our position is 'Please tell us and they will be looked into'."

He said he was aware of one report from a UN agency, but claimed that establishing the facts was very difficult. "We received a report that a soldier went into a tent at 11pm and came out at 3am. It could have been sex for pleasure, it could have been sex for favours, or it could have been a discussion on Ancient Greek philosophy, we don't know."

As many as 100,000 people are believed to have died in Sri Lanka's 25-year civil war.

COURTESY:OBSERVER

The absence of thinking in Tamil politics

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Of course I do not mean that there is no thinking among Tamils as a community, still less that Tamils cannot think! Nor am I complaining that there is an absence of systematic ideas and ideologies in Tamil politics.

That’s hardly a priority and could be a blessing. What I do mean is that there is no thinking through, in the sense of serious exercise of the faculties of intelligence and analysis, in Tamil politics. It may be said that the same is true if not truer of Sinhala politics, but then again, the Sinhalese need it less, thanks to demographic advantages and factor endowments, with the proof of the pudding being in the eating: the Tamil community is in far worse shape than the Sinhalese.

The absence of thinking is best evidenced in the refusal to accept reality and in the unreality of the attitudes and aims that manifest themselves in Tamil politics. This is true of the past as it is today. Examine the call for "balanced representation" or what is commonly referred to as fifty: fifty. How could anyone, including the British colonial power, accept a demand for reverse discrimination, wherein the combined minorities would have more representation than their numbers warranted, when it could not be demonstrated that the said minorities had suffered from a history of deprivation which is the sole justification for affirmative action?

Then let us take the refusal to accept anything less than the permanent merger of the Northern and eastern provinces as they are currently constituted, thereby ruling out either re-demarcation or referendum. This obduracy stymied a settlement in 1986 with Indian mediation. It made for an Accord with an Achilles heel, the merger subject to a referendum – while the opposition to a referendum opened up the giant loophole which the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Sarath N Silva, currently a supporter of the joint Opposition’s Presidential candidate, drove a cart and horses through, effecting a de-merger. The ridiculousness of the Tamil stand is best evidenced by the fact that the Good Friday agreement, which does NOT grant the Northern Irish Catholics the merger with the South they always wanted, is subject to interlocking referenda, including in the UK as a whole. Will any Tamil politician risk referenda in the Eastern province and all-island on the issue of the Northeast merger?

The LTTE and the TNA’s refusal to accept any version of President Kumaratunga’s quasi-federal political package and the Tigers boycott of the April 2003 Tokyo conference, just to mention two instances, betrayed a total absence of lucidity. The Diaspora’s decision to demonstrate under the Tiger flag in 2009, achieving visibility and nothing else, or rather, only a negative visibility which helped the GOSL case, contrasted with the diversity in the anti-Gaza War demonstrations world-wide, which achieved the severance of DPL ties between several Latin American nations and Israel. Most ludicrous was the strong sense among Tamils that India should intervene to stop Sri Lanka’s military operations and save the self-same Prabhakaran who had not even sought forgiveness for the murder of a former Prime minister of India who was the son of an illustrious Prime Minister and the grandson of an iconic world figure. As the kids say: "HELL-LO?!"

Obviously the Tamil polity, especially in the Diaspora, just wasn’t thinking. That’s not because of a lack of brains but because fanaticism scrambles or aborts rational thought processes. It must be observed though, that we know since Wilhelm Reich, that it takes a certain kind of collective mind, of collective psyche, to be so susceptible to fanaticism for so long and in the face of such overwhelming evidence. Collective Tamil delusion is so strong that it has not been definitively punctured by the conclusive defeat at Nandikadal, which decorated war veteran John Kerry’s Report rightly observes, was "one of the few instances in modern history in which a terrorist group had been defeated militarily.

Most pertinent to the future of Sri Lanka’s Tamils and that of the island as a whole is the prism of delusion through which most – but not all – Tamils seem to regard the 13th amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. The TULF rejected the 13th amendment. The EPRLF took office in the Northeast provincial council in late 1988, having stated that it didn’t suffice and pledging to re-open negotiations. What was not understood was the plain truth that was being written in blood on Southern streets, namely that there was a huge upsurge of social opinion against the amendment which also barely squeaked past the Supreme Court. Nothing more was possible, not only because of the confines of the Jayewardene Constitution but because of public opposition.

The 13th amendment was as good as it could get and the South was in a state of civil war over it, with the finest of Sinhala progressives, Vijaya Kumaratunga having lost his life in its defense. With almost no exceptions, the Tamils didn’t get it. What they should have done was to support the Indian state in the effort to implement the 13th amendment, in a sustained triangular partnership with the Sri Lankan state and whichever the elected government in Colombo; not embarrass and delegitimize by attempting to force the pace, calling itself a "provincial government" instead of a "provincial council" or "provincial administration". The upshot of this adventurism was the dissolution of the Provincial council. In later years the de-merger took place, while the North has no functioning provincial administration to this day.

What the Tamil polity needs to realize are the following facts:

1. The 1978 Constitution of JR Jayewardene came into being when public opinion was far less ethnocentric than it is today. It is therefore far more modern and pluralist than any Constitution that is likely to be produced currently.

2. The 13th amendment was the maximum that resulted when the balance of forces was far more favorable to the Tamils than it is today:(i) July 83 had generated considerable legitimacy for the Tamil cause, (ii) Rajiv Gandhi had not been murdered by the main Tamil organization, (iii) India was more actively supportive of and sympathetic to the Tamil cause than it is today, (iv) there was a strongly pro-devolution progressive movement and supportive left-liberal intelligentsia in the South, and (v) the Tamil armed struggle had not been militarily crushed.

3. As the abject failure of external attempts to stop the war short of the decimation of the Tigers reveals, there is no factor or combination of factors that can compensate for and over-ride the balance of forces that prevails today, a balance which does not make for qualitatively more autonomy. Nothing can remotely compare with 70,000 Indian troops on Sri Lankan soil, and the 13th amendment was the best they could extract/push through.

4. It is highly probable that the current, postwar, post-military victory balance of forces could make for the rollback of reforms inscribed on the statute books during an earlier period. There are powerful chauvinist forces calling for such roll back, while those calling for the preservation or extension of autonomy are decidedly weaker than they were in 1987-8.

5. Any reopening of the question to the extent that it requires a plebiscitary process could doom the system of provincial autonomy, sweeping it away as the changed mood in Sinhala society, manifested in the higher judiciary, did the "merger"

What would be the consequences then, of the refusal by mainstream Tamil nationalism, to refuse to accept the 13th amendment and strive to work it? "Compassion fatigue" for one: as the US Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations report demonstrates, a new ratio of strategic self-interest to human rights and humanitarian concerns will, in a multi-polar Asian environment, increasingly determine international policy towards Sri Lanka, especially post election.

There is a far more deleterious prospect, stemming from a grim reality: the realists (EPDP, PLOT, EPRLF, and EROS) within the Tamil political space are a minority, unlike in the case of the Palestinians, where the moderate Fatah dominated PLO heads the Palestinian Authority. In the Irish case too, it is the realist Sinn Fein rather than the fanatical IRA splinters that carried the day. Thus it would have been inexcusable for the UK Government to plead that it had no peace partner, and it is inexcusable for the Israelis to do so. In the Sri Lankan case though, if the South feels that realists like Devananda and Siddharthan have been marginalized and that Tamil politics hasn’t given up its maximalist mindset, then there would emerge a consensus that there is no viable Tamil partner with whom to build a durable, inclusionary peace. In turn, this would leave room for unilateralism.

That could please the Tamil extremists especially in the Diaspora who have absorbed a Zionist "next year in Tamil Eelam" attitude. This is a mindset of "the worse it gets the better it is", because "the world will see the reality and grant us Tamil Eelam someday". This is the same kind of atrocious miscalculation that has characterized Tamil politics from "balanced representation" to the ISGA. This thinking is unhistorical in the extreme. The Balfour declaration was possible because British colonialism controlled the relevant area in the aftermath of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. Jewish migration would not have been possible in a sovereign Arab state with exclusive territorial control by its armed forces. The flood gates were opened, and there was international legitimacy for the setting up of a Jewish state after the Holocaust. None of these conditions obtain or are likely to. Sri Lanka is in Asia. The closest approximation—if one can be contrived for the sake of argument—of the trauma suffered by the Jews in Germany was in July 1983, and the Accord and the 13th amendment resulted. It doesn’t get any better than that. Therefore, the best counsel anyone can give the Tamil polity is "13th amendment: Use it or lose it!"

Marx defined ‘ideology’ as ‘false consciousness’ in which "man and his circumstances appear upside down, as if in a camera obscura". Except for a clutch of Tamil leftists linked to the Sinhala progressive stream and interacting with the state, the Tamils have seen themselves, the Sinhalese and their objective circumstances upside down as if in a camera obscura, therefore almost permanently formulating erroneous strategies and tactics. If the Sri Lankan tragedy is a tale of contending "false consciousnesses"of two constituent collectivities, the record of results and achievement shows that in relation to objective circumstances there is no "false consciousness" at work in this drama quite as false as the collective Tamil consciousness. ". Nowhere is a Truth Commission more imperative than within the Tamil community itself!

What then should the Tamils do? Roll over and play dead? Nope. They should shift modes and models, and take as example the smartest, most realistic and successful of the island’s Tamil politicians, S. Thondaman. A proud, upright leader who took no nonsense from any Sinhalese and was never trifled with by strong Presidents such as Jayewardene, Premadasa and Kumaratunga (all of whom treated him with respect), he managed to take his people out of the depths of disenfranchisement without losing a single life. He knew how to get the better of and the best out of the Sinhalese, not bring out the worst!

Kumar Sangakkara Should Not Combine Responsibilities of Skipper,Keeper and Lead Batsman

by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam

Many records were broken in the recent run feast in India. One record went unnoticed. Sri Lanka became the first Test squad to contain as many as 4 wicketkeepers - Prasanna Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, TM Dilshan and Kaushal Silva.

Actually, there was a 5th wicketkeeper. At 47, the manager Brendon Kuruppu is still trim. As the oldest member of the army of wicketkeepers, Kuruppu must have been disappointed that he was not called up.

Ironically, the first choice Prasanna Jayawardene kept poorly. He either dropped catches or obstructed the slips. Virender Sehwag, who is second only to Viv Richards as a merciless hitter, made merry. In Kanpur and Mumbai, maiden overs were rare. Even dot balls were hard to come by.

In the ODIs, Sangakkara has been even worse than Jayawardene. On Friday, two easy chances were put down off the rampant Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the same over. Luckily, Dilshan's assault and Matthews calmness took Sri Lanka across the line.

Sanga has often relied on his exceptional batting and speaking to cover up his faults on the field. He will be remembered as the finest speaker among the world's top batsmen. The media has been carried away by his well-spoken manner. Cricketers should be judged on their performance on the pitch not on the mike.

Sanga cannot combine the responsibility of captaincy, wicketkeeper and the leading batsmen in any form of the game. One of the three must be discarded. He has lost the first virtue of any gloveman. He does not watch the ball on to his gloves. Instead, he grabs it.

Dhoni’s fortune as a captain and keeper cannot be the benchmark for Sangakkara. Dhoni does not bat in the top order. The Indian captain is not the sword of his team’s batting. He is just a bit player in a batting powerhouse. Instead of Sanga, Dilshan or Prasanna should be made the wicketkeeper in the shorter version. Dilshan’s agility and Prasanna's disciplined batting must not be ignored.

Sanga's errors behind the stumps have worsened his performance as a captain. As a spectator during Sehwag's Test onslaught, Sanga was clueless. At times, he could not even contain the scoring rate to less than 6 an over. Even the tactic of placing every fielder on the boundary to stem the relentless flow of runs was forgotten. Sehwag would be bitter that he did not cross 400. He would be hard pressed to find a more unimaginative opposing captain.

Sangakkara also has a vicious streak that belies his smile. On the 2006 tour to Australia, Vaas was the vice-captain to Atapattu. When Atapattu's got injured, Vaas acted in his place at a vital match in Perth. This irritated Mahela Jayawardene, who was eyeing the post. Mahela and Sanga are brothers in every way, except blood. They took it upon themselves to openly undermine Vaas and set the field. Just like Sanga gropes for the ball behind the stumps, Mahela and him grabbed the captaincy.

Though he has been billed as the crown prince ever since his debut in 2000, Sanga has actually had a very limited leadership record. Unlike Mahela, who was already vice-captain at 21, Sanga was first picked at the advanced age of 22. At NCC, he hardly led the team, because of his national commitments. When he did lead, his record suffers in comparison to his rivals. Vaas led Colts CC to be domestic champions.

Despite his errors, Sanga has a few attributes. He commands respect The boys are behind him. The team is in transition with Sanga's deputy Muralitharan and Jayasuriya approaching their end. Sanga should remain as captain due to the TINA (There is No Alternative) factor.

Today, Sri Lanka will fly to Cuttack in the Eastern India state of Orissa for the third ODI. The injury-hit squad should be wary after squaring the series. If the selectors had their way, Sanga may even be asked to fly the plane!

Sanga has had a bountiful 2009 with the bat. Also, he has earned riches beyond his wildest dreams at the IPL. He has just been given the Kings XI Punjab captaincy. He will better serve the team and himself if he gives up the gloves.

Defence Secy did not order me to fire on those coming holding white flags aloft-Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva

The Nation speaks to Director, Military Operations Major General Shavendra Silva in the context of allegations being made that the ground troops during the last stages of the war executed LTTE leaders who approached them with white flags held aloft. Gen. Silva led the most successful 58 Division (former Task Force II) which recaptured from the LTTE, the most amount of territory, starting from Mannar Rice Bowl to Pooneryn and then across to Mullaitivu, the last holdout of the enemy

By Chamara Lakshan Kumara

Q: The allegation that the Sri Lanka Army shot dead a group of LTTE leaders who had come forward carrying white flags which was bandied about sometime ago has been raised again. We would like you, as a military officer who played an active role in the war on terrorism, to comment on this allegation.

A: I can speak only on behalf of the Division 58. I can categorically say that we never received a report saying that a group of white flag carrying LTTE leaders were gunned down by the troops. I saw newspaper reports carrying this allegation. I also read news reports which said that there was no truth in this allegation.

I feel sorry if an allegation of this nature has been made by a military officer. We carried out the tasks entrusted to us with commitment. In the circumstances, I can only say I deeply regret if such an allegation has been or is being made.

Q: Media reports also said that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had given you orders to shoot LTTE leaders if they come forward carrying white flags to surrender.

A: These reports are untrue. Beginning from the day on which the humanitarian operation was launched, Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa kept repeating his instruction that we should avoid civilian casualties while carrying out the operations. We had this objective in view right throughout our operations. Therefore, I cannot imagine that the Defence Secretary would order shooting down anyone coming forward to surrender carrying a white flag. I can say with responsibility that I have never received instructions from him to shoot any civilian.

Q: However, this allegation reported to have been made is being repeated in the public domain. Foreign journalists as well as foreign diplomats appear to believe this allegation. Do you say there is no basis at all for this allegation?

A: I do not like to say anything in reply to what others say. I can speak from my personal knowledge. I cannot reply to what another person says.

Q: There are various conflicting stories in the public domain about what happened to LTTE Leader V. Prabhakaran during the last stages of the battle. What can you say about such stories, as a commander who played a decisive role in the war?

A: What all I have got to say is that Prabhakaran was killed in the war. He has died as deaths are inevitable in a war. He was killed the way the other cadres were killed.

Q: You were a news maker when the war on terrorism was on. Your name did not drop from the attention of media even after the war. Some sections of the media carried stories to say that you were responsible for creating the rift between General Fonseka and the government.

A: To my knowledge, no such thing has happened. I was just another officer in the Army. I had no need to create a rift between General Fonseka and the government. The websites may carry various things. But, I should categorically say that there was no need for me to create any crisis that could set General Fonseka and the government against each other.

Q: Who made the best use of your capabilities?

A: Every commander under whom I have worked have made use of my capabilities. I am an officer who carried out duties in the battlefield with commitment. It was Major General Wijaya Wimalaratne who first exploited my potential as a military officer when I was a 2nd Lieutenant, a Lieutenant and a Captain. In those days, at one Awards ceremony, I won three Weera Wickrama medals. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa made the best use of my capabilities when I was a Captain. He made the best use of my capabilities during the operation launched to re-capture Jaffna Fort and in operations carried out in the East. I functioned as a GOC and a Brigade Commander when General Fonseka was the Army Commander. General Fonseka was well aware of my capabilities and entrusted me with tasks. I discharged all duties he had entrusted to me to the best of ability to justify the faith he had reposed in me.

Q: As I said earlier, you are a character much talked about by media personnel. Some say that Major General Silva is a ‘contractor’ of the government.

A: I have nothing to do with any contract. I am an Army officer who upholds discipline. I am carrying out duties pertaining to my position, my rank, strictly according to Army regulations. I am not much concerned about matters which come outside the parameters of my duties.

Q: There was speculation that you were planning to contest the upcoming Parliamentary elections from the Matale District. What is your interest in politics?

A: That is a baseless falsehood. I do not know who is responsible for spreading such rumours. I have no intention to contest the general elections. I have got several more years to serve in the Army. I hope to serve in the Army as long as I am happy in the Army. I am carrying out duties in the Army with great satisfaction. I cannot think of a life outside the Army at the moment.

Q: What is your target? To be the Army Commander?

A: No. I have no such target. As a Buddhist, I am resigned to what happens in life. I try to do my best as long as I wear my uniform. I want to serve to the best of ability the Army that has nurtured me. I am today what the Army has created. Therefore, I owe a debt of my gratitude to the Army. I am prepared to do my best for the Army to pay this debt.

Q: Some say that you are a character created and bloated by the media?

A: I maintain cordial relations with the media. Media played a very positive role during the war. The number of youth seeking to join the Army grew day by day when soldiers were becoming war casualties. The numerical strength of the Army contributed to the military victory. Journalists rendered a great service by reporting the developments in the war theatre.

I always expressed my appreciation to their services. Journalists continue to maintain a good rapport with me. Some people have misunderstood or misconstrued my relations with the media. I am comparatively a junior officer in the Army, but I have reached my present position thanks to my capabilities. My achievements may have caused some people pain of mind. I cannot help it. Besides, that is not something unusual.

Q: There is a raging controversy in the country over sharing of the credit for the war on terrorism. In your belief, who should deserve the lion share of the credit?

A: It is difficult to say so and so deserves the credit. The military victory is a victory of all the people in the country. COUETESY:THE NATION

Perversion of religion is possible when state and organized religion collaborate

by Prof. Charles Sarvan

The following is an attempt to focus on Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is within You (1894), in relation to the aspects mentioned above. Page reference is to the Dover Publications edition, New York, 2006, and the work is abbreviated as KGWY. The majority of Sri Lankans being Buddhist, reference is made to Buddhism, though Tolstoy himself does not mention Buddhism in KGWY. Gandhi read KGWY while in South Africa and, as he records in his Autobiography, it “overwhelmed” him. (See, among other works, Kathryn Tidrick’s Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life, London, 2006.) Gandhi influenced many individuals, including Martin Luther King and, in Sri Lanka, S J V Chelvanyagam.

Violence is an evil, repugnant to the basic principles of religion, particularly to Christianity and Buddhism because the very essence of these two religions is non-violence, peace and goodwill towards all. The existence of violence, therefore, is because belief has become external, formal and nominal; because people have “cunningly devised theories” (p. 209) which superficially “reconcile the irreconcilable” (p. 2), that is, violence and religion. In certain situations, it is argued, violence is permitted. Going further, in a grotesque corruption of religion, it is claimed that violence can be perpetrated in the name of Christ (or of the Buddha). This conviction serves not only to legitimise violence but to encourage it. Violence in the name of religion means there is no need to spare even the pregnant mother, or medical staff trying to succour the injured, the dying, the distressed.

To argue that violence is permitted (even laudable) in certain circumstances, is to be selective. For example, the assertion that, sometimes, there are exceptional circumstances where the religious prohibition against killing can be ignored is not applied to sex outside marriage. Where violence is concerned, “they openly teach that we must not understand it too literally, but that there are conditions and circumstances in which we must do the direct opposite” (p. 32), but not when it comes to sex. Religion and state say that, while the teaching of Christ (or of the Buddha) is noble, in the real world (when it comes to violence and killing) it is impractical, even inadvisable. If a man (or men) kills one or more of his fellow-creatures, he is a murderer. “But a government [...] may kill as many men as it chooses, and that will not be murder, but a great and noble action. One man cannot plunder and pillage, but a whole nation can” (p. 9).

The perversion of religion, Tolstoy argues, is possible because the state and official religion collaborate and cooperate with each other. Anyone who opposes organised religious views and practice is a heretic; anyone going against the state is a traitor. These “two ruling powers” (p. 16) constantly aid each other in the pursuit of power. Together, claims Tolstoy, they deceive and dominate the people, keeping them in superstitious awe (religion) and fear (the state). In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ preached that those who are merciful, those who make peace, are the blessed. But at the meeting of the first ecumenical council in Nicaea (Common Era 325) what is now known as the Nicene Creed was formulated, bestowing authority and religious monopoly on the church (p. 74). Thereafter, to disagree with the church meant one was not a Christian. (Similarly, one component of ‘the Triple Gem’ of Buddhism is the sangha or Buddhist clergy.) The clergy’s interpretation of religion is right – even when it is blatantly contrary to the actual teaching of Christ (or the Buddha). And so a god of their own is invented, one who - contrary to his own words - is said to permit, even make obligatory, violence and warfare (p. 29).

Various devices are utilised to hypnotise people, and “to bring them to a state of stupefaction” (p. 73), among them, the use of lighting and chanting. Temples, incense, the veneration and taking in procession of relics, all serve to awe the people and induce in them a thoughtless belief in what institutionalised, state-supported, religion proclaims (p. 172). The result is that the supernatural element, and not the ethical teaching, becomes the essence of religion (p. 95). In turn, it means that one does not strive to do good works (p. 67), though Christ (and the Buddha) made it clear that what counts is not outward show and protestation, but actual conduct.

The collaboration between state and religion, together with the focus on the supernatural, and the consequent neglect of the ethical core of religious teaching, help to explain why priests have countenanced, even supported, the violence and cruelty wreaked by the government of the day. During Nazi rule, many priests and Christians remained silent, avoided confronting injustice and violence or, worse, justified and supported the actions of the state. Parallels with Sri Lanka come to mind, both from modern and ancient times. For the latter, I quote from an essay of mine.

The Mahavamsa records that King Dutugemunu, having caused the destruction of a great many lives, was concerned he would not attain nirvana. Thereupon, Buddhist monks comforted him, saying he had killed only one and a half men: the one was a Buddhist and the other only on the path to becoming a Buddhist. The others who died, being non-Buddhist, were but animals. “But as for thee, thou wilt bring glory to the doctrine of the Buddha” (The Mahavamsa, end of Chapter XXV). One is appalled that human beings can be seen and treated as if they were animals; incredulous that such an inhumane attitude could be proudly espoused in the name of the gentlest of religions. The Buddha in his sermon on loving kindness (the Karaneeya metha Sutra) urged the cultivation of loving thoughts towards all: May all beings be well and happy. May we cultivate boundless love for all beings. Let these thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world, without any hatred, without any enmity.

The above is an example of religion and state buttressing each other. Tolstoy (deeply spiritual, seen by many during his last years as a living saint) argues that Christianity has ceased to be Christian – one could, by extension, say that Buddhism in Sri Lanka, by and large, is no longer Buddhist. Yet the destiny of humanity in the world depends on the fidelity of men and women to the ethics of their religion (p. 20). This is not to forget that there were, and are good and heroic priests and monks, but (Tolstoy argues, p. 62) the goodness and worth of these men were theirs, and not of the institutions they served. (The rise of ‘liberation theology’ committed to the poor and oppressed would appear to support Tolstoy’s claim.) The essence of religion to Tolstoy was not the supernatural; not ritual and chanting, not the veneration of relics but in trying to follow the actual teaching of Christ: in the Sri Lankan context, of the Buddha. Do not, in the very name of the Teacher, go against His teaching (p. 24).

Within herself or himself, each woman and man knows what is good, and what constitutes vice. These notions, Tolstoy says, are derived from religion. (One could add, also from our basic sense of humanity and consideration for others.) The answer is to give these “innerly” held notions of virtue expression in our outer conduct as citizens (p. 176). Absolute “perfection can never be attained” (p. 86). What makes someone truly religious is the attempt, the striving – a thought recognised and emphasised by the Buddha. You cannot say you are a Christian (or Buddhist) unless that fact changes how you live and behave towards all living beings (p. 97). To be good means doing good, and “doing good” is attempting to put into practice what Christ, or the Buddha, actually taught.

Tolstoy believed that if the world were to become religious in the true sense, then there would be no need for the state to exist: one of the reasons why those in power support institutionalised religion. The kingdom of God is not somewhere outside but within you. It is a thought echoed by a Buddhist scholar: “Nirvana has to be attained while one is living, and not after death.”

Religion recognises an infinite extension of the sphere of love. It calls us not to live against our nature – understood to be our animal nature – but according to our true nature, which is love. What is important in religious teaching is not the supernatural but the moral, the ethical (pp. 92-5).

(The above I gather, was published in the Sunday Leader, page 17, 20th December 2009. What’s said about the church are the thoughts of Tolstoy. Without necessarily agreeing with him, I have extended the case he makes to Buddhism - for a Sri Lankan, predominantly Buddhist – readership. The concern is why so many Buddhists in the Island countenance - if not actually incite - violence.- Charles Sarvan (Yet again, with thanks to Liebetraut)

December 19, 2009

Sri Lankan tragedy: No exit from crisis even after military victory

by Dayan Jayatilleka

It is a fairly safe assumption that with the Southern province elections the Rajapakse administration hit its electoral ceiling and the UNP its floor. The ceiling is fairly high, around 65%, and the floor (almost a basement floor, courtesy Mr. Wickremesinghe) pretty low, 25%. It is a safe guess that President Rajapakse had his eyes on Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s “ground record”.

However, he will have to contend with the fact that even without the Fonseka challenge the UPFA with its patriotic platform has peaked and is on a slow parabolic downswing, enabling him at best to beat or reach President Jayawardene’s winning 1982 figure, Premadasa’s 1988 score or CBK’s 1999 result, but not her higher, or one might say, substantially fuller, figure of 1994. That last figure was an anomaly in any case, not generated by her “charisma” or “peace program” as claimed by her ruinous “peace ideologues” and academics, but by default – the Tiger having serially assassinated every viable UNP presidential candidate, barring Ranil Wickremesinghe: Premadasa, Ranjan, Lalith, Gamini and even young Ossie. In 1994 Ranil had partly been edged out as a prospect by an inner party putsch, and partly sidestepped the contest.

On balance it is exceedingly doubtful that any personality around today can, even as “common candidate”, bridge and exceed the gap of around 30% between the Opposition and President Rajapakse. If the UNP had a viable candidate such as Karu Jayasuriya, then a Fonseka or Sarath Silva “spoiler” third candidacy might have made it a close fight, but even so, President Rajapakse would probably win, in a replay of JRJ’s 1982 or Premadasa’s 1988 victories.

The real problem starts after the elections. Presidents Jayewardene and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had dreadfully crisis-tossed second terms, which were terrible experiences for the country and its citizenry. If re-elected, President Rajapakse is likely to have a similar experience, though it may be lesser in intensity because he has, to his undying credit, removed the main motor of development of those earlier crises: Prabhakaran, the Tigers and the war. However, will he be able to overcome the abiding temptation of Sri Lankan presidents (what might be termed the CBK syndrome) to attempt escape from the confines of a rigid constitution?

The most prudent course of action for a President in his or her second term would be to take a leaf from the book of any US President, however popular or powerful, and understand that the corollary of occupying a seat of such great power and influence is that it is limited by two terms. No better recommendation could be given to a Sri Lankan president than to accept these limits of power and (a) to seek to ameliorate the North-South or Sinhala-Tamil question by simply implementing the 13th amendment to the existing Constitution while (b) unblocking the road to meritocracy which is a prerequisite for economic development by implementing the 17th amendment, rather than to risk a referendum on more venturesome architectural moves.

What is sad is that no Sri Lankan president will accept that Realist advice with equanimity: hence the fiasco of Chandrika’s abortive “Constitutional revolution”. Instead of implementing the 13th amendment, empowering her ally Cabinet Minister Devananda through an interim administration and leveraging the Karuna split, she tilted to the TNA and slid slowly into political decline. Though the argument for a total replacement of the Constitution rather than its full implementation or reform, is that the existing one is too authoritarian and/or unsuited to the resolution of the ethnic issue, the real reason-cum-target is the two term limit and the electoral system of proportional representation which act as checks and balances.

The incumbent will be forced to confront the unresolved ethnic issue (despite a reluctance to admit its existence) in the form of the TNA, which has not yet eschewed Tamil Eelam and the Vadukkodai Resolution let alone accepted the sole practicable formula of maximum devolution within a unitary state (the UK model). It may very well pick up Trincomalee at the parliamentary election, approximating the TULF’s sweep in 1977. Its “asking price” will therefore be high; far too high for any government to grant without fear of a Southern backlash.

The newly re-elected Government and President will then either backtrack and maintain the status quo, but with some political damage suffered and prestige lost, perhaps never to be retrieved, or press on and be exposed (though not as vulnerable) as SWRD Bandaranaike was in 1957-9, to a far right religious fundamentalist backlash, sponsored as it was then, and during Chandrika’s administration four decades later, by the defeated UNP, which is the party of the March to Kandy, Cyril Mathew, the burning of the Jaffna library and July ’83. The radical right and religious fundamentalist discourse we see today has its recent origins in the front organizations and proxies built up by the present UNP leadership from 1997 onward, through the private media it controlled. It is the private media that built up the Sinhala far Right in the battle against Chandrika’s August 2000 draft Constitution. This was Track 2 of the current UNP leadership’s policy of which Track 1 was Chamberlain like appeasement leading to Petain-esque collaboration during the CFA.

At no time will a Rajapakse administration, which defeated Prabhakaran, be quite as vulnerable to such a backlash as President CBK or Prime Minister Ranil were, but it also true that the TNA – unlike Douglas, Siddharthan and Sritharan (“Sugu”)-- will not leave the President much wiggle room. Things will be fine so long as the process of negotiation is on, but when it comes to achieving closure and a product, it will be crunch time.

The re-elected administration will need a Constitutional change (hopefully not a change of Constitution) sooner rather than later: CBK’s mistake was to pitch things too high and wait for too long to move. President Rajapakse would be well advised to move on Constitutional reforms if he wishes to do so, within the first hundred days of his re-election, while the opposition is still reeling and the only dangers are extra-Constitutional adventures which he can ward off, especially if the smaller radical right parties have been cut down to size during an election. As SWRD Bandaranaike discovered too late, one cannot make a necessary turn in the direction of ethnic enlightenment if one is trammeled by coalition partners and affiliates which are hawkish on such questions.

In the post election scenario of 2010, it is against a backdrop much like this, compounded by economic travails due to a Western squeeze, that there could be putschist adventures by the racist radical Right, xenophobic far Left and the religious fundamentalists, with the Conservative UNP behind it -- the fear of which could paralyze any reconciliatory ethnic reform, but in the absence of which Sri Lanka will never achieve take off.

Even if the UNP were to assume office, that Rightist government under its present leadership is bound to be vulnerable to a social discontent from below, and prone to deploy harsh militarist authoritarianism “to catch up for lost time and develop the country”. The crisis that almost overwhelmed the country in a tide of blood during the second JR Jayewardene term could well be our lot once again.

Twenty one years -- a lifetime-- ago, emerging from underground while the JVP’s second insurgency was raging, I wrote a series in the Lanka Guardian, the title of which formed the subtitle of my 1995 Vikas book: Unfinished war, protracted crisis. Twenty-one years later, that war is finished. We won. The worst guys lost. The protracted crisis however, continues, and spins out needlessly yet perhaps inevitably. It is Sri Lanka’s tragedy that even after a stunning military victory over a formidable, fascistic foe, there seems to be no exit from the crisis.

Sarath, Gota and the brutality shown to surrendered LTTE leaders

By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

The Island’, reported on December 15: “Fonseka said, he had told a weekend newspaper that a journalist had told him that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered Maj. Gen Shavindra Silva (then Brigadier) to kill the LTTE leaders who offered to surrender but, what he said had been misreported. Certain opposition politicians were trying to gain political mileage by making use of that erroneous report, he said. “I don’t believe that the journalist who wrote the story had any intention of slinging mud at me,” he said.

Thus he was trying to wriggle out of the problem he himself had created by exploding a political bombshell about war crimes. Fortunately, for the public, the government took his exposé seriously and claimed that he has betrayed the country by divulging military secrets. Wimal Weerawansa the leader of Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP) told a news conference on the same day that this matter had already been discussed with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and it had been decided to seek the attorney general’s views with the objective of taking legal action against Gen. Fonseka.

Weerawansa said further, that the statement which the former Army Commander had said had breached the ethics of his profession. He explained that even a professional who works for a biscuit factory is not supposed to reveal its recipes if he joins a competitor’s company. “Gen. Fonseka had, therefore, seriously violated the ethics associated with the army,” he said.

It is clear that the government has indirectly confirmed that, what appeared in the ‘Sunday Leader’ is the truth and the general should be penalized for exposing this highly guarded truth. There were reports in various websites about the killing of the LTTE leadership around 17 of May 2009. The most wide spread story was that, with international agreement the LTTE leadership was requested to come forward to surrender which they accepted. They came in batches with white flags and all were taken into one room. Then instead of treating them as prisoners of war they were all clubbed to death. Even children, including young girls, were murdered.

Though there were confirmations of this event it did not have any credibility as no confirmation came from the side of the Sinhala army. Now, not only the general who led the war but also the very government has indirectly confirmed the development, though not the details.

Now both parties have got into a tangle from which neither can get out easily. The general has to explain why he kept his mouth shut all this time, and why he did not check the media story with Major general Shavindra Silva before going public. On the other hand, if the army was so professional and apolitical under his leadership how did Shavindra implement any order given by Gotabaya, without his knowledge. In the case of Lasantha’s murder General Sarath vouched, that the army men could not have been used for a political purpose as they were strictly professional.

But in this case he suspects that Shavindra has been used for a political end by Gotabaya. General Fonseka cannot have it both ways; either the army was professional and could not be used for political murders or it was possible for some higher up to have used the army to kill Lasantha and attack other media men.

Whatever maybe the outcome of the investigation promised by the parties involved, the war has not indeed created heroes but only suspects of war crimes. Modern Dutugemunus have behaved like barbarians. In the case of the ancient war in 3rd century BC, narrated in the Mahawansa, the old Elara had invited the young Gemunu for a duel in order to avoid the mass killing. For the old man it was a sacrifice and after his death Gemunu gave the utmost respect and even today the Sinhala people pay homage to the statue of Elara.

This Sinhala story stands in contrast to that of the ancient Greeks. In the latter, the Greek hero Achilles drags the dead body of vanquished Trojan leader Hector, which was tied to his chariot, disregarding the cries of Hectors family. But according to this new story Mahinda has surpassed the ancient myths by the brutality shown to the surrendered LTTE leaders.

Whatever may be the result of the proposed investigation on this matter the damage done to our country and the people is irreparable. The political bankruptcy of both parties is shown in debates and abuses that are going on. To gain respect and dignity for all, both these camps should be rejected.

Tamils must come out of the graveyard of boycott politics

by Kumar David

The 2005 presidential election was the graveyard of Tamil boycott politics. As a consequence many people have impressed on the Tamil political parties the importance of active involvement of their people in the current election cycle; recently me too. The thrust of our argument was that their people have suffered a great deal and seen many terrible things in recent months; this has shattered their self-confidence.

Voicing an essential Tamil agenda will help the community commence a process of renewal and a return from the shadows. It could focus attention on their special needs at this difficult time. These efforts have suffered a setback at the time of writing, just before nomination day; it seems that neither the TNA nor another strong Tamil alliance will nominate a presidential candidate.

This is one battle lost, but it’s not the end of the matter. It only raises the next question: What then, what are the Tamil people expected to do? My preferred option, of course, is vote for one of the Left candidates, Siritunga or Bahu; but even optimistically at most only a few tens of thousand of Tamils may do so. Then what about the great majority, the hundreds of thousands? There also remains the question of the second preference, that is, which principal candidate should those who vote for the left, not just Tamils, mark as second choice?

One must make a distinction between different bourgeois alternatives - even if one inhabits the far left - depending on time, place and circumstance. Obama was a particularly easy choice. Minority communities are similarly placed; they need to choose between bad options and a practical instance where badness is so finely balanced that boycott is appropriate, is mythical. In 2005 we witnessed the imbecile, mendacious and venal LTTE "boycott" of presidential elections. It was no boycott at all; rather a calculated decision to place Rajapaksa in power, but the Tamil people did not see through it then.

I do not wish to be diverted into discussing reasons (LTTE war hubris I think had more to do with it than the bribe) but it was another of Prabaharan’s monstrous blunders for which and other blunders, he paid with his life. Well that’s his choice, but he also dragged the Tamil people into a quagmire. Any Tamil who now speaks of boycott needs to have his head examined; surely twice as demented as Prabakaran must have been then.

If those voting for a minor candidate do not mark a second choice, it is in effect, the same as boycotting the principal contest. Choosing a minor candidate as second choice also amounts to a boycott of the principal contest. If counting goes to a second stage only seconds marked in favour of Rajapaksa and Fonseka will be counted; the is rest waste paper. Marking the first vote for a Left candidate is a statement of principle, in my eyes a correct statement; it is not a waste since this statement needs to be made, counted and publicised.

However, not using the second preference to differentiate between the two main candidates is cowardly, just ducking hard decisions. Imagine if for some reason Rajapaksa and Fonseka had been the only candidates, would it not be political cowardice, an admission of intellectual paralysis, to boycott? Sure both are undesirable, but evading a hard choice is the way of the weak.

I would not hesitate to admit that the choice is unsavoury, especially for Tamils, even more so than in usual bourgeois democratic elections at which the people are called upon to nominate a member of the ruling class to misrule them for the next five or six years. Neither Rajapaksa nor Fonseka will bring liberty, equality and fraternity and not socialism by any stretch of imagination.

s the choice therefore irrelevant? Will the outcome make no difference to society at large? No, it matters. Speaking generically, the occasions when the badness of bourgeois democratic candidates is so finely balanced that the choice is irrelevant, are extremely rare. I cannot recall one instance in our (Lanka’s) history where the principal options were so equally bad that (in the absence of a left candidate) I would have needed to abstain from voting.

After ruling out both boycott and its equivalent, second preference abstention, Tamils and left voters cannot prevaricate; the choice between pot and kettle is inescapable. The TNA has decided to duck contesting but will it go into complete hibernation? It has no choice but to campaign actively or be reduced to a nonentity.

Having conceded half the battle to Douglas and Siddharthan by not fielding a candidate it now remains to be seen whether it can evade complete hara kiri. A cruel choice now awaits the TNA; it can actively involve itself in political space or it can allow itself to be outflanked. Either it publicly campaigns for Fonseka, or it will be bold Douglas to the uncontested helm of Tamil leadership! Why not? If the TNA’s scrotal sac is empty, why not someone else stake a claim?

So all roads lead to Rome. For Left voter second choice, Tamil and Muslim voter first or second choice, and the generic Sinhalese voter from Hambantota to Trincomalee, it’s Hobson’s choice. Fonseka is the beneficiary only because a second term for the Rajapaksa Administration is out of the question. For four years we have protested against ubiquitous corruption courtesy of the UPFA, sustained intimidation, assassination, attacks on the press, a climate of fear, and rampant abuse of state power and government property. Are we to have second thoughts now!

To be personal, I did not involve myself in the Anti-War Front (till it was scuttled by Rupesinghe), the Platform for Freedom and the Democratic and Left Front, to become rudderless and anchorless when a presidential election is announced! The decision of left, democratic and liberal minded Lankans was settled by the experiences of the last four years. We cannot admit a second term for the Rajapaksa Administration; there is nothing to reconsider or review again.

A final concern needs sober assessment. Bad as things are, will junking Rajapaksa for Fonseka be a worse option? The decision turns on three issues. Are Fonseka and the political entities supporting him racist? Will he militarise the administration and stamp democracy even deeper into the mud than it now already? Will we simply be changing from one cesspit of corruption, infested by this regime’s crooks, for another populated by new ones?

Fonseka’s "majority-minority"remarks in Canada show a typical majoritarian, reprehensible mindset. He has been making some efforts to woo the minorities recently with a different stance, but he has never apologised or explained himself. Not good enough General! If one compares Fonseka’s Sunday Leader interview (13 Dec) and his denials at the 14 December press conference it is manifest one or the other is a shameless bunch of lies. Nevertheless, I am more comfortable with the forces behind Fonseka than Rajapaksa’s bandwagon.

The UNF is a modernist liberal-capitalist consortium, while the other lot are remnants from the Dark Ages so far as the national question is concerned. The JVP is a worry but if a Fonseka-TNA equation materialises, the TNA with its much larger vote bank, can tip the power balance if the delicate viscosity of its scrotal sac does not inhibit its boldness.

Regime change will liberate political and democratic forces repressed for four long years. If the people grasp the opportunity that the eviction of Rajapaksa will offer, then "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance" exhortation realised. I do not expect Fonseka, if elected, to keep his or his spokesman Mangala’s promises of respecting democracy, rescinding the executive presidency within months and calling a constituent assembly, unless people’s power is manifest and assertive. Public mobilisation to ensure that Fonseka, if elected, cannot retreat on his promises is the only way to get things done; call me a cynic if you like but the General is as adept as the regime in contradiction and untruth.

A regime change inflicting a political defeat on this undemocratic State creates such an opportunity; a second Rajapaksa term precludes it.

If a new constitution is written, the 13th Amendment becomes irrelevant. Why should the national question be confined to an amendment? Administrative decentralisation in general and the devolution of power to address minority concerns are aspects of the balance of power between centre, regions and minorities. These matters are central to, and must be located in, the heart of the constitution.

If there is a change of president, filth seeking faecal flies will swarm round the winning team. Will a new administration succumb as cravenly as the previous one did? Will it be musical chairs; a new set of carrion eaters in cabinet and crooks and hangers on as corporation chairmen? Well a new broom should sweep cleaner, at least for a start; but public vigilance and mobilisation and the alertness of civil society not trusting dignitaries is the deciding factor.

Furthermore, everything has to be placed in the wider context of an economic programme. Fonseka is a blank slate, a hollow vessel in this respect!Lateral thinking is creative so I refer readers to a futuristic piece by Vasantha Raj in www.lankaeye.com entitled "Sarath Fonseka: A potential De Gaulle or Chavez?" It is speculative, but timely and interesting COURTESY:SUNDAY ISLAND

Need for new "vibes" and emergence of a "home grown" Tamil leadership

By Gnana Moonesinghe

"If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern in the stern which shines only on the waves behind.." Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Too long just a few have done the thinking for the Tamils. Too long have the Tamils followed a few at the top. Too long have they been led by emotion and rhetoric.

Too long have they stayed in a time warp where fresh thinking was shut out and the collective mind kept dormant. In their lives there was no spring or summer and nothing new could grow. The stillness of autumn and the cold of the winter was their lot. Following this recurring pattern led them into the pitiful pitfalls- the fate that befalls all who follow without question, without dialogue and who rest all arguments in blind faith on the anointed leadership. Too bad the Tamils had to wake up to the events following the post ’56 era, each decade since then adding to the cumulative trauma of the community.

New vibes for Tamil politics is the need of the moment. It is time that post Prabhakaran period throw up new leadership with fresh assessment of the aspirations and realities of the Tamil community - the vision of Tamils as an equal partner in the nation state of Sri Lanka. The Tamil community has faced too much suffering, too many deaths, too many disappearances, too many lives languishing without homes, without livelihoods, without a serene environment, without a place to rest. From the fifty -fifty high tide of the pre independence period to the wakening to a minority status and the disappointments they faced from the non viable utopias painted by the many leaders who took on the leadership from time to time have been their experience. The Tigers who put up an effective challenge to the nation state took them to a new high in the vision of Eelam. This seemed, until early 2009, to be a likely proposition.

However the shattered dreams began long before the collapse of the LTTE. Too soon it became evident that Prabhakaran’s dreams did not synchronize with the democratic accommodation available to the people in the North and the East.

The Tamil people have once again failed themselves by nurturing a demi- god from whose clutches none could escape. Prabhakaran’s dreams were no different to all men who get catapulted to the top, all too willingly, by an enthused people. He dreamed of a ‘Prabhakaran land’ where his diktat was supreme and where dissent resulted in annihilation. Silence was the only option and unquestioned acquiescence the only path to survival. The Thiranagamas and the Mahattayas learnt that any attempt to voice anything different to that of the supreme leader ended in certain death and they did die because Prabhakaran so willed it.

The people who hoped to enjoy the breeze of freedom from the burden of an overbearing majority found much to their dismay that they were mentally manacled and were falling slowly but surely into the depths of despair. Children born in the 70’s and after knew nothing but war. Their regular feed has been Eelam. The LTTE promised the Tamils a utopian life in an independent Eelam where both personal and psychological needs will be secured; where cultural and linguistic aspirations will be fulfilled and where the quality of life will be enhanced. In doing so the LTTE raised the hopes of their community. But with the passage of time disillusionment set in when the war became a never ending reality. The voluntary support was soon overtaken by compulsion and the fear syndrome became a part of the lives of the hapless people. This brought about the slow strangulation of the Tamil spirit.

As of now the war is over. Will the end of the war bring the much sought after recognition of a due share and a sanguine life to the Tamils? Will recognition of their individual worth come to those who have gone through the travails of living in the battle zone under coercion and involuntary sacrifice? Will inclusivity come to those who lived outside the war zone but who nevertheless encountered constant fears of recriminations by the security checks, societal suspicions and who lead for the most part an insecure life without dignity.

Sandwiched as the Tamils were between the LTTE and the armed forces, people lost their peace of mind; bombarded as they were with not only constant shelling but also the gruesome reality of being trapped in the corridors of attack and counter attack. Those who had the means fled the place, those who could not had to stay holding on to the hope that the army will be defeated by the superior power of the liberating forces of Prabhakaran.

The emergence of Prabhakaran was considered a phenomenon, a successful countervailing force to stop the attacks by the Sri Lankan army and prevent the recurrence of the ’83 pogrom. This remained a great solace to the Tamils and even today if there is a lingering sadness among some Tamils about Prabhakaran’s demise, it is the fear that the leader and the movement they considered their sheet anchor and their protective cover of security and pride is no more. The Tamils felt that at last they have created a bulwark between the majority and the Tamils through the military strength of the LTTE and the strategies followed by their leader who could challenge the many inept ways of exclusion of the Tamils from a role in governance.

Prabhakaran is dead and a vacuum exists for a refill of the leadership role or roles. The old leaders of the Tamils are still around (those of whom the LTTE could not eliminate and those whom he brought under his heavy boot); those among the would be liberators who challenged the Lankan State are also around (that is, the few who have survived the LTTE attacks); so are some of the solo players who played out the illusion of being representatives of the Tamils. Who amongst them will take the lead?

There is considered opinion that the Tamil leadership over these many years failed to deliver on the variety of concerns of the Tamil community. A union of forces with a common agenda for the welfare of the Tamils would have carried greater impact to help resolve some at least of the grievances of the community. Instead, concentration of effort was always to fight for political space particularly after militancy came to the forefront. . The ‘I’ of the leader and the group mattered more than the ‘we’ of the collective, the Tamilians.

Should the Tamils not search for leaders who will be more flexible and search for accommodation at a national level? In the globalized world, boundaries and distances do not matter. Differences are given factors and flexibility is the tool through which the system functions. This is perhaps the model to adopt and be systematized into the political process. There are men and women amongst the Tamils who have gone through fire and water, the symbol of death and resurrection, and remain sharpened in wit by their experiences. Can they lead or make an input to their leaders?

In hindsight it would seem as if the leadership had used the whole of the Tamil community as martyrs to serve their ends. Evidence of this is seen in the way the leadership handled problems they were confronted with. The three major areas of discontent since 1956 have been one, regarding language following the declaration of Sinahla Only; two, the complaint of reduced access to higher education and three, the drop in employment opportunities in the public sector.

Over the years the language issue was resolved and finally, with the 13th amendment, Sinhala and Tamil declared the official languages. But the Tamil politicians never gave prominence to these changes to the people. Many were not aware that such changes have taken place for the simple reason that it did not serve the political ambitions of their leaders to share this information. People kept agitating for what was already their constitutional right and the Tamil politicians were happy to keep this chorus alive. What a mature leadership keen on removing the obstacles should have done was to examine the shortcomings and flaws in policy, particularly in its tardy implementation. Tamils face serious problems in their dealings with officialdom owing to the language barrier but the leadership failed to attend to specifics to remove the difficulties.

Similarly, standardization and the quota system that reduced access to Tamil students, underwent changes in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. These did not enter the political dialogue either. The Tamil community continued to nurse the perception of discrimination and the politicians did not make the effort to clarify convincingly the rationale behind the policies. It is a tragedy that today many are realizing that this did help the disadvantaged students in the remote areas in the north, east and the south.

The downturn in the employment potential for the Tamils continued sharply from the late 60’s and onwards. The disproportionate statistics for the Tamils in the public sector employment prior to this legislation have been a bone of contention with the majority community. The Tamils used the access they had to schools, with a singular concentration as the only resource for greater mobility. There is today a demand for strict application of meritocracy in recruitment abandoning the wide usage of patronage. If this had been followed and the merits of the system explained, it would have led to greater harmony not only between the Sinhalese and the Tamils but also quite emphatically within the Sinhalese majority community as well. Much of the discontent that boiled over in the 1971 uprising and later in 1989 had as a root cause, political patronage in selections made to employment.

When numbers worked against the Tamil minority in education as well as in recruitment to jobs, wiser counsel should have prevailed. The leadership should have encouraged their followers to gain mastery over the Sinhala and English languages while learning in Tamil and given them the opportunity to compete with the majority on an equal basis, proving their capacity to learn and excel. Mastery of another language adds value to one and will in no way diminish the esteem and the linguistic or cultural identity of any group. Tamil leaders denied to the Tamils this option while many of their children living in Colombo and other major towns gained versatility in all three languages. Tamils who had the resources and the opportunity, left the country especially after 1956 and later after 1983, while some others migrated for economic reasons either before or after 1983. The Tamil community lost the greater part of their intelligentsia and so did the country. Sections of the migrants later formed the Diaspora that invested in divisive and aggressive military option to the detriment of the Tamils and the others in the country, resources which could have been used for constructive purposes to strengthen the community’s competitiveness.

The shortsightedness of the politicians at the time was responsible for the rise of the militant movement and the untold suffering the Tamils have gone through and are still going through. Many of the mainstream Tamil politicians were ruthlessly eliminated by the LTTE. The ruthless element in the ethnic war was thus born out of this non committal attitude of the seniors who were actually masters of accommodation but who failed to teach this essential quality necessary for negotiation to their followers. The failure of the leadership to be transparent in their dealings with the members in their respective parties caused them and the country immense problems. The culpability of the political leadership in the south is in no way diminished by pointing out to the shortcomings in Tamil leadership.

Following the end of the war, in an attempt to indicate a return to normalcy the government held elections in the North. Elections were held even before the IDP’s were resettled and the wheels of society had begun to roll on. There was some degree of voter apathy, an indication that the government had pre-empted a process which turned out to be ahead of the immediate concerns of the war weary people struggling to settle down after years of leading a ‘nomadic’ life style. Many Tamils from this district have left the country or moved to other parts of the island; many of the residents are trapped in the IDP camps. Having lived without the trappings of democracy for many years, the people were perhaps unable to be enthused by the prospect of elections. Moreover the elections were held with a strong presence of security forces, with some candidates and their supporters carrying arms. No media interaction was available for the people to give expression to their needs and interests. Consequently the local elections turned out to be less than impressive.

There is a large non committed residue of voters. This is a good sign particularly in the light of the poll released by a think tank from Colombo which states that 65% of respondents in Jaffna either said that they identified with no party or refused to divulge which one it was. This means that people have matured and are going to take their time and not make quick decisions as to who or what they want. Also, the fact that they were not airing their choice of party, if they had made one, indicate that they would like to keep their choice private; a very significant response indeed.

Much needs to be done in the task of reconciliation and integration. This is only possible if the people of the North are taken into confidence and their opinions solicited. The TNA is reported to have said that a vote "for the ruling coalition would be to subject the peninsula to rule by Sri Lanka’s mainly Buddhist Sinhala majority". (The Economist, August 15th -21st, 2009.) If this is so, it would be a sad reflection on the longest serving political party which has opted to turn its attention away from lessons to be learnt from history.

The need of the hour is to promote ‘inclusive’ politics and advocate pluralism in a manner that promotes nation building. This does not mean turning a blind eye to the causes of the conflict. This is the time to acquaint the Tamils in the war torn areas of the plans the government has for development, for reconciliation and for teaching of English and IT to get the young men and women linked to the global economy. This might help to offer peace to the traumatized people who will naturally tend to be wary of the Sinhala ‘enemy’. A generation of youth has lived since the 70’s in the north, without any interaction with the rest of the country except the army and to many this relationship had not been pleasant.

Once the Tamil people have settled down, it is the hope a ‘home grown’ Tamil leadership will emerge. They will have a greater awareness of their local needs while being conscious of the shortcomings in their past strategies. The reins of leadership should be taken by them so that they become stakeholders of the mechanisms and processes necessary for their progress. Civic space so long denied to them can be created that will foster skills in peace building strategies for national integration, individual and collective development in their areas of habitation, for justice and dignity as equal copartners within the nation. This time around the Tamil leadership should not fail.

Obama’s Afghan Dilemmas

by Rajan Philips

The man who soared onto the American presidency unlike any other is now saddled with challenges that only a few among his forty three predecessors did have to surmount. President Obama is being tested on every front, domestic and foreign, but it is in Afghanistan that he is staking his political future.

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President Obama at the Organizing for America Health Insurance Reform-Forum-81: pic: Barack Obama ~ flickr pgs

After months of intense deliberation, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize has announced the escalation of America’s military involvement in Afghanistan, ordering the deployment of three new brigades of 30,000 additional troops within six months in Afghanistan. The war announcement from West Point on the first day of December was sombre and subdued, free of flights of patriotic fancy, and included the promise to start the drawdown in troop level in July 2011.

A week later in Oslo, Obama gave a more spirited defence of America’s role in the world in his Nobel acceptance speech, to cheers from the American right. He asserted that America had never attacked a democratic government, but failed to remember that almost all world conflicts involving America were precipitated by American support of undemocratic regimes or counter regimes. The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s politico-military complex that is now Taliban-infected came out of America’s Cold War policies. Military action alone is not enough to undo America’s past misdoings, more so in Afghanistan.

With this escalation, President Obama has assumed ownership of the Afghan war. It is no longer Bush, but Obama who is answerable for it – not so much to history but to the American electorate in 2012. The man who hitched his candidacy to opposing the Iraq war has now predicated his presidency on the first war that Bush started but gave up for Iraq. Obama really had no other alternative. Withdrawing suddenly or in stages would have been more than an admission of military failure – it would have weakened America’s diplomatic and political clout everywhere. So the least unwelcome option is to ‘surge’ now and pull out later in stages. What could be achieved by the proposed surge is still uncertain.

The NATO allies are coughing up close to 10,000 troops of their own – that would bring additional reinforcement to levels that the US commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, has estimated as needed for the surge and to reestablish control over the resurgent Taliban forces. For his part, Hamid Karzai, the beleaguered Afghan President, has stunned his benefactors, declaring that it would be 2024 before Afghanistan could create and pay for its own security. A 400,000 strong force of army and police of Afghans is what it will take for an Afghanistan government to do the job on its own, according to General McChrystal. At an annual cost of $10 billion for this build up, America may have to bankroll most or all of $150 billions over 15 years till 2024. That would be eight more years after Obama’s second term. The Congress is jittery and the Americans are not happy. Opinion polls indicate a small majority of Americans supporting Obama’s escalation gamble. For now.

The pundits are divided in speculating the outcome of Obama’s decision, the momentousness of which is not wholly apparent given the economic doldrums that America is in. The comparison to Johnson and Vietnam is the obvious one, but the one to Brezhnev and the Soviet misadventure in Afghanistan is the one that is worrying the American liberals who thought that in Obama they had found a new man to turn a new page in American foreign policy. The Soviet comparison might be farfetched because the external circumstances are far different and more helpful now than they were when the Soviets took their kick at the Afghan can.

India is totally behind continuing US involvement in Afghanistan. In altogether different circumstances, India was supportive of the Soviet involvement earlier. There are no non-Islamic sources of support in the world for the Taliban, unlike when they were fighting the Soviets. There will be no arm supplies from China, because there are no American dollars to pay for them – as was the case earlier when America indirectly paid for Chinese weapons to arm the Taliban against the Soviets. It is the internal situation in Afghanistan and the interconnections to Pakistan that pose the biggest hurdles to not only sustainable military advances but also viable diplomatic and political breakthroughs in the region.

Afghan-Pakistan Nexus

Pakistan’s involvement in Soviet-Afghanistan began in the context of Cold War realpolitik. What has become inextricable since is the sociopolitical nexus between Pakistan and Taliban-Afghanistan provided by the Pashtun people. Numbering over forty million, the Pashtuns are reputedly the world’s largest patriarchal (segmentary lineage) ethnic group comprising 60 tribes and 400 sub-clans. Thirty million of them are equally divided between southeastern Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan and the remainder are in Iran and also India. Eighty five percent of the millions of Afghan refugees who fled to Pakistan during the Soviet invasion were Pashtuns. The Pashtuns are the social base of the Taliban, a potent fusion of primordial solidarity, bitter war experiences, and transnational Islamic fundamentalism, now seamlessly straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The government of Hamid Karzai, himself a Pashtun, is barely holding together a patchwork country of disparate groups scattered over a rugged terrain. The Pashtuns account for over half the population of 28 million people and dominate southeastern Afghanistan. Karzai’s formula for power is his questionable trade offs with the northern groups of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and other smaller groups who make up the so called Northern Alliance. In return for their electoral support and power sharing arrangements, Karzai has given the leaders of the northern groups the monopoly over corruption and license for lucrative businesses involving not only opium but also kidnapping. Karzai’s failure despite American-led international support has given the Taliban the opportunity for a second coming against corruption and for power in Afghanistan. Fighting corruption was also the reason for their first uprising in Soviet-Afghanistan.

While Pahstuns form the core base of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Talibanization of Pakistan has gone beyond Pakistani Pashtuns and has in its web the country’s core centres of power. The opportunism and ideology of influential sections of Pakistan’s military-industrial complex, its political class and the media has brought them into alignment with the Taliban agenda. America’s wrongheaded Cold War policies created and sustained Pakistan’s military regime for decades. After the Cold War the remnants and successors of the old military-industrial complex have found in Talibanization a new mode of survival.

President Zia-ul-Haq cultivated the Taliban with American support ostensibly against communism. When terrorism became America’s new bogey following the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks, Pervez Musharraf played both sides receiving American money to fight the Taliban while letting his army keep its Taliban connections active. Musharraf and the Pakistani establishment undermined the Karzai government in Kabul and kept alive Pakistan’s own cold war against India. When Musharraf got too clever by half and riled up internal opposition, Washington sent Benazir Bhutto to engineer an orderly succession and bring Pakistan into firmer alignment with America’s war against the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Washington could not protect Bhutto from her assassins, but her widower and fortuitous successor Asif Zardari appears to have set himself against Pakistan’s traditional military-industrial power elites and against their shared agendas with Islamic fundamentalism and the Taliban.

The traditional power brokers are deeply alarmed. They were supposedly behind the Mumbai attacks to derail a new Indo-Pakistani peace initiative for Kashmir. Friendship with India would eliminate the main reason for their being and the huge defence investments using mostly American money. More worrisome to them is the new Kerry-Lugger (Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar) legislation on Pakistan that commits to providing economic aid of $7.5 billions over five years passed with the unprecedented requirement that the responsibility for using the funds lies with the country’s civilian and not the military authorities. This has shocked the military establishment and pro-military sections of the media who blame President Zardari and Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington, Hussain Haqqani, for the turn of events and they are whipping up a patriotic furor against both men.

Informed observers and even statements in the US Congress have warned of the possibility of a new form of coup against Zardari – regime change brought about by systematically discrediting him before the public rather than rolling out the tanks on the streets as was done in the past. It is not difficult to discredit Zardari in public or in private. There is now a banned industry of Zardari jokes in Pakistan, the old corruption charges against are being recycled in the pro-military media, and the fact that Zardari is not a Punjabi elite but a Sindhi upstart is also a powerful ammunition against him.

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week revoking the law giving amnesty to politicians against corruption charges has led to calls for Zardari’s resignation. The law was the creation of President Musharraf to enable Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan and share power with the then President. The deal was made in Bush’s Washington and Zardari became its beneficiary after Bhutto’s assassination. The Obama Administration is now faced with the dilemma of propping up the unpopular Zardari in return for his support of their surge strategy in Afghanistan, or risking a short term setback and letting the wheels of Pakistani politics make their next turn.

Paasikuda: Heavenly beach of the 'Green algae' bay

"To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me." - Isaac Newton 1642-1727),Mathematician and Physicist

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Paasikuda means Green-Algae-Bay. It is a coastal resort which is situated 35 kilometers North West of Batticaloa. Beautiful beach in Paasikuda is an attraction to Sri Lankans and foreign tourists. Now, people from other parts of the country visit Paasikuda in big numbers. Paasikuda is one among many choices for a memorable and pleasant holiday in Sri Lanka.

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Welcome to Paasikuda

Paasikuda is situated in Batticaloa district between Kalkuda and the sea. There are 105 families currently living in Paasikuda. They recall their happy old days of business on the beach of Paasikuda.The livelihood of the area is fishing. Paasikuda was affected by the long decades of conflict and Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, and it is re-emerging into a tourist destination.

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Breathtaking beautiful beach brings back many unforgettable memories. The bay here is protected from the sea. It is a perfect place to learn swimming. And it has a stunning natural setting such as coconut trees and Palmyrah trees on the shore.

It is famous for its shallow sea and salty sand. Heavenly beach in Paasikuda, begins to attract people once again. It is an absolute ideal place for relaxation and renewal.

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Old water tank standing still on the shore

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Fleet of boats on the shore

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The bed is flat and able to walk into the water upto150 to 200 meters from the shore

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Scars of the conflict

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Breeze slowly brings the boats

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The total population of Batticaloa district in 2007 was 5,15,857 , and in 2008 it was 5,30,000 according to Batticaloa District Secretariat.

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In the water at noon; Paasikuda is a perfect place to learn swimming.

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Beach begins to bustle

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Beautiful beach in Paasikuda is an attraction to Sri Lankans and foreign tourists.

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Young Palmyrah fruits on trees in Paasikuda

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Paasikuda means Green-Algae-Bay

Click to view larger images: HumanityAshore.org ~ Email: dushi.pillai@gmail.com

December 18, 2009

Unprecedented crowd attends Fonseka's meeting despite heavy downpour

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

large crowds

Mahinda Rajapakse & Sarath Fonseka after filing nominations hold political meetings with large crowds in Anuradhapura & Kandy respectively.

pouring rain

While Govt transports crowds to meeting an unprecedented crowd attends Fonseka's meeting on his birthday(Dec 17th) despite pouring rain

discloses

Sarath Fonseka discloses his assets to religious leaders in Kandy. Will Mahinda Rajapakse reveal his & assets of his Siblings publicly?

Mahindas?

Sarath Fonseka says his assets comprise a house & land in Piliyandala,a land given by govt in Narahenpita & some family bank accounts. Mahindas?

former President Chandrika

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge is expected to address election meetings in support of Gen.Sarath Fonseka next month

support

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunge says she can support any candidate at elections now because she has been kicked out by her own party [ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Govt blocked doctorates to Defence service chiefs-Sarath Fonseka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

doctorates

Sarath Fonseka says that Colombo University wanted to award honorary doctorates to all 3 def service chiefs but was forbidden by the govt

denied

Fonseka says that the three service chiefs denied doctorates by the Rajapakse brothers had to watch Mahinda & Gotabhaya receiving doctorates

"weak"

former Army chief Sarath Fonseka describes present Army commander Jagath Jayasuriya as a "weak" person in a media interview

"holding"

Fonseka says that he kept Jayasuriya only as "holding"officer in charge of logistics based in Vavuniya during the war against LTTE

[ http://twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Canada Liberals release policy statement on current situation in Sri Lanka

OTTAWA - The Hon. Bob Rae, Foreign Affairs Critic for the Liberal Party of Canada released a policy statement on Dec 17th on the current situation in Sri Lanka.

“This is not a situation that can be ignored simply because the war has ended. We must continue to work together as a nation to ensure that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are upheld in Sri Lanka as they move forward to face the challenges of their society together.”

Liberal Policy Statement on Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka faces deep challenges. Now that the armed conflict within the country is over, there are still over a quarter of a million Tamils living in refugee camps. Conditions in the camps are poor, and a lack of clean water and basic hygiene pose a serious risk to the health of those being held in the camps.

The Sri Lankan economy is performing badly, with high unemployment and large public deficits. There are also worrying signs of repression and harassment of those seeking greater reconciliation between and among all the elements of Sri Lankan society and a stronger human rights regime in the country. Many of those with an independent point of view are either forced to leave the country or barred from entry.

This is a moment of decision for Sri Lankan society: either to follow a path of truth seeking and political reconciliation, or a policy of repression and isolation. Canadian policy must be based on a serious effort to encourage Sri Lanka to follow the first path. Canada has taken a long standing interest in Sri Lanka, and has contributed substantially to development assistance projects in the country.

We have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the government of Sri Lanka, at their request, on governance issues inside the country. Canada is also home to hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan emigrants, in particular a large Tamil diaspora which has come to Canada – many as refugees – in the last thirty years. Our interest is not fleeting.

The policy of the Liberal Party is based on the following key principles:

1. Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation and a member of the United Nations. We fully respect the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka. But, like Canada and the other countries of the world, Sri Lanka is a signatory to the UN Charter, and with that comes a need to respect international law with special attention to human rights, the rights of minorities, children, refugees, and all aspects of humanitarian law. In addition, the government of Sri Lanka has made commitments to the UN about the current humanitarian situation that it needs to uphold.

2. The long standing armed conflict between the defence forces of the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is now over. In the aftermath of that conflict Canada has profound concerns which it will continue to raise. The first is the conduct of both parties to the conflict. There are serious allegations against both parties about breaches of humanitarian and international law in the course of the war. These have to be examined and reviewed in an independent manner. Misconduct cannot lead to impunity. Reconciliation is not possible without a willingness to confront the truth. Many countries – of which Canada is one – have understood the importance of both truth and reconciliation.

3. Over a quarter of a million Tamil Sri Lankans are currently being held in internment camps, many of them children and orphans. These camps must be open to international humanitarian inspection, and people must be released from them, and be allowed to return home. The timetables that Sri Lanka itself proposed to the UN have, to this point, not been met.

4. Canadian citizens of Sri Lankan origin are rightly concerned about the fate of their family members and loved ones. Canada needs to insist on comprehensive lists of those who are dead or missing, as well as those being currently held, and to encourage family unification in Canada as this is what the families seek. Canada also needs to accept its share of refugees, and to be a leader in dealing with a humanitarian crisis. Access to camps by Canadian aid and immigration officials needs to be ensured. Everything possible must be done to ensure the speedy closure of the camps, and the return of interred refugees to their homes.

5. Canada and the UN also need to ensure that those identified by the government of Sri Lanka as members of the LTTE or as posing security risks need to be treated according to the protocols of international law. All obligations which Sri Lanka has assumed as a signatory to the Geneva Conventions with respect to combatants and their treatment must be met.

6. The Sri Lankan government must begin the process of reconciliation and deeper political change to ensure that the full rights of all communities of the country are respected. Canada does not seek to dictate any particular constitutional course; however, an independent judiciary, effective devolution and power-sharing, and full respect for all people and groups in the country are fundamental features of democracy and human rights, and have been reinforced in recent years by a number of national agreements, international treaties and conventions to which Sri Lanka is a signatory. Canada has played, and continues to play a role in facilitating these changes.

7. Canadian humanitarian aid should be unconditional if it is provided directly to nongovernmental organizations who can ensure its delivery to those in need. However, other forms of Canadian and international assistance, such as the IMF loan, need to be conditioned on the implementation of both the immediate needs of the population and the longer term changes that are necessary for national reconciliation.

8. Stronger economic investment, and trade ties, with the full participation of the Sri Lankan diaspora in Canada, will become a greater possibility when Sri Lanka adopts the positive path set out above. Canada does have a responsibility to engage the Sri Lankan diaspora, and to ensure that there is a constructive dialogue that will lead to a deeper engagement.

Approximately 1,600 Sri Lankans receive priority processing to help reunite with family in Canada

Ottawa, December 18, 2009 —The Government of Canada has expedited the processing of applications for approximately 1,600 people from Sri Lanka in an effort to help them reunite with family in Canada, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said today.

The humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka prompted the Government of Canada to begin expediting the processing of new and existing sponsorship applications in June 2009 for Sri Lankans who were directly and significantly affected.

These measures are ending today, December 18, 2009. Any applications received on or after December 19, 2009, will be processed according to standard procedures. Visa officers will continue, however, to have the flexibility under Canada’s immigration law to respond in a humane and expeditious manner, if needed.

“When a crisis happens, Canada is there to help Canadian citizens and permanent residents reunite with their family members abroad,” said Minister Kenney. “The situation in Sri Lanka called for us to do something to help those with family in Canada.”

On May 19, 2009, the President of Sri Lanka officially declared victory in a civil war that lasted more than 30 years. In response to the ensuing humanitarian crisis involving internally displaced people, priority processing was announced on June 3, 2009, for both new and existing sponsorship applications. In-Canada sponsors and those being sponsored from Sri Lanka were encouraged to contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada to have their cases identified for priority processing. As always, all immigration requirements, including security and medical checks, still had to be met.

Of the almost 1,600 applicants who have received priority processing since June 3, 2009, almost 800 received permanent resident visas from the visa office in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to come to Canada. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this country has a proud tradition of helping to reunite people in Canada with their loved ones abroad in times of crisis,” said the Minister.

Full text of press release ~ Minister’s Office, Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Dash of re-openings for Jaffna, in devotion, daily life and development

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Naguleswaram

Naguleswaram temple in Jaffna will be kept open for the devotees.Limited access was permitted for 30 years.

Kandy to Jaffna

Sri Lanka Transport Board has begun its first service from Kandy to Jaffna today after a long time.The journey'll be through A9 highway.

Kilinochchi

Kilinochchi District Hospital was renovated & re-opened for the public.It has maternity ward,dental clinic and Out Patient Department (OPD).

Teaching Hospital

Jaffna Teaching Hospital will be renovated soon.Japan International Cooporation Agency will assist the Government of Sri Lanka.

clinics

The hospital will have dental clinics,ECG,EEG,Ultra-sound units,a surgery,an Intensive Care Unit and dental clinic.

lagoon and the beach

A modern tourist hotel in the heart of Jaffna Town will be established in a 340 perch land with an overview of the lagoon and the beach.

construction

Tilko Jaffna City Hotels (Private) Limited has already commenced construction of the hotel & expects to commence operations in February 2010.

facilities

The hotel will consist of 33 Guest Rooms and 2 Cottages. Restaurant, gymnasium, and conference facilities will be available at the hotel.

limestone

Kaankesanthurai cement factory will be rebuilt soon.The area has a rich deposit of limestone. [ http://twitter.com/PassionParade ]

Sarath Fonseka and Arjuna Ranatunga, birds of a feather sticking together

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

together

Arjuna Ranatunga joins Sarath Fonseka campaign in a case of birds of a feather sticking together. They are both very similiar in some ways

victory

Arjuna put down coach Dev Whatmore after victory in cricket. Sarath puts down def secy Gotabhaya Rajapakse after victory in war

aftermath

Arjuna wanted to be Sports Minister in aftermath of world cup victory in cricket. Sarath wants to be Prez after victory against LTTE in war [ click for updates ~ twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Which is bad, getting “donation” from Praba’s father or fleecing the country?

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

cash

Mahinda Rajapakse attacks Sarath Fonseka indirectly in Anuradhapura by alleging that accepting cash from Prabakharan's parents is a betrayal

betray

Mahinda says he nor govt will take money from ex-LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran's parents for any matter & wont betray nation by doing so

incorruptible

What is wrong in getting a "donation" from Praba's father Velupillai who was a duty-conscious, honest, incorruptible retd govt employee?

fleecing

Real "treachery" is not getting money from Praba's parents but in fleecing the country through corruption, nepotism & human rights violations

already

The Rajapakse regime doesn't need pittance from Praba's parents as the family has already made billions through alleged corrupt deals

including

Mahinda is "attacking" Prabhakaran's parents because Sarath had said that he was prepared to get support from anyone including Praba's parents

vilified

Are Mr.& mrs.Velupillai going to be vilified as criminals & traitors simply because Prabhakaran was their son & Sarath Fonseka referred to it

parents

Are parents going to be criminalized & stigmatised for the alleged conduct or misconduct of their children?

DA Rajapakse

If so should DA Rajapakse who was a very honest politician be held responsible posthumously for alleged "corruption" of his "corrupt" sons?

reveal

President Rajapakse must first reveal where LTTE leaders aged parents are & whether govt is detaining them & if so for what alleged offence? [ click for updates ~ twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Gotabhaya Rajapakse absolved govt & blamed army for alleged violations- Sarath Fonseka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

first told

Gen.Sarath Fonseka tell "Daily Mirror" online that it was Def Secy who first told US authorities about alleged killing of LTTE leaders

blamed army

Sarath Fonseka charges that Gotabhaya Rajapakse in recent media interview had indirectly absolved govt & blamed army for alleged violations

would defend

Fonseka tells DM that he would defend his troops to the hilt at any international court & will safeguard & stand by the army whatever the cost

NOT stand by

Fonseka says he would NOT stand by Defence secretary for "war crimes" like allegedly ordering army to disregard surrendees with white flags

politicised

As I predicted earlier the Rajapakse-Fonseka electoral fight is resulting in negative consequence of Army becoming increasingly politicized

volunteers

Military Police mounts vigil as a lot of Army deserters are suspected of working as volunteers for the Sarath Fonseka election campaign

suspects "loyalty"

Rajapakse regime suspects "loyalty" of Gen.Sarath Fonseka's parent "Sinha" regiment & subjects it to unwarranted internal security measures

"guarded"

Resentment rises within "Sinhayas Soldiers as Sinha regiment headquarters is now being "guarded" by Military Police on orders from top [click for updates ~ [ twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

Who fought the war?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

no images

State television covering presidential nominations had no images of Sarath Fonseka during live telecast except shaking hands with President

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pic by: INDI.ca

“blacked out”

If Mahinda Rajapakse is confident of winning presidential poll why was Sarath Fonseka “blacked out” by State Television on Nomination day?

casts doubts

The new 1000 rupee currency note issued by Central Bank to commemorate war victory over LTTE casts doubts on the ethnicity of SL soldiers

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Who fought

The new note has image of fie soldiers carrying the national flag but the soldiers have Mongoloid and Caucasian features. Who fought the war?

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wont be

The latest joke in Sri Lanka is that there wont be any nativity plays in Colombo this Christmas season. And the reason?.....

Reason?

Reason? They couldn’t find “three wise men” in the whole of Colombo to play themselves whereas there is an abundance of “asses” for stable scene [ http://www.twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj ]

December 17, 2009

India’s Plan to Create New Southern State

By Anjana Pasricha

India’s plan to carve out a new state from southern Andhra Pradesh has triggered a political furor. It has also intensified similar demands in other parts of the country and led to a fresh debate on the issue of governance and regional identity for the huge country.

When the federal government agreed to create a new state, called Telangana, from the northern districts of Andhra Pradesh, it hoped to calm growing tensions about the demand that has been ongoing for decades.

But the move has had the opposite effect. It has triggered a wave of counterprotests from those who want Andhra Pradesh to remain united. More than 120 lawmakers in the state legislature have submitted resignations, demanding that the government scrap its plans.

At the same time, the government’s concession on Telangana has revived statehood demands in other areas. In the eastern state, West Bengal, protesters have intensified a campaign for a new state in the hill regions, for the ethnic Nepalese population. In Rajasthan, activists have held demonstrations to demand a new state, Maru Pradesh. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh wants three new states to be created out of the country’s most-populous state.

History professor at Delhi University and political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan says many of the campaigns for separate states are born in poor and neglected areas. For example, supporters of Telangana want an independent state because they say the region is deprived of resources, jobs and opportunities.

“In many cases the regions that are backward or underdeveloped, there is a feeling among people that statehood within the Indian union will give them a better chance of living a life of material dignity,” said Rangarajan. “Added to this, there is the view that there are cultural features which unify them as opposed to people in the rest of the state.”

Political boundaries within India have been redrawn several times since it was divided into 18 states, on linguistic lines, in the 1950s. Today, India has 28 states and seven federally administered territories. The most recent division of states took place in 2000, when three new states (Chattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand) were carved in north India to meet the aspirations of tribal and hill communities.

C.V. Madhukar is the director of the Delhi-based independent PRS Legislative Research. He says the model of linguistic states is being questioned as issues of identity come to the fore in the diverse country of more than a billion people.

“It [language] was relevant at that time and continues to be relevant, in large measure. But, beyond language, there are cultural, ethnic differences,” he said. “There are development differences that people want to address and a lot of this is coming out in the agitations which we are now seeing.”

Those who support splitting existing states point out that some Indian states are bigger than the size of many countries. The most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has a population of 190 million — nearly the same as Brazil.

Political analyst Rangarajan says the demand for smaller states is no surprise in a country where the population has grown threefold from the time it became independent.

“Today we have 28 states — but we must keep in mind, 28 states for 1 billion people. United States has 300 million people and 50 states,” he said. “The European Union has 300 million people and 27 nation states. So it is not all that illogical.”

Those who support the creation of smaller states also argue that they could promote better governance in a country where administration, in many regions, is ineffective. They say it could lead to better political representation for local communities. They point out that some of India’s smallest states, such as Haryana in the north and Kerala in the south, are more developed than larger ones.

However, Madhukar says that size is only a small factor in good governance.

“I think the bigger logic needs to be that there should be a rationale for creating states. The point is small state or big state, unless you learn how to govern yourself, you don’t have a solution,” he said. “You cannot have small states as a proxy for good governance.”

Indeed, as the protests and counterprotests about Telangana show, the issue of reorganizing states will be a contentious one with no easy answers.

The federal government has already put the issue of splitting Andhra Pradesh on the back burner. It says Telangana can only get statehood after the Andhra Pradesh state assembly passes a resolution for its creation — something that could take months, or even longer, given the polarization on the issue. [courtesy: Voice of America News]

Learning on the lofty littoral of Beruwala

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Driving parallel to a train. The train is full of commuters going home after a hard day’s of work. Some sit, and many stand.

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[click here to read in full ~ on humanityAshore.com]

Pradeep Jayawardena supports President Rajapakse, Arjuna Ranatunga for Gen. Fonseka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

grandfather

JRJayewardena's grandson Pradeep Jayawardena supports Mahinda Rajapakse for president.Says his grandfather if alive would have done the same

"captain cool"

Former Sri Lankan cricket "captain cool" & UPFA parliamentarian Arjuna Ranatunga announces his support for Sarath Fonseka at presidential polls

22 out of 23

Elections Commissioner accepts 22 out of 23 nominations for presidential elections. Rejects only Nelson Perera of Sri Lanka progressive Front

"Bias"

Elections commissioner decision to allow only State TV do live telecast of presidential poll nomination papers causes furore about "Bias"

obstruct

Despite Mangala Samaraweera & JVP warning of Govt plot to obstruct Sarath Fonseka with a Bhikku group the General handed his nomination in

"running mate"

JVP wants ex-chief justice Sarath Silva to be accepted as Sarath Fonseka's "running mate" & be made prime minister after parliamentary polls

violated

Former chief Justice Sarath N Silva says Mahinda Rajapakse has violated Constitution throughout his term as executive president

flouted

Sarath Silva pointed out that Mahinda had flouted his oath to uphold the constitution,speaking at launch of Mangala Samaraweera's new website

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

Secy/Foreign Ministry post-would not accept if offered, says Dayan Jayatilleka

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

foreign secy

Ex-envoy to UN - Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleka says he has not been offered foreign secy post & if it was offered he would refuse it unhesitatingly

thanks

"No one has offered me Secy /Foreign Ministry post, would not accept it even if it were offered and would dismiss it with thanks" he says

reader

Dayan jayatilleka said this as an "on the record "comment while answering a reader of his latest article posted on: transcurrents.com http://bit.ly/8ICPlC

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

December 16, 2009

Every country would be held accountable for hewing to universal human rights standards-Secretary Clinton

By Mary Beth Sheridan

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday Dec 14th that human rights and democracy promotion are central to U.S. foreign policy, in a major speech after months of criticism that the Obama administration was being too timid about denouncing abuses of basic freedoms abroad.

Clinton emphasized that the U.S. government could demand other countries observe human rights only if it got its own house in order, a reference to President Obama's moves to end torture and close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention center.

She also put new focus on expanding the human rights discussion to include freedom from hunger and disease, an approach often emphasized by Third World countries.

But perhaps the most notable aspect of Clinton's speech was that she gave it at all, said activists and other experts on human rights. Her talk, and one last week by Obama at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, appeared to respond to concerns that the administration has not been forceful enough about abuses in places such as China.

"I think she went a long way in addressing what had become a kind of an issue that started to dog the Obama administration -- where do human rights and democracy fit with them?" said Sarah Mendelson, director of the human rights and security initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In her speech at Georgetown University, Clinton outlined several elements of the administration's approach. First, she said, every country would be held accountable for hewing to universal human rights standards -- "including ourselves."

Second, Clinton said, the administration would be pragmatic. She cited, for example, the decision to begin "measured engagement" with Burma after determining that isolating the regime was not helping.

Third, the administration plans to work with grass-roots groups as well as governments. Finally, Clinton said, human rights should be viewed as a broad category that includes issues such as women's rights and development.

Clinton was assailed early in the administration for appearing to play down human rights problems in China and the Middle East. On a recent trip to Russia, however, she denounced attacks on human rights promoters in a local radio interview and at a reception with pro-democracy activists and journalists.

David J. Kramer, an assistant secretary of state for human rights and democracy during the Bush administration, praised Clinton's speech for reflecting a bipartisan tradition of support for democracy and freedom.

He noted that Obama administration officials were initially reluctant to adopt some of the Bush administration's emphasis on promoting "freedom" and "ending tyranny." Critics had said Bush undermined that effort by inconsistently applying the ideas, especially in the Middle East.

"They wanted to distance themselves from it. But I think they made a mistake," Kramer said.

Carroll Bogert, associate director at Human Rights Watch, said Clinton's speech differed from Bush administration policy in its emphasis on accountability for the United States as well as for foreign countries.

Although human rights activists are pleased with Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, they are upset that some detainees there may be held indefinitely without trial in the United States. The administration may deem detainees too dangerous to release, but also may lack enough evidence to produce in court to convict them.

"Guantanamo is not a place; it's an idea," Bogert said. "They're still going to detain people without charge."

Clinton emphasized that her speech was not a "checklist" on how countries are doing on human rights. But she did single out some cases. She denounced the prosecution of signatories to Charter 08, a pro-democracy document in China.

And she noted the harassment of an elderly Chinese doctor, Gao Yaojie, for speaking out about AIDS in China.

"She should instead be applauded by her government for helping to confront the crisis," Clinton said.

Staff writer John Pomfret contributed to this report. [courtesy: The Washington Post]

'Mahinda and Douglas cannot fool all the people all the time'

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

ten point

Mahinda Rajapakse has reportedly agreed to ten point demands proposed by Douglas Devananda in return for EPDP support at presidential polls

pinpoints

Comrade Surendra of Ceylon Communist (Maoist) Party pinpoints contradictions in hypocritical Mahinda Rajapakse-Douglas Devananda agreement

Chinthanaya regime

This honored minister of the chauvinist-militarist Mahinda Chinthanaya regime has come forward in defense of Tamil rights now says Surendra

corpse to rise

They who attend the funeral rights of the Tamil nation and share in the blood-feast, now call for the corpse to rise in their name" he says

EPDP

According to EPDP agreement "Mahinda has agreed to the concept of Tamil homelands and the right of national self-determination" says Surendra

rejects

But in his inaugural Presidential address, Mahinda said he rejects concepts of Tamil nation,historical homelands & right of self-determination

enshrined

Mahinda enshrined these in his "Chinthanaya" & launched a war to liquidate these concepts of Tamil nationhood and statehood.

led a war

Mahinda enshrined these in his"Chinthanaya"& led a war to liquidate these concepts of Tamil nationhood & statehood he "compromises" with Douglas

prove it

If Mahinda is serious & honest about recognizing concepts of traditional Tamil homeland & right of national self-determination, he must prove it

dismantle

Mahinda must dismantle militarybases, highsecurityzones, withdraw armed forces,change policy of appointing military commanders as governors

political

Mahinda must also present a political solution recognizing right of Tamil elf-determination before his election campaign ends says Surendra

hypocrisy

After exposing this Mahinda-Douglas hypocrisy, comrade Surendra of CCP (Maoist) tells both that they cannot fool all the people all the time

MK Sivajilingam

Independent Tamil candidate MK Sivajilingam will canvass together with Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne of the Left Front in prez poll campaign

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

Four questions for Gen. Sarath Fonseka, “transformed” champion of media freedom

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

freedom

Gen.Sarath Fonseka reportedly said at Dec 14th press briefing that he would provide full media freedom if elected president

past

Promising to bring new law ensuring security for media personnel, Fonseka also pledged inquiry into past incidents of violence against media

appreciating

While appreciating Sarath Fonseka's transformation as a champion of media freedom & rights I want to ask him four questions right now.

Keith Noyahr

Who was responsible for the abduction, torture& continuous "terror" campaign against ex-"Nation" deputy editor & defence columnist Keith Noyahr?

Namal Perera

Who was responsible for pulling out media activist & freelance scribe Namal Perera from vehicle on public road& assaulting him & companion?

Upali Tennekoon

Who was responsible for physical attack on former "Rivira" editor Upali Tennekoon on public road on his way to office in car with his wife?

Lalith Alahakoon

What made the Govt suddenly recall former "Nation" editor Lalith Alahakoon within 24 hours of his assuming a diplomatic posting in Pakistan?

now

I think Sarath Fonseka is in a position to provide answers to these questions now even without conducting an inquiry in the future. Will he?

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

"Fishy" explanation given on "Missing" Lankan fishermen

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

"mystery"

What befell the Sri Lankan fishing boat "Winmarine" with Sinhala fishermen at the hands of the Indian coastguard & navy remains a "mystery"

allegedly

How did the "Winmarine" boat allegedly catch fire & how did the boat go missing with fishermen on board?

"Missing"

"Fishy" explanation given by Indian officials about how Indian coastguard hostages were rescued but not the two Lankan fishermen now "Missing"

suspicion

There is widespread suspicion that Indian navy "taught" a bitter lesson to defiant Lankan fishermen in "Winmarine" boat for hostage incident

Neomal Perera

Instead of taking up the case of Lankan fishermen, Neomal Perera, Dep Minister of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources, is acting like Indian minister

Tamil

If this is how the SriLankan government looks after the welfare of Sinhala fishermen one can just imagine then the plight of Tamil fishermen

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

Mahinda, Sarath and their monstrous crimes against people and humanity

News Up-Date by the Election Campaign Committee (ECC) of the Common Left Candidate- Com. Dr. Vickremabahu

Dear Comrades, Friends, Colleagues,

This up-coming presidential election would be comical, if not for the fact that it is deceptively diabolical. The contention between incumbent president Mahinda Rajapakse and retired General Sarath Fonseka and the arguments being drawn up by both sides are simply degenerate.

They expose the depths to which this neo-colonial political order has been despoiled and degraded. We reject both these candidates, since they represent two sides of the same coin- or as Comrade Vickremabahu, the common candidate of the independent progressive, democratic, revolutionary alliance has aptly said, they represent two heads of a viper, both with deadly fangs.

This election is a deadly trap to sacrifice the oppressed masses, including the Sinhala-Buddhists and all other exploited and oppressed classes, nationalities and ethnic-religious communities, at the alter of Global Imperialist Capital. Most of all, it is a diabolical trap to deceive and ensnare the oppressed Tamil nation.

In this historical context, we are pleased to announce that the Election Campaign Committee (ECC) has decided to publish a regular news up-date in order to keep you apprised of topical events and to provide analysis of developments. Since this is a game of the most diabolical deception, we need to expose the real politics behind the statements and pained acrobatic gyrations of these candidates, so we may choose and charter our own independent path to liberation.

War Crimes:

Both sides are accusing each other of war crimes. Among other war crimes, it has been accused that the armed forces decimated the leadership of the LTTE even as they surrendered, including Velupillai Pirapaharn and his family. Whoever is directly responsible for such heinous crimes, above all, it is the State and the Mahinda Chintanaya Regime, and President Mahinda Rajapakse as Commnader-in-Chief himself and his Defense Secretary and brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse who are collectively accountable for leading the war.

It was this regime that drove the war in such a pitiless, merciless manner, until the Tamil national struggle and its leadership, as it existed, was decimated. It was the office of the Secretary of Defense that designed and coordinated the grand strategy. It was the President himself who directed the war politically, and even when their masters of the ‘international community’ appealed for a negotiated settlement in the face of the colossal suffering of civilians and gross violations of human rights, pressed for an unconditional military solution.

This does not belie the fact that the good General waged war with pure, undiluted, blood-thirsty racist gusto, or is absolved of responsibility. He is just as much a militarist-chauvinist war-monger as the regime he served. All these honored representatives of this defunct and corrupt neo-colonial Capitalist state shall be held accountable to the people for the monstrous crimes against the people and all humanity! Hon. Mano Ganeshan, with all due respect, how can we forgive and forget, lest we sell our soul!

Tool of Imperialism:

The claim that retired General Sarath Fonseka is a tool of US-Western Imperialism is correct. But what about incumbent president Mahinda Rajapakse? It was his ‘patriotic’ government that entered into the “ Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement” with the United States, which is a military agreement that allows the US free access to all military facilities –land, sea and air- in the island, to the number 01.terrorist-imperialist state in the world.

Remember that this agreement was first being about to be signed by that stale UNF, led by good old Yankee-dickey, the then Hon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe, when the Left progressive, patriotic forces, spearheaded by the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist) and the Left Front, agitated and succeeded in tearing up the agreement.

Human Rights, Corruption and Abuse of Power:

Now, the bankrupt ideological agents of the reactionary chauvinist Mahinda camp brings up a claim of corruption by the good retired General Sarath Fonseka. After all, the whole of this parasitic Comprador ruling class has shared in the spoils of imperialist profit and plunder. By this accusation, they appeal to us to forget and forgive the unprecedented corruption and abuse under this Mahinda Chinthanaya regime. Who is responsible for the Mig 27 deal, Lanka Logistics, Mihin Air, Maga Naguma? At no time did reeking corruption reach such pitiful heights.

Then again, who is responsible for the criminal incarceration of some 300,000 internally displaced Tamil persons in concentration camps in the North, including elderly, children, wounded, sick and pregnant women, under pitiful sub-human conditions? Who is to be held accountable for the horrible massacre of seventeen humanitarian aid workers, the murder of five Tamil students, the assassination of Hon. Joseph Pararajasingham, Hon Raviraj, Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunga and others?

Along with these abominable crimes, is the crime of keeping some 12,000 political prisoners in various detention camps and prisons, against whom no legal charges have been filed. Releasing Tissainayagam or addressing the issue of some 12, 000 political prisoners NOW will not serve to bite the bullet. These are just sick manipulations for election gain. However, we have, and will continue to agitate for these demands.

The Mahinda-Douglas Deal:

It has been reported that President Mahinda Rajapakse has agreed to the ten demands presented by Hon. Douglas Devananda as a set of conditions to support the former in the presidential election. Now, good old Duggie gave spirited support to the war to eliminate the Tamil National Liberation Movement and the LTTE He is equally responsible for the genocidal military campaign that has decimated this struggle and its leadership, as it existed. He is equally responsible for the colossal humanitarian crisis and human suffering of the Tamil people.

Now, this honored minister of the chauvinist-militarist Mahinda Chinthanaya regime has come forward in defense of Tamil rights, including the right of self-determination. They who attend the funeral rights of the Tamil nation and share in the blood-feast, now call for the corpse to rise in their name. At least we should have the decency to honor the dead! Of course, the dead and the living shall rise with renewed blood to claim their right to the earth, against the blood-sucking vultures and vampires who have devoured them with such pitiless hatred and revenge.

The deal has exposed both to some real contradictions. Evidently Mahinda has agreed to the concept of Tamil homelands and the right of national self-determination. But, how can he possibly engage in such gymnastic acrobatics? In his inaugural Presidential address, he stated that he rejects the concept of a Tamil nation, including the concept of historical homelands and the right of self-determination. This is enshrined in his Chinthanaya.

He then led a war to liquidate this concept of Tamil nationhood and statehood. This opportunistic compromise with Douglas is bound to raise some insuperable contradictions within his own camp. The JVP has pounced on this agreement. And, so will the JHU, MEP and the other chauvinist forces, unless, of course, typically, they shall sell their souls for political gain. The armed forces will be in a real quandary. Here, we have shed our blood for the defense of the ‘Motherland’ and the unitary state. Now our blood and sacrifice is to be bargained for the survival of this pathetically opportunistic politician. Poor Mahinda, he will sell his soul for his political survival since defeat would surely mean his ignominious and fatal end, and that of his family dynasty.

Ok! So you wish to recognize the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation. We salute you Sir! We have stood for this fundamental democratic right at the cost of our lives. For upholding this right, we were branded as traitors and hounded, and so many of us assaulted, intimidated and killed Comrade Bahu was even shot by the JVP for this courageous stand.

So Sir, if you are serious and honest about recognizing the concept of a traditional Tamil homeland and its right of national self-determination, then dismantle the military bases, the high security zones, withdraw the armed forces, replace your policy of appointing your military commanders as governors, re-merge the North-East, and present a political solution that recognizes the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation. And, do so, before the end of this election campaign. Hey, Dougie and Mahinda, you can only fool some of the people for some time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time. A lesson from history.

Hon. Sivajilinguam has come forward as an independent candidate. At least, he has the conscience to realize the truth of all that has been said in this News Letter We congratulate him for his independence. He has agreed to campaign together with us. He will participate in our meeting on 17 Briton hotel, Armour street.

That’s it for now. Please send in your valued comments, criticisms and articles. Engage with us. WE are your common candidate for freedom and democracy. We are ready to listen and learn. We are there to carry forward our shared revolutionary-democratic aspirations. We have- and we shall- pay the supreme price for our principles and convictions. We shall stand by our word, at whatever cost. This is only the beginning of a long journey and struggle for freedom and democracy.

On behalf of the Propaganda Committee of the ECC,

Com. Surendra
Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)

Gen.Sarath Fonseka moves out of Bullers road

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Kollupitiya

Gen.Sarath Fonseka has moved out of his official army residence on Bullers road into another bungalow in Kollupitiya

deserters

Military Police surround Sarath Fonseka residence to search for army deserters hiding there&to seize some army vehicles SF kept unauthorised

joined

Johnston Fernando & Indika Bandaranaike, MP's from UNP Opposing party endorsing Sarath Fonseka as presidential candidate joined the govt today

appointed

Johnston Fernando was appointed cabinet minister for Land development, human welfare & ranaviru welfare

non - cabinet

Indika Bandaranaike was sworn in as non - cabinet minister of Natural resources

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

'US aware & supportive of UN investigation into alleged HR violations in Sri Lanka'

by D. B.S. Jeyaraj

briefing

Philip J.Crowley Asst.Secy-Bureau of Public Affairs:Press Relations at US State dept answers question on Sri Lanka at Dec15th press briefing

supportive

Asked about UN investigation into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka,Crowley says that the US is aware of it and is supportive

report

Crowley says -"We certainly are aware of the UN investigation. We’ve been fully supportive of that. I think a report has been submitted"

importance

Crowley says"We continue to stress to Government of Sri Lanka the importance of ending human rights abuses including media intimidation"

accountable

Crowley says US wants Lanka to investigate & hold accountable those who were responsible for past human rights abuses

meaningful

US also wants Lanka to pursue meaningful steps towards dialogue and cooperation with Tamil and other minority communities, says Crowley

return

Crowley says that Blake on recent visit continued to"encourage Sir Lanka in terms of the return of displaced persons back to their homes"

~ tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj ~

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates

December 15, 2009

'Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity - and duty - to work for genuine political reconciliation'- David Miliband

David Miliband urges full access for humanitarian agencies to IDPs, including ex-combatants

Hon. David Miliband updated UK Parliament on the situation in Sri Lanka during a written ministerial statement on Tuesday 15 December:

The Foreign Secretary underlined the importance of securing genuine reconciliation between Sri Lanka's communities and stated that the presidential elections in January will be an opportunity for Sri Lankan's to have their say, adding that the Government of Sri Lanka must ensure all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) can vote.

He also acknowledged that recent announcement that all remaining IDPs have been granted freedom of movement is a positive step, but that it is important that all humanitarian agencies are given full access to the IDPs, including ex-combatants.

The Foreign Secretary also confirmed that UK will continue to work directly with the Government of Sri Lanka and with international partners for an inclusive political process that addresses legitimate grievances and aspirations of all communities.

The statement:

Seven months have now passed since the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka. I would like to update the House on developments in the humanitarian and political situation in Sri Lanka.

Humanitarian

Since the end of the conflict the UK has focused its efforts on securing an improvement in the humanitarian situation. The end of the fighting in May left over 280,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps in Northern Sri Lanka. The UK’s approach to the situation has been fourfold: to advocate for improvements in conditions in the camps so that they meet international standards; to push for the early and safe return of IDPs to their home areas; to support, with DFID’s allocation of £12.5million since September 2008, the vital work of the humanitarian agencies that have been providing assistance to the IDPs ; and to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to allow those not yet resettled, to have the ability to enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement.

Conditions in the camps have improved to the extent that basic needs are now generally being met. In recent weeks there has been some progress in the return of IDPs. As of 6 December, the UN has confirmed that over 158,000 IDPs have been released. Of this number approximately 29,000 vulnerable people had been transferred to host families or institutions.

This leaves less than 112,000 people left in the Menik Farm site and less than 15,000 people in camps in other locations. It is important that IDPs continue to be able to return to their home areas as soon as it is safe to do so. When I spoke to Foreign Minister Bogollogama on 29 October and 4 November, he confirmed that the Government of Sri Lanka was committed to returning those still in the camps. In order to assist this process, the UK Government has been funding the work of demining NGOs such as Mine Advisory Group and HALO Trust to help make areas safe for return. We will continue to help clear landmines, to provide transport from the camps and to help civilians to restart their lives so they can return home quickly and safely.

The recent announcement by the Sri Lankan government that, as of 1 December all remaining IDPs have been granted freedom of movement, is a positive step. We hope this leads to unrestricted freedom of movement for all IDPs as soon as possible.

As DFID Minister Mike Foster made clear in his statement of 28 November, we believe the opening of the camps and granting of real freedom of movement will enable the thousands still living in the camps to start to rebuild their lives.

We welcome the fact that a number of national NGOs have now been granted access to some areas where IDPs are returning to such as Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Jaffna in the North. The recent anouncement by the Governor of the Northern Province that international NGOs will also be allowed to work in these areas on agreed projects is also welcome.

It is imperative that all humanitarian agencies are given full access to all IDPs, including ex combatants, so that they can provide them with the help and protection they need both in the camps and in places of return.

Political

Beyond the immediate humanitarian concerns the UK has underlined to the Government of Sri Lanka the importance of securing genuine reconciliation between Sri Lanka’s communities.

At the end of May the Sri Lankan President issued a joint statement with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognising the need to work towards a lasting political solution. The UK has consistently maintained that one of the prerequisites for lasting peace in Sri Lanka is a political settlement that fully takes into account the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all communities.

Presidential elections have now been announced for 26 January 2010. Parliamentary elections in Spring 2010 will be a further opportunity for the voice of Sri Lanka’s communities to be heard. Free, fair and credible elections will allow Sri Lanka’s communities to have their say in shaping the country’s future. Adequate arrangements must be made to ensure IDPs can vote in upcoming elections.

It is important for all those who want to play a role in Sri Lanka’s future to agree to an inclusive political solution that addresses the underlying causes of the conflict.

The EU has made clear its belief that accountability is integral to the process of reconciliation. We therefore welcome President Rajapakse’s decision to appoint an independent committee to look into the incidents cited in the US State Department’s report. We will continue to press the Government of Sri Lanka to live up to this and his earlier commitment made to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in May to take measures to address possible violations of international humanitarian law.

GSP + /Human Rights

The EU's GSP+ trade preference scheme is intended to provide vulnerable economies with incentives to achieve standards in sustainable development, human rights, labour standards and good governance. Beneficiary countries are required to implement effectively certain international human rights conventions.

On 19 October 2009 the European Commission published a report of its investigation into Sri Lanka’s compliance with three of these conventions. The report was clear about Sri Lanka’s failings in the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

This report has reinforced our serious concerns over the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and we share the Commission’s assessment. The Commission is expected to issue its formal recommendation on Sri Lanka's continued access to the GSP+ scheme shortly. We are clear that, in order to continue enjoying access to the GSP+, Sri Lanka must meet fully its human rights obligations.

I have urged the Government of Sri Lanka to take urgent action to address the issues raised by the Commission in its report such as the lack of effective investigations into alleged disappearances and the need to uphold the right to freedom of expression.

As EU Foreign Ministers made clear in our conclusions of 27 October, the EU will maintain a dialogue with Sri Lanka on the steps necessary to address the problems highlighted by the Commission’s investigation, in order to effectively implement the Conventions.

CHOGM

When the Heads of Commonwealth Governments met in Port of Spain in November members agreed that Australia will host CHOGM in 2011. The most important thing for the UK was that the host for each commonwealth summit demonstrably embodies our shared values - including respect for human rights and democracy.

Whilst we welcome the recent progress on freedom of movement for IDPs in Sri Lanka, given our ongoing concerns about the humanitarian and human rights situation at the time, the UK was unable to support Sri Lanka's bid to host CHOGM in 2011. However Commonwealth leaders accepted the President of Sri Lanka’s offer to host the summit in 2013.

Conclusion

We have regularly made clear our view that the Government of Sri Lanka has a unique opportunity - and duty - to work for genuine political reconciliation. As a measure of the UK’s ongoing commitment to the future of Sri Lanka, we remain at the forefront of international efforts to help ensure lasting peace there. The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Sri Lanka, Des Browne MP, continues to engage the Tamil Diaspora and he has updated Members of the House on his recent activities.

We will continue to work directly with the Government of Sri Lanka and with international partners including the EU, UN and Commonwealth, to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict through an inclusive political process which addresses the legitimate grievances and aspirations of all communities - Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims. [courtesy: FCO.gov.uk]

Ranil Wickremasinghe may have to contest presidency himself

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Ranil

If Sarath Fonseka continues to bungle & damages his prospects beyond redemption Ranil Wickremasinghe may have to contest presidency himself

contradictory

Fonseka adopts contradictory stance of projecting himself as war hero & human rights champion simultaneously. Will he fall between two stools?

blundering

Fonseka tries to be all things to all people & blundering horribly. Trying to win over everybody will end up in satisfying nobody

"Misquoting"

Sarath Fonseka shows he is typical politician by blaming media for "Misquoting" him. Whenever damaging comments are said this is the form

"Independent"

Tamil National Alliance Parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam pays deposit to contest Presidential elections as "Independent" Tamil candidate

common

Arulpragasam,father of popular singer MIA (Mathangi" Maya"Arulpragasam)wants to contest presidential elections as common Tamil party candidate

EROS

Arupragasam alias Arular, a founding member of the Eelam Revolutionary Organization(EROS) maintains a non -party, stance in politics nowadays

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Gen.Fonseka shoots himself on the knee right royally

by Kusal Perera

Gen SF argued that all political leaders who were in power before President MR also wanted to win the war, but failed as the army was not led properly.

Gen SF therefore always claimed he is the war hero and he alone was responsible in defeating the LTTE and eliminating the LTTE leadership. (Others including the media contributed little bits from here and there, he said lately)

Gen SF thereafter tells Sunday Leader (SL), he was not provided with all ground information during the last 2 - 3 days of the final battle.

Gen SF also says, Def Sec Gota was giving direct orders to field commanders and thus ordered the killing of surrendering LTTE leaders just 2 days before the war was declared over.

Gen SF later backtracks on that statement and says he is misquoted, but does not formally ask for a correction from SL news paper.

Gen SF thereafter says he was responsible for all what the field commanders did during the entire war and they did not violate any international law.

What conclusions can there be, on these SF media operations ?

1. He wants the Sinhala voter to side him as a war hero

2. He wants the Tamil voter to believe he did not kill LTTE leaders

3. He wants IC to know Violation of intl law was not his, but Gota's

4. He is a great betrayer - remember, to date, no one who took part in the summary killings of Wijeweera and Gamanayake ever talks of it, betraying others.

December 14, 2009

Tamil issue relegated as two "national heroes" claim credit for success in Eelam war

by Col R Hariharan

The Sunday Leader (Dec 13, 2009) interview of General Sarath Fonseka, the challenger of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s re-election, shook the Sri Lanka government’s carefully built edifice of waging a “humanitarian war” it had built to ward off accusations of genocide and human rights violations committed by the army during the Eelam war.

The General accused the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of instructing a key ground commander in the north that all LTTE leaders must be killed and not allowed to surrender. The three key LTTE leaders allegedly done to death were probably Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh who wanted to surrender. According to the armyTheir bodies were found on May 18 during operations on the last stronghold of the LTTE. The General’s accusation only confirms earlier suspicions on this count. There were similar accusations of Prabhakaran’s death also but few appear to believe that.

However, the General appeared to have learnt the fine art of politics in double time. Like a good politician, he quickly denied that he made the accusation, and said he was misquoted. Despite the denial, as it always happens in political misquotes, the damage was already done. And it is clear that the General has challenged the government on its weakest wicket – accusations of human rights violations and genocide – in its war against the Tamil insurgents.

The Sri Lanka government has been left red in the face because it reinforces international suspicion of the government indulging in genocide. So far the government had been calling the international outcry against its poor human rights record a foreign conspiracy of INGOs, Western nations, and LTTE moles to tarnish Sri Lanka’s reputation. In response to the General’s allegation Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe called it a “great betrayal,” and said the ‘baseless allegation’ was made for personal gains and such allegations were ‘extremely harmful’ and provide ‘oxygen the US State Department attempt to inquire into the so called Human Rights violations during the humanitarian operation.’

In response to international community’s concerns, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has already appointed a six-member committee to look into the charges of human rights violations during the war. However, performance of such committees in the past had been shoddy and left the international community unconvinced of the govrnment’s sincerity.

Now the General had questioned the credibility of the government stand, it is unlikely to let him off easily. The government has sought the opinion of Attorney General for recording a statement from General Fonseka on his remarks to the media regarding Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

In an indirect response to the General’s allegation, Army Commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, while addressing the troops at the Army Headquarters said that the Army faced its “biggest betrayal.” He asked them to be conscious about this betrayal and face it together.

General Fonseka is believed to have a personal following of loyalists in the army. This had been worrying the Rajapaksa government and the President’s campaigners. Rumours of an impending coup d’tat by the army were in the air sometime back and quickly denied. But it is clear that army is slowly being drawn into eddy of election politics in support of the President. Already senior army officers have appeared on the TV in a bid to downgrade the role played by General Fonseka signaling the increasinglypartisan role of the army in this murky contest.

In an indirect response to the allegations of politicization the army, the Army Commander while recently addressing the Defence Services Command and Staff College had cautioned that the loyalty of the troops “should be to the organization and not individuals.” Asking them to “work with the interest of the organization and the country first” he said “individuals will come and go but the organization needs to function with equality and without a conflict in loyalties. This can make or break an organization and is very detrimental to a fighting Army and to the services. This is something that we have to guard as advocating disloyalty to the organization amounts to subversion.” There are serious words coming from the army chief within seven months of a resounding military victory and shows how seriously the risk potential of Fonseka loyalists is being viewed by him. After General Fonseka’s latest allegations the situation could get worsen on the issue of divided loyalties.

Quickly responding to the government accusation of “betrayal” the General said today (December 14) that he would take responsibility for what happened in the hands of the army throughout the war and as the then army commander, and no field commander acted in violation of any international law.

At the heart of Rajapaksa’s problem is that General Sarath Fonseka almost matches him in national popularity. As the two “national heroes” have been claiming credit for the success in the Eelam war, both should responsible for any offences committed by the troops operating under their directions.

The General’s latest salvo is only one more episode in the dirty drama that the government has been playing ever since it became clear that Fonseka could spoil the cake-walk victory President Rajapaksa was hoping for in the presidential poll scheduled for January 26, 2010. Not to be outdone, the General has now entered the fray. Skeletons of misconduct and corruption are tumbling out everyday as mutual recriminations are exchanged by both sides. More and more salacious details of favouritism, nepotism, and corruption in a whole range of things from arms deals to rehabilitation projects are floating in the air. In a way it is good that these allegations are being aired in public; at least it will provide some hope for remedial action subsequently.

But the tragedy is instead of fighting on concrete issues and pressing national problems both sides are out with their tar buckets. Apart from brad and butter and human rights issues that affect all, the Tamil issue has now been relegated to the sidelines, much to the detriment of permanent peace that could have followed the end of war. This has been the sad story of Sri Lanka. And nothing seems to have changed.

Expert with ties to FBI and Vancouver Police authenticates “Sri Lanka War Crimes”-Channel 4 Video

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

Video footage that appears to show Sri Lankan troops committing war crimes by summarily executing captured Tamil Tiger fighters on the battlefield was not fabricated, as claimed by the Sri Lankan Government, an investigation by The Times has found.

The findings come after General Sarath Fonseka, the former head of the army, alleged that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister, had ordered that surrendering Tiger leaders be killed rather than taken prisoner in the final days of the brutal 26-year civil war that ended in May.

Sri Lanka execution video 'not fake', says expert: Ch: 4, Dec 15, 2009

The claims, vehemently denied by the Government, added to a lengthy list of war crimes allegations against it.

The video of the alleged battlefield executions, which was aired on Channel 4 in August, shows a naked man, bound and blindfolded, being made to kneel.

Another man, dressed in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform, approaches from behind and shoots him in the head at point-blank range. “It’s like he jumped,” the executor laughs. The camera then pans to show eight similarly bound corpses.

It is impossible to confirm when and where the filming occurred or the identities of the men shown. Pro-Tamil groups alleged that the video was filmed by troops on a mobile phone in January, when they overran the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi in the north of the country. Those claims were denied by government officials, who said they had “established beyond doubt” that the footage was fake.

An analysis for The Times by Grant Fredericks, an independent forensic video specialist who is also an instructor at the FBI National Academy, suggests otherwise. He found no evidence of digital manipulation, editing or any other special effects. However, subtle details consistent with a real shooting, such as a discharge of gas from the barrel of the weapon used, were visible.

“This level of subtle detail cannot be virtually reproduced. This is clearly an original recording,” said Mr Fredericks, who was previously the head of the Vancouver police forensic video unit in Canada.

There was also strong evidence to rule out the use of actors. “Even if the weapons fired blanks, the barrel is so close to the head of the ‘actors’ that the gas discharge alone leaves the weapon with such force it would likely cause serious injury or death,” Mr Fredericks said.

The reactions of those executed was consistent with reality, he added. “The victims do not lunge forward . . . [they] fall backward in a very realistic reaction, unlike what is normally depicted in the movies.”

In Mr Fredericks’s opinion “the injury to the head of the second victim and the oozing liquid from that injury cannot be reproduced realistically without editing cuts, camera angle changes and special effects. No [errors] exist anywhere in any of the images that support a technical fabrication of the events depicted,” he said.

The Sri Lankan Government said in a statement in September that the footage was “done with a sophisticated video camera, dubbed to give the gunshot effect and transferred to a mobile phone.”

Mr Fredericks’s research showed that code embedded in the footage appeared to match with software used in Nokia mobile phones.” He said: “The recording is completely consistent with a cell phone video recording and there are no signs of editing or alterations.”

The strong evidence that the footage does show real executions could reinforce international calls for an independent war crimes investigation — something that the Sri Lanka Government has resisted. A Sri Lankan army spokesman requested that a copy of Mr Fredericks’s report be sent to him yesterday, but did not reply when it was.

Mr Fonseka, who resigned from the army last month after being sidelined, is campaigning to unseat President Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister’s brother, at elections next month. [courtesy: Times.UK]

Spirit of the season: Annual pilgrimage of Lord Iyappan

tweet treats from the twitter pages of Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Black

Season to climb the mountain and worship Lord Iyappan has just begun. Devotees in Black attire are seen on the streets of the East

visa

They have gathered & seen filling up visa application forms on the pavements in Colombo to get the visa to travel to India during the season.

IyappanTC1214.jpg

Iyappan temple in Vampivattan, Udappu. It’s believed that, this is the first Iyappan temple to be built in Sri Lanka-pic

spiritual

They are on barefoot & look extremely spiritual. They gather in groups and pray for prosperity.

offering

Devotees at temples are seen giving offering to the Iyappan devotees who will climb the mountain in India.

foot

Lord Iyappan is a Hindu deity. Devotees from around the world climb the Sabarimalai on foot. The season ends in early January.

second

It’s estimated over 50 million devotees climb every year making it the second largest pilgrimage in the world. His weapons are bow and arrow.

love

Young daughter of Leela of Kalari Panicker fell in love with Lord Iyappan. She started to bring food to capture Lord Iyappan’s attention.

liked

When she reached puberty, the family made rice porridge. She took the same rice porridge to Lord Iyappan, and the Lord liked it very much.

favourite

Lord Iyappan asked Leela to bring rice porridge every day. From this day rice porridge became the favourite offering to Lord Iyappan.

Tiger

Lord Iyappan’s divine vehicle is Tiger. Each devotee carries a cloth bundle called “Madi Pichchai” which contains traditional offerings.

open

Sabarimalai Iyappan temple is open to men. And to women who’ve either passed their fertility age & those before reaching the age of puberty.

divine

18 divine steps to the sanctum is divine in all aspects. Devotees have to fast for 41 days and carry the “Madi Pichchai” on their heads.

symbol

The Sabarimalai pilgrimage is a symbol of love, equality & devotion. The steps are steep. The temple has a magnificent view of the valley & mountains.

fasting

Devotees have to avoid using pillow, mattress, perfumes & footwear during the fasting. Men have to wear loin cloth & women have to wear black.

parents

Lord Iyappan loves his parents & expects the same from his devotees. Iyappan devotees meet & greet each other “Swamy Saranam”.

souls

It is believed devotees surrender their souls to the Supreme Power is Sabari Hills. Devotees are expected to be humble & helpful to each other.

estimated

It’s estimated over 50 million devotees climb every year making it the second largest pilgrimage in the world after Haj in Mecca.

elevation

The temple is situated at an elevation of 4,135 feet above sea level.

devoted

Harivarasanam by K.J. Yesudas

My favourite singer K.J. Yesudas is a humble devotee of Lord Iyappan. He has devoted numerous songs to Lord Iyappan.

Click for latest updates~from the twitter pages of Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Gen. Fonseka does a volte-face over charges against Army

by B.Muralidhar Reddy

Less than 24 hours after his sensational statement that Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa had instructed a ground commander in the battle zone during the last phase of the Eelam War IV (May 16 to May 19) to shoot all LTTE leaders that had come out waving a white flag with the intention of surrendering to the military, the retired General and contender for the January 26 presidential poll, Sarath Fonseka did a volte-face.

At a hastily convened news conference on Monday afternoon, the former Army Chief said he is responsible for all the actions of the security forces commanders and forces on the ground throughout the war against the LTTE and no field commander acted in violation of any international law.

The retraction of Gen. (retd) Fonseka came after the government not only categorically denied the charges levelled by the commander turned politician as ‘motivated’, but also said that it was examining the contents of the interview for possible legal action. According to a senior government functionary, the statement, made in the course of an interview for an English weekly, has been referred to the Attorney General for his legal opinion.

True import of comment

Media Secretary to the former Army Chief, Ajit, told The Hindu, “At the hurriedly convened press briefing, the General explained the true import of his comment in his response to a question on the sequence of events during the last days of the war and talked about how senior functionaries in the government are hurling cooked up allegations against him by misinterpreting a media statement made by him.”

Political circles here believe that Gen. (retd) Fonseka chose to distance himself from the controversial statement in the course of the interview after senior opposition leaders pointed out to him that it would not only deprive him of the plank of ‘sole hero’ of the war against the LTTE, but would also be self-inflicting, as he cannot disassociate himself from the actions of the military he led.

The controversy triggered by the remarks of the retired General in the interview and the response of the government has left many in the island nation worried about the dangers of further politicisation of the military and the already divided polarisation of the ethnic communities.

Dominant sentiment in English daily

The dominant sentiment was captured by the English daily, Island in its editorial titled ‘An attempt at hara-kiri’. “There is a high octane performance on the part of government propagandists and their Opposition counterparts engaged in a ruthless mud-slinging contest. The government used to boast that it had ensured there were no irregularities in military purchases unlike in the past. But now, we are being told that while Fonseka was the army commander, his son-in-law was involved in some questionable business deals with the army.

“In the aftermath of Prabhakaran’s death, Fonseka pooh-poohed allegations of war crimes against the army. When asked, at the inaugural press conference after entering politics, to comment on moves being made in some quarters to press war crime charges against the Sri Lankan military, Fonseka said those who wanted to do so had to make specific charges with times, dates, locations, etc mentioned –– the implication being that the allegations levelled against Sri Lanka were baseless. He has also claimed on more than one occasion that he personally handled the successful ground operations which decapitated the LTTE.

“Now, we have Fonseka saying he has information that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered a ground commander to kill the LTTE leaders who tried to surrender (The Sunday Leader, Dec. 13, 2009). As much as the government's allegations against Fonseka and his son-in-law are tantamount to a self-indictment, Fonseka's charge against Gotabhaya has seriously affected his own credibility, in that, he contradicts his much advertised claim that he alone commanded the victorious army. If Fonseka says that his ground commanders who steered the army to victory took orders from someone else, how could he justify his attempt to promote himself in politics as the man who won the war and seek the executive presidency in return, as it were?,” the paper asked.

Low note

With December 17 set as the D-day for filing of nomination papers to a keenly watched contest between the major opposition parties’ candidate retired General Sarath Fonseka and the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, charges and counter-charges were anticipated but no one had expected the campaign to hit such a low note at this early a stage.

Several senior opposition leaders are privately discussing the possible adverse repercussions of the controversial interview of the retired General and consulting among themselves on ways and means to limit the damage. The retired General, who, during the day, filed three separate Fundamental Rights petitions before the Supreme Court seeking fair coverage for his campaign by the government media, is hosting a get together to select group of journalists later on Monday evening.

In the The Sunday Leader, General Fonseka has contended that he had no information communicated to him in the final days of the war that three key LTTE leaders had opted to surrender to the military.

“Fonseka charged that communications were instead confined between the LTTE leaders, Norway, various foreign parties, Basil Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament and the powerful senior adviser to the President, and such information was never conveyed to him as he supervised the final stages of the war,” the weekly reported.

The three LTTE leaders he is referring to are Balasingham Nadeshan, a former police constable of Sri Lanka police and the political head of the LTTE. Seevaratnam Pulidevan the head of the “LTTE peace secretariat” and Ramesh, a senior special commander of the military wing.

Fonseka told the weekly that he later learnt about what exactly had taken place as a result of journalists who had been embedded at the time with forces in the battle field.

Predictably the government hit back at the retired General. At a special news conference, Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister, Mahinda Samarasingha had said, “The interview of the retired General is a great betrayal of the nation, people of Sri Lanka and his former colleagues. Since the end of the Eelam War IV in the fourth week of May, there have been so many attempts by so many quarters to defame the security forces of Sri Lanka on charges of human rights violations but the simple truth is up to now no one has been able to prove anything.”

Contradicting himself

Mr. Samarasinghe maintained that the charges made by Gen. (retd) Fonseka are a contradiction of his own statement on July 10 at a function where he was facilitated for successfully leading the forces to militarily defeat the LTTE. He said that the contents of the speech have not only been reported by the local and international media but found a place in the 68-page U.S. State Department report of October 22 to the Congress on the war between the security forces and the LTTE.

The U.S. State Department report says, “July 10 – A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebratory event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE.”

Quoting from the media reports on the July 10 speech made by the then Army Chief, the Minister said that Fonseka at the function had gone to the extent of saying that he was under tremendous pressure from several quarters to order the ground troops not to shoot at the LTTE cadres and had taken the position that soldiers in the battle field who have staked their lives are the best judges to decide on such matters.

“It is instructive for every one to remember that Sri Lanka has emerged after 30 years of protracted war and there are forces still out there working for destabilitation of the island nation. We are sad and disappointed that Gen. (retd) Fonseka is wittingly or unwittingly working on their script,” the Minister said. - coutesy: The Hindu -

Indian coast guard seize another Sri Lankan boat off the coast of Pondicherry

tweet bundle from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Pondicherry

Indian coast guard seize another Sri Lankan boat with five fishermen on board off the coast of Pondicherry union territory in South India

chase

According to officials the boat "Dinusha Baby" (Meril Marine) was seized by Indian coast guard ship "Vikram" after prolonged deep sea chase

worldwide

Indian officials suspicious of "highly sophisticated" boat equipped with GPS, radar & long-range wireless capable of communicating worldwide.

risk

The boat had 2,500 litres fuel, adequate to sustain on sea for at least a month. Such boats being so close to coast is seen as security risk

permit

Charges formulated in Chennai for violation of Maritime Zone of India Act, 1981, and for fishing in Indian Economic Zone without permit.

arrested

34Sri Lankan fishermen & their 6 boats arrested off Nizampatnam coast in Guntur dist were taken to Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh by Indian Navy.

Sinhala

Problem as Sri Lankan fishermen arrested in Andhra Pradesh speak Sinhala only. Interpreters summoned from Chennai to help in interrogation

inquiry

Indian Navy says " Win Marine" fishing boat with Sinhala - speaking fishermen caught fire "mysteriously" but Sri Lanka demands full inquiry

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Sarath Fonseka perturbed at negative reaction within Army personnel over interview

tweet bundle from the twitter pages of D.B.S. Jeyaraj

consulting

Govt consulting AG dept & Army lawyers about filing charges of treason against Sarath Fonseka for media interview rattles the ex-army chief

misquoted

Like typical politico he now says" The Sunday Leader" newspaper had misquoted what he said about alleged Army conduct in war with the LTTE.

denied

According to Reuters report Fonseka has denied saying govt soldiers shot surrendering Tiger leaders& now says no such incidents happened.

briefing

Fonseka at a special media briefing on Monday Dec 14th said "The Sunday Leader" had reported his remarks to the newspaper out of context

had not

According to Reuters he now says senior rebels had not sought surrender with white flags nor had the military fired at surrendering cadre

retracts

Fonseka now retracts saying"They (Soldiers)never committed any criminal act as There was no any attempt of surrender on May 17,18 and 19"

files

Presidential candidate files three fundamental rights applications in courts against state media for bias against him in election coverage

defaming

Fonseka charges Rupavahini, ITN & Lake House group of being partial in polls campaign by supporting Mahinda Rajapakse & defaming opposition

perturbed

Sarath Fonseka perturbed at negative reaction within Army personnel to his indirect "attack" on Gotabhaya Rajapakse in a newspaper interview

alleging

Soldiers & officers in Army up in arms against ex- Army chief Sarath Fonseka for alleging that Army executed LTTE surrendees in cold blood

condemns

Army commander Jagath Jayasuriya in speech condemns Fonseka indirectly as having committed greatest betrayal by accusing the army in media

rising

Fonseka upset at anger rising within Army rank & file for controversial interview in which he charged army of killing surrendered LTTE leaders

complains

Ex- Army chief complains to media that Govt is twisting what he said in a media interview to whip up resentment against him about 2 hours

takes

Fonseka now says he takes full responsibility for what was done by the army In the war against LTTE as he was then Army commander in charge

"absolves"

Fonseka "absolves" Gen. Shavendra Silva indirectly by now saying no field commander had violated international humanitarian law during the war

insinuated

Fonseka had insinuated earlier that 58div chief Shavendra Silva had ordered killing of surrendered LTTE leaders at behest of Def secy Gota R

Army Chief Jayasuriya Implicitly Condemns Fonseka For Committing Greatest Betrayal

War Heroes in the whole of Sri Lanka Army who sweated with gusto over the final outcome of the Wanni Humanitarian Operations that ended in May this year received accolades and parchment scrolls from Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, Commander of the Army who paid his unreserved tribute to the determination and valour of all War Heroes in the Army.

A representative gathering of soldiers and officers of all Regiments ranging from a Private to the rank of Major General accepted their parchment scrolls that hail their gallantry, bravery and contribution for liberation of the Motherland during Monday (14) morning's glittering ceremony where a special military parade saw presentation of arms to Commander of the Army plus a salute, accorded by soldiers in all Regiments.

Lieutenant General Jayasuriya hoisted the Army Flag and commenced the day's proceedings. The recital of the Army song added grandeur as it rent the air before the march past commenced. Commander Jayasuriya afterwards symbolically awarded the parchment scrolls to the representative military personnel.

The writing in the scroll extolled the active contribution made by the specific soldier during Humanitarian Operations, launched to restore law and order in the Sri Lankan society after defeating scourge of terrorism that threatened to divide the unitary nature of Mother, Sri Lanka.

The apex of the day's itinerary reached as Lieutenant General Jayasuriya rose to his feet to address all War Heroes, in which the Commander vehemently condemned the greatest betrayal that has ever been made in the contemporary history a few hours ago.

"The saddest and the worst-ever betrayal against the victory took place a few hours ago when allegations were leveled against War Heroes. These contemptuous and baseless charges against War Heroes are flatly refused and we should not be shaken due to such accusations.

Instead we should feel further encouraged by such allegations. All of us should be aware of such betrayals and attentive to such remarks," the Commander noted referring to certain remarks that have been made to a weekend newspaper.

Here follows the full text of the Commander's speech;

"Deputy Chief of Staff of Sri Lanka Army, senior officers, lady officers and other officers, senior non commissioned officers, non commissioned officers, soldiers and members of civil staff.

The entire Sri Lankan populace after eradication of the 30 year-long terrorism has been able to reap the spirits of true freedom in our motherland.

Though I really wanted to give this parchment of appreciation to each and everyone of you, in view of the invaluable and great service you have rendered, it was not practically possible to gather all of you to one particular place, and hence, this accolade is given today as a token, but all of you will get it from your Security Forces Headquarters, Divisions, Task Forces, Brigades, and units. Yet, treat it like an honour I have personally bestowed on you as a symbol of appreciation.

I believe that all the members of Sri Lanka Army share the dignity and honour of achieving victory over terrorism after the completion of this great task. Not only the troops at the battlefront with infantry, but the support also given by all other troops elsewhere who carried out their duties in other parts of the island and troops, engaged in providing logistics during humanitarian operations, jointly contributed to the final success, one which I myself as Wanni Security Forces Commander too contributed and witnessed.

The saddest and the worst-ever betrayal against the victory took place a few hours ago when allegations were leveled against War Heroes. These contemptuous and baseless charges against War Heroes are flatly refused and we should not be shaken due to such accusations. Instead we should feel further encouraged by such allegations. All of us should be aware of such betrayals and attentive to such remarks.

I was able to lead our troops from the beginning of the Wanni humanitarian operations until the end of it. The opportunity I got having been with you even at very decisive moments while looking after the requirements of Divisions, Task Forces, Brigades and Units remains a memorable period in my lifetime.

As you all know, the most important tasks in these humanitarian operations were executed from the Security Forces Headquarters in Wanni. Realizing this, the terrorists tried to repulse the operations by attacking the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters, but it remained unaffected.

We advanced and achieved victory after destroying all enemy threats. This was not a victory of one individual but a team-effort that shed tears, sweat and blood of all. Victory was achieved through self confidence, discipline, togetherness and understanding of each other with good management. Our Army has all these powers.

We all are the real heirs to the victory, achieved by destroying the so-called Eelam during humanitarian operations.

It is equally essential to mention specially about the political leadership, given for this success. This War dragged on for thirty years since we did not receive the correct political leadership, but we had a well-trained Army of high morale.

But it was his Excellency, the President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Secretary Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa who had the correct vision and leadership that enabled us to finish terrorism in a short span of time.

Earlier when General Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Wijeya Wimalarathne conducted the Vadamarachchi Operation, terrorists became very weak like this time, but due to unstable political leadership that victorious operation was suddenly dropped. Even talented Army officers were given transfers due to foreign pressures. Army officers and soldiers got killed due to the so-called peace agreements.

Those sinister forces had done everything possible to stop this humanitarian operation, but as a result of the correct political leadership, the entire populace was able to bring all of us under one flag. It is important to remember that the Constitution has the legal provision of declaring war or peace since the President himself is the Commander-in-Chief.

With the political leadership, the entire effort ended in victory with the people's support and strength of the Army,. We all know well that without the correct political leadership we could not have eradicated terrorism. Even during the Army 60th Anniversary parade, I mentioned that the name of President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be etched in gold in the history.

I am proud to have commanded a heroic Army, consists of War Heroes that eradicated terrorism by destroying the most dreaded terrorist in the world, Prabhakaran and fellow terrorists. The foreign powers can learn from Sri Lanka to defeat Al Queida organization as a model. Our Army is one family, and in my view my duty and responsibility is to look after it.

Though there were felicitations on different occasions earlier, I personally believe that the entire Army organization should be held in high esteem and felicitated. That is why I felicitate and whole-heartedly salute the entire Army in this way. At this moment, I remember with great admiration and gratitude the brave War Heroes who sacrificed their lives, became disabled and those who are still receiving treatment in hospitals.

We should never forget them. Their names will go down in gold. I must remember different projects those have already been launched for the welfare of those War Heroes and their families by the Seva Vanitha Army Branch.

My only determination is to make Sri Lanka Army, the best Army in the world by way of increased training, promotion of moral uplift and their welfare.

The War has ended. The responsibility of the Army towards the Motherland has not still ended. Our responsibility is to protect the freedom achieved and resettle the people who were rescued by humanitarian operations and help the government in its development efforts.

I also thank the Navy, Air Force, Sri Lanka Police and Civil Defence Force for the support received from them for this great victory.

I also thank the civil staff who shouldered day-to-day administrative responsibilities in operation and non-operation areas.

Finally, let me emphasize that we all must strive to safeguard the good name, achieved by our Army as the best and most disciplined one in the world. I wish you the necessary courage and energy in the future too to perform the responsibilities without hindrance with the blessings of the sacred Tooth Relic and Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi".

COURTESY: www.defence.lk

Jammu and Kashmir: PM Manmohan Singh must seize the moment

By Suhasini Haidar

Opportunities, says ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, multiply as they are seized. A leader doesn’t just make things happen, he is able to see when destiny beckons and the stars are lined up in the right constellation. Then the opportunity for resolution and a chance to change the course of history presents itself.

As the shots hit Hurriyat leader Fazl Haq Qureshi coming out of a mosque in Srinagar this month, but missed their mark in stopping the dialogue process between the Hurriyat and the Centre, it was one more indicator that the opportunity for a resolution in Jammu and Kashmir is presenting itself. A window of rare opportunity to break a twenty-year-old cycle of violence that must be seized.

It was rare enough to hear Home Minister P. Chidambaram admit in parliament what his government took great pains to deny for months — that he was in ‘quiet talks’ with separatist Kashmiri leaders. He backed it up with other announcements, withdrawing several paramilitary battalions from the valley, and pushing Jammu-Kashmir police into the ‘frontlines’ of state security. Each of those initiatives would have been unheard of some years ago, but point to the fact that the Central government, bolstered by wins in successive elections, today feels empowered to take them.

Ironically, the most far-reaching initiative for the resolution of the Kashmir problem to date was the one taken not by this government — but the NDA government that preceded it, when it announced a ceasefire along the Line of Control in November 2003. That ceasefire, which has largely held for six years, became the springboard for all the initiatives that followed, including the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus.

Since 2003, the two sides have followed a 4-step plan laid out by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he pursued negotiations with President Musharraf (2004-2007) viz., to move the army back to the barracks in Valley towns like Srinagar, Baramullah, Kupwara and Anantnag, transfer control to paramilitary forces, build up the J&K police force, and then to work on cross-LOC linkages- transport, trade, tourism.

Relative calm at the LOC was followed in the years by relative peace in the valley. While many in India may be uncomfortable admitting it — Pakistan’s actions, or lack of them there in the recent past have helped. They’re the reason the fires that raged over two successive summers: the Amarnath agitation in 2008, and protests over the Shopian murders in 2009 were able to burn themselves out. And the State witnessed two general elections (2004 and 2009) and two State elections (2002 and 2008) — each one overturning the government in power, without any volatility. Pakistan’s virtual acceptance of the LOC as a more permanent “Line of Peace” is best reflected in its latest efforts to reorganise parts of POK — and give Gilgit-Baltistan provincial status.

Many wounds have had a chance to heal in this time — according to official estimates the number of violent incidents in a year at the peak of militancy were 6000. Last year, they numbered 400. Seventeen per cent of the population suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2004 — a number that has steadily decreased. Perhaps the greatest healing will only follow the return of Pandits to homes they were driven from nearly two decades ago — last month the community came together with former Muslim neighbours in Srinagar’s Rainawari to renovate the abandoned Shiv temple there. These are all positive signs that should be counted even as we chronicle levels of infiltration and fidayeen attacks which we resolutely need to combat.

Finally, the rarest part of the alignment is the transfer of power to a new generation of leadership across the board. In the mainstream, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Leader of the opposition Mehbooba Mufti may disagree on everything else — but they are fully behind the current dialogue process with the Hurriyat, and their own solutions for the State differ only marginally. For the separatists, the old guard of Geelani may never come on board, but others like Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat have already deferred to the Hurriyat’s Gen-next: Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Sajjad and Bilal Lone to move ahead with talks. Three young men with a tragic and powerful common bond — they lost their fathers to terrorists on exactly the same day 12 years apart (May 12), targeted for trying to talk to New Delhi. They’re accompanied by a powerful voice of peace who has made the journey from the gun and prosecution by the State, JKLF chief Yasin Mallik. The biggest change is the call by the Hurriyat for the NC and PDP to work with it on a solution, thereby overturning a decades-old stand of being the “sole representatives of the Kashmiri people”.

‘Azaadi’ may not be a viable option for any of them today — but what New Delhi needs to recognise, and prepare the nation for is that none of these leaders can go on endlessly with the status quo. “Silence or absence of overt defiance by the war weary Kashmiri should not be treated as a change in the sentiment,” warned Sajjad Lone in his 2006 paper: Achievable Nationhood. Both the Mufti’s doctrine of Self-Rule, and Abdullah’s concept of Autonomy (passed unanimously by the J&K assembly in 2000 but rejected by the Union cabinet) find many areas of common cause.

Interestingly, each of them proposes solutions, shorn of the rhetoric, that can be found within the Indian Constitution — which is imperative. For the government, to move forward would involve the sort of flexibility it has already shown in the Naga peace process (more power to the state, changing nomenclature of the government and head of government etc), and others.

In Qazigund this October, the Prime Minister linked peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir with the India-Pakistan peace process calling for a new ‘humanitarian agenda’ as a basis to restart talks with Pakistan. And perhaps paraphrasing Sun Tzu’s words on the urgency of the moment he offered up an Urdu couplet:

Yeh jabr bhi dekha hai taareekh ki nazron ne?
Lamhon ne khata ki thi sadiyon ne sazaa payee

(These are the lessons of time: for the mistakes made by moments, the punishment is meted out to centuries.)

In terms of Jammu and Kashmir, the real mistake would be for the Prime Minister to fail to seize the moment now.

(Suhasini Haidar is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN.)

December 13, 2009

Let Them Speak:Truth about Sri Lanka 's Victims of War

UTHR(J) Special Report No: 34
Date of release: 13th December 2009

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it, ALWAYS.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Executive Summary

This latest report from the University Teacher for Human Rights ( Jaffna ) documents the final chapter of Sri Lanka ’s war 26-year war.

Drawing on individual eyewitness accounts, it chronicles the relentless violence experienced by survivors of the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam between September 2008 and May 2009, when the Sri Lankan government ultimately crushed the LTTE leadership and declared victory. What these survivors’ stories make clear is that for both parties, the key to military dominance lay not in brilliant strategies, but in an utter disregard for the lives of civilians and combatants alike, driven by their leaders’ single-minded pursuit of personal power.

Both sides treated truth as an enemy. Outsiders who could bear witness to these events were kept out or silenced; dissent on either side was crushed; the poor and powerless were treated as cannon fodder and in the case of Tamil civilians, ultimately locked up to prevent them from revealing what they had experienced. As the report notes, Sri Lanka ’s “war against truth has grave implications for the future of democracy.”

But this report is more than a catalogue of war-time atrocities; it provides an analysis of the social and political underpinnings of the conflict that made atrocities possible, and that have historically shielded the people who committed such crimes from justice.

This report is a call to Sri Lankans of all communities to examine their history and take control of their present; to acknowledge the degeneration of the country and its democratic institutions, to demand justice for the crimes that have been committed in the name of fighting terrorism or securing Eelam, and to declare “never again.”
~~~
It was bloody war and international norms were breached by both sides, which by trapping people in the conflict zone wrought large scale death and destruction.

The State systematically marginalised and restricted the operation of international organisations, subverting their efforts to humanise the conduct of the war and secure reduced casualties. It convinced the majority of people in the country (and many outside), that utter annihilation was only way to deal with the forces like LTTE. At the same time the Government blatantly lied about the real number of civilians trapped in the zone, and the number killed by their disproportionate use of force in the form of intense shelling and bombing.

The LTTE’s callous attitude towards the civilians, its forced conscription and the violent and coercive methods it used to prevent people from fleeing for their lives, further helped the government to successfully neutralise any criticism against their modes of operation.

Perpetrators must be brought to account.

It is also imperative for international human rights activists and organisations to go beyond mere condemnation of the way in which this war was conducted and recognise what it has shown us about the limitations of the present broader architecture of international Human Rights and Humanitarian mechanisms and institutions, which failed utterly to avert this disaster.

Social and political forces with narrow ethnic or religious ideological trappings continue to undermine democracy in most of the developing nations. These are not new phenomena; the world had seen many major religious crusades to wars between nations which in the modern era led to the creation of international institutions, conventions and treaties. The unequal economic and military power structures operating at a global level continue to undermine these institutions while allowing local actors to blame the external powers for their own failures.

In Sri Lanka, the political elite continues to fail the people, and whatever potential the country had to move towards a healthier path of development and prosperity has been continuously undermined by narrow electoral politics. The country is at a crossroads. Improvement will not be achieved by relying on the political elite in the belief that they will have at last to moderate self interest and address the many underlying social and economic issues which caused the war.

The callousness of Sri Lanka ’s powerful towards their own people has been clearly shown in the persistent undermining of state institutions, the deterioration of which has been met with major armed resistance again and again. Today politicians continue to use this war, this monumental tragedy, for political capital in their narrow power game in the South, while the removed and insensitive Tamil Diaspora tries to further polarise people in their home country with their meaningless rhetoric and slogans of Transnational government.

There is only one way forward. An initiative to forge a broad multi-ethnic and multi-religious movement that challenges these narrow ethnic and religious agendas and Sri Lanka’s climate of impunity; that demands accountability for the grave and systematic violation of human rights that has for so long prevented Sri Lanka from progressing. This should be the priority for all those who desire to fight for social justice and human rights.

Contents:

Summary

Part I:

1. When People Do Not Matter and Tyrannical Egos are Dressed-Up as Nations

1.1 The Still Eloquence of Wastelands

1.2. IDPs and Hidden Agendas: A Dark Shadow over Lanka

1.3. Never Again

1.4. Rajapakse Strategy: Plagiarising a Well-Known Script

1.5. “Operational Freedom”

1.6. Absence of Rules of Engagement and Rain of Shells in Safe Zones

1.7. The Shelling and Aerial Bombardment of Murukandy, 16th September 2008, Limitations on Reportage and the Mounting Death Toll

Part II:

2. From Kilinochchi to Puthukkudiyiruppu

2.1. The fall of Kilinochchi and After

2.2. Conscription: From the Realm of Black Humour to the Calamitous

2.3. Caught between the Army and the LTTE, the Fate of LTTE Prisoners

2.4. Thevipuram Safe Zone and the Battle for Visuamadu: Escape Debarred from the Rain of Shells

2.5. Some Developments concerning LTTE’s Detainees

2.6. Puthukkudiyiruppu Hospital, Battle for the Town and the ICRC Pullout

2.7. The Bombing of Ponnambalam Memorial Hospital

2.8. The Battle for Puthukkudiyiruppu and Bombing of the LTTE Prison

2.9. 2nd Week of March, LTTE’s Two Deep Penetration Missions

2.10. Kilinochchi Hospital: An Astonishingly Disturbing Encounter

2.11. Anandapuram

Part III

3. At Sea in ‘Mattalan: Escape invites Death and Staying is Worse

3.1. Use of Bombs, Cluster Munitions and White Phosphorous; and Curtailment of Medical Aid

3.2. Putumattalan Hospital

3.3. The State of the LTTE

3.4. Early March 2009: People Take Matters into their Hands

3.5. Civilians at Putumattalan: Waiting in the Rain for Storms of Bullets and Shells

3.6. Running the Gauntlet: The Lethal Game of Escape

3.7. 20th April, Army enters the NFZ

3.8. The Church of Our Lady of Rosary, Valaignarmadam

3.9. A Background to Events in the Church

3.10. April 23rd to May 8th

Part IV

4. The Final Phase

4.1. Deception over Civilian Safety

4.2. A Tenuous Link to the Outside World on the Brink

4.3. 8th May

4.4. 9th May

4.5. 10th to 12th May

4.6. 13th May

4.7. 14th May

4.8. 15th May

4.9. 16th May: Uncertainties of Escape

4.10. 16th May: A Deceptive Truce and Denial of Relief to the Injured

4.11. 16th May Dusk: Truce ends Unannounced and a Rude Awakening

4.12. 16th May Night

4.13. May 17th Morning: End of the Road at Kepapulavu? Balakumar Surrenders

4.14. 17th Night to 18th Morning: An Apocalyptic Close

4.15. Some Vital Questions of Humanitarian Law and Ethics

4.16. Beyond Death; a Survivor’s Experience in His own Words

Part V

5. The Population Game: Disappeared on Paper and Killed with Cannon

5.1. Strategic Numbers

5.2. Quantifying the Suffering

5.3. Attempts to Set the Record Straight

5.4. OCHA figures

5.5. Other Estimates

5.6. Indicators from persons resettled.

5.7. The Task

5.8. Who was Responsible for Short-changing the People in Food and Medicine?

Part VI

6. Protecting Crime by Criminalising an Entire Populace

6.1. Welcome to Snake Farm

6.2. To Live Perpetual Suspects under a Paramilitary Regime

6.3. Interned behind barbed wire in ‘Welfare Centres’; Whose Welfare?

6.4. The Talking Game of Releasing IDPs

6.5. Screening – a Farcical Exercise leading to Crime

6.6. Women and the Risk of Abuse

6.7. Military Abuses at Vavuniya Hospital

6.8. Defrauding a People in War and in Peace

6.9. Fooling India and the World, and Getting Away with It

Appendix

Part VII

7. Misunderstanding Terrorism and the Importance of Root Causes

7.1. A Time for Reckoning: Where Have we Failed?

7.2. Dangerous Miscalculations about Terrorism

7.3. Stuck in a 60 year Groove: Progressive Poisoning of Atmosphere

7.4. When Politics is Depraved and Old Soldiers Refuse to Fade Away: Facing up to Anarchy at the Door

Part VIII

8. Addendum: The End of the LTTE’s Vanni Gulag

8.1. Muted Celebration

8.2. Manoharan and Chelvi.

8.3. The End of an Era

8.4. Bearing Witness: Ravi

8.5. Ravi relates the fate of fellow prisoner, Inspector Jeyaratnam

8.6. Bearing Witness: Satheeshkumar

The Full Report can be accessed at www.uthr.org

Did President Rajapakse assure the UN that surrendering LTTE leaders would be safe?

General (Retd) Sarath Foneka’s explosive interview to “ The Sunday Leader” has caused great controversy about whether Defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse had allegedly given orders to then 58 division commander Brig.Shavendra Silva that LTTE leaders Nadesan,Pulithevan and Ramesh surrendering with white flags should be executed.

While Gotabhaya Rajapakse is primarily responsible for the alleged incident according to Sarath Fonseka’s interview there is also the question of the extent to which President Mahinda Rajapakse was involved in this controversial incident

It may be recalled that well-known British journalist Marie Colvin who herself played a role in trying to arrange for the safe surrender of LTTE leaders wrote an article then outlining some of the events in the month of May 2009.

In that article Marie Colvin quoted both UN Secretary – General’s chief of staff Vijay Nambiar and Tamil National Alliance MP Chandrakanthan ChandraNehru about assurances being given by President Mahinda Rajapakse himself about ensuring the safety of surrendering LTTE leaders

President Rajapakse’s verbal assurance seemed to have instilled confidence in the LTTE leaders as well as those who played a part in arranging for the surrender that no harm would befall the tigers if they walked out with raised white flags.

At a time when the “massacre of LTTE surrendees” incident seems to be in the eye of a political storm it may be worth recalling what Marie Colvin wrote then.

We are therefore re-producing the article by Marie Colvin that was posted in “Transcurrents” earlier:

Tigers begged me to broker surrender

by Marie Colvin

MCTC0324C.jpgMarie Colvin, recognized as Best Foreign Correspondent in many of the British Press Awards, was wounded when she was fired upon in Vavuniya by the Sri Lankan Army in April 2001.

IT was a desperate last phone call but it did not sound like a man who would be dead within hours. Balasingham Nadesan, political leader of the Tamil Tigers, had nowhere to turn, it seemed.

“We are putting down our arms,” he told me late last Sunday night by satellite phone from the tiny slip of jungle and beach on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka where the Tigers had been making their last stand.

I could hear machinegun fire in the background as he continued coolly: “We are looking for a guarantee of security from the Obama administration and the British government. Is there a guarantee of security?”

He was well aware that surrendering to the victorious Sri Lankan army would be the most dangerous moment in the 26-year civil war between the Tigers and Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

I had known Nadesan and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the Tigers’ peace secretariat, since being smuggled into rebel territory eight years ago.

At that time the Tigers controlled a third of the island; now these two men were trying to save the lives of the remaining 300 fighters and their families, many of them injured. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped with them, hiding in hand-dug trenches, enduring near constant bombardment.

For several days I had been the intermediary between the Tiger leadership and the United Nations as the army pressed in on the last enclave at the end of a successful military campaign to defeat the rebellion.

Nadesan had asked me to relay three points to the UN: they would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the Americans or British, and they wanted an assurance that the Sri Lankan government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.

Through highly placed British and American officials I had established contact with the UN special envoy in Colombo, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general. I had passed on the Tigers’ conditions for surrender, which he had said he would relay to the Sri Lankan government.

The conflict seemed set for a peaceful outcome. Puleedevan, a jolly, bespectacled figure, found time to text me a smiling photo of himself in a bunker.

By last Sunday night, however, as the army pressed in, there were no more political demands from the Tigers and no more photos. Nadesan refused to use the word “surrender” when he called me, but that is what he intended to do. He wanted Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety.

Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30am on Monday. I woke him up.

I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said.

I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.

It was still late Sunday night in London. I tried to get through to Nadesan’s satellite phone but failed, so I called a Tigers contact in South Africa to relay Nambiar’s message: wave a white flag high.

I was woken at 5am by a phone call from another Tigers contact in southeast Asia. He had been unable to get through to Nadesan. “I think it’s all over,” he said. “I think they’re all dead.”

That evening, the Sri Lankan army displayed their bodies. What had gone wrong with the surrender? I would soon find out.

I discovered that on Sunday night Nadesan had also called Rohan Chandra Nehru, a Tamil MP in the Sri Lankan parliament, who immediately contacted Rajapaksa.

The MP recounted the events of the next hours: “The president himself told me he would give full security to Nadesan and his family. Nadesan said he had 300 people with him, some injured.

“I said to the president, ‘I will go and take their surrender.’

“Rajapaksa said, ‘No, our army is very generous and very disciplined. There is no need for you to go to a warzone. You don’t need to put your life at risk’.”

Chandra Nehru said Basil, the president’s brother, called him. “He said, ‘They will be safe. They have to hoist a white flag.’ And he gave me the route they should follow.”

The MP got through to Nadesan at about 6.20am local time on Monday. The sound of gunfire was louder than ever.

“We are ready,” Nadesan told him. “I’m going to walk out and hoist the white flag.”

“I told him: ‘Hoist it high, brother – they need to see it. I will see you in the evening’,” said Chandra Nehru.

A Tamil who was in a group that managed to escape the killing zone described what happened. This source, who later spoke to an aid worker, said Nadesan and Puleedevan walked towards Sri Lankan army lines with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. He said the army started firing machineguns at them.

Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhala at the soldiers: “He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.” She was also shot down.

The source said all in the group were killed. He is now in hiding, fearful for his life. Chandra Nehru has fled the country after being threatened, the MP says, by the president and his brother.

Over the past few days, Nambiar’s role as UN envoy has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002. Satish once wrote that General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, “displayed the qualities of a great military leader”.

Although the Tamil Tigers are internationally banned because of past acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings, Nadesan and Puleedevan favoured a political solution to the conflict. Had they lived, they would have been credible political leaders for the Tamil minority.

It was Velupillai Prabhakaran, their commander, who built the movement into a military machine. He was paranoid and ruthless, and he remained committed to military means even as the Tamil Tigers lost ground in the face of the Sri Lankan army onslaught.

Last week, although rumours circulated that Prabhakaran had survived, the organisation was in disarray. Surviving Tamil leaders spoke of turning to a political process, while more militant representatives threatened revenge attacks.

I am in a difficult position as a journalist reporting this story. I first went to Sri Lanka in 2001 to investigate reports that the government was blocking food and medical supplies to half a million Tamils. Journalists had been largely banned from the northern Tamil area for six years.

I found people living in squalor and doctors pleading for medicine. Leaders such as Nadesan and Puleedevan told me they had reduced their demands from independence to autonomy within Sri Lanka.

As I was being smuggled out of the area at night, we were ambushed by the Sri Lankan army. I was unhurt until I shouted, “Journalist, journalist.” Then they fired an RPG at me, severely wounding me.

After intermittent contact with the Tamils since then, I had a series of phone calls from the leadership in recent months as the Tigers fell back in the face of the army’s new offensive. In one call, Nadesan said the Tigers would abide by the result of any referendum and begged for a ceasefire. His plea was rejected by Colombo.

There was dancing on the capital’s streets last week after the defeat of the Tigers. Victory has come, however, at a shocking cost to Tamil civilians. The United Nations says that at least 7,000 died in the last onslaught, although the toll is believed to be much higher. Some 280,000 who had been trapped by the fighting have been herded into “welfare” camps surrounded by razor wire where conditions are said to be deteriorating fast.

Yesterday international aid agencies claimed up to three families were crowding into each tent and being forced to queue for hours for water and food. One aid worker said there was only one doctor in a camp holding 44,000 people.

Refugees reached by The Sunday Times through aid organisations vented their fury. “Look at how we live,” said one woman in a camp with her two children. “We have no space, no protection from the sun. We are prisoners with armed guards and barbed wire. What do they think I will do – a mother and her two children? Why are we here?”

Reports were circulating that members of paramilitary gangs were seizing young people from the camps, accusing them of being Tigers and holding them in secret facilities, although this could not be confirmed.

The president has talked of reaching out to the Tamil community, unifying the country and resettling 80% of the refugees by the end of the year.

“I do not think that is realistic,” said Anna Neistat, of Human Rights Watch. “There is no procedure to release anyone.”

Whatever the declared intentions of the government, there seems to be little prospect of uniting Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future unless the Tamil grievances that enabled the Tigers to flourish are dealt with.

Additional reporting: Heather Mark, Colombo

MCI0324.jpg

[London Times reporter Marie Colvin visitng Iraq mass graves, lost her eye in a grenade attack by Sri Lanka Army in 2001.-cbc.ca/Courtesy Hot Docs.

[courtesy: Times, UK]



Earlier Article, May 23, 2009: LTTE made desperate plea to UK Sunday Times correspondent to help stave off annihilation

Two basic questions to the United National Front and its allies

by Kusal Perera

There are two (02) basic questions that have NOT been answered directly by the UNF and its allies (some 16 political parties said to be with them but, yet to be named) and the JVP in promoting and supporting their Common Candidate for presidency.

One, IS IT ONLY A WAR HERO, a military commander, who could abolish the executive presidency and no one else ?

Two, will all corruption, nepotism, human rights violations come to an automatic stop, ONCE THE EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY IS ABOLISHED ?

This is what the JVP says is their reality with emphasis. This is what the UNF and its leaders are trying to say will happen, through stories. This is what Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) said, when he stressed that the most important issue right on top of their agenda now is the abolition of the executive presidency. This is what Ranil W and Mangala S were trying to say, when they talked of "Asia's ever prospering" Rajapaksa family.

There is no doubt, no argument and no hesitancy in asking for a total stop to corruption, nepotism, human rights violations, media attacks etc., etc. There is also no hiding the fact that this Rajapaksa regime is the most corrupt regime since independence, starting with and highlighting the enormous plundering of public money through the now infamous "Mihin Air", down to very many contracts, tenders, commissions, both talked of and yet to be talked of. This regime is also the one and only regime that raised nepotism into a new and dizzy height with a huge canopy of relatives.

Therefore the easiest and the first simple assumption is to say "the Executive Presidency" gave way to all that and therefore the presidency should be abolished. So here we are, calling for the abolishing of this executive presidency.

The question is, if that is an urgent political necessity, if that is what the people are called to vote for at the next presidential elections, is it unavoidable that an army commander should be a presidential candidate for that? Why not a civilian leader to abolish the presidency ?

Accepting for the moment that abolishing the executive presidency is the most urgent and the most important issue as the UNF-JVP say, leads to two more questions that come, one after the other.

First, (i) was Gen SF named as the Common Candidate, because the people do not believe these political leaders to abolish the presidency ? Or, (ii) is it because the UNF, its allies and the JVP could not come to a decision on a civilian leader to honour such a promise ?

If the answer to the first (i) question is a straight "YES", then these political parties should be disbanded immediately. These political parties it means, are of no credible use to the people.

If the answer to the second (ii) question is also "YES" then again, these political parties aren't necessary parties. Why have them if they can not come to a common decision between them, even on such an important national issue as they claim ?

If their answer is “NO” to both or any one one of the questions, then they contradict themselves in bringing forward Gen SF.

So, let's have this cleared up.

The fact is IT IS NOT A WAR HERO, a military commander, who could abolish the executive presidency. Its a 2/3 majority in parliament that could abolish the presidency. For which the consent of the president is not even necessary.

But these political leaders did not start from the "problem" of abolishing the presidency they talk of now. That was not their objective, nor their prerogative. If they want to, they still have time and the numbers can be harnessed in this present parliament too.

Then why bring in a war hero, a military commander as the presidential candidate ?

Their objective was to first work on a candidate who could possibly defeat President Rajapaksa. Gaining political power, was their sole objective. They thus worked on the project to choose one who could compete with President Rajapaksa for Sinhala Buddhist votes. They tend to believe, principled politics is not the criteria for vote catching.

They had 'two' to select from. The first Sarath may have opted out on his own logical reasoning being a civilian intellectual and was one who could claim no special credit for the war, though a colourful Buddhist.

The second Sarath was consciously developing his own image as a “Sinhala” politico-military leader, all through the war. He thus obviously ran into conflicts with the Rajapaksa regime that thought the war victory was their making. They had the right to think so too, as it was their political decision that made SF the army commander (He had to retire on 18 December, 2005, one month after MR was sworn in as president, as one who was never thought fit to be promoted to that position). It was Rajapaksa's political decision that gave him 04 more years as Army Commander, with extensions.

Nevertheless, SF's egoistic conflict for continued commanding authority with the regime provided these political leaders with a tailor made candidate, who could stand with the Sinhala Buddhist constituency. Thus their decision to work round Gen SF, who was gradually promoted as their "Common Candidate".

This is something they can not possibly tell the people straight and clean. SO they needed a political platform to hoist Gen SF on to. The slogan of abolishing the executive presidency that for the last 15 years was only toyed with but was never taken seriously by any one of them, was thought of as the most common slogan to justifiably project their Common Candidate.

Politics is that simple for these political leaders when they only want power and they do know even if THE EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY IS ABOLISHED, corruption, nepotism, human rights violations will not come to an automatic stop (Civil politicians are corrupt says Gen SF and this man who is cleaner than "Mr. Clean" Ranil W has descended to clean the country).

Eradicating corruption, nepotism and violation of human rights and then democratising of this shattered society can not be done just that way. In Sri Lanka we need a far reaching programme with a committed intellectual political leadership (much beyond the capacities of these leaders ?) to first draw up a programme for all that to be achieved.

Such a programme should include a total shift in attitudes and concepts in formulating the Constitution that would restructure the State. It needs to accommodate mechanisms to make governance more closer to the local constituencies. All of it has to be developed as a social process that would generate a social dialogue too.

Corruption and nepotism can only be controlled and restricted with such empowerment of the constituency, between two elections. That creates space for better democratic functioning of social structures too.

This by itself is a mega project for a committed, intellectual political leadership, running beyond that of petty, personal fighting and mud slinging at elections.

Most disgustingly, the project of these political leaders who are now raising sky high a military leader as one with an unblemished record of honouring promises as a war hero, does not go that way or that far, both in form and content. It ends simply after gaining power and that is reason why Gen SF now contradicts both the UNF and the JVP saying he would not be a "Gopollawa" as President. If he is not going to be a "Gopollawa", then, what would he be as president ?

That brings up the third question, left unanswered by these leaders. These questions are not for them to answer as we want.

As for the JVP and Mangala S, this is their second disastrous adventure that would not only ruin them (which wouldn't matter at all), but the whole country as well. The first was installing MR as President in 2005 November, then their most avowed Sinhala Buddhist leader who vowed to establish the “Unitary State”.

Now their second, the far more dangerous and suicidal adventure. They want him ousted to install a battle hardened, Sinhala racist to establish a “clean and democratic” society. SO, the questions if answered that explains their very personal aspirations for power, are left unanswered.

Growing political support for Sarath Fonseka among ordinary soldiers worries govt.

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

institution

Army chief Lt.GenJagath Jayasuriya calls upon soldiers to be loyal to military as an institution-to individuals (meaning Sarath Fonseka)

growing

Govt concerned about growing political support for Sarath Fonseka among ordinary soldiers. Officers deeply divided on issue

lifelong

Army chief says 81,199 soldiers were injured in war against LTTE. Of these 302 were disabled permanently & require special lifelong care

missing

Army chief says 19,888 soldiers including 842 officers were killed in war against LTTE. Another 3486 including 124officers missing in action.

seized

Media centre for National security announcement that arms plane seized in Thailand was NOT coming to Colombo is widely disbelieved in Lanka

debate

JVP leader Somawansa wants Mahinda Rajapakse & Sarath Fonseka to debate on elections issues over TV

prosperity

"Vote President Rajapaksa for prosperity - Devananda" says "Observer" heading My question is "Whose prosperity"? Devananda & Rajapakse bros?

[click for latest updates - on twitter pages by dbs jeyaraj]

Gotabhaya ordered execution of LTTE leaders who surrendered alleges Sarath Fonseka

by Frederica Jansz

Common opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka says Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa instructed a key ground commander in the north that all LTTE leaders must be killed and not allowed to surrender.

In an explosive interview with The Sunday Leader General Fonseka the then Army Commander said he had no information communicated to him in the final days of the war that three key LTTE leaders had opted to surrender to Sri Lanka’s armed forces as the battle drew to a bloody finish.

Fonseka charged that communications were instead confined between the LTTE leaders, Norway, various foreign parties, Basil Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament and the powerful senior adviser to the President and such information was never conveyed to him as he supervised the final stages of the war.

“Later, I learnt that Basil had conveyed this information to the Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa – who in turn spoke with Brigadier Shavendra Silva, Commander of the Army’s 58th Division, giving orders not to accommodate any LTTE leaders attempting surrender and that “they must all be killed.”

General Fonseka explained how on the night of May 17th this year desperate efforts of three senior LTTE leaders trapped in the war zone to save their lives failed as they were instead shot dead as they prepared to surrender to government forces.

The government later claimed that troops found bodies of three key LTTE leaders identified as Nadesan, Pulidevan and Ramesh during the mop- up operations in the last LTTE stronghold on the morning of May 18.

General Fonseka said the incident took place as the remaining LTTE cadres were boxed into a 100m x 100m area, North of Vellamullivaikkal.

Balasingham Nadeshan a former police constable of Sri Lanka police was the political head of the LTTE. Seevaratnam Pulidevan was the head of “LTTE peace secretariat” while Ramesh a senior special commander of the military wing.

Hours before they surrendered, in a flurry of emails, text messages and telephone calls between NGOs, a foreign government and Sri Lankan officials in Colombo, the two LTTE political leaders had frantically inquired as to how they could give themselves up.

They were told: “Get a piece of white cloth, put up your hands and walk towards the other side in a non-threatening manner.”

But the attempt to surrender by the three LTTE leader and their families failed. Sometime between midnight on 17 May and the early hours of the next morning, the three men and their family members were shot dead.

General Fonseka said it was Basil Rajapaksa together with the Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa who through foreign intermediaries conveyed a message back to the LTTE leaders who wished to surrender to walk out carrying a piece of white cloth. “It was their idea,” he said.

General Silva and Army commander say "No comment"

When we contacted Shavendra Silva, now promoted to Major General he sounded very shocked when told of the allegation but insisted he could not respond to this charge until he had clearance from the military spokesman.

Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told us he had to get clearance from the Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya.

Later in the day the military spokesman said that he had contacted both the Army Commander and General Shavindra Silva and both had said that they would not comment on the matter.

The chief intermediary for the three LTTE men was the Norwegian government’s then Environment and Development Minister Erik Solheim. (Solheim is now the overseas development minister) On Sunday 17 May, Mr Solheim apparently received calls from LTTE figures who said they wanted to surrender.

The ICRC in Colombo later confirmed that it had received word from the Norwegians that the two leaders were looking to give themselves up. “The ICRC was approached on this matter by the representatives of the LTTE as well as the Norwegian authorities,” spokeswoman Sarasi Wijeratne was quoted saying at the time of the incident. “The information was referred to the Sri Lankan authorities. We have no idea what happened [then]. We lost contact with everyone in the last conflict.”

The government’s point man in the negotiations appears to have been former foreign secretary Palitha Kohona who is now Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United nations He was quoted by news agencies saying that in the days leading up to Sunday evening, he had received a number of messages indicating from Mr. Nadesan and Mr Pulidevan – whom he has met at various peace talks – wanting a way out.

In one interview with ‘SiberNews’ Mr. Kohona said that his response had been that “there was only one way to surrender that is recognised by military practice”. He said they should obtain a white flag and give themselves up. “I kept saying this for three days,” he added.

But General Fonseka maintains that Nadesan, Ramesh and Pulidevan had been shot dead by government troops as they advanced towards them carrying a white flag, as they had been instructed to do.

Fonseka said he later learnt about what exactly had taken place as a result of journalists who had been entrenched at the time with General Shavendra Silva’s brigade command. These reporter’s according to Fonseka were privy to the telephone call received by the Army’s 58th Brigade Commander from the Defence Secretary –“telling him to not accommodate any LTTE surrenders but to simply go ahead and kill them.” – “These journalists later told me what exactly took place,” Fonseka said.

“Norway never got in touch” – Basil

Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa refuted this damning charge. He told The Sunday Leader, “The Norwegians never got in touch with me over this particular incident. I have been in touch with the Norwegians over various issues pertaining to the conflict but never once on this particular issue."

When asked if he had been unaware then that three LTTE leaders were seeking surrender during the last stages of the war – Rajapaksa replied, “No. I won’t say that. But Norway never got in touch with me."

Asked nevertheless if he did convey something to this effect to his brother and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Mr. Rajapaksa said “If I had not been informed by Norway in the first instance then obviously the second did not happen.”

Our attempts to contact Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa failed. When we telephoned the Defence Ministry Friday we were told Mr. Rajapaksa had not been in office the entire day. His staff refused to release any other telephone number. COURTESY:THE SUNDAY LEADER

Related: Did President Rajapakse assure the UN that surrendering LTTE leaders would be safe?

Prudent 2 point program for pragmatic Tamil Politics

by Dayan Jayatilleka

“For their part, Tamil leaders have not yet made anticipated conciliatory gestures that might ease government concerns and foster a genuine dialogue”- Sri Lanka: Re-charting US Strategy after the War, US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Dec 7, 2009

Sri Lanka is a work in progress, a jigsaw puzzle that we have never been able to complete because the pieces haven’t been fitted together correctly.

The Sinhalese and Tamil ‘pieces’ of the jigsaw want places bigger than the spaces available that would permit the whole to fit together. Both the Sinhalese and Tamils overestimate themselves and underestimate the other. The Sinhalese overestimate their local preponderance while underestimating their external vulnerability as well as the vulnerability of the jigsaw puzzle as a whole. The Tamils overestimate their external spread while underestimating their domestic weakness.

The War and the postwar elections have dramatically emphasized certain basic realities which however have been imperfectly absorbed and reflected upon by both Sinhalese and Tamils. There are four outcomes or facts that should impress themselves upon the Tamil psyche.

Firstly the utter military defeat of Prabhakaran and the Tigers, who were thought invincible by the Tamil community.

Secondly, the ability of the Sri Lankan state/the Sinhalese/the South, to impose a defeat on the Tigers without a political package as prerequisite, parallel or postscript.

Thirdly, the inability or unwillingness of the international community/world opinion – Western and regional—to either halt the military offensive and drive the Sri Lankan state either to the negotiating table or a devolution package.

Fourthly, the disappearance of the pacifist neoliberal candidate (Wickremesinghe) and the emergence instead of a bipartisan consensus of sorts, with two Sinhala nationalist candidates, the one populist and the other militarist, neither of whom will compromise on secession, terrorism, and the unitary state.

The Tamil politicians and intellectuals, here and in the Diaspora didn’t get it at all. They neither foresaw the decimation of the Tigers by the Sri Lankan armed forces (relatively swiftly in this last war, I might add) nor the opening up of democratic space that would inevitably follow. I say ‘inevitably’ because that was what I told the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in early 2007, in the presence of President Rajapakse, several Cabinet Ministers, senior officials and Church personalities including Bishop Duleep de Chickera. I gave a brief run down on the war as satisfying the major criteria of Just War theory (which was of course originally just war theology - Leo Strauss’s pet aversion, “political theology” at its best). While un-contradicted by the clergymen (Sinhala, Tamil and British) in the room, I was posed a question by Dr Williams for whom I had great respect because of his formidable intellect and his high profile opposition to the invasion of Iraq. His own work on Just War had made him focus on a just outcome, so did I think that this war would lead to one and if so why?

I replied the Archbishop saying that in the wake of the military defeat of the LTTE by the armed forces of the state, the inevitable reopening of electoral space and the re-enfranchisement of the Tamil voter, would, in the context of a highly competitive Presidential and parliamentary elections and proportional representation, give the Tamil people the leverage to re-insert their issues and demands at the very centre of Lankan politics. I recall saying, only half jokingly, that “President Rajapakse and his rival, whoever it may be, at the presidential elections will trip over each other to woo the Tamil voter”, as would the two major parties, because the administration that issues from a parliamentary election would be coalitional in character. In a postwar peacetime election, neither of the presidential candidates could get 50.1% nor could the major parties (under proportional representation) prevail on the basis of Sinhala Buddhist votes alone. These prognoses have been validated by events.

For their part, the Sinhalese must learn a lesson from the ironic spectacle of both Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka promising to go beyond the 13th amendment, to implement 13 Plus or even 13 Double Plus, mere months after the former was in effect talking “13 minus” and the latter was decrying the attempt to implement the 13th amendment in any form on the grounds that his boys didn’t give their lives for devolution! Even the EPDP which was willing to settle for the 13th amendment is now seeking to go beyond it. This turn of events is particularly amusing to me, since I was denounced by the Sinhala chauvinists for advocating the immediate postwar implementation of the 13th amendment from a position of strength, and possibly lost my job also because of that factor. The same Sinhala chauvinists, now divided, are gathered around two candidates, both of whom are pledging to go beyond the 13th amendment, something I never advocated.

So while the Tamils must learn from their military defeat that there are certain things that are unfeasible given the huge Sinhala preponderance on the island which the Sinhalese when roused will not hesitate to deploy to the full, the Sinhalese must learn from the political bargaining power of the Tamils even after their chosen or self appointed vanguard was decimated, that the ethnic Other will just not go away and cannot be cowed or reduced in significance beyond a point.

This is the ideal moment then for both sides to arrive at a realistic compromise. But will they? The Sinhalese presidential candidates have, at least at the level of rhetoric, come some way – and in practical terms the IDP situation has verifiably improved. However, one cannot say the same of the dominant tendency within Tamil politics, represented by the TNA. It may be said that they are no longer asking for a separate state but that’s a joke: separatism has no chance on the ground and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s latest report shows that there are no serious takers in Washington DC either, for anything that is not squarely within a united Sri Lanka. Even so, neither the pro-Tiger elements in the Diaspora nor the TNA have repealed the Vadukkodai Resolution which called for the setting up of a separate sovereign independent state of Tamil Eelam. This is tantamount to the destruction of the Sri Lankan state in its current scale, scope and contours.

Some TNA MPs call for federalism as the basis of negotiations with both Presidential candidates. This is a perfectly legal and legitimate position, but it is lamentably foolish, because there will be no takers, and is yet another example of Tamil nationalist politicians pricing themselves out of the market.

The third example of the obduracy of Tamil nationalism is the demand that the Sri Lankan armed forces withdraw to the pre conflict, i.e. pre July 1983 positions in the North and East. It is one thing to oppose any attempt at Sinhalization and the setting up of military settlements outside of currently held state land. It is also reasonable to seek some significant shrinkage of High Security Zones. However it is absurd to demand a return to the pre-war status quo. After a bitterly fought war, no responsible state can withdraw to pre-war lines, because it is precisely the vulnerability of those pre-war deployments that were amply demonstrated during the war! Though the context is different – one of a foreign war – and the arrangements as they evolved are those of solid alliance, it must be noted that there are US bases on German and Japanese soil. Postwar deployment of the Sri Lankan army must ‘permanently’ prevent any possibility of the repetition of the LTTE’s military maneuvers.

On the one hand there must be no policies or deployments that smack of Occupation, Palestinianisation, or Sinhala Buddhist-isation by settler-colonialism. On the other hand the force posture of the Sri Lankan armed forces in the North and East, must, for the long duration, be one of prevention and preemption of separatist terrorism and irredentism. While there can be partial retrenchment, there can be no principle of pullback to pre-conflict lines.

The real chance for a revived Tamil politics is at the parliamentary election which will fairly swiftly follow the presidential one. The broader the bloc of the Tamil parties or of the Tamil–speaking parties (Tamil and Muslim), the greater the possibility of neutralizing the Sinhala ultranationalists, but only if their negotiating stance with the major Southern formations is a prudent one.

If the Tamil parties price themselves out of the market with their federalist fundamentalism, a tragic situation such as that of 1972 will obtain, where the two major parties sat smugly in a parliament turned Constituent assembly and myopically ignored the demands of the Tamil United Front. Certainly the Sinhalese and Sri Lanka suffered dreadfully from this absence of dialogue but none so horribly and at such colossal comparative cost as did the Tamil community.

What then should be the stance of a pragmatic Tamil politics? Any attempt to go qualitatively beyond the 13th amendment will, even if agreed to by this or that candidate will be shot down at a popular referendum, unless the pathway adopted is that pointed out by Prof Lakshman Marasinghe, in which case the degree of enhancement will have to be suitably modest. Far more prudent is a two point program: (a) insist upon the implementation of the 13th and 17th amendments to the Sri Lankan Constitution within an agreed upon time frame, coupled with (b) an anti-discrimination thrust as concretized in the revival of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s Equal Opportunities Bill of year 2000.

Contrary to the caterwauling of the crackpots, the Zurich conclave of the Tamil parties was on balance positive, because any political conversation is better than none and the more inclusive the better. Best of all though is the tacit political and programmatic convergence of the PLOT, EPDP, EPRLF and EROS in support of the Rajapakse candidacy. This is the bulk of the historic “Eelam Left” as distinct from the federalist/separatist Tamil nationalist trend, the dominant one in Tamil politics, as represented by the TNA. If only this tacit confluence turns into a solid political bloc and adopts a policy of unity and struggle in relation to Mahinda Rajapakse, the ruling coalition may be shunted along Congress lines and Sri Lanka may be nudged along a more pluralist, National-Democratic path.

What then of the TNA? On present form, there is still the danger that the main party of Tamil nationalism will, like the Palestinians, once more demonstrate its propensity never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This may be true of the Sinhalese as well, but given the demographics, natural resource endowments and strategic competition (read the US Senate Foreign relations Committee report), they may be able to afford it for a while longer.

The Tamils have to decide whether they wish to be like the Palestinians and keep insisting on first principles, or be like the Catholic minority of Northern Ireland. Irish Republicanism has arrived at a settlement, without the achievement of any of its historic aims and demands: independence from the UK, the unification of the 26 Counties, the removal of British troops and liberation from the British monarchy.

Even those responsible for the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1972 have yet to be punished. If after 450 (taking the long view) or 30 years of struggle, and the failure of the British army to eliminate the IRA militarily – in contrast to the decisive Sri Lankan military achievement—the Sinn Fein and the Northern Ireland’s Catholics have settled for devolution and economic prosperity within a unitary state, why shouldn’t Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority? What’s good enough for Gerry Adams and Martin Mac Guinness should surely be good enough for the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance-- and as they say in Parliament, if not, why not?

December 12, 2009

Early campaign push via posters and person to capture minority votes

Early campaign push via posters and person to capture minority votes amidst spirit of the season

tweet treats from the East from the twitter pages by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

visiting

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe is currently visiting Jaffna Peninsula.He prayed at Nallur Kanthaswamy temple, and Naaga Vihare.

University

He is visiting the University of Jaffna right now. He will stay in the Peninsula for two days.

Bishop

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe also visited Uthayan office. He paid a courtesy call to Bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev.Thomas Soundarnayagam.

accompanying

Mano Ganeshan MP, and Dr.Jayalath Jayawardena are accompanying the Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe during the journey in Jaffna.

Eravur

Blue flags flutter around Eravur. Many round about in many towns are decorated with Blue flags and portraits of the President.

Blue

Different posters have emerged in Kalmunai and Saainthamaruth in Tamil with President's portrait in Blue background

builds

"Heroism which safeguards the country, Leadership which builds the country" says posters in Ampara District with President's portrait.

Kaarthigai

Hindu weddings are taking place with high spirit in the East during the Tamil month of Kaarthigai.

New

New Hindu cultural halls have been built in Aaraiyampathy and Naavatkuda in the Eastern province, where weddings are currently taking place.

spirit

The spirit of the season is in the air of East.

decorations

Colourful Christmas decorations emerging in the East. Sale notices are being put up in stores.

celebrate

Many events are organised to celebrate the season in the East. Holiday plans are being made. Long trips are organised by many. [click for latest updates ~ twitter pages by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai]

The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka, Full Text of AI Testimony before Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Amnesty International USA Testimony before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Dec 10, 2009:

"The Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Sri Lanka: Internally Displaced People (IDP)"

by Christoph Koettl Campaigner, Crisis Prevention and Response, Project Manager, Science for Human Rights, Amnesty International USA

Thank you for inviting me to this important hearing. Amnesty International USA is delighted that the Commission has picked International Human Rights Day (December 10) to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis and related issues in Sri Lanka.

ai1212TC.jpgBefore I start, I would like to express AIUSA‘s gratitude to members of the Administration who have raised concerns regarding the protracted detention of civilians displaced by the conflict in Sri Lanka, notably Assistant Secretary Schwartz, who we heard earlier. AIUSA would also like to thank the many Members of Congress who have publicly expressed their concern over human rights violations in Sri Lanka, particularly over the last year as the violence and human rights abuses rose to a level never before seen. AIUSA would particularly like to thank the members of the conference committee for the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009. The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Act mandated the State Department‘s investigation of alleged war crimes by both parties to the conflict. These steps have already had a positive human rights impact in Sri Lanka.

Recent Senate Report

This hearing comes at a key time, when a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee report appears to suggest that the U.S. should re-evaluate its relationship with Sri Lanka, in part by downplaying concerns about human rights and humanitarian issues. The Senate report describes - new political realities having emerged in Sri Lanka with the end of the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (known as the - LTTE). The report does not include urgent human rights and humanitarian concerns, whose resolution is critical for Sri Lanka to achieve reconciliation and lasting peace among its communities. In short, Amnesty International is deeply disappointed with the senate report.

Many human rights concerns remain. I would like to state our concerns regarding three interlinked issues today

Concerns

I. Displaced Civilians

After Sri Lanka recently emerged from years of armed conflict, close to 300,000 Tamil civilians displaced by the fighting were confined to military-run internment camps. To be clear and give it the proper name, these camps are places of mass arbitrary detention: displaced people are not permitted to leave and are detained without charge or trial. This is a violation of Sri Lanka‘s obligations under international law, which prohibits arbitrary detention. More specifically: the government does not allow the displaced civilians to leave the camps and choose their residence in Sri Lanka, which violates freedom of movement. Additionally, the civilians are not allowed to freely move in and out of the camps, which violates the right to liberty. The rights to liberty, freedom from arbitrary detention and freedom of movement are guaranteed to all persons by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 9 and 12).

A few weeks ago, the government of Sri Lanka promised to lift restrictions on the above-mentioned rights. AIUSA welcomes this policy shift and the government‘s promise to allow freedom of movement to all displaced civilians. However, it remains to be seen if the government will fully honor its promises. AIUSA is especially concerned about restrictions put on civilians who are released from the camps, and on the incommunicado detention of alleged supporters of the LTTE.

1. Concerns regarding recent releases

- According to the Sri Lankan government, families living in displacement camps in Vavuniya will be given a choice: remain in camps, seek alternative accommodations or attempt to return home. However, there appear to be restrictions on families choosing to leave the camps. A permanent release from camps should be accompanied by assurances that people are not subjected to further questioning or re-arrest in new locations. It is also critical that the government maintain its responsibility to care for displaced people wherever they choose to go.

- Amnesty International welcomes recent statements by the Sri Lankan government claiming that there are no restrictions on the displaced civilians staying away from the camps. However, media reports have suggested that IDPs could be asked to return to the camps after only 15 days. Amnesty International will closely monitor the promise of the unconditional release and hopes that over the next week no displaced civilians will be forced to return to the camps.

- Another concern is the lack of assistance for those who have already been released. A church group has reported instances of civilians being simply ‗dumped, left on the road‘ after being transported from Manik Farm. The government is providing conflicting messages about the process of return. It is also unclear whether freedom of movement will apply to camps in other parts of the country as well.

- As releases and resettlement efforts accelerate, Sri Lankan authorities should allow displaced people to make informed and voluntary decisions about return and resettlement. The Sri Lankan authorities should alert displaced people to the living conditions in the places they come from so that they can make plans about their future. They should also provide them with clear information about their rights, their legal status and procedures for tracing family members.

- Humanitarian and human rights organizations should be given unimpeded access to displaced people. For those attempting to resettle, such organizations should be permitted to monitor their safety and well-being and ensure their needs are being met, including that they are protected against further human rights violations.

- Several weeks ago, Amnesty received reports that many displaced civilians were merely transferred to other camps in the area where they may be subjected to rescreening by local authorities.

There are a number of displaced persons in closed transit sites who have not had access to UN assistance, and humanitarian organizations report that this secondary screening process has resulted in new family separations.

2. Detention of alleged supporters of the LTTE

11,000 – 12,000 individuals (including children) suspected of links to the LTTE have been arrested, separated from the general displaced population and detained by the authorities in irregular detention facilities (i.e. places other than police stations, officially designated detention centers or prisons). The detention centers, referred to as ―rehabilitation centers‖ by the government, are operated by the Sri Lankan security forces and affiliated paramilitary groups, mostly in Vavuniya District, but also in Mannar, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi.

The danger of serious human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings increases substantially when detainees are held in locations that are not officially acknowledged places of detention and lack proper legal procedures and safeguards.

Amnesty International has confirmed the location of more than a dozen of such facilities in the north. There have also been frequent reports of other unofficial places of detention elsewhere in the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has no access to these detainees and there is no transparency about their registration and treatment. Detainees have not been charged with any offence, and have been denied legal counsel and due process. Many are held incommunicado. Incommunicado detention of suspects in irregular places of detention has been a persistent practice in Sri Lanka associated with torture, killings and enforced disappearances.

Amnesty International has received repeated, credible reports from humanitarian workers about the lack of transparency and accountability in the screening process, which is conducted outside of any legal framework. While screening is appropriate to ensure that LTTE combatants are not housed with the general camp population, proper procedures should be followed, and the screening process should not be used as an excuse for collective punishment.

II. Accountability

AIUSA would like to raise another important issue, which the organization considers to be directly linked with the treatment of the displaced civilians in Sri Lanka. This is the issue of crimes committed during the last months of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

1. While we talk a lot about the current conditions of the displaced civilians, it is often overlooked that during the final stage of the conflict, credible reports suggest that thousands of civilians were killed in the fighting between the government and the LTTE. Who will be held accountable for the killing of these civilians? We know for a fact that Congress is very interested in this question as well, as seen recently through the commission of the war crimes report.

2. The Sri Lankan government did not allow outside observers near the war zone during the final stages of the war. Consequently, the displaced civilians who had been trapped in the zone and survived constitute some of the few witnesses to the final fighting between the government and the LTTE. Any credible inquiry into violations of international humanitarian law should include interviewing these witnesses. The government has not allowed journalists or human rights observers to have unhindered access to the displaced civilians in the camps. Freedom of movement for the civilians is therefore not only essential to ensure their rights, but also critical for an investigation to establish accountability for abuses by both sides to the conflict. This issue becomes even more urgent considering the Sri Lankan‘s government well-documented track record of not seriously investigating human rights violations.

Need for an international investigation

There is strong evidence that both sides have violated international humanitarian law during the course of the conflict. Government artillery was fired in densely populated areas. Civilians were forced by the LTTE to remain in the conflict zone, using them as human shields against the approaching army. Adults and children were conscripted by the LTTE to serve as combatants.

Analysis based on high-resolution satellite imagery (conducted by the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) and aerial photographs raise serious questions about the conduct of war of both parties to the conflict.

Aerial photographs obtained and analyzed by Amnesty International‘s Science for Human Rights Program confirm that the LTTE set up defensive positions next to the shelters of IDPs, which indicates the use of civilians as human shields. Satellite images reveal several possible mortar craters in close proximity to IDP shelters. The use of mortars (which are indirect fire weapons) in such a context may constitute a serious breach of international humanitarian law. Analysis based on satellite imagery indicates that craters formed within the Sri Lankan civilian safe zone (CSZ) between 6 and 10 May 2009. Further, examination of the area surrounding the CSZ subsequently identified several emplacements consistent with mortar positions in the surrounding countryside. Subsequent analysis sought to determine the possible origin of the shells which caused the craters indicated in the imagery. In numerous cases, information indicates that craters were caused by possible mortar positions to the south of the CSZ, corresponding with several potential Sri Lankan Army positions.

The analysis further identified three different graveyards, counting a total of 1,346 likely graves. The satellite images can neither reveal if these graves contain civilians or LTTE combatants, nor reveal in themselves much about the scope of civilian suffering as a result of targeted or indiscriminate attacks.

These uncertainties, together with the highly disputed civilian casualty figures, require an independent investigation with full and unfettered access to the former war zone and IDP camps.

Impunity for such violations has been the rule, rather than the exception, in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, the U.S. State Department has stated that the U.S. government is looking to the Sri Lankan government to determine the appropriate institution to set up an accountability mechanism. On October 26, in response to the release of the State Departments war crimes report, the Sri Lankan government vowed to appoint a committee of experts to investigate alleged humanitarian law violations. While commissions of inquiry have previously been initiated by the government on an ad hoc basis whenever Sri Lankan forces received adverse publicity for serious violations of human rights, none have advanced justice. These failed attempts to deliver justice have been extensively documented by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International‘s most recent report, ―Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka‘s Commissions of Inquiry.‖ The report documents the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to provide accountability for violations, including enforced disappearances, killings, and torture. In fact, since 1991, the Sri Lankan government has formed nine ad hoc Commissions of Inquiry to investigate enforced disappearances and a number of other human rights-related inquiries. These commissions of inquiry have lacked credibility and have delayed criminal investigations. While most, if not all, of these Commissions of Inquiry identified alleged perpetrators, they have resulted in very few prosecutions for human rights violations.

III. Attacks against Journalists

A third issue, connected to the treatment of displaced civilians and the need to establish accountability for war crimes and human rights violations during the war, is the grim state of freedom of expression today in Sri Lanka. In recent years, as the war escalated, journalists and other media workers faced attacks, murder, abduction, censorship and intimidation. Sri Lankan press freedom advocates say that more than 30 people working for media outlets have been killed since 2004. Other journalists have received death threats; some have gone into exile in fear of their lives. The perpetrators of many of these crimes have not been identified, let alone punished. Without the protection of a vigorous free press able to expose wrongdoing, displaced civilians are at risk of arbitrary decisions by government officials denying them their rights. Without the ability of journalists to work freely and independently, the possibility of establishing the facts of what happened during the closing stages of the war becomes that much more remote.

One case that bears particular mention is that of J.S. Tissainayagam, often referred to as ―Tissa.‖ A well-known Sri Lankan journalist and columnist, he was arbitrarily detained by the police in March 2008 and held without charge until August, when he was charged with violating the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations. The evidence for this charge? Two magazine articles he had written in 2006 criticizing the government‘s conduct of the war. After a long, unfair trial, he was convicted on August 31 of this year and sentenced to 20 years‘ hard labor. Amnesty International considers Tissa to be a ―prisoner of conscience,‖ imprisoned solely for exercising his legitimate duties as a journalist. He should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Recommendations

The current treatment of displaced ethnic Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan government, combined with an ongoing culture of impunity, will serve only to foment future conflict. If communities that have been torn apart by decades of violence and impunity are to be reconciled, the Sri Lankan government should initiate internal reforms and seek international assistance to prevent ongoing violations and ensure real accountability for past abuses.

To the Congress of the United States

Continue to press for accountability

Mandate a follow up report to the investigation by the State Department‘s Office of War Crimes Issues. The original report—mandated by Congress—provided a valuable and comprehensive overview of reported violations of international humanitarian law. However, the investigation was limited by restricted access to eyewitnesses both by the authors of the report and independent organizations like Amnesty International that contributed to the report. As this situation is changing with the increased release of the displaced civilians, a follow-up report will provide new insights and evidence.

Call on the Sri Lankan government to:

a) Ensure the permanent and unconditional release of all displaced civilians.

Urge the Sri Lankan authorities to restore the rights and freedom of internally displaced persons in the North and East of the country. This should include:

(i) providing adequate assistance for the displaced civilians as they resettle; and

(ii) consulting with the civilians so they can make informed choices about their future,

b) Provide due process and access to suspected LTTE detainees.

The estimated 12,000 people (included children) who have been detained on suspicion of links to the LTTE should be given access to the ICRC, relatives, lawyers and medical care. The Sri Lankan government should promptly either charge detainees with recognizable crimes and then try them according to fair trial standards, or else release them.

c) Provide better access for independent organizations and journalists

Further, media and independent organizations should gain unhindered access to the camps – including transit camps – in order to provide the necessary human rights protection and humanitarian needs.

Demand an end to restrictions on freedom of expression.

The Sri Lankan government should take immediate steps to restore freedom of expression in Sri Lanka. The government should insist that killings, threats or other attacks against media workers will not be tolerated. All cases of attacks against such workers should be promptly and effectively investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. The Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations should be promptly repealed or revised to bring them fully in line with international human rights standards. J.S. Tissainayagam should be freed immediately and unconditionally.

To the United States Government

Call for an international inquiry.

The Sri Lankan President‘s most recent proposal to appoint a committee of experts to examine allegations of violations of international humanitarian law appears to be yet another attempt to deflect attention from repeated calls for an independent international investigation—calls supported by Amnesty International and many other international and domestic human rights groups. These pleas were sustained by the recent report released by the U.S. Department of State‘s Office of War Crimes Issues.

The Sri Lankan government has a well-documented track record of not investigating human rights violations. This is proven by the failure to open an inquiry into allegations of war crimes when the fighting ended six months ago. Simply encouraging Sri Lanka to probe these accusations will not suffice. In order to seriously confront the abuses listed in the State Department‘s report, an international commission of inquiry should look into serious allegations of human rights abuses, including possible war crimes by both parties to the conflict.

Thank you for inviting Amnesty International USA to this important hearing.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA, 600 PENNSYLVANIA AVE SE, 5TH FL, WASHINGTON DC 20003

www.amnestyusa.org

" To all Tamils who died in this raging violence, Know this we will never forget you! "

Full text of speech delivered by Dr. Ellyn Shander MD at the Great Heroes Day celebrations in Edison, NJ on Dec 6th 2009:

Thank you for inviting me to speak today..

My speech is dedicated to the Tamils of Sri Lanka who are just trying to survive one day at a time, and to all the people who have died.

It is with great sadness that we gather today. The numbers of Tamils who have been killed is incomprehensible. Everyone of them was precious. Every death broke our hearts. I am sure that each of you have had moments when it was too much to bear.

ES3TC3.jpg

Never again means ..

I remember when I read about the massacre of the 61 girls in the Sencholi massacre. I cried as I looked at the faces of each of them just beginning their lives, and knew that 61 jewels of the crown of the Tamil people had just been robbed. When Tamilchelvan was killed, I remember thinking that the sound of reason had been silenced. And then there was my friend. A young woman Tiger doctor who treated the victims of the tsunami with me. We became good friends.. 2 doctors connected thru our patients the Tamil people. When the Tigers were defeated, my heart sank knowing that she is probably dead…Each of us has had our own moments when it has been overwhelming to process the evil stalking the Tamil people.

I remember thinking before the massacre on may 15 that the GoSL really could kill all those people on the beach, and then thinking No, that couldn’t happen. But they did kill them.. More than 25,000 of them and now the international community says nothing. You see if you have powerful friends like China . you can try and get away with it.

But it is our duty to remember each of them, in our hearts … and then make sure that the world remembers them too.

We need to tell the world the story of this evil

We need to make movies of the Tamil holocaust

We need to publish genocide photos and stories for museums,

We need more letters to government officials.

We must demand free media access to the thousands of people who walked out of the massacre and into the concentration camps.

We must demand food and support for the Tamil hostages that are being thrown out of the concentration camps into the street with no support and no means to make a living.

The Tamils have been victimized,

And they continue to be

We cannot let the world think that the war is over, and the camps are open and they can now go back to sleep.

We must tell the world that the Tamil struggle is every human being’s struggle. Where ever there are people on this earth oppressed, and murdered for the color of their skin, or their religion, or simply because they are different, you will find a brother and sister to the Tamil cause.

We must fight for the Tamils to be treated with dignity , equality, and have their separate state of Tamil Eelam.

Anything short of that will continue the slavery and the extinction of the Tamils of Eelam.

These are the worst of times for the Tamil people .we should be reminding the world that Never again .which was the rally call after the Jews were killed in the millions in WW2 means we cannot tolerate injustice

Never again means .. we cannot tolerate ethnic cleansing.

Never again means .we cannot tolerate racial murders and

Never again means we must fight genocide.

The world needs to know that never again is an empty phrase for the Tamils of Eelam

Now there are still more than 120,000 Tamils trapped in the concentration camps. They are not being let out.

Many who are let out, are dumped out in the streets or sent to rural villages that look like army villages with no source of income or food. They are not allowed to return to their homes. Some were relocated to other camps. and the only new development in the North is 3 large prisons being built in Killinochi and 2 other towns.

There are 11,000 children being held with LTTE suspects.

These are serious problems for serious people to come up with serious solutions.

You are those serious people. The Tamil Diaspora must NOT be silent. You must come rally, and not disappear.

You must continue to pressure congress, to demand the international community to push the GoSL

to open the country to international media and

to ask the UN to oversee the resettlement process.

The Tamil Diaspora must not disappear or be indifferent. What the GoSL does not understand is that, you can crush the Tamils of Sri Lanka. You can kill the Tamil children. You can disappear the Tamil teens, but you can never kill the Tamil spirit.

We must demand to bring the Tamils back to their homes. Not relocate them to poor land in other parts of the country

We want free elections

We want fair representation of Tamils and

We want no more military overseeing every aspect of Tamil life.

These are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary people with extraordinary solutions.

You are capable of being these extraordinary people to save the Tamils and establish a free Tamil Eelam.

For instance we can bring the GoSL down to their knees with an economic boycott.

We are asking for a call to action today

We are asking all of you extraordinary people to join the boycott of all goods from SL.

We can embarrass the companies doing business in this blood soaked country.

Economic sanctions against this despicable SL regime must be imposed.

Just as Gandhi led the boycott of British goods, and Just as Nelson Mandela was freed when apartheid in South Africa crumbled to the ground, economically isolated by an outraged international community.

So too, we can bring this Nazi like government of SL down to its knees with economic boycotts, which will lead to travel restrictions on its leaders and charges in the international criminal court. for crimes committed against the Tamil community.

We cannot let all of the people who died .. die in vain.

They must not be the invisible dead.

The Tigers fought for freedom from oppression..

We must make sure that flame is never blown out.

The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is our duty as the living to cry out for them.

So each of us must come to this call for action and redouble our efforts to keep the Tamil spirit alive, bring the economy of the Gosl down to their knees. And then build first in our hearts and then on the ground a free Tamil Eelam.

ES4TC4.jpg

Dr.Ellyn Shander MD

In closing, I wanted to share my prayers for the people who died

To all Tamils who died in this raging violence, (say with me)
Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil mothers that just wanted to wake up everyday and feed their children, take them to school and walk in dignity
Know this We will never forget you!

To every Tamil fisherman, who lived to go out to sea and bring back his catch. And to the women who waited on the beach ready to clean the fish and get it ready to sell.
Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil doctors and nurses killed in the bombing of the hospitals
Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamils who can never celebrate weddings, birthdays, and celebrations
Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil children who used to run in schoolyards, dead now or without legs.
Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil elders, who have seen the years of Sinhala oppression, we say from our hearts that we wish you never lived to see this final aggression, but
Know this we will never forget you!

To the Tamil babies, who never had a chance to walk, talk or live without fear.
Know this we will never forget you!

To the brave fallen heroes, the Tigers that have fallen in battle, bravely fighting the evil that oppressed the Tamil people , we owe you a debt.
Know this we will never forget you!

For all who have died: In your honor we will continue the fight for a Free Tamil Eelam

And finally in the words of Charles de Gaulle head of the French resistance, during the darkest days of WW2, when the Nazi evil almost swallowed up this earth, he said about their time…

“It is not tolerable, it is not possible, that from so much death, so much sacrifice and ruin, so much heroism, a greater and better humanity shall not emerge.”

Today, here in New Jersey , let us say a heartfelt prayer together, that in this lifetime, from so much Tamil death, sacrifice and heroism, what will emerge, will be, a better humanity called Tamil Eelam.

Nandri

Sri Lanka wants India’s help ‘to defeat LTTE politically’!

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivering the Olcott Oration at Ananda College, Colombo on 14 November is reported to have said: “The relationship developed over the past four years where our closest ally, India, helping us with our war against terrorism.

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[Indian envoys with with President Rajapaksa in Colombo, May 2009-pic by: South Asian Foreign Relations]

Having their support helped reduce the pressure by other nations and thus we were able to proceed with our ‘humanitarian operations’. It is important that we strengthen this relationship further in the years to come." He also said that “it was important to develop good relations with India to defeat the LTTE politically in the international arena and prevent its revival”. (‘The Island’ 16 November 2009 report, titled - ‘India’s help, a must to defeat LTTE politically’).

This statement by the powerful Defence Secretary gives weight to the baffling role India played in the final separatist war which has its roots in the protracted ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka, former Army Commander and Chief of Defence Staff who is the formidable challenger in the January 26 Presidential election determined to deprive President Mahinda Rajapaksa his second term as head of the State, head of the government and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces also reminded the journalists at the eagerly awaited press conference on November 29 of India’s critical role in destroying the LTTE militarily.

India’s help during and after Eelam war IV

The retired Army Commander turned politician told the media: “If somebody says, okay I worked in China or Pakistan… to get military equipment to fight the war. But those countries helped us in the military equipment but the Indian government morally and politically helped us to win the war.” He added, “Even in future, I like to maintain the best of relationship (with India).” There is, however, some controversy about India’s assistance to the Sri Lankan security forces.

The Sri Lankan navy had received crucial assistance including two warships on lease from the Indian government. These are still with the Sri Lankan navy. In this regard the following report is pertinent. The Island newspaper reported on 16 November 2009 that “there is no basis for recent Indian press reports that the government of India wants two warships which it had leased to Sri Lanka in 2007 on annually renewable contract returned”. Quoting Sri Lankan navy sources the report stated “the navy had taken delivery of the ships from the Indian Coast Guard following an agreement between the governments of Sri Lanka and India”. Unnamed high ranking navy official had told the reporter: “Sri Lanka was eternally grateful to the government of India for leasing out two warships on friendly terms”. The two Indian warships ICGS Varaha and ICGS Vigraha were commissioned as SLNS Sagara and SLNS Sayurala, respectively by the Sri Lankan navy. Another Indian warship acquired earlier was commissioned as SLNS Sayura.

According to this report, “the Indian ships, along with two Fast Missile Vessels (FMVs), SLNS Suranimala and SLNS Nandimithra and SLNS Samudura destroyed eight LTTE floating arsenals on the high seas in four separate confrontations over a two-year-period. The Indian vessels were involved in the four operations. The hunting down of enemy warehouses in international waters is considered the navy’s greatest achievement in the entire Eelam war. Sri Lanka acquired FMVs from Israel while SLNS Samudura formerly belonged to the US Coast Guard”. According to SL Defence sources, “effective patrolling by Sri Lanka would be beneficial even to India and the two countries could explore ways and means of further enhancing cooperation between their navies”.

In the UN Human Rights Council special session in Geneva that concluded on 27 May 2009, the resolution justifying the war against the Tamil Tiger terrorists presented by Sri Lanka was adopted by the Council with 29 in favour, 12 against and 6 abstentions to the dismay of Western countries that wanted to castigate Sri Lanka for the violation of human rights and international law. India along with China, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and other Islamic and African countries helped to pass the resolution endorsing Sri Lanka’s war effort. Many delegates who spoke in support of Sri Lanka were of the view that the country had a legitimate right to defeat terrorism and the matter was an internal affair of a sovereign state. There was no discussion on how this was achieved and the collective punishment of all civilians stranded in the war zone. Many of them were weak persons including pregnant women and children incapable of fighting. Violations by several sovereign states of the human rights of their citizens point to the need for strengthening international law to prevent sovereign right being used to condone gross violation of acknowledged human rights. This is certainly a difficult issue but necessary from the humanity angle.

Expected quid pro quo

The support given by India to Sri Lanka in the fierce war against the LTTE was not without any quid pro quo from the beneficiary. It was not an unconditional gift. Sri Lankan President promised Indian political leaders and senior officials on several occasions that his government would settle politically the continuing ethnic problem which has also been of great concern to both the Indian Union and the Tamil Nadu state. Knowing India’s special interest in the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution, President Rajapaksa promised to go beyond 13A (13A plus). This promise has now been put on the back burner

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee while delivering this year’s Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture in Colombo mid November advocated the Indian power sharing model for preserving the unity and integrity of the island nation. He also stressed, in this regard, the importance of embracing steadfastly the democratic system of governance. Bearing in mind Sri Lanka’s noticeable slide from the democratic ideal, he said: “Clear separation of powers, rule of law and social justice, secularism, free press and vigilant citizens and civil groups have ensured that threats to sovereignty from within and without are tackled with an inner strength that can come only through the ballot.” He emphasized, Sri Lanka’s future depends crucially on strengthening the democratic process.

He attributed India’s unity in diversity to its balanced political structure. “Democracy has indeed served India well since independence and it is the protective sheath that preserves and protects its extraordinary diversity. Through effective devolution of power, equal status before the Constitution, equal access before it and equal access to opportunities, India has ensured that divisive tendencies are contained and addressed in an open and democratic fashion”. India’s concern for the region’s future too was evident from the following statement. “Both Sri Lanka and India could play a leadership role in the quest for integrating the region, creating strong interest in each other’s stability and prosperity and also in critical connectivity of goods, people and ideas”.

New Delhi’s disappointment over the lack of movement on the political front was also evident from External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s statement in the Rajya Sabha on December 7. He said: "Political process in Sri Lanka has to be expedited. That only will provide lasting solution," The minister agreed with the members that what has been done for the Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the wake of the conflict in the island nation is not enough. Underlining the importance of the neighbouring country for India's security he also said: “We are dealing with a friendly country with which we had cordial relations traditionally." When the powerful leaders have no earnest desire for change, what kind of help from India is needed?

India’s additional concern

India is also very concerned about the apparent emergence of a militarized State close to her southern coast. The November 30 editorial in the Indian daily ‘The Hindu’ has commented on the decision of Sri Lanka’s major opposition parties to field the recently retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka as their common candidate in the January 26 presidential election. It has asked: “What kind of political and ideological message the United National Party, the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana, and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana wing) are sending to the people, the Sinhalese, the Tamils, and the other ethnic groups. Is this an invitation to yet another South Asian variant of Bonapartism (Napoleonic rule)?” This is not a difficult question for anyone familiar with the Sri Lankan way of seeking political power. Honesty and democratic principles and country’s unity, international standing and welfare are not important here. What is needed is the power to rule at any cost. The reluctance to implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution indicates the preferred way of seeking and exercising power.

In the forthcoming election the contest is between two individuals in the limelight chiefly because of the resounding military victory and the opposition is backing the candidate who is seen to have a good chance of defeating the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who planned to capitalize on the military victory in his bid to win the Presidential election which is normally due in November 2011. The date was advanced to take advantage of the widespread triumphalism that engulfed the majority of citizens following the annihilation of the LTTE last May.

The Hindu editorial has also questioned the political intent of the common candidate of the opposition parties. “His most recent political pronouncement — that the 13th Amendment, which provides for devolution of powers to the provinces, needs ‘a re-look in the present context’ — has mystified political observers. ..... Opportunism may be the norm in piquant situations such as the one that has arisen in Sri Lanka. But for the combined forces of the Opposition to be essaying into political adventurism, with a maverick and unpredictable retired general (in fancy dress) at their head, is to court humiliation and possibly trouble”. Whether the mainstream effort is towards politicising the military or militarising the State by other means for whatever reason, the consequences are detrimental to the future of both Sri Lanka and the region as a whole.

Another editorial in the Indian Express December 2 has also commented on the January 26 Presidential election under the apt title “No good choices for Sri Lankans”. To quote: “Neither Rajapaksa nor Fonseka has any blueprint to solve the Tamils question, the cause of the debilitating 30-year war. They are not even prepared to meet the Tamils’ basic demand, to implement the devolution package enshrined in the constitution. The LTTE may be gone but the ethnic divide has not been bridged. ,,, As for the Sinhalese majority, many fear the emergence of a dictatorship, if the powerful executive presidency goes into the hands of Fonseka. The UNP and the JVP say that they support Fonseka because he has agreed to abolish the executive presidency, but others think it is extremely naïve to imagine that the general will become a mere figurehead and place his personal security in the hands of others, given his fear of assassination”.

The Telegraph newspaper published in Calcutta, India has also commented on the shift towards militarism that occurred with the string of military successes culminating in the stupendous victory mid May 2009 in the war against the LTTE terrorists. It was Gen. Sarath Fonseka as chief military commander who announced soon after the end of the war the astonishing plan to enlarge the size of the post-war army by at least 50 per cent to 300,000. It is no secret that in the name of ‘national security’ many illegitimate acts for short-term political advantage have been performed and the culprits remain safe without the fear of being arrested and tried in the law courts. Except for few human rights activists, the public turned a blind eye to these unlawful acts solely because of the continuing military operations against the much feared terrorists. But after the successful conclusion of the war, the public is unlikely to overlook the same abhorrent practices. Hence, the need to sustain the fear of future attacks by the surviving Tamil Tigers and their supporters. This also provides a pretext to keep in force the Emergency Regulations (ER) and the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). These moves also reflect the unwillingness to seek a just political settlement capable of eliminating the root causes of the conflict.

The following comment also draws attention to the dilemma of the voters. “With Sarath Fonseka as replacement for Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka can hope for no more representative democracy than it already has. Fonseka may have given grudging assent to the Opposition’s wish to make the scrapping of executive presidency a part of his electoral agenda. He may have even acknowledged the presence of minorities in Sri Lanka. But he is unlikely to allow either of the two to come in the way of his political objective — getting even with the Rajapaksas. The eagerness to deal with the problem of accommodating the minorities — which was prominent in his resignation letter — may even be dispensed with if it impinges on his vision of a Sinhala Buddhist militarist state. Given Fonseka’s predilections and his narrow interests, his candidacy may do a greater disservice to democracy than the Rajapaksas have done”.

Leader of the House Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said in Parliament on December 8, it was General Sarath Fonseka who had wanted to procure more weapons after the end of the war in May this year and not the Defence Secretary. The more disturbing question is: Why more arms were needed when the war was declared over and ‘peace’ restored? The political statement the General made while he was Sri Lanka’s chief military commander in an interview published in the Canadian ‘National Post’ revealed his Sinhala nationalistic sentiment. He said that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala nation where there are ethnic minorities, who should not place undue demands. In other words, the minorities should accept the supremacy of the majority Sinhalese and depend on their benevolence for well-being! Veteran journalist, Amal Jayasinghe in his recent report (AFP 8 December) has said: “Fonseka, 58, is seen as sharing a similar hardline nationalist platform as Rajapaksa”. Ironically, the votes of the Tamil minority have become crucial in the January 26 Presidential election, because of this expected split in the votes of proud Sinhala nationalists. Sadly, the era for all Sri Lankans to feel proud is not in sight!

India’s earlier involvement

India’s interest in the quest for permanent political settlement of the disturbing (both to Sri Lanka and India) ethnic conflict in neighbouring Sri Lanka escalated after the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom that had state patronage. The influx of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees to the coastal areas in south India (Tamil Nadu) started with this tragic event. Soon afterwards India played an intermediary role in an effort to bring about a negotiated settlement. The document commonly referred to as ‘Annexure C’ prepared jointly by President Jayewardene (during his visit to New Delhi) and Prime Minister Mrs Gandhi’s special envoy G. Parthasarathy in December 1983 containing range of devolved powers to the districts or provinces was not acceptable to some Sri Lankan ministers. Later Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s special envoy Romesh Bandhari arranged the Thimpu talks in the kingdom of Bhutan in 1985. Nothing useful for mutually acceptable settlement was achieved. In July 1985, Rajiv Gandhi in a public statement said that Sri Lankan Tamils should not expect a separate or a federal state but something similar to what India has. Thus, the present Indian plan to settle Sri Lanka’s internal conflict is as old as the time when the protracted ethnic problem escalated to a violent struggle for a separate Tamil state in North-East Sri Lanka. With no prospect of permanent political settlement, in sheer desperation the Tamil militant youth went for a military solution.

Nationalists on either side of the ethnic divide in the divided turbulent nation rejected the 13th Amendment to the Constitution introduced in compliance with the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement for entirely different reasons. However, its usefulness in Sri Lanka’s strategic politics is evident from the recent statements of political leaders; some of them had no interest earlier in it. The point that the writer wants to emphasize here is that despite the tragic mistakes made by one maverick Tamil rebel leader, because of India’s earlier involvement when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister (see below), New Delhi has an obligation to play a more active role in settling the Sri Lankan Tamil problem. Moreover, because of the continued presence of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India, there is a justifiable reason for seeking a speedy political settlement so that these hapless Sri Lankans can return to their native places.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi considered the moves of the commanding first Executive President J. R. Jayewardene to link up with the Western powers notably the USA as undermining India’s influence in the region. Her government ably assisted by the Indian Intelligence, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) helped in providing military training to the several Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups whose members were given sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. The group that went to the extreme beyond Indian government’s expectation was the LTTE whose leader thought even the Indian army was no match for his unconventional forces. The enormous price the Sri Lankan Tamil community has paid for his blind faith in his concept of Tamil Eelam and over confidence in the fighting strength of his armed forces is well known now. It is for the future historians to record this tragedy.

Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning here that the urge for seeking a martial path is mainly due to the mistrust in the elected governments in Colombo. The belief that the heads might not honour the terms of any agreement got ingrained following several disappointments. One could say this is plain racism but unfortunately many past events give credence to this perception. The pressure brought in to abrogate the 1957 Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam (B-C) pact is only one of many cases where promises and pacts meant nothing. The latest disenchantment is the political solution promised since 2006, when the military campaign was intensified. It still remains shaky, though it served the government well in appeasing the external forces pressing for the settlement of the distinct political as against the terrorist problem. No country advocated the military approach for resolving the ethnic minority issue.

Importance of ‘promises’

Not only friendships like the one sought with New Delhi, but also promises are important to the contestants before the poll. Apparently, promises are also critical for the parties extending openly their support to the incumbent or the main challenger Gen. Sarath Fonseka. The Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC), the Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP), the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) have announced their support to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 26 Presidential election. With the conflicting media reports, it is not certain whether the Up Country Peoples’ Front (UPF) and Eelam Peoples’ Revolutionary Liberation Front (Padmanaba) have pledged support to President Rajapaksa.

The EPDP leader Minister Douglas Devananda announced on December 4 (Asian Tribune 5 December) that his party’s support is based on the ten-point programme agreed with the President. He has been steadfastly advocating a 3-stage approach based on the 13th Amendment for the final settlement of the ethnic conflict. The first item in the programme refers to this important issue. To quote: “Starting with the implementation of the 13th amendment to the constitution as the initial step towards the solution to the problem of the political rights of the Tamil speaking people, to progress towards more and more power sharing in stages marching towards the political target of unified government in the centre with Regional Autonomy to the Provincial Councils”. The snag here is given the lack of will to resolve the problems distressing the Tamil speaking people, the multi stage approach will help to buy time for delaying actions indefinitely. Not all parties supporting President Rajapaksa are in favour of full implementation of 13A. Importantly, these parties unlike those in the opposite camp have not asked for the early elimination of the Executive Presidency.

The Democratic People’s Front (DPF) leader Mano Ganesan who worked relentlessly for upholding both human and civil rights during the dark days when abductions were rampant in Colombo (the infamous ‘White van’ syndrome) announced after some wait on December 3, conditional support of his party to the bid of commander-turned-politician, retired General Sarath Fonseka for the office of President. He disclosed at the December 3 press conference that the 18-party United National Front (UNF) led by former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe could soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the General outlining the common agenda. Although the main Muslim party SLMC is a constituent of the UNF, not all Muslims favour Gen Fonseka’s candidacy.

The main objective of the UNF is to overthrow the Rajapaksa regime and the abolition of the executive presidency. Mano Ganesan MP also said the Front expects the General to dissolve Parliament and conduct general elections due by April under an all party care-taker government. Once elected, the UNF candidate Gen. (retd.) Fonseka would be an ‘interim President’ as he, along with all members of the Front as well as the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) are committed to the abolition of the executive presidency and switch over to a model akin to India. There are many ifs here. To Sinhala extremists any Indian odour is repugnant. Paradoxically some Sinhalese voters might support Gen. Fonseka because of India’s concern about having the General (for the reasons mentioned earlier) as the President of neighbouring Sri Lanka. On the other hand, because of India’s dislike some Tamil ultra nationalists would want him as the next President, hoping this would induce India to abandon her present passive role and step in to bring about a lasting political settlement to the protracted ethnic conflict! This is nothing but wishful thinking. The 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord and the consequent 13th Amendment failed to achieve the intended objective because of the lack of will of the governments in Colombo, the assertive thoughtless stand of some Tamil leaders and the lack of monitoring mechanism and discourse on the implementation problems.

Is India being used deviously?

With the dramatic decline in social values and rise in greed for wealth, it became the normal practice in the Sri Lankan society (not exclusive to any particular ethnic community) to use whatever means including exploiting others for gaining power or wealth. The above analysis indicates the dishonest methods used for achieving narrow political aims. The spread of corruption in Sri Lanka is also the consequence of this regression. The LTTE leadership used the people especially the children and the finances of the relatively well-off Tamils mostly the expatriates to wage the war against the State that discriminated against the ethnic Tamils. The money was collected through extortion and LTTE’s business ventures. A section of the Tamil Diaspora used the LTTE with a vengeance to establish a separate Tamil state in North-East Sri Lanka. Although many Tamil emigrants are well-off especially those settled in the developed countries, because of the fact they migrated due to hostile and uncertain living conditions in their homeland, they miss something dear to them. This feeling is strong particularly with the old people.

It is clear (perhaps to Indian political leaders too) that India has been used tactically to mislead those pressing for meaningful devolution and equitable sharing of powers between all ethnic communities. The APRC process is a good example of this tactical move. The APRC chairman Minister Tissa Vitharana of the LSSP, one of the many parties in the coalition government was also used discreetly to buy time for imposing unity and peace after the war without weakening the Sinhala majority rule. The emphasis on development and rhetoric such as there are no minorities in post-war Sri Lanka point towards this hidden agenda. Its implementation hinges on the continuance of the commanding rule that prevails normally during war times or when national security is at risk. The Presidential candidate Gen. Fonseka told AFP December 8 that he feared fugitive rebels would try to assassinate him. Thus, as long as the political problem remains unresolved, it is not difficult to find excuses for clinging on to authoritarian rule, useful only for those wielding power.

In conclusion

Nearly 6 months after the war, when the Sri Lankan President sensed a coup d'état, he sought India’s help. Now India’s help is being sought ‘to defeat the LTTE politically’! New Delhi knows what is needed for preventing the re-emergence of separatist forces in Sri Lanka. Not only Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee but also many others have suggested a reasonable political solution along India’s union model.

Unless the realistic concept of one unified multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation is wholeheartedly accepted by all Sri Lankans, many political, economic and social problems confronting the volatile island cannot be resolved. The apparent sign of Sri Lanka becoming increasingly a militarized State is connected with the reluctance to face the challenges politically within a real democratic framework. There are some authoritarian states where spurious elections are held merely to give a democratic coating to the repressive system. The phony unity and peace in these countries have deprived their citizens of many freedoms and fundamental rights. It is only a matter of time for authoritarianism to collapse with the inevitable break-up of the loosely tied nation. The recent disintegration of totalitarian states in East Europe is a case in point. No freedom-loving Sri Lankan would want to live like the unfortunate people in Myanmar, whose leader’s recent formal visit to Sri Lanka upset many Sinhalese.

Sri Lanka’s political culture is marred by many fundamental weaknesses not discussed fully in this paper. A long treatise is needed. But one important fact that is directly relevant here is that India or any other powerful country cannot bring about the much needed cultural reform. The level of corruption in Sri Lanka rose significantly after the damaging changes to the well-organised administrative system were made by government leaders for manipulating the administration for their benefit. Corruption originated from the top of the hierarchy with party politics and personal connections influencing the normal administrative and law enforcement decisions. Those having the political patronage are immune to the rules and regulations and even to the established law of the land. India, where corruption is rampant in some states cannot help Sri Lanka to get rid of this abhorrent practice that is making life difficult for honest citizens. It is the political class that has been responsible for the lack of unity, peace, balanced development and prosperity. The 1972 and 1978 Constitutions of the Republic of Sri Lanka were drafted by this group mainly to meet the political aims of the leaders of the main ruling party. Patriotic tunes cannot provide the proper means to live reasonably well with dignity and hope.

It is the selfless broad-minded leaders in the civil society, who can jointly bring about the desired change. Strangely, the Buddhist religious leaders have not endeavoured to persuade the political leaders to follow the righteous path. The longer the wait, the more difficult it will be to pull the country out of the politico-cultural mire. Obviously, no sensible person can expect the lot vying for power to serve their narrow interests to strive towards achieving this truly noble aim. In Sri Lanka this bunch had used the people for their own advantage. Even the ethnic division has been exploited for political benefit.

In Sri Lanka, democratically elected government has served those wielding political power and their cronies but not the entire society, particularly the powerless section. This cannot be described as government of the people, by the people, for the people. The word ‘people’ here is not restricted to members of any particular community but to the entire population including those who support the opposition parties. Political differences are intrinsic part of a functioning democracy and in fact the elected opposition too has responsibility to ensure good governance, human rights, social justice, equality and rule of law. The main opposition party in Sri Lanka’s Parliament has also not been functioning responsibly in the larger interests of the entire nation. In short, external pressure is needed to liberate the islanders from decades of misrule but this alone without internal pressure cannot be of much use.

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]

Whoever Wins Presidential Election Democracy and Freedom will Take Further Battering

By Dayapala Thiranagama

Never before has such a major rift opened up between the political and military leadership in electoral politics as what has been witnessed over the recent months. By luring Sarath Fonseka to fight against the incumbent President on their behalf, the newly formed opposition took the Sri Lankan polity as well as the diaspora by surprise. As a result, what looked like an unassailable position for Mahinda Rajapakse now looks more vulnerable.

This was a clever political move by the UNP and others in the United National Front (UNF) but it has major implications for the ongoing debate facing Sri Lanka about its democratic future. The resignation by an ex- military chief to lead the opposition without his own political base or significant background and training in democratic politics highlights the acute political crisis we are facing and the dangers that our fragile democracy will have to overcome if the UNF wins.

In coming days and weeks the contest will be developing into a major political battle where the civilized norms of political behavior of an election campaign would be forgotten. The power grabbing would become an illusive and distant hope for either party without submerging in an undemocratic political culture that is riddled with corrupt practices, intimidation and violence that is not entirely unfamiliar to Sri Lankan politics. Their inability to follow the civilized norms of political behavior would demonstrate their lack of respect for democracy and in turn how they would govern if elected.

The main thrust of this account is to look at the future of Sri Lankan democracy in relation to the outcome of the presidential election in January next year.

Sarath Fonseka’s unexpected bid for presidency is a manifestation of the crisis at party political level. The UNF has been able to unite socially and politically dissimilar and diverse forces on the sole aim of dethroning Mahinda Rajapaksa.In political battles when the battle lines are drawn the unity of such dissimilar and diverse forces are usually capable of providing the wining combination . The UNP and the JVP electoral pact can seriously undermine Mahinda Rajapaks’s dynastic hopes. Along with this Sarath Fonseka has ended the monopoly of the government’s claim to Sinhalese triumphalism.

And now the opposition has also gained a legitimate right to make such claims due to Sarath Fonseksa’s decision to challenge the incumbent President in the election. It is ironical how the UNF political formation has embraced the ex -general who was publicly ridiculed and undermined by some of them during the war, in order to grab political power riding on his back. They have not shown any political embarrassment nor withdrawn their critical public statements made against the ex-General’s abilities over his war plans against the LTTE.

Such an unprincipled political culture within the UNF would not make the UNF politically stable or democratically accountable to the people. Apart from the sole aim of dethroning Mahinda Rajapaksa the underlying political unity of the UNF runs against the wider interest of expanding the democratic space in Sri Lankan politics.

Meanwhile Mahinda Rajapaksa appears to enjoy substantial support amongst the Sinhalese for defeating the LTTE and providing the crucial political leadership to achieve the victory. His alliance of parties is not very different from the UNF as far as the political will and commitment is concerned in relation to the devolution of powers to the Tamils.

As in the UNF, the composition of the UPFA consists of the Jathika Hele Urumaya (JHU) and the JVP breakaway groupWeerawansa’s National Freedom Front (NFF), even to oppose the 13th Amendment being implemented. The Tamil parties in the UPFA face the same challenge in articulating how they would persuade Mahinda Rajapaksa to offer a substantial package of devolution of power to the Tamils.

There are crucial issues about the culture of impunity, media freedom and rampant corruption that makes the life of the average Sri Lankan so unsafe, intimidating, miserable, helpless and disappointing in their day to day life. This would compel for people to use the election in order to seek a way out and realize that this cannot be done without a regime change. This is where Sarath Fonseka offers the opportunity as well as the danger in relation to the Sri Lankan democratic future. The danger one should not take lightly.

The media freedom has come under severe strain with physical assaults, death threats and the death of a prominent journalist, Lasantha Wickramatunga. The culture of impunity has provided an unhindered fertile ground to launch an assault on the press. Some of the journalists have been forced to leave the country making the suppression of press freedom counter productive as they continue to campaign for press freedom. The JVP has already banned two media organizations covering their meetings.

This shows how the opposition will treat the media if they win the Presidential election. The Presidential candidates should make it clear and promise the people how they are going to restore press freedom and unless they show genuine political courage the Sri Lankan democracy will disappear fast making way for an authoritarian rule.

Whoever wins the election, the democratic freedom and rights will take a further battering. The Sri Lankan democracy is so fragile for an ex - General to be politically trusted. The incumbent President appears so unconcerned about the culture of impunity, freedom of the press and rampant corruption.

The Tamil parties have neither unity nor political direction to utilize the election to further their political course on a position of strength. The TNA’s political project is in disarray after the LTTE’s defeat and it appears that they are unable to accept the political reality in the post LTTE politics as well as the available political opportunities in participating in the Presidential election.

The TNA needs to understand the opportunities that would work in their favour in democratic politics, if they are to actively negotiate and participate in resolving the national question. It remains to be seen whether or not the Tamil political parties would be able to make any influence on either Presidential candidates to make a firm offer on devolution of power to the Tamil community.

Firstly the political character of the alliances would obstruct making such an offer. Secondly both candidates are being led by them rather than leading the alliances as far as the resolution of the national question is concerned.

The defining issue of this election should be expanding democracy particularly explaining to the people the need to re-constitute the post independent Sri Lanka state to devolve the political power to the minorities within a united Sri Lanka.

The JVP with its violent history of anti-devolutionary political and military campaign between 1987-89 against devolving power to the Tamil community would contribute to maintain the essence of Sarath Fonseka’s ideological and political line that Sri Lanka belongs the to the Sinhalese. It would be hard to argue that General Fonseka’s has changed his ideological and political ideology regarding the minorities’ political demands overnight.

The Sri Lankan political leadership again will miss the historic political opportunity to provide a lasting solution to the Tamil national question. It would be quite an uphill political task for any Tamil political party to ask the Tamils to vote for the ex-General who led the war against the LTTE without the promise of substantial political rights for the Tamil community in return.

Both Presidential candidates should explain how they are going to resolve the national question and the need to devolve power in clear terms. Any ambiguity or playing with narrow national interest will ruin our ability to restore and maintain a healthy democratic culture. If we do not provide a solution to the Tamil community based on democratic rights we will never get rid of the culture of impunity or restore media freedom and other basic elements of good governance.

We need to resolve the historical grievances of Tamils not because it would negate the possibility of another ethnic rebellion, but because it is a right and civilized political act to follow by the political leadership in the country. Never before in our political history has two powerful men vying for the Presidency had the historic opportunity to resolve the burning issue of our democracy, the Tamil National Question.

Never before in our electoral history has the fate of our democracy been so dependent upon the ability of these two leaders to transcend the confines of the Sinhalese majority. That is why this election will be unique if a solution is found .It will be a disappointment if it fails.

We are not able to claim our national pride when our people continue to queue up on the shores of other countries for political asylum claiming persecution on the grounds of ethnic discrimination. Those claims are not easy to refute when the IDP camps form a system of suppressive human habitation of the post war Sri Lanka . During the war and the post war period Sri Lanka has dispatched thousands of Tamils to other parts of the world. Almost all Tamil immigrants have a tragic story to convey to fellow human beings.

The Presidential candidates must focus on building up our nation giving equal opportunities to its’ every member, irrespective of their ethnicity and removing discrimination in all spheres of life. When our country men and their families with children flung into the sea in search of a safer place to live because they speak a different language with a different culture our ability of tolerance and respect for human diversity becomes highly questionable and makes us inadequate humankind.

It is a political and moral responsibility of the Presidential candidates if they want to lead this nation they should question their own conscience and humanity and provide a reasonable political solution so that all Sri Lankans can live with dignity. So far it is unconvincing that they will have the political courage and honesty to tackle this issue head on.

Police speculated to ban "yagna" to make a thunderbolt fall on President Rajapakse

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

fall

A special "Yagna" will be held on Dec 13th in Tamil Nadu temple town Rameshwaram to make a thunderbolt fall on President Rajapakse & kill him

punishment

The "Hindu Makkal Katchi"(Hindu peoples party) Youth secretary Saravanan will organize the Yagna on Dec 13th to invoke divine punishment

blessings

Saravanan says the "Thirumurai Gnana Velvi" Yagna conducted in Tamil seeks divine blessings for Tamil Eelam & destruction of enemies of Tamils

historical

Organizers cite historical event where Saivaite saint Thirugnanasambandar reportedly invoked divine punishment on those plotting to kill him

ban

While noted Tamil Nadu political activists plan to attend "Yagna" on Dec 13th it is widely speculated that Police would ban the event [click for latest updates ~ on twitter ~ by d.b.s. jeyaraj]

Why human rights are important for all Sri Lankans

By Prof.Rajan Hoole

(Prof. Rajan Hoole, of UTHR (J) sent this article for publication in “Transcurents”.The article outlines both the undermining of Human rights in Sri Lanka s well as the growth of Human Rights activism in the Island. The article emphasising the importance of Human rights for all Sri Lankans was written by Prof.Hoole with crucial input provided by his colleague Prof.K.Sritharan)

An important indicator of Human Rights protection in modern society is successful enforcement of the rule of law. Human Rights activism in Lanka came about as a response to special challenges arising from progressive deterioration of the rule of law. The law is technical in its workings. Good laws and good law enforcement advance human rights, and their opposites lead to conflict and crisis. The strengthening of institutional aspects of human rights, the promotion of a human rights culture and the ambient political mores in which these operate, interact with and influence one another. Deterioration of one will undermine the others.

Sinhala Only was bad in law and was a reflection of the changing political culture. It resulted in communal violence in 1956 and 1958. Law enforcement did not go so far as to punish the offenders, because the political class at that time forbad it. How the sympathies of many powerful MPs were with the attacks on Tamils is documented in Tarzie Vittachi’s Emergency ’58. The book is an example of the kind of activism that has since been missing. The country had not reached a point where Vittachi feared politically connected assassins at the gate. Despite his vacillations, no one accused Prime Minister Bandaranaike of a direct hand in the riots (That changed with Prime Minister Jayewardene in 1977).

Consequently ethnicity dominated the political landscape to a point where it began to over-determine all other contradictions. Instead of strengthening and deepening the democratic culture, the evolving politics undermined institutions of law enforcement and transformed the state into one that was patrician not only in class terms but also with regard to ethnicity and religion.

What began with 1958 was a major blow to the rule of law in Ceylon. Once that element of cynicism creeps into the system that the powerful are above the law, it opens the flood gates for the weaker to advocate extra-legal measures and even rebellion. The powerful who use violence against Tamils even for purely ideological reasons, would no sooner resort to violence against Sinhalese for power and loot. Was it not the deep set corruption within Ceylonese society that triggered the 1971 JVP-led Sinhalese youth uprising?

The examples above give some idea of what human rights activism has meant in Lanka, even when it was not called by that name. It must address reform or repeal of bad laws, press for new laws and measures to address protection against injustices, expose failures in law enforcement and seek remedies, campaign for new sensitivities on the part of law enforcement authorities to make marginalised sections feel that the law protects them and perhaps most importantly in this country, usher in new sensitivities and constitutional reform not just to contain conflict between classes and ethnic groups, but also to make them feel equal partners in this country. It is activism that singly or in partnership straddles several areas and levels.

The first time many of us became familiar with the term human rights was after the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) which was founded in the wake of the 1971 JVP insurgency, became active in several of the spheres mentioned above including the North-East conflict. Experience teaches us that to be effective, such a movement must command a virtual political base of sympathisers who would in a crisis stand by it. The CRM in its early years was aided by two commanding figures, Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe and Somasundaram Nadesan, who could stand up to anyone in the country. Bishop Lakshman was also well grounded in workers concerns and the Trade Union Movement.

Another important initiative was the Citizens’ Commission headed by Justice O.L. de Kretzer with Justice V. Manickavasagar and Bishop S. Kulendran that looked into the police charge resulting in nine deaths by electrocution at the International Association for Tamil Research conference in Jaffna held in January 1974. The Commission’s conclusion was that the ‘tactful’ course for the Police was quieta non movere (leave well alone) rather than to have acted precipitately in trying to arrest a Tamil Nadu Politician who had already got off the stage at the request of the organisers. Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government could easily have faced the truth rather than allow the TULF to carry out vicious propaganda blaming Mayor Alfred Duraiappah for the deaths. No one then called Justice de Kretzer a traitor.

Another late instance is the Kenneth de Lanerolle Committee report on the attack on Tamil students at Peradeniya University by a mob of students connected to the UNP in May 1983. The author exposed the violence as planned and instigated without provocation, and was uncompromisingly clear that justice should be done.

These examples show that there were men and women from all communities that wanted the truth be told and justice done. They saw this as indispensable to peace and communal harmony.

Thus human rights activism is well grounded in local traditions and local initiatives. Against this background it is rather strange that some of the most powerful in the land today should excoriate human rights activism and attempts to report the truth as the work of Western agents and traitors. Are we so barbarous as to believe that strictures against torture and murder are eccentricities of an alien culture?

Ethno-centric ideologies advancing grandiose claims to hegemony, founded on shadowy legends that oversimplify or mythologise, are merely a hair’s breadth away from crimes against humanity. This was the background to the 1958 violence. August 1977 was far worse in that strong circumstantial evidence points to its planning and execution at the highest level. The core of the evidence before the Justice Sansoni Commission of Inquiry was the viciously mischievous radio message sent from Jaffna Police Station on 17th August 1977 that mobs are burning buses, were attacking the Jaffna Buddhist vihare and had assembled at the Jaffna Railway Station to attack passengers, meaning Sinhalese, and the situation was serious.

The message was dictated by HQI Godfrey Gunasekera to PC Kumarasamy in the presence of Inspector Gurusamy and sent on his order to Police HQ as coming from A.S. Seneviratne, SP Jaffna. DIG North, Ana Seneviratne and SP Jaffna were then at their stations. Although the recipient at Police HQ asked for a clarification, Inspector Gurusamy without saying the message was a lie, cancelled the first message and asked HQ to await a further message. However police messages, such as the one by IGP Stanley Senanayake calling for protection of Buddhist sites in Jaffna, with no subsequent clarification, were calculated to add fuel to the fire. The Police’s intention is further exemplified by Superintendent of Police Liyanage, who was in Jaffna till 17th August afternoon and in the evening was in Anuradhapura spreading spiced up versions of the false radio message and instigating violence.

There can be little doubt in the mind of a lay observer that this was newly elected Prime Minister Jayewardene’s way of teaching the Tamils a lesson, which we saw again in 1983. Justice Sansoni in his report avoided the implications of the testimony before him and simply dismissed any suggestion of high level involvement. He tended to blame the violence on the political demand for Eelam. Today even the key evidence that transpired under cross examination by Attorney Leslie Bartlett is hard to find.

The evidence before the Commission made a good story for investigative journalism anywhere. But the Press shunned it as bringing shame on the Sinhalese. This absence of publicity helped Jayewardene to apply pressure on Sansoni, who protected the Government from blame. Our judges too are products of our society.

Few leaders of society have seen the propensity for the country to go on without any account for the communal violence of 1958, 1977 and 1983, as courting utter ignominy. Many of them were socially comfortable with the rulers. Meeting them personally and getting some verbal assurances and then lapsing into complacency became an agreeable form of activism. Confrontation was anathema. The country carried on regardless, until a new outburst of barbarity came with the second JVP insurgency in 1987, which flowed directly out of July 1983.

Once the Jayewardene government began to act in total disregard for the law many persons who had been active in challenging the Government became thoroughly perplexed. The 1982 referendum was followed by the July 1983 violence and then by grand schemes for defeating terrorism by driving out Tamils through brute force and planting Sinhalese settlements in the North-East. Weli Oya was the prime example. It introduced a new menacing level of violence from both sides.

Avenues for challenging the Government legally were then limited. The CRM continued to work in this area. It was party to the Paul Nallanyagam case that marked a notable victory. Nallanayagam, a local activist from Kalmunai exposed a massacre by the STF and was detained under the PTA. Compensation claims of Welikade Massacre victims provided a legal window resulting in CRM Secretary Suriya Wickremasinghe’s long and painstaking analytical study of the crime.

Going beyond this required a political base, which was almost non-existent after the Traditional Left committed hara-kiri by joining the Sinhala Only bandwagon in the 1960s. The 1971 JVP insurgency was an early manifestation of this suicide. The vacuum is keenly felt to this day. In the 1970s several new Left movements responded to this vacuum by taking up the struggle for social justice from outside the mainstream parliamentary democracy. They too were pushed into human rights activism in a manner they had not anticipated.

From the earliest days of Left activism in Lanka, there was also a deep consciousness of the class nature of the ‘rule of law’. We could easily lose sight of the fact that a vast number of people from the poorer strata of this country never had access to justice. Consequently most Left critiques, especially from those who aimed at total social transformation, ignored the importance of the human rights struggle.

This changed when J.R. Jayewardene’s regime from 1977 moved to suppress the workers’ struggles in a ruthlessness manner. In facing up to Jayewardene’s increasingly authoritarian rule and the suppression of trade unions, many Left activists advanced democratic and human rights as an important aspect of their struggle for social emancipation.

A number of movements were formed. Among them were the Movement for the Defence of Democratic Rights (MDDR) and the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality (MIRJE). Among their activities were campaigns for the release of political prisoners, which meant close engagement with the law. Jayewardene’s suppression of workers and Tamils and his cynical dalliance with the JVP, finally making them scapegoats for the 1983 communal violence rendered the existing vacuum explosive. The JVP used the oppression and even ethnically charged rhetoric, to muster rural youths for its “revolution”. The result was massive bloodletting and unprecedented human rights abuses from 1987 to 1990, once more raising new challenges for human rights communities the world over on dealing with non state forces.

This was an experience that showed how over-determination of ethnicity in political life enthroned a state of permanent impunity to the detriment of social justice and ethnic equality.

What happened in Tamil society, in response to this attitude of the South, was a similar frivolous approach of debasing the law and playing with fire. Its campaign against Alfred Duraiyappah as a traitor, for the small prize of capturing the Jaffna parliamentary seat, provided the cue for the rise of the LTTE which began with his assassination. Murdering ‘traitors’ became a means to cheap popularity for the incipient militant groups. Inspector Gurusamy, who admitted before the Sansoni Commission that he was forced to be party to the radio message that ignited the 1977 riots, was shot dead by militants the following year. He had merely done the work of a servant and was an important witness. Killing him was meaningless and irresponsible.

Thus on the one hand the Government arrogantly made a virtue of acting outside the law. On the other, Tamil nationalists supporting the separatist project insisted that there was no prospect of justice from the Sinhalese state and either supported or turned a blind eye to the killing of police officers. They ridiculed attempts to challenge the State through appeals to the law. Parallel trends in the North and South reinforced one another.

When Jayewardene criticised the TULF’s silence on the killing of policemen, the TULF was cornered. They were being overtaken by the monster they had spawned. In early 1982 the next step in degeneration came when the LTTE killed Sundaram, a key figure in its rival the PLOTE. A few months later the PLOTE murdered two LTTE sympathisers. Not quite knowing this, I called at the house of my friend, the TULF MP for Jaffna, at dusk. He came to the gate a long while later, apologised, spoke of his own fear and said, “The fellows have gone mad.” Seven years later he was killed by the LTTE. The rest is history.

Our induction into human rights activism came with different individuals, among whom was Dr. Rajani Thiranagama who had been active in diverse ways, coming together at the end of 1986. Having failed in efforts to mitigate the effects of the LTTE’s refusal to respond to the December 19th 1986 (Chidambaram) proposals and continue the war at enormous cost, it became our lot to experience relief at the coming of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), and then despair and destruction when the LTTE began an insensate war with the IPKF. We believed that the only course open to us was to tell the whole truth and face the consequences. We authored the Broken Palmyra, frequently by candle light, after regular interviews with victims.

Our common position born of experience was that it was meaningless to criticise the governments of Sri Lanka or India, without questioning what happened among us and what we did as a people. When in the middle of 1988, there was a call by a section of academics in the South to form the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), in response to the effects of the JVP insurgency; we found that we had been moving in the same direction. Several of the academics in the South too felt that they must challenge both the Government and the JVP. We began issuing our reports under the name UTHR (Jaffna).

The national UTHR became paralysed after some months when one section tried to push it in a pro-JVP, anti-IPKF direction. Prof. H. Sriyananda who was co-chairman of the UTHR was of a very clear mind that the UTHR should be meticulously impartial in its reporting and continued to be a good friend of ours. Thanks to the political base we had because of the wider involvements of Rajani and some others, we were able to withstand pressures from the combatant parties to manipulate us.

Our fundamental standpoint was the people’s interest. From this standpoint we took a strong stand against the politics and methods of the other actors on the scene. Even in exile we remained part of a wider, virtual political community of like minded people on issues, new friends, old friends and those with whom we had earlier differed.

There were other developments which gave human rights an ambivalent reputation. The SLFP in 1988 tried to ride to power on the back of JVP terror. The JVP, after leading it up the garden path, dropped the SLFP rudely and then targeted its members. JVP terror forced all political parties to rely on state protection and many cooperated with state terror. When some SLFP politicians took up human rights, mainly targeting the UNP government, it degenerated into a game of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. That too was a logical consequence of Sinhalese chauvinism.

The human rights slogan became a weapon against the UNP and aided Chandrika Kumaratunge’s election as president. Not surprisingly her Commissions of Inquiry into violence during the JVP era were seen as a dishonest and partisan endeavour and evoked widespread cynicism about human rights itself. The guilt was all over. The result did much harm in making peace without human rights seem acceptable, even if illusory.

In this context, while the West-initiated, Norway-facilitated peace process had many flaws from the start, there was reluctance on the part of civil society activists to criticise it. Since the process would temporarily stop the war; they hoped the LTTE might in the meantime be tamed through pure appeasement. This meant turning a blind eye to political killings by the LTTE and enhanced conscription of children, using the access provided by the peace process, without any real checks. Neither had they, after many years of encounters with the LTTE, done their home work.

Those who knew the LTTE better were clear that the peace process was doomed and would give discredited Sinhalese chauvinist politics a new lease of life. This is where we are today. Ironically, it is the chums of one time human rights champion Mahinda Rajapakse, who in his time lobbied all the well known human rights organisations in the West, who should take up cudgels against local human rights advocates as agents of the West.

These advocates, though threatened regularly by the President’s cronies, have spoken out boldly, but without going for where it really hurts. There has been a spate of human rights violations since the public execution of the five students in Trincomalee on 2nd January 2006. There were the horrendous killings in Vankalai and Allaipiddy. But local groups made almost no impact. Little is on record about the host of terrible violations by the Government and the LTTE during the recent war.

We presently have two contestants for the presidential election. Both have appalling records and hold out no hope of improving the state of human rights or taking meaningful action against past violations. Going by the past record, the tendency in civil society would be to throw principles to the wind and opt for patently ill-fated pragmatism, where they would have no influence over what follows.

The end of the war provides an opportunity for removing ethnic over-determination from our political life and to redirect our energies towards the imperative of reforming the state and revamping its institutions, providing appropriate political and constitutional arrangements to remove conflicts that have dogged us. It however looks as if this opportunity will be missed, leading to manifold challenges before the human rights community. In the South, human rights activism is failing to build broader movements and is hoping for a change of the government in power as a lever to promote human rights. This course has repeatedly failed.

The Tamil community has been through a very destructive phase lasting the best part of three decades and is in a state of paralysis. When the politics of the South shows no prospect of changing course, the Tamils as a people need to do a serious reappraisal. They cannot go on blaming Sinhalese politics, because the community’s future is at stake. It is imperative for the community to regenerate itself economically and socially and to identify short term and long term strategies towards achieving dignity. This must go hand in hand with convincing the Sinhalese masses that their well being is intertwined with respecting the rights of minorities and the inviolability of their political and cultural space.

Dr.Vickramabuhu: “Adding value” to our “valuable vote”

by Sie.Kathieravealu

It is good to support Dr.Vickramabuhu for the simple reason that he represents the “non-capitalists” and the “oppressed” who are the actual ‘MAJORITY’ in this country.

To get the support from the “majority people” he should get on the platform of “good governance”.

By “good governance” it is meant “a government that is against injustice, discrimination corruption and oppression”.and is for transparency in its dealings, be accountable and answerable to the people and be courageous enough to take full responsibility for its actions.

All the problems including the ethnic and terrorist problems in our country came into being because of the above-mentioned “four evils” in the absence of the other four – transparency, accountability, answerable and responsibility

So it is humbly requested that you be good enough to read the under-mentioned requests of mine, which if implemented, could show the way for good governance and to eradicate the “four evils”.

For the kind perusal and consideration of all concerned:

01. Abolition of the Executive Presidential system and the Provincial Government system and these to be replaced with a suitable alternative system (Regional Government System) that would enable more people to participate in the Governance of the country without “duplication and triplication” of powers and duties for the evolution of a fair and just Society.

02. People’s Councils to be established at Grama Sevaka Divisional area level for the people to voice their needs and recommend ways and means of achieving them and it must be made mandatory for those concerned to heed these calls and respond positively.

03. People’s Councils to be established at Divisional Secretary arealevel with suitable powers to deal with injustices, discrimination, corruption and oppression in government and semi-government institutions.

04. People’s Councils to be established at District levels to supervise and participate in the implementation process of all projects within the District.

05. Legislation to be brought in to allow trade Union representatives to part-take in the making of legislation.

06. The Right To Information Act which is now in cold storage would be improved for the benefit of the people and introduced and activated.

07. Action would be taken to see that each and every clause in the constitution including all amendments is put in operation properly without any exception irrespective of personal views.

The poor, down-trodden and those “power-less” (people who are unable to use their power and those people who do not know their power) who are the “majority” in this country as in any other country will surely support him if they – the poor, power-less and down trodden – are made aware of these evils that caused them all the misery and the urgent need to have them eradicated FOR PEACE AND HARMONY AND CONSEQUENTLY A PROSPEROUS SRI LANKA where everyone will lead a happy and pleasant
life.

Some would say that by voting for Dr Vickramabahu, a candidate who has no chances of winning you are “wasting” your “valuable” vote. I would say that it is “wrong” to say so in this Election because we have got a “second preference” vote which we can use simultaneously in favour of the candidate whom we prefer, if left to choose within two candidates only.

In this way we are “stopping” our “second preference” candidate from winning in the first round, but helping him to win in the second round and thereby “adding value” to our “valuable vote”. The winner will also be humbled down to recognize that he won due to the “second preference” vote of those who did not want to support him outright.

So make it a point to vote at this election to register your protest to the leading candidates and helping them with your “second preference” vote and there by add value to your vote and help to build-up DEMOCRACY.

To save Democracy, please participate at the forth coming election by voting to a person of your choice – you will be having nearly ten to choose from.

December 11, 2009

Will Sarath Fonseka turn into Charles De Gaulle of France or Hugo Chavez of Venezuela?

by Vasantha Rajah

Sarath Fonseka doesn’t belong to any mainstream political party; and, he has no deep-rooted political ideology. Both these attributes are positive qualities indeed in a fast changing world. Veteran politicians with fixed views often fail to see a reality in transition.

SF is still a politician in the melting pot. Therefore, he has the potential to become either a Charles De Gaulle [as Mangala Samaraweera predicts] or a Hugo Chavez [as I suggested he should try to become]. Which way will he evolve depends on many global and local factors. I shall not go into all that here. But I shall explain what will happen if he ends up as a De Gaulle.

We all know how De Gaulle’s presidency ended up in 1968. The general strike of the French working class and the student movement brought the entire French society into a standstill and forced De Gaulle to get out of politics altogether.

Remember, when he became the president of France in 1959 global capitalism was going through a boom; thus he could maintain stability until the boom ended in crisis during the 60s. 1968 general strike was the result of that economic doom. His war-time expertise could not handle the gigantic power of the masses.

On the contrary, when Hugo Chavez (with his military background) came to power in Venezuela his primary objective was to eradicate endemic poverty in the country. In comparison with De Gaulle, that’s his big difference.

Now, if Sarath Fonseka wins this election he’ll be confronted with a twin-problem both of which are unprecedented in Sri Lankan terms. One, the issue of democracy; two, the issue of the economy; both are closely intertwined; and, nobody can solve one without the other.

I shall show later why socialist economics is crucial in eliminating poverty and creating jobs. [In fact, the inseparability of the democratic & socialist stages is an aspect of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, as opposed to Stalin’s two-stage theory. Read Lyon Trotsky’s The Theory of Permanent Revolution.

Democracy and human rights are in tatters. And, the steadily eroding living conditions of the poor majority are touching intolerable levels.

Tamil civilians’ misery and suffocation continue to drag on; innocent Tamil journalists still suffer in prisons. And, the question of a political solution vis-à-vis Tamil aspirations remains unresolved. But, can any government carryout democratic changes in isolation from economic changes? I don’t think so. Any future administration focusing on democratic transformation alone will inevitably renege on their promises and be compelled to return to dictatorial methods to tackle social unrest if the economic issues remained unresolved.

In this context, Sarath Fonseka’s vocabulary and promises at the recent trade-union gathering were quite impressive indeed. But words are not good enough unless he rejects the existing UNP-SLFP economic vision based on the ‘trickle-down’ economics of capitalism; and instead adopts socialist ‘common-welfare economics’. Or else, he’ll be in trouble. The collapsing global economy is not conducive at all for the kind of economic games Sri Lankan governments have been playing since JR Jayawardane launched the open economy.

That episode is well and truly over. The ongoing global effort to save private bankers by recklessly offering trillions of public funds will not eradicate poverty. Remember, the economists who advise the states at present never saw the credit crunch coming in the first place. [Ironically, it was Queen Elizabeth who raised this question when she visited the London School of Economics. She wanted to know why nobody saw the crisis coming!

What this means is: Sri Lankan economists’ approach to the problem of widespread poverty should dramatically change. And that implies: a paradigm shift is necessary - from capitalistic to socialist form of thinking.

Presently, both UNP and SLFP economists promote ‘private investment’ as the driving-force of development. They think the private-profit system would eventually overcome poverty as the profiteers’ wealth gradually trickles down to lower classes. This is a criminal myth that has failed time and time again.

A new economic model based on scientifically-designed, islandwide infrastructure targeting common-welfare should be the driving force of social development. Let me emphasize here that the concept of infrastructure should invariably include nationwide health, education and housing services, in addition to modern transport-systems, energy-distribution, water-distribution and communication systems covering all parts of the island. For, people’s health, education and living conditions are as important to productivity as efficient train/bus services, electricity, mobile-phones and computers are. Thus, good health and education of everyone is not just a moral requirement, it’s an economic necessity.

The infrastructure should be the foundation of the economy – the real material base of the economy. The level of productivity in the country as a whole is dependent on this. It is this half of the economy that should constantly be maintained and improved through scientific guidance. Massive state-investments on infrastructure will obviously create jobs all over the country. Easily accessible credit should be made available for the poor to create the demand for private investors to orientate towards. Considering Sri Lanka’s scenic and cultural beauty, tourism, in my view, should become the number-one foreign exchange earner that should be essentially run by public institutions.

Obviously, private-profiteers cannot develop visions for the country as a whole. Only, a democratic-state accountable to the masses can develop such visions.

But where’s the money to do all this? The answer is simple. Look at the way the Sri Lankan state funded the thirty-year war with billions of dollars. In the last four years alone Sri Lanka’s defense spending amounted to 629 billion rupees (5.5 billion US dollars).

The central banks are in a special position to ‘create’ money in so many ways. We’ve seen how the USA unleashed the Marshall Plan to rebuild a war-battered Europe after the Second World War. Also, we saw how the states in many countries pumped in trillions of dollars to prop-up crumbling global economy after the credit crunch.

However, there’s a fundamental difference between raising credit for war on the one hand, and for infrastructure development on the other. The former is spent on destroying things; the latter is spent on creating things; the former is destroying productivity and living standards while the latter is increasing productivity and living standards. Thus, the former is accumulated as state-debt while the latter is instrumental in creating wealth. The former causes poverty to spread and economic turmoil to deepen; while the latter helps eradicate poverty. Accordingly, the central bank with expert advice can scientifically plan development and unleash credit on a long term basis. And that’s the way to wipeout poverty, and not by blindly opening up Sri Lanka’s resources for the profit-hunters to greedily exploit.

Let me come to the million dollar question now: What if Mahinda Rajapaksa wins? Again, the answer is simple. The above elaborated logic applies to him too. He too can either choose the capitalist path, as he’s been doing all along. Or, he can choose the socialist path of eradicating poverty along with democratic change. On my part, I think, Sarath Fonseka has a better chance of metamorphosis than Mahinda Rajapaksa. Whoever comes to power will have to tackle the issues of democracy & economics all at once; if they fail, however, a general strike could well be on the cards sooner than later. Both must not underestimate the big change of mass-perception taking place in Sri Lanka since the Sarath/Mahinda split.

Nobody can be absolutely certain which path Sarath Fonseka would take once he’s in power. Only thing I can say is that he has the potential to either become a De Gaulle or a Chavez. If he picks out the ‘De Gaulle-line’ then - given the existing global and local economic conditions - social struggles will be on the cards, and his vision for democratic change will vanish into the thin air. He’ll resort to dictatorial methods to curtail media freedom and crush the trade unions and people’s protests. If, on the other hand, he succeeds in combining his democratic vision with socialist economics he can emerge as Sri Lanka’s Chavez to enlighten Asia along with China.

I think Sri Lanka’s Left and the trade union movement should give the benefit of the doubt to Sarath Fonseka and help him replace the present regime, because nobody else can do it. But every step during his rule after taking power will have to be closely watched. There’re many unknown factors here than the known ones.

No Tamil Diaspora lit crackers celebrating Sarath Fonseka candidacy

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

exaggerate

It's disgusting how Sri Lankan ministers lie or exaggerate about the Tamil Diaspora. In their eyes it's monolithically supportive of LTTE

demonise

The latest in this is the Communist minister DEW Gunasekara who tries to demonise Sarath Fonseka by showing Fonnie is being backed by LTTE

crackers

"Look who lit crackers when Gen Fonseka's candidacy was announced" asks Dew & implying Diasporic tiger supporters celebrated & lit crackers

sympathisers

"LTTE sympathisers in Germany, France, Canada, UK, Switzerland & Australia were jubilant & celebrated his candidacy,”he says to show LTTE is with SF

wrong

The point is that NO one in Tamil Diaspora lit crackers anywhere to celebrate Sarath Fonseka's candidacy. Comrade DEW is simply wrong on this

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'Sivajilingam MP paid to contest & siphon off anti-govt Tamil votes'

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

decides

Tamil National Alliance decides not to field candidate for presidential elections & will back a candidate after perusing manifestos of all

independently

TNA Jaffna district MP Sivajilingam objects to party decision of not fielding Tamil candidate & threatens to contest polls independently

siphon

TNA Wanni district MP Sivasakthi Anandan says Sivajilingam was paid money by an interested party to contest & siphon off anti-govt Tamil votes

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UN Envoy calls Sri Lankans and the international community to recognize that children are the face of peace

from the twitter pages by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Children

UN’s Special Envoy of Special Representative of Secretary for Children & Armed Conflict- General (ret) Patrick Cammaert was in Sri Lanka.

help

“Now the dust is settling in post conflict Sri Lanka, we have to seize all opportunities to help children affected by conflict” - Gen Patrick

precious

We have to heal their trauma and resume their precious childhood. Everyone has a role to play. He was visiting the country for 5 days.

missing

“Hundreds of children are still missing or separated from their parents. They must be reunited as soon as possible” he further stated.

recover

“Best practices in other parts of the world show that children recover better from traumatic experiences when living with their loved ones”.

preventive

He further stated "preventive measures have to be taken to protect them from any form of abuse such as sexual violence.”

vulnerable

“Women and girls are particularly vulnerable" said General (ret) Patrick Cammaert.

met

General (ret) Patrick Cammaert met nearly 300 children who were forcibly recruited by rebels. He also met care-givers in Batticaloa & Vavuniya.

community

He also stated that children should figure largely in community reconciliation efforts. He met Government officials, civil society etc.

TMVP

He also met Eastern Province Chief Minister and TMVP leader Chandrakanthan a.k.a Pillayan and Minister Muralitharan MP a.k.a Karuna.

agreement

"They had promised to abide by the agreement they entered with the Government & the UN in 2008 on child soldiers" said General Cammaert.

allocate

He called on the international community to urgently allocate adequate funds for safe protective environment in the zones of return.

recognize

The Special Envoy concluded by calling on all Sri Lankans and the international community to recognize that children are the face of peace.

Click for latest updates~from the twitter pages of Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Journalist Tissainayagam completes 100 days of the 20 year hard labour 'unfair jail term'

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

unfair

Journalist Tissainayagam given unfair jail term of 20 years hard labour completed 100 days of prison sentence on December 10th 2009

PROTEST

PLEASE REGISTER YOUR PROTEST OVER TISSAINAYAGAM BY SIGNING THE FOLLOWING PETITION - http://www.freetissa.com/petition.php -THANK YOU

Rajapakse's rule

19 media personnel were killed &109 brutally attacked during President Rajapakse's rule (2005-2009) allege journalists at press conference

refuses

Media minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa refuses to comment on incidents against Journalists."Let us not talk about these matters" Yapa says

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Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thera MP displays double-standards on imbibing liquor

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

double-standards

Jathika Hela Urumaya MP Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thera displays double-standards over Mahinda Rajapakse & Sarath Fonseka on imbibing liquor

drunkards

He condemns Fonseka for telling a little bit of liquor taken at socially was acceptable because county would become a haven for drunkards

"Mathata Thitha"

He says President Rajapakse serving liquor to official guests at "Temple Trees" does not violate "Mathata Thitha" (Abolish Intoxication) concept

bloodshed

Environment minister Champika Ranawake of Jathika Hela Urumaya warns terrible bloodshed would occur during presidential election campaign

swooped

Military police contingent that swooped down on residence of Sarath Fonseka at Bullers Rd vacates scene when alerted media persons arrive

deployed

Military Police deployed to seize vehicles illegally held by Gen.Fonseka & arrest soldiers on duty doing unauthorised election work for Sarath

harbouring

Military lodges complaint with Police that Sarath Fonseka is harbouring army deserters at his official residence to help his polls campaign.

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Violators, apologists & accomplices of perpetrators speak on human rights in Jaffna

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Hypocrisy

Heights of Hypocrisy reached on HumanRights Day(dec 10th) in Jaffna. Human rights champions & violators of human rights address meeting together

angry

Jaffna Tamils angry to see Human rights violators, apologists & accomplices of perpetrators of crimes against humanity speak on human rights

spoke

S.Senathirajah (TNA) D.Devananda (EPDP) Thangaiah (TULF) D.Sitharthan(PLOTE) T.Sritharan(EPRLF-V), Mano Ganeshan (DPF) & Ms.Patkunam (UPFA) spoke

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How Can "President Elect"Sarath Fonseka Without a Govt Implement Promises Immediately?

By Kusal Perera

Gen Sarath F was accepted by the UNF including Mangala S and its supposed allies and by the JVP as their Common Candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections in January 2010.

Gen SF then came forward to accept that position as their Common Candidate on the express purpose of abolishing the Executive Presidency, upon being elected.

The JVP and its General Secretary vowed the parliament would be dissolved within 02 days, after Gen SF is elected president, paving the way for the abolition of the presidency.

The UNF and its leader Ranil W said the parliament would be immediately dissolved with the establishment of a provincial government that would abolish the executive presidency within 180 days.

An election would then be held to elect the parliament proper headed by an Executive PM, is what the people are made to vaguely understand, with no proper procedures for this being spelt out.

What is clearly said is that the parliament would be immediately dissolved and then the executive presidency would be abolished.

NOW, within that context, Gen SF says he will not be a "Ceremonial" President like Gopallawa. What does that mean ? That's very clear.

Gen SF at the first media briefing said, upon being elected, he would immediately increase the salaries of the armed forces and improve their welfare

Gen SF addressing the UNP trade unionists, promised he would within a month from being elected, increase the monthly salary of all public servants by LKR 10,000

These are all, multi billion Rupee promises. Not just small ones, for an election.

How can a President elect, provide those financial allocations for such heavy salary increases and welfare, without a government ?

Who is the Finance Minister who would submit a supplementary estimate to parliament, for these allocations ?

And to which parliament, if its going to be dissolved immediately ?

If Gen SF is asking for the people's VOTE to abolish the present executive presidency, why promise pay hikes and welfare improvements now, on his own ?

Will the UNF – Mangala S and the JVP endorse these pay hikes and welfare ?

If they do, what's all this talk of abolishing the executive presidency ?

Isn't it clear that these leaders who hatched this conspiracy to bring Gen SF as their Common Candidate,

1. have no clear programme among them as to how they are going to effect their promise of abolishing the executive presidency ?

2. have no hold on Gen SF, who would retain unquestionable power as president to make decisions the way he wants ?

Gen SF has already started chartering his OWN way into the presidential campaign, resorting to the same old dirty politics of PROMISING wholly impossible, but popular stuff. No better than promising "Rice from the Moon".

This in fact is the first election since independence, the people would have the same end result heading towards tragedy and catastrophe, who ever wins.

So we wait for more, as the campaign gets going.

Dec 11th: Birth anniversary of Tamil poet Mahakavi Bharathy

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Tamil poet

SBNJTC1211.jpg

Mahakavi Bharathiyar, in Nallur, Jaffna-pic: by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

December 11th is the 127th birth anniversary of my favourite Tamil poet Subramanya Bharathi known widely as Bharathiyaar or Mahakavi Bharathy

1988

When I first left Sri Lanka for the USA in 1988 Bharathi's poems was one of the three Tamil books I took along with some other English books

Nirpathuve nadapathuve-from Movie Bharathy

pleasure & inspiration

Later in Canada I bought a new copy of his poems & constantly read it for sheer pleasure & also for emotional inspiration

Tamil films

Many of his poems have been sung by eminent singers in Tamil films. I have some CD's of those that I listen to very,very frequently.

greatest

Bharathy praises Thiruvalluvar, Ilango & Kambar as the greatest poets. But for people like me Bharathi is the greatest Thamizh "Kavignan" (poet)

journalist

Apart from being a poet Bharathi was a journalist & edited many journals. He was the first Indian Editor to introduce cartoons&caricatures

French Pondichery

Bharathy refused to support the British rulers&defied them through his poetry& writings.He had to flee British India to French Pondichery

principles

He was born on Dec11th 1882 & died at age 39. Refusing to compromise on principles he led a life of poverty. Only 14 people attended his funeral

AVM

AVM Chettiar bought rights to Bharathi's songs from Gramophone company Surajmal & Sons for Rs 10,000.

free of charge

AVM Chettiar popularised Bharathi's songs by using them movies but magnanimously granted his ownership rights to the Country free of charge

"Shelleydasan"

Bharathi was inspired by English poet Shelley.In his youth he used the pseudonym "Shelleydasan" meaning devotee or disciple of Shelley

a slide presentation with the song "Mangiyathor Nilaviniley"

Byron's

Other English poets who inspired him were Keats & Byron. Bharathi's poem "Mangiyathor Nilaviniley" was inspired by Byron's "She walks in beauty"

"odes"

His"Kuyilpaatu"(koel song)was inspired by "odes" to a skylark & nightingale by Shelley & Keats. Shelley's "ode to westwind" inspired "Kaatru"(wind)

stage & screen

Bharati's songs were well-rendered on stage & screen by DK Pattammal,MS Subbulakshmi, M LVasanthakumari, TM Soundarajan & Seerkali Govindarajan etc

"KappalotiyaThamizhan"

All songs used in films "KappalotiyaThamizhan" & "Elavathu Manithan"were Bharati's poems. G.Ramanathan & L.Vaidyanathan composed music respectively

Velli Panimalayin Meedhulavuvom ~ "KapalotiyaThamizhan"

SVSubbiah

In the bio-pic on him Marathi actor Shayaji Shinde played Bharathi. But in my view SVSubbiah portrayed Bharathi best in"KapalotiyaThamizhan"

censored

Interestingly a film song by Bharathi was censored in Sri Lanka. Two lines from a song in the the film "Kaikodutha Deivam" were slashed

offending

The offending lines were "Singala theevinukor Paalam Amaipom, Sethuvai Meduruthi Veethi samaipom"sung by Sivaji playing Bharathi on screen

"Kaikodutha Deivam" - Sindu nathiyin

bridge

The lines meant"we'll build a bridge to the Sinhala Island. We'll build a road through the sea".It was a bridge of amity he meant but then?

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Why Sarath Fonseka will ultimately capitulate to the UNP and its western masters

by Sumanasiri Liayanage

When a country elects a new president or reelects the incumbent, it has to think seriously how the policies that are offered by different candidates would affect the future of the country and its people. Of course, every candidate would be careful to make her/his election manifesto attractive to the people of all walks of life so that some of the promises and policies may lose their practicality.

People also know from their own experience that politicians when in power will not fulfil all the promises they had made prior to the election. Nonetheless, looking at the past track record of the politicians and their party affiliations, people can see, to a significant extent, the direction in which those in power would lead the country.

For example, it was not difficult to foresee that Ranasinghe Premadasa would adopt capitalist economic policies but with pro-poor bias. On the other hand, Ranil Wickremesinghe is known for extreme neo-liberal economic and social restructuring of the country. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s opposition to federalism and his orientation towards more interventionist state were well known even before he presented his Mahinda Chintanaya. However, when the candidate’s past track record is not known and her/his party affiliations are weak or non-existent, making decision would become an extremely difficult.

This was what happened when people seeking for a change voted for Chandrika Bandaranaike in 1994. The Opposition and democratic social movements and the JVP badly needed a change. Almost all the significant and well-known political leaders, like Vijaya Kumaratunga, Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Gamini Dissanayake were assassinated. While JVP was responsible for killing Vijaya Kumaratunga, others were killed by the LTTE. So there was a big vacuum. Chandrika Bandaranaike was elected. But she finally ended up being the worst Sri Lankan executive president.

I wrote this preface for two reasons. First, one of the candidates of the forthcoming presidential election is new to politics and he has no party affiliations. Secondly, Sri Lanka people after the conclusion of war seem to be eager to have a complete break from the past. The difference between today and 1994 is that at least one or two candidates and their policies are known to people. They have been in politics for a long time. Mahinda Rajapaksa began his political career in 1970 and Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne has been active in politics for the last 45 years. Whether we agree with them or not, people in this country know what they stand for.

However, like in 1994, the Opposition parties that include the United National Front and the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna and some people who are critical of the present government on the issues of democracy and human rights have decided to support a candidate who is totally new to political terrain and has no party affiliations. The statements made by General (Rtd) Sarath Fonseka after announcing his candidature show that he has so far failed to come up with either a well-thought out policy package or a clear vision about the challenges faced by the country.

This is quite understandable owing to the fact that as he mentioned in his talk to the press while announcing his candidature, he is new to the business of politics. When a person decides to seek a public post, s/he should develop of course with the help of others at least an outline of a policy package.

However, Sarath Fonseka was thrown out hurriedly to this terrain unknown to him by people and parties that are not new to the politics. Ironically, the policies of these parties on almost all issues not only differ but oftentimes contradict with each other. This has made the position of General (Rtd) Fonseka more and more confused when it comes to his future vision and perspective. So during the last few weeks, he came up with statements that are not only inconsistent but also contradictory. In this article, my objective is to list some of his views on various issues.

1. Executive Presidential System

Executive President is one of the key pillars of the Second Republican Constitution. Among the parties supporting General (Rtd) Fonseka, only Janata Vimukthi Peramuna has been consistent over the issue of the abolition of executive presidential system. The United National Party under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe opposed vehemently the draft constitution bill of 2000 that included inter alia the abolition of the executive presidential system. However let us assume that all the parties supporting Fonseka stand honestly for the abolition of the executive presidential system. Here two questions arise.

First, how are they going to abolish it? In 1994, Manifesto of the Peoples’ Alliance proposed that the parliament would meet as a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and the PA would propose reintroduction of the cabinet system of government headed by a prime minister. Of course, that promise was totally forgotten by the PA. Under present constitution, constitution amendment/ change procedure is very rigid and it has been made almost impossible under the given electoral system.

At least 150 members of the Parliament should vote for a constitutional amendment. And in the present conjuncture, there is no assurance that the UPFA would vote for such a change. However, some argue that after the presidential election, IF Sarath Fonseka wins, many members of the UPFA would cross over. The present crossovers are manipulated by the presidential system because presidential system offers some assurance over their political future for the members who change parties to support the president. No presidency, crossover may be minimal.

Secondly, in addressing the JVP conference, Sarath Fonseka has stated clearly that he will not propose to go back to the cabinet system and formal executive presidential system. He has stressed that he needs power. This raises speculation that he would even try to introduce another hybrid system that may be more injurious to country than the system that at least we are familiar with. What are the elements of this system? Executive president and executive prime minister? If it is the case, how would powers be divided between two executives? I like hybridity, but not in constitution-making. I like laws that are as exact as possible!!!!

2. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution

Sometime ago, Dr Dayan Jayatilaka, Douglas Devananda, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan and myself were the only people in this country who supported the 13th Amendment to the constitution. It is a good sign now all but the JVP, NFP and Hela Urumaya talk about the 13th Amendment. Sarath Fonseka has indicated that he would be ready to go beyond the 13th Amendment. I am not sure if Sarath Fonseka knows about the 13th Amendment and its provisions.

Sometime back Sarath Fonseka almost reiterating what Hela Urumaya and Jathika Chintanaya pundits say stated that Sri Lanka was a Sinhala Buddhist country and the minorities should accept their position without demanding what they were not entitled to. Even if we assume that Sarath Fonseka has now changed his position, two issues may be raised. First, if he is going abolish the executive presidential system, how and in what capacity does he propose to implement the 13th Amendment fully? Secondly, in the past, the JVP vehemently opposed any kind of power-sharing arrangement. In that case, how would the JVP support Sarath Fonseka if this is included in his election manifesto as he cannot have one for the JVP and one for Mano Ganeshan?

3. Neo-Liberal Economic Policies

The conclusion of armed conflict in May 2009 has created an enabling space for Sri Lanka to move forward to overcome economic underdevelopment. Although world economy is now going through a recession, the growth forecast of the economies in the region are not that bleak. The epicenter of the world economy is now gradually moving towards the countries of the Indian Ocean. The satisfactory growth performance of India and China even in the period of world recession shows in what direction Sri Lanka should turn to develop its economy.
In that sense, I think the foreign policy orientation of the present government is essentially correct. However, economic growth and development do not solely depend on world situation; it needs correct economic policies that give priority to growth-augmented economic activities. When Fonseka was asked about his economic programme, his reply was that he was not ready to answer that question and he would seek assistance from the UNP on that issue. The economic policies of the UNP under Ranil Wickremesinghe are disastrous and oriented towards the whims and fancies of merchant capital.

His ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’ programme was based on extreme version of neo-liberal economics and no country in the world was able to achieve economic development by following economic prescriptions of neo-liberal economics. This once again raises a second question. Can this economic programme be a common programme of a common candidate? Will JVP stand for infamous ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’?

I wish to make final remark. Fonseka is confused on almost all the issues for which country needs immediate and clear answers. His statements are fundamentally contradictory. What would be the outcome? He would finally capitulate to the UNP and its Western masters.

Sri Lnaka is not target of US led "International conspiracy" of internal political de-stabilisation

By Lynn Ockrsz

An upcoming US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on Sri Lanka which recommends that the US adopts ‘a less confrontational approach’ towards the Indian Ocean island, on the ground that ‘Sri Lanka is too important a country to be isolated from the West’, besides putting a question mark over the popular supposition in some quarters in Sri Lanka that it is the target of an ‘international conspiracy’ of internal political destabilisation, reveals a present US predilection to positively engage Indian Ocean states.

‘While humanitarian concerns remain important, US policy towards Sri Lanka cannot be dominated by a single agenda. It is not effective at delivering real reform, and it shortchanges US geostrategic interests in the region’, the Committee report was quoted as saying. To be sure, Washington is not being overly charitable by this policy thrust towards Sri Lanka, but is motivated primarily by its national interests in seeking a positive engagement with this country, but there is no disputing that it is not seeking a confrontational approach with the states of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The US’ rapidly improving ties with India, more amply bears this out. To begin with, the US realises that the epicentre of global economic growth has shifted East, with India and China emerging as two predominant world economic powers. Sri Lanka is a small economic player in Asia, but the US realises that the vast economic opportunities unfolding in particularly East Asia and the Gulf region cannot be fully exploited if these growth regions are to be interspersed with politically unstable states. This is the reason why it would prefer to enter into a positive engagement with the states of the IOR.

Accordingly, Cold War-type polarities have had their day and we would not be seeing the US entering into strategic alignments in South and South West Asia, for instance, which would lead to unsettlingly antagonistic relations among the states of these regions. For, this would not help in generating economic opportunities to the fullest.

This ground-breaking shift in US foreign policy perspectives was evident recently in a pronouncement US President Barack Obama made on his country’s ties with Pakistan. He described US-Pakistan ties as ‘moving forward’, because ‘.. we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual trust’. The US President was emphatic that the socio-economic development of Pakistan was a chief concern of the US.

Putting down ‘terror’, however, remains a principal concern of the US and it would be providing Pakistan with all the assistance to defuse this problem within Pakistan’s borders, in as much as it would be beefing-up the Western military presence in Afghanistan towards the same end.

When the US entered into an agreement with India for boosting cooperation in the civilian nuclear power sector, it showed in no uncertain terms that it intended to put any destabilizing relations with the major powers of this region, behind it.

Washington would continue to work towards the enhancement of its position as the number one global economic, military and political power, but it would guard against entering into friction-prone international relations which would stand in the way of achieving the US national interest. This is now a principal parameter in US foreign policy.

It is the same considerations that compel the US to fight ‘terror’ in this part of the world. If these regions are not freed of the ‘terror’ menace or ‘pacified’, the possibility is great that continued economic interaction with them would be greatly contained. So, ’terror’ has to be put down in Iraq and Afghanistan and the democratic process in them established and sustained.

However, the recent string of bomb blasts in Baghdad which claimed more than 120 lives, should remind the US of the hazards of trying to impose ‘pacification’ formulae on them. However, political solutions coming with US blessings in these states are essentially aimed at generating in them a degree of ‘normalcy’ which would make them partake of ‘the synergies of growth’.

The importance of the IOR from the point of view of the West could be gauged from the fact that besides this region being the home to one third of the world’s population, it constitutes 25% of the globe’s land mass and holds 40% of the world’s oil and gas reserves.

Four strategically and economically important straits are located in the IOR: the Suez, Bab el Mandef, Hormuz and Malacca. A bulk of the world’s petroleum traffic is routed via the IOR from the Persian Gulf and Indonesia to Europe, South Asia and East Asia.

Thus for the West, the IOR is of vast importance from particularly the economic and strategic viewpoints. Control over the region, would determine to a considerable degree the US’ continued eminence as a predominant world power. But unlike in the Cold War era, the US now uses different means of control and domination. That is, the ‘pacificatory tools’ differ.

It may thus not be in Sri Lanka’s interests to continually misunderstand the new foreign policy parameters of the US, since this country’s economic well being in particular, could be compromised in the process.

Of course, it does not follow from this proposition that Sri Lanka should act in ways that undermine its sovereignty but where Sri Lanka has failed in recent months is to evolve a principled foreign policy which addresses its material needs even while maintaining friendly relations with the states that matter. It would not be in our interests to give our foreign policy an emotional colouring. Unfortunately, this has happened in the recent past. It is time to reorient our policy parameters.

December 10, 2009

'Sarath Fonseka not racist, reflected views of Government in the media' - Mangala

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

about minorities

Mangala says Sarath Fonseka is not a racist & much of what he told media about minorities as army commander reflected views of Government

ten point

Mangala says he is confident Sarath Fonseka will implement ten point agreement the General has signed with the United National Front

many talents

Mangala says Sarath Fonseka is a man of many talents who is not a puppet & will not hibernate

powers

Mangala says Sarath Fonseka will continue to have powers as President even after executive presidency is abolished

consulting

Mangala say they have begun consulting foreign Constitutional experts already on abolishing executive presidency by middle of 2010

abolishing

Mangala says Process of abolishing executive presidency will commence even before caretaker govt is formed & parliamentary polls are held

Constituent assembly

Mangala says they will form a Constituent assembly as soon Fonseka is elected president & begin abolition of executive presidency process

Truth & Reconciliation

Mangala says they will set up a Truth & Reconciliation Commission as was in South Africa to find out what really happened during war

special tribunals

Mangala says they will look at setting up special tribunals to inquire & punish members of armed forces if found to have committed war crimes

mindset

Mangala says Prabhakaran though dead has won the war as Govt has not won the hearts & minds of the Tamil people & separatist mindset yet remains

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Portrait of the East: "I am your friend, I am your relative"

tweet treats from the East from the twitter pages by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

posters

"I am your friend,I am your relative.Your prosperity is my aim" says posters in Chenkalady with the President's portrait.

Tamil

Election posters to support the current President Mahinda Rajapakse is emerging at Chenkalady' in Tamil in Blue and Orange.

Young

Young generation in East are not bothered too much to talk politics.Want to enjoy every bit of life and say have had enough politics in past

Muslims, Tamils

Forget the past: "We want to be friends of Tamils"say Muslims of the East."We want to friends of Muslims" say Tamils of the East.

relaxed

Tight security is relaxed in many parts of the East. It allows civilians to move freely.

smile

"You always travel though this way. Please proceed my Sister" said a Soldier with snowy smile at Onthaachchimadam.

promotions

New stores taking the space in the East. Most products and services reaching the people. Many promotions are taking place on the streets

attention

More attention is being paid to Paasikuda.Many hotels will fill the space soon. Local and foreign tourists slowly slipping into Paasikuda.

remember

People of Paasikuda remember the old happy days when they had huge tourists arrivals.They recall foreigners on Paasikuda beach,and cycling.

hoardings

Hand written hoardings are being put up in Paasikuda for accommodation and meals.

tin sheds

"We are nobody's people. Nobody cares for us"say Tsunami survivors in Saainthamaruthu.55 families, 205 persons still live in tin sheds.

expansion

Roadside shrines are on the move. Due to the expansion of the highways in the East, the shrines are being moved by few miles inland.

offered

Daily prayers and poojas are offered to the roadside shrines although it rains continuously in the East.

villagers

Roadside shrines are decorated with fresh flowers in Blue, Orange, Red,Yellow and White. Despite the downpour villagers keep decorating idols.

variety

Blowing wind brings many birds from other parts of the country to East. It's a beautiful scene to watch variety of birds fly through trees.

cutely

Cranes sit cutely on Cows and Buffaloes in paddy fields during the heavy rain. Scare crows stand still in the middle of the fields.

Click for latest updates~from the twitter pages of Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Degrading aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war demands international action

By Martin Shaw

The degrading aftermath of Sri Lanka’s civil war demands international action to ensure protection of its civilians from their overweening rulers

Sri Lanka’s government prosecuted a brutal military campaign from mid-2008 to spring 2009 to inflict a final defeat on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eilam (LTTE / Tamil Tigers) after twenty-six years of war. Many thousands of civilians died amid the horrors of this last battle.

In the aftermath, the Colombo government corralled 280,000 Tamils who had fled from Tiger-controlled territory in forty-one “detention-camps”. Now it has announced that almost 130,000 of them are being let out, with the remaining 150,000 supposed to be released in 2010. The move is designed to suggest - to international as much as to domestic opinion - that the situation is being “normalised” and that there is no need for concern about continuing repression. The government faces widespread calls in the European Union to suspend Sri Lanka's “GSP+” status, which allows the country favourable access to EU markets; it hopes the releases will ease international pressure on its appalling human-rights record.

The camps are better described as concentration-camps, since they have been sites of prolonged incarceration of an overwhelmingly civilian population, punished for being Tamils and having lived under the LTTE. They undoubtedly include some Tigers supporters, but most of the civilians have committed no greater crime than to survive the twin horrors of the Tigers' oppressive rule – and their killing of all who tried to escape – and often indiscriminate bombardment by the Sri Lankan army. The conditions of these squalid settlements - including Menik Farm camp, which holds the vast majority of detainees - include gross overcrowding, limited supplies of food and clean water, and rudimentary medical facilities.

There are many reports of beatings, rape and prostitution involving the military who run the camps as well as government-allied militia. The minimal access of independent observers mean that these cannot be confirmed or their scale accurately estimated.

Sri Lanka has nominally independent judges and media. But it is a state where torture has long been common, independent journalists are murdered, and the major parties of the majority Sinhalese population share nationalist hostility to the minority Tamils. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is allowed into many camps, but not to irregular camps in which alleged former LTTE fighters are believed to be held. But no other international NGOs or any independent media can access the camps – or anywhere near the recently reoccupied parts of northern Sri Lanka. Amnesty International has been refused access to the country since 2008, despite seven requests for entry in that time.

An oppressive grip

In these circumstances the announcement that many Tamils are being released should be treated with caution. The former detainees will still have to report to the police so that their movements can be monitored - even though they are suspected of no crimes. The information that filters out suggests that early releases have involved dumping large numbers of people in urban centres, often hours away from the villages they lived in. Families that had been reunited in the camps (after separation during their initial flight) are sometimes being redivided.

Everywhere in the former LTTE-controlled region of northern Sri Lanka, the military retains an oppressive grip. There is no evidence of a proper resettlement programme to assist people to return to their homes; it is impossible to know how many people have houses or livelihoods to return to, or whether resettlement even involves return to home districts. The government's continuing refusal to allow media and NGO access clearly confirms that the situation is one which international observers would not tolerate.

Much is at stake in the next few months. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called a presidential election for 26 January 2009; he faces a challenge from the man who commanded the army in the recent war, General Sarath Fonseka, who promises to “restore democracy”. But in the event that Fonseka topples Rajapaksa there will be little relief for the Tamils, who even in Colombo - hundreds of kilometres south of the war-zone - face arrest at roadblocks and attacks by militia.

There is little hope, moreover, of redress for the war victims from Sri Lanka's intimidated media and compromised judiciary (see Luther Uthayakumaran, “Sri Lanka: after war, justice”, 25 May 2009). The last attempt to achieve accountability for human-rights violations collapsed in April 2009; then, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) tasked with overseeing the latest presidential commission of inquiry (COI) into sixteen cases of serious violations terminated their mission, stating that the COI had not been able to investigate cases independently in accordance with international standards.

The world’s eye

Any future Sri Lankan government will be hoping in the coming months to consolidate the victory over the LTTE and - in the international arena - to deflect criticism of the state's war methods and detention policies. Israel has had to face the criticism of the United Nations fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2008-09 (the Goldstone report), commissioned by the UN’s Human Rights Council – yet Sri Lanka persuaded a pliant Human Rights Council to pass a supportive resolution. It is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), so that criminal prosecutions are possible only in the national courts of other countries, if any of the latter can be persuaded to act under universal-jurisdiction prosecutions. With support for Sri Lanka from China and Russia and (as yet) no strong moves against it by the United States, Britain or France, it is highly unlikely that the United Nations Security Council will take action now when it failed to do so during the war.

Yet Sri Lanka's war claimed at least five times as many civilian lives as Israel's Gaza campaign; the conditions in its camps are more ghastly even than those in Gaza; and Tamils in the newly reconquered zones face a more total military occupation than most Palestinians.

This is the moment to campaign to hold Sri Lanka responsible. The abuse in the camps is not over, and the episode remains an international scandal. Government and military leaders should face international justice – as should the surviving leaders of the LTTE for their brutal treatment of civilians in the conflict. In the west, civilians must press their political leaders to initiate UN action and non-governmental organisations should consider establishing an unofficial international commission of enquiry to prepare the ground. Above all, those outside Sri Lanka should remember that the traumatised survivors - whether in the camps or outside - need support and assistance in rebuilding their lives, of a kind which Sri Lanka's government and armed forces are unlikely to provide

Martin Shaw is professor of international relations and politics at the University of Sussex.

Karuna justifies destruction of LTTE monuments commemorating the fallen

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

justifies

Former LTTE eastern commander "Col" Karuna justifies destruction of monuments commemorating fallen LTTE fighters by the Army in north-east

future

Karuna now a minister in Rajapakse cabinet said Govt felt preserving LTTE Great hero monuments could encourage future Tamil insurrections

victory Monument

War victory Monument declared open by President Rajapakse in Mullaitheevu district has stone pillars, national flag, lion & dove images

signify

Stone pillars at the foot of the monument signify the Motherland and the lion images in its four corners depict the war heroes

depicted

The national flag in the monument depicted the country’s freedom and sovereignty and the dove image depicts the dawn of freedom

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

No Action against US lawyer Visvanathan Rudrakumaran - Amb. Blake

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

no action

Robert Blake states in Colombo that no action would be taken by US Govt against US lawyer Visvanathan Rudrakumaran

what we know

Blake says about V.Rudrakumaran - "From what we know he has not committed crimes in the US. Therefore we will not be taking any action.”

normalised

Visiting US Asst Secy of state for South Asia, Robert Blake tells Colombo press conference that US -Sri Lanka relations have now normalised

evidence

Blake refuses to comment about issue of US officials asking Sarath Fonseka to provide war - crimes evidence against Gotabhaya Rajapakse

speed up

Blake wants Sri Lanka to speed up reconciliation & reconstruction process & evolve Govt-Opposition consensus for power sharing arrangements

encourages

Blake says US encourages Sri Lanka govt to resettle more IDP's back in their homes& also ensure greater freedom of movement to all IDP's

expects

Blake says that US report on war crimes in Sri Lanka has been submitted to US Senate & Sri Lankan govt & expects Colombo to take action on it

responding

Blake says “Now the next step is for the Sri Lankan Government to take action on that report by responding to those allegations,”

free & fair

Robert Blake says the US will not take sides in the Sri Lankan presidential election and is only concerned about free & fair polls being held

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Whichever candidate wins presidential elections US-Sri Lanka relations will grow

by Robert Blake

It’s a real pleasure for me to be back in Sri Lanka and to see many friends and colleagues. I’d like to begin with a brief statement and then I’d be happy to take some questions.

It's been over six months since I left Sri Lanka as Ambassador and began my duties in Washington as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. I left Sri Lanka only days after Government forces captured the last remaining territory held by the LTTE. The defeat of the LTTE has created a tremendous opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka. For the first time in over a generation, Sri Lankans live in a country that is not divided by war or marred by terror and violence.

To bring unity and peace to the island, the Government and people of Sri Lanka must now undertake the difficult process of reconciliation and reconstruction. The United States welcomes the recent progress by the Government of Sri Lanka to return a majority of these Sri Lankans displaced by the war to their homes and allow increased freedom of movement to those still in the camps.

I visited Manik Farm yesterday morning and saw evidence of this progress. I was pleased to see that those living in the camps have greater freedom to come and go. I also visited some returnees in the Mannar area and witnessed some of the ongoing demining activity, where again progress is being made.

I met with President Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Bogollogama, and I have also met with other political leaders during my visit. Everyone agrees that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. Large areas of the North remain heavily mined and reconstruction of infrastructure is at its beginning stages. The United States stands ready to continue our assistance in these areas. We have already contributed approximately $6.6 million for demining activities in the North. We will continue our support for demining and are working with the Government of Sri Lanka to identify how and where our resources can be most effective.

In all my meetings with Government and non-governmental leaders, I expressed my country's hope that the Government and opposition will work together to develop a consensus on reconciliation and power-sharing arrangements that can be implemented to ensure that all Sri Lankans can participate fully in the democratic process and that democracy can be restored in northern Sri Lanka, so Tamils and others in the North can enjoy a future of hope, dignity, and opportunity.

Next month, Sri Lankans will decide who will be your next president. It is an historic election for your country. For the first time in decades, a united Sri Lanka will vote in a national election. The United States does not take sides in elections in other countries, except to express our strong support for a free and fair democratic process. I am confident relations between the United States and Sri Lanka will grow no matter which candidate is victorious. The United States is still Sri Lanka's most important trade partner, receiving over one quarter of Sri Lanka's total exports, more than any other single nation. In areas such as education, science, and culture, as well, our bilateral relationship has benefitted people in both of our countries.

An important element of reconciliation is safeguarding and protecting the rights of all Sri Lankans. In practice, this means that journalists should be able to write their perspectives and report on events freely, without fear of reprisal; that individuals should be able voice their differences openly; and that people who have violated the rights of others should be held accountable for their actions.

In closing, I shall continue to work toward a stronger and closer partnership between the United States and Sri Lanka. Ambassador Butenis - who is in the United States to attend a conference for U.S. Ambassadors - is a strong voice for enhancing and deepening ties between our two nations. She and I firmly believe that our relationship will develop and grow in the months and years to come, as Sri Lanka makes progress on the priorities I outlined above.

Even in death Prabhakaran has won the war-Mangala Samaraweera

by Shakuntala Perera

Key architect of the Opposition Alliance bringing in Gen. Sarath Fonseka as a Common Candidate at the next Presidential election, SLFP M Wing Leader Mangala Samaraweera expresses confidence that the UNF will bring in the necessary changes to governance

Question:

SB Dissanayake, who crossed over to the govt. warns that if Gen. Fonseka won, there would be military rule in this country and be the end of democracy. As someone who has worked very close to Mr. Dissanayake how concerned are you of such allegations?

Anawer:

I need to first remind you that by now no one takes him seriously. And as someone who has been in politics with him for over 25 years I have to say that his words carry no weight anymore. He is someone who has always taken his decisions on the spur of the moment. Just ten days ago he invited himself to Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s office and pledged his fullest support for his campaign, but within hours he changed his mind and crossed over to the government. This is very typical of Mr. Dissanayake. I am sad to say that he will soon be lost in the political wilderness of the country.

All I can say about these allegations of a military rule and a loss of democracy is that when people make such allegations with nothing to substantiate them, we need to look at the ground situation. There is a dictatorship on the ground. The very fact that the President sabotaged all moves to bring in the 17th Amendment just so that he could keep key institutions like the police, the judiciary, elections Commission and public service under him and dance to his whims and fancies should prove this. In fact such a move should warrant for an impeachment against the President. He has by these moves cultivated a culture of impunity in the country, whereby MPs, journalists or civil society members of dissent are threatened. Law and order has deteriorated to such a level that those in the high posts of such institutions are today powerless. Seeing what has been happening over the years, we can see that the danger of dictatorship under the present regime is more than what the people would perceive to happen under anyone else.

The fact remains that Gen. Sarath Fonseka is not trying to come in forcefully. He has every right as a citizen of this country to do so. What proof is there to say that he will create a military rule? If you want to talk of some perceived threat of a dictatorship, I can speak endlessly of how it exists under the present regime today. We feel Sarath Fonseka will provide the necessary democratic society that the country needs. People have these fears because they are only looking at the General part of this man. Even in that, don’t forget some of the great men who have contributed immensely to nation building as ex Army officers. The best example of this is Gen. Charles De Gaulle who did such great things for his country. In this scenario there is no reason why Gen. Fonseka cannot give leadership to a democratic rule in the country in the same manner.

Q: You are today pushing a strong platform against a government you contributed heavily to bring in to power. What are the main areas requiring change in the administration in your opinion?

A:
The country needs a change in direction. We are thankful for the President for allowing for a Presidential election two years early although he thought he was trapping the opposition with it. The reality was that he got caught in the trap himself. Having said that, certainly we are thankful to him for putting an end to terrorism that was taking place under the LTTE. But you can’t ignore the fact that the background for this victory was laid down by many governments before him. And the main issue here is that we wanted an end to terrorism because LTTE terrorism was blocking the country’s development process. We had the resources in the country but because of terrorism there was no way for the country to reap its best potential. And we also thought that having won over terrorism we will also win over the peace. Such a peace could only be won by installing an economic program of progress and a democratic rule. But, instead waste and corruption has set in, in the lowest possible manner ever in the country.

And one of the key steps for the next President is going to be to eradicate this level of corruption, which is affecting every level of our society. It is visible in every sector from health to education. It exists when you go to get a simple prescription filled in a hospital to getting a child entered in school. No businessman can hope to get a fair chance at a government tender by going through the right channels.

If the country is to move forward and progress we need someone who will deal with it in the same manner we did with the war. This is why I have all faith in Gen. Sarath Fonseka to do this as he has already pledged to do it. I have such confidence because of his track record as a person who keeps his word. We believe he will keep his word and hold a general election on time so that the people can bring in a government it desires; a government of the people’s choice. Today we have to win the ‘war to live’. To do that, we have to launch a war against corruption, underworld elements and go back to the decent form of governance that we had before.

Q: But the government alleges that your actions are merely those of a bigger international conspiracy against the government.?

A:
This theory of conspiracies has been used by dictators from the time of Hitler to mobilize their regimes! Many regimes like that have used this as a method to mobilize their regimes. This is the practice of any government that has nothing to tell the people, when they have nothing to prove by way of development or economic progress. I certainly am an internationalist and wish this country no longer to continue as a pariah nation. But no one in their right minds can accuse us of being part of some international conspiracy because we have proven ourselves bigger lovers of the country. These are allegations based on nothing.

Q: Some of the main concerns with regard to Gen. Fonseka is his distance from minorities. Is this a concern to you at this point of time?

A.
I was called a Tiger sympathizer when I raised the issue of the plight of the Internally Displaced. So whatever happens the future of the minorities is uppermost in my mind and when I decided to support Gen. Fonseka I was very concerned on this issue, but today I’m very convinced that Gen. Fonseka is not a racist and having questioned him on the statement he’s supposed to have made about the minorities, I am today satisfied that he is someone who is capable of treating all communities alike.

In the few interviews he has given since retiring a speaking as a civilian, where he was more able to freely express himself, unlike as a General in an Army, where he may have had to reflect the views of the government, we can see that he is not at all racist.

There are some very valid and positive views on the minority communities in our ten point agreement, which I know will be well accepted by the minorities. The government is trying to show him as a racist based on something he has had to say reflective of the views of the government. We also can’t forget that it was his immediate boss who kept claiming that this was a Sinhala country. This is one of the most extremist governments we have lived under. I must reiterate that that if I had a slightest doubt on this issue I would not be this supportive of Gen. Fonseka.

Q: General Fonseka has at the JAIC press conference only offered to study the 13th amendment for possible lessons to be learnt, as opposed to implementing it and is on record that minorities should not make “undue” demands.?

A.
That statement has now been clarified. We have seen it in the proper context. And as I’ve said before he is not a racist and as regards the statements as he’s not an expert on a political solution or on constitution making, a final settlement for this problem need to come from the Parliament. This is a man whose commitment to a political solution is such that he will call a general election and at that point we hope that people will elect us to move that solution through. What is important right now is a commitment to principles.

Q: As someone who criticized many aspects of the war what is your opinion on alleged war crimes charges leveled against the govt?

A
Sri Lanka has just become signatories to the Treaty. Strictly no one can initiate a war crimes investigation unless recommended by the United Nations Secretary General. I firmly believe that if there are allegations they must be investigated. We must not hide behind them and insult our former friends. This is again an area where I was pleasantly surprised when Gen. Fonseka responded to the question at the press conference by saying that the Sri Lanka Army was a highly disciplined one and if there were any allegations they must be investigated. We certainly will cooperate with any international investigation on this once the Presidential election is over.

There have been miscreants in the army like we saw in the late 1980’s where the government of Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga had to initiate necessary action against them. The new government will in fact be looking at having special tribunals to punish such persons accordingly. There needs to be a Truth and Reconcillation Commission like in South Africa to not just punish offenders but also find out exactly what happened.

Q: On what grounds do the people believe that the Alliance will stay true to the pledge of abolishing the Presidency when no one else who has done so before has followed through with it so far?

A
We firmly believe Sarath Fonseka is a man who will honour the word and keep to his pledge. We have even got Constitutional experts both locally and from abroad to move this process forward. We plan to make the necessary amendments to the Constitution on Executive Presidency within the first month of winning the Presidential election, before even a General election under a caretaker government.

Once the General is elected, and even if we don’t have a 2/3rds majority in Parliament, but a simple majority, we will proceed on abolishing the Executive Presidency with a Constitutional assembly. This time we are truly on track to abolish the Executive Presidency. Before August or September of this year, the Presidency will be out.

We have already discussed with Gen. Fonseka how as President some executive powers would be passed on to Parliament. He is a man of many talents, so there will be an effective participation on his part in governance; he’s not going to be just a puppet. He is not going to hibernate. The role that he has to play we believe will come out when we discuss it in full. We believe that he should have a significant role to play.

Q: How do you explain your change of stance regarding Gen Sarath Fonseka who at one point of time did not seem ‘fit to even be the Commander of the Salvation Army’ according to you?

A
There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. I made that comment in response to something he said, so it has to be taken in that context. There was no malice in it, we both understand the spirit in which it was said. He appreciates that.

Q: What is your assessment of the way the war was won by the present government?

A
I always believed that terrorism must be defeated. Even when Mahinda Rajapaksa didn’t utter a word against the LTTE in Parliament then, I did. I also maintained that the grievances of the Tamil people must not be confused with the LTTE. But the way the government waged war didn’t distinguish between. They waged war against the Tamil people. Despite the victory the worst setback was losing the people. The government had no plan to win over the Tamil people. There was no plan to reconcile. Even in death Prabakaran has won the war. Because of the way the war was won, the separatist mindset has not lost.

Q: How confident are you of making the political and constitutional changes you seem comitted to with the newly formed Alliance?

A.
As far as the JVP is concerned the understanding is only for the Presidential election. Clearly we’ll contest separately at the General election. There are no plans for long term alliances with them. But the Alliances I have brought together since 1989 have always won. And the UNF will be the strongest ever. It is led by the biggest political party in the country.

COURTESY: HARD TALK - DAILY MIRROR

Mahinda vs Sarath:Grassroots vs "Townie"

by Muthu Padmakumara

One cannot demand recognition or reward. Though initially it might have been earned, demanding it brings you disrespect.

It sounds petulant to the public hearing Sarath Fonseka’s reasons for defecting. Not increasing the numbers of the Army (often a mistake when moving towards peace), not being made a Field Marshall - and then adding to it all by saying he only got what other commanders have received, sounds like he’s asking for not just extra helpings, but also the cherry on top of the cake. Just because you did achieve something doesn’t mean everything and anything is for your taking. The support and admiration and yes, even sympathy that was with the General is receding fast. Is this ‘just desserts’?

Incidentally, let us correct Candidate Fonseka’s statement in a recent Sunday paper of what he called the success of Iraq and Afghan wars. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not over. Bush didn’t win any wars.

He didn’t even finish his ‘War on Terror’. It is in fact a disastrous and questionable mess, now left to be faced by the next President, Barack Obama (you may remember him as the recent recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace) and he just recently sent some more American troops to the Afghan war. Perhaps being of a military mentality still and having declared war on President Rajapaksa, our dear General may be a little confused with his facts. But I digress. Let us return to Sri Lanka where the Fonseka camp is forging ahead with an assurance of victory. The Rajapaksa team is gearing up, albeit gradually, as one confident of a repeat win. The arguments that I’ve heard are as follows:

Rajapaksa team: The villagers, outstation people and grassroot groups are with us. They are the lump votes. Not forgetting the diehard SLFPers in the outskirts and within the city.
Fonseka camp: The Army and company and the long-standing UNPers are with us. And of course the varying forces of the JVP.

Now, there is one important and undisputable factor. Mahinda Rajapaksa has always come across as a ‘man-of-the-people.’ He has been on the side of the underdog, in ’71, ’77, ’89 and so on. Then of course he became something of a champion of the labour community as the Labour Minister in the 90s. So we see, we know, Mahinda Rajapaksa has a solid history of standing with the people.

Against this we have the city-born, city-dwellers. The Townies, as I would like to call them, who often think they are the top portion of the pyramid commanding the economics and the Government. What about these Townies then?

These are the people who cannot bear the thought of someone like Mahinda Rajapaksa being the President of Sri Lanka.

There are two categories of Townies in this particular setting. Those who cannot tolerate the thought of ‘one of theirs’ (i.e. with acceptable bona fides of birth, associations etc. required for a particular class) becoming the President.

Of course these are the same people who would be instantly, automatically servile to the likes of J.R. Jayawardene. Then there are those who can’t stand the idea of a ‘country-man,’ a street-fighter, becoming ‘The President.’ And I’m reminded of a story I’d heard.

In the 50’s, a Colombo 7 woman had gone to the Lionel Wendt to find out what was being shown. She was told it was Dr. Sarathchandra’s Manamey that was played at the time, to which she replied “And what is that? A Sinhala play? In that case I’ll go home. Maybe I’ll send my servant to see it.” It must be the descendents of people like this who are drumming up the present ruckus. They are using that great tool of rumour and new-age technologies of emails and PR (even going to the lengths of sudden display of piety) to wage this next war.

I have the distinction or misfortune of being part-Townie myself. And I’ll be honest, in 2005 I too had my doubts. Could this Mahinda Rajapaska lead Sri Lanka forward, join the global community, and develop the nation into becoming a force to be contended with? And then Mahinda Rajapaksa did the unthinkable.

The one thing I had ceased to hope, the one thing that other leaders have fuelled into creation, and failed to resolve. Defying invisible forces, defying the visible, like those that the General has joined arms with now, Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the war. He brought the unforeseeable future for the people of this country.

And the Colombo crowd is obstructing this path of hope and prosperity. They are breaking the peace and causing public disturbance. Usually such people are charged and arrested, for this is worse than those extremists who stir the public into mobs turning brother against brother.

This small crowd doesn’t seem to remember that today they can have Christmas parties and walk freely on the streets because of the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa. And the greater tragedy is that they have found someone from the Rajapaksa team itself to attack him.

If Sarath Fonseka had intended to inflict maximum damage on President Rajapaksa, it seems to have backfired. The UNP and the JVP are seeing dissension in their ranks, with those who by silence withdraw support, like Sajith Premadasa, and more volubly like Johnston Fernando and of course the likes of S.B. Dissanayake joining hands with the President and effectively disarming the Fonseka camp.

If Fonseka had hoped to disperse President Rajapaksa’s team and have the UNP and JVP close ranks- the outcome is ironic, though not a complete surprise. After all, Fonseka, the catalyst in this, was one who was once given a free hand to do his duty serving the Army.

He broke bread with his leader seated at his table day in day out. If he thanked this benefactor and patron of his by defecting to sign up with his one-time enemies, what could you expect him to do to his country?

The Zurich meeting,Usual Suspects and Usual Suspicions

by Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

There was much speculation recently about the provenance of the meeting of minority parties in Zurich. The usual suspects were thought to be behind the event, with the usual suspicions. My own view was that the move was to be welcomed, because unlike in the past the balance of power at such meetings could no longer be held by the Tigers.

Given the strength of mind displayed in resisting them by a host of others in the past, even while their backs were to the wall, I felt that the outcome could only help in promoting a united Sri Lanka. The initiative seemed designed to promote discussion as a method of reform, rather than violence, and it seemed that the forum would get this message through to those who had been forced into acquiescence with terrorism and efforts to subvert democracy.

I still think this positive approach may not prove mistaken, but I must admit to some worry when I saw the name Peter Bowling amongst those who had facilitated exchanges. We have unfortunately been here before. He was one of the leading instigators just over a year ago of the petition sent to the UN Secretary General that accused the Government of all sorts of crimes in its efforts to suppress the LTTE in Sri Lanka.

Sadly memories in Sri Lanka are short, and I suspect few will remember the Coffee Club of International NGO personnel (not, I trust, the NGOs themselves in terms of deliberate policy) who spent much time and aid money at gatherings designed to subvert government policy. Their chosen technique in August 2008 was to draft nasty allegations which were then to be presented to the UN through Sri Lankan NGOs. The moving spirits behind the initiative however were foreigners, with a principal role in the drafting being taken by Peter Bowling of what I think was called the International Working Group on Sri Lanka.

I have never met the man, and know nothing of the institution he represents, but I had been told by officials at our High Commission in London that Bowling was close to the Tigers. There was also some uncertainly about the sources of his funding. Others involved included Alan Keenan of Gareth Evans' International Crisis Group, which had tried along with the infamous Mata Hari of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies to allege what they called a responsibility to protect situation in Sri Lanka.

I was also surprised to find Yolanda Foster of Amnesty International playing a part, since I had always thought that a more respectable organization than most - though sadly I was to find later that their approaches too depended on the individuals involved, and characters of high principle like Amnesty Head Irene Khan and Peter Splinter of the Geneva Office do not always hold sway.

Meanwhile in Colombo a dubious group of individuals seemed to be calling the shots, overwhelming the many decent individuals (such as the head of WUSC) who were simply trying to help. The most notorious of the characters out of what seemed le Carre central casting was the head of Solidar, which it transpired was the chosen agency of the European Union in its Julian Wilson days.

But the petition, though it was indeed submitted, as Radhika Coomaraswamy confirmed when we met in Geneva, was not taken seriously by the UN. And so, as the Government stayed firm, and the full enormity of Tiger terrorism became clear, many of these shadowy characters faded away, from Sri Lanka and from clandestine interference.

Sadly, though, the shadows seem to have sprung to life again, with carefully chosen barbs against the Government and the many agencies, including UNHCR, that are trying to restore normality to the North, and indeed the country as a whole. Some seem to think the Fonseka candidacy has undermined the Government to the point at which the intrigues of the past can be revived (unless indeed, as is sometimes alleged, that candidacy was promoted by those who resented an assertion of national sovereignty that has cut deeply into their profits and their pleasures).

So we have sneaky interviews challenging the resettlement process, for instance by someone identified as the Oxfam Country Head, we have allegations that the mining process is inadequate, and we have efforts to activate the Security Council through allegations about abuse of children during the struggle. None of these may amount to much, as the Government continues to work swiftly in terms of the plans it formulated six months ago.

We made it clear that we would expedite resettlement when residential areas had been demined, when basic infrastructure had begun to be put in place and when we were satisfied as to security considerations. Now that we are moving, those genuinely concerned with the welfare of our citizens, as we are, have agreed that the process is heartening.

So, though the barking will continue as the caravan moves on, one would have thought that there was little reason to worry. However the presence of Peter Bowling in Zurich, brought there by those willing to spend vast amounts of money on what should have been a discussion to promote democratic debate in a united Sri Lanka, made me worry. I still believe that the majority of those who promoted the debate were positive in their approach.

But the agendas of idealists are very easily hijacked by those with more sinister motives. I would like to think that Peter Bowling has reformed but, in the light too of the other developments noted, I think Sri Lanka needs to continue being vigilant about the company he keeps and the possible impact of such interventions.

December 09, 2009

Repairing SL-US Relations: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report

By Dayan Jayatilleka

As a citizen of Sri Lanka and a political scientist by vocation, hardly a day passes when I do not envy the American people for the high intelligence of their political leadership and policy elites, the capacity for self-correction ensured by the functioning of their democratic political institutions, and the transparent, accountable, democratic and participatory character of their civic culture. (I didn’t feel this way during the Bush years of course).

One of the most superbly impressive of these institutions is the US Senate’s powerful Committee on Foreign Relations. That body has just issued a report dated Dec 7th, 2009, entitled Sri Lanka: Re-charting US Strategy after the War. Bearing the signatures of two of the most respected and influential US Senators, John Kerry and Richard Lugar, Democrat and Republican, it is an admirable combination of Realism and principle, balancing US interests with US values. Its sheer analytical intelligence and lucidity of perspective and presentation are in stark and welcome contrast with the preachy platitudes that pass for political and policy debate in Sri Lanka be it in the institutions or the public domain.

The Report shows that Sri Lanka has made its point. We didn’t blink, and fought the war to a victorious finish, using our friends to balance off the efforts of the West to secure a truce. Our balance of power strategy and countervailing efforts succeeded. The US underestimated us, miscalculated. However – and this is crucial – the US has the “smarts” to strive to re-set the relationship, given its strategic interests. It also lets Sri Lanka know what its views, opinions and parameters are. The Report educates the US system and public opinion what reorientation is needed in US policy so as to best sub-serve US interests. In that sense it is an antidote to the anti-Sri Lankan propaganda of the pro-Tamil Eelam lobby. As importantly, it also seeks to educate the Sri Lankan political elite and opinion makers as to the deal that is on the table.

As someone who played a direct role in defeating a Western attempt to push through a UN resolution inimical to Sri Lanka, I’d strongly suggest we take the deal that is on the table, barring one matter that should be off limits. That is Sri Lanka’s relationship with China. Now it must be stressed that the US Senate Report does not even hint that Sri Lanka should cut back on that relationship, but it signals quite rightly that the US should not let its own interests go by default and should enter the ring. That’s fine. Given that the Report itself indicates that China’s power of veto forestalled a possible Western move to push a truce through the UN Security Council, none can fault us for recognizing the grand strategic value – perhaps even primacy—of that relationship, on which we cannot and must not compromise, though we must carefully balance our relations with China and India as Madam Bandaranaike and Lakshman Kadirgamar did.

While our relationship with the US cannot be at the expense of our relationship with China, our relationship with China and India cannot be at the expense of each other, and our identification with the rest of the Global south must not be the price we pay for our relationship with the USA, the US Senate Report does not indicate any such zero sum games. Our relationship with the US can dramatically improve at virtually no cost to Sri Lanka, in a multiple sum game.

Our wartime foreign policy was an essentialist one, necessarily balancing off the East against the West and the North against the South. That is no longer necessary. It does not mean that we must dump our friends, shift our tested relationships or unmoor our existential identifications. It does mean that we have to re-balance; re-calibrate our relations, repairing the damage in our relationships with the USA, thereby plugging the gap in our external relations. This would enable us to have a multi-directional (multi-vector) foreign policy, suitable to an increasingly multi-polar global reality.

A powerful, respected segment in Washington DC is ready to reach out to Colombo. Their checklist of concerns (though the word “demand” appears once) is transparent and to my mind possible and positive; unexceptionable and desirable. No international friend of Sri Lanka that I can think of would suggest that we ignore or cold-shoulder it. As I have pointed out before, we have stretched our friends to the point of embarrassment with our confrontationist rhetoric in relation to the Obama administration and there’s not much more mileage to be obtained by staying that course at a time when the equations these friends (China, Russia, India) have with the US under Obama have significantly improved.

Indeed the Report provides a kind of roadmap for domestic reform and re-democratization that a consortium of concerned Sri Lankan citizens should have come up with, but has not so far. The states that supported us when the chips were down have all been urging these reforms on us in private. Thus we may say that the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report would command a broader international consensus on Sri Lanka than Sri Lanka’s own self –perception, claims and rhetoric. Our failure to win a majority of the Commonwealth over to our effort to host the heads of state summit in 2011 and its postponement to 2013 points to our position and predicament.

The Senate report recognizes some vital historical facts: “President Mahinda Rajapaksa declared total victory after government soldiers killed the Tamil Tigers’ leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and took control of the entire country for the first time since 1983...It was a bitter and hard-fought victory, one of the few instances in modern history in which a terrorist group had been defeated militarily.” (My emphasis- DJ)

It correctly identifies, far better than any election propaganda, the challenges, tasks and programme for post war post –election Sri Lanka: “The war in Sri Lanka may be over, but the underlying conflict still simmers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, Sri Lanka is not a post-conflict environment. While the fighting between the Government and the LTTE may have ended, the reasons for the political and social conflict (that also gave rise to youth militancy and armed clash in the 1970s and 1980s) will take time to address. Those root causes must be tackled soon and with a sense of urgency to prevent the country from backsliding”.

Tamil leaders and opinion makers should take note of the clear criticism contained in the Report, which indicates a course correction that should be made by the Tamil polity: “Thirty years of violence have taken a toll on the majority Sinhalese population, giving rise to a siege mentality toward the ethnic Tamil minority. For their part, Tamil leaders have not yet made anticipated conciliatory gestures that might ease government concerns and foster a genuine dialogue”. (My emphasis- DJ)

The Report also has some fascinating snippets-- such as Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s suggestion to the US to “keep up the pressure”. It also contains some discreet signals. While the name of the present Foreign Minister does not appear even once in what is after all a Report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one name crops up at least three times, in a clear indication as to who has presented the Sri Lankan case most successfully to the US: Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda.

(Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka was until recently Sri Lanka’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations at Geneva)

Full "investigation" after STF involvement in abduction of Policeman

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

masterminded

"Dutu"Mervyn Silva masterminded abduction of Wattala businessman Nishantha Ratnayake & three others including a Police officer at Rajagiriya

masterminded

Ratnayake had refused to dole out the "Kappang" money extracted by Mervyn and his extortioner gang headed earlier by Kudu Lal now abroad

"Kappang"

Ratnayake a tea exporter had been paying two lakhs rupees per month as "Kappang" but had stopped paying for several months angering Mervyn

shocking

In a shocking revelation it is learnt that Mervyn had got officers of the Special Task Force to abduct Ratnayake on his way to a restaurant

Sub-Inspector

Among three others abducted along with Ratnayake was Suresh, a Police Sub-Inspector from the Organised Crime Unit at Police headquarters.

released

Realising that an abductee was a policeman & also because of the outcry all four including Tilak & prabath, bodyguards of Ratnayake were released

ha!ha!ha!

Due to "illegal" STF involvement & Mervyn's influence the matter is being hushed up though IGP has announced a full "investigation". ha!ha!ha!

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

President takes the campaign North while oppositions fly allegations

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

worships

President Rajapakse worships at Our Lady of the Rosary Church at Marudhamadhu in Mannar dist known as famous Catholic shrine of Madhu Madha

MRMFTC1291.jpg

President Mahinda Rajapakse pays respects during a visit to the Madhu church in Madhu, December 9, 2009-Reuters pic

visited

President Mahinda Rajapakse visited IDP camps at Menik Farm, Chettykulam for first time & met displaced Tamils&inquired about their problems

MRMFTC129A.jpg

Internally displaced ethnic Tamils watch President Mahinda Rajapakse arrive during his visit to the Manik Farm refugee camp, in Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009-AP Pic

Karaithuraipatru

President Mahinda Rajapakse visits Karaithuraipatru AGA div in Mullaitheevu district where the final stages of war with the LTTE took place

monument

President Rajapakse ceremonially declares open "War Hero" monument at Puthumaathalan dedicated to soldiers killed in battle against the LTTE

perusing

Tamil National Alliance will decide on whom to support at Presidential elections only after perusing manifestos of respective candidates

family

Ranil Wickremasinghe's attack on Rajapakse family at UNP convention provoked president Rajapakse into enticing SB Dissanayake to Govt

Government

Democratic Peoples Front leader Mano Ganesan charges at press conference that Government has created "outfit" called Peoples Liberation Army

opposition

Mano Ganesan alleges that so called Peoples Liberation Army is a paramilitary group with the objective of killing opposition leaders in N-E

snake

Pro-LTTE Tamil Nadu MDMK leader Vaiko in interview with "Anandavikatan"magazine calls Sarath Fonseka a lethal snake that has shed its skin

skin

To a question about Fonseka removing his uniform to enter politics Vaiko replied a snake does not become non-poisonous by shedding its skin

Mannarcauseway.jpgclick for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

The Presidential election, and the politics of the Tamil-minority

by Prof. Chandre Dharmawardana

Prabhakaran is no more. Fonseka, an architect of the fall of the Eelam regime has crossed over to the pro-western, seemingly more minority-sensitive UNP led by Ranil Wickremasinhe. That the UNP is in a cabal with the anti-western, minority-insensitive JVP seems to have become as irrelevant as the JVP itself.

While many Diaspora Tamils welcomed all mishaps to the Rajapaksa regime, they don't seem to know which way to turn. What should the Tamils do ? What should anybody do? I have heard this question being debated by expatriates, be they Tamils or Sinhalese living in Canada.

Expatriate Tamils

Most of the ex-expatriate Tamils have been pro-LTTE or sentimentally close to the Eelamists. Unfortunate personal experiences of humiliation and hurt that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, has fueled an anger in the hearts of many Tamils. They have worked to discredit and fight the Sri Lankan government. Funds, extorted or willingly given have animated these efforts. Many members of the diaspora have embraced the belief that only partitioning the country on ethnic lines will solve Sri Lanka's problems. This diaspora had no hesitation in endorsing suicide bombers, child soldiers and terror as an answer to the anti-LTTE war seen as nothing but "state violence". It suppressed dissent within itself, mis-informed itself, some of the western media, and its own youth. The youth have been goaded into militant activity in Canada and elsewhere. Violence has been idealized and allowed to permeate the whole expatriate society.

The diaspora has ignored that the government in Colombo had changed hands many-times over, and had in all instances included many distinguished Tamils in its ranks. They were dubbed "traitors" and condemned to the bullet or forced to quit.

But that was essentially the tone set by Prabhakaran.

An election is an opportunity for politically engaged groups to make their case heard in a democratic manner. And yet, the political bankruptcy of the Tamil Diaspora is such that it cannot use its funds, power and influence in a useful way. Its main instrument in Sri Lanka, the Tamil National alliance (TNA) rose into prominence as an LTTE-proxy. The TNA cannot possibly support the UNP-led Fonseka without splitting apart, loosing face and loosing Diaspora support. A part of the TNA may be morally concerned and politically upright. They may have bowed to the LTTE only because of the need to survive. They may now have the courage ("tayiriyam") and fortitude ("ormam") needed to announce a new vision for the Tamils. But they cannot do it with its current vision, and its preesent out-dated political program.

The TNA leaders have already met Mr. Sarath Fonseka, ex-general, on Sunday. Apparently they are consulting with Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa's team as well. The democratically minded members of the TNA have a major task in front of them.

They have to announce a new Vaddukkoddai resolution calling for a Sri Lanka where all individuals have equal rights in every part of the country, irrespective of caste and race labels. The "exclusive Tamil homeland" claim must be explicitly expunged and a multi-ethnic concept must be explicitly stated, correcting errors put in place not just at Vaddukkoddai, but already in the 1949 Maradana resolution of Thamil Arasu Kadchi. This "exclusive Tamil-homeland" doctrine was, and is, nothing but the Tamil version of Apartheid. A new vision must include the fact that the basic bio-chemical. economic and psychological needs of all citizens, be they Sinhala or Tamil, are the same. There is no room for race-based, caste-based, or even class-based politics.

Until this is done, the TNA, and the Diaspora which backs it, will not be able to operate democratically in Sri Lanka. The diaspora, with its money and violent traditions based on hate may attempt to finance new youth terror groups. Such militant policies, entertained by some Diaspora groups confirm the bankruptcy of their politics. New Tamil-militant youth will not be confronting a ceremonial Sri Lankan army of the type that existed in the 1980s. It will be confronting a very different, battle-hardened, well-equipped victorious security force.

I believe that the TNA must suffer a split if it is to survive. Putting up a "Tamil Candidate for Presidency" is to follow the same race-based politics that has failed since it was explicitly announced by G. G. Ponnambalam in 1935 (Hansard, Column 3045, 1935). Ponnambalam declared in the State Council that he is "a proud Dravidian" and that, in effect he does not accept the "Ceylonese" label.. The Maradana resolution of the Thamil Arasu Kadchi and the Vaddukkoddai resolutions of 1976 were just extensions of the "non-Ceylonese" concept and specifying the Dravidian label as "Tamil".

Those TNA members who believe in democracy must come forward and support Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, even if it be for the simple reason that a minority is better-off with the winning party than with the looser. There are many other valid reasons to not to support a politically immature Fonseka who, though a distinguished warrior, has now proven to be as unprincipled as the worst of the pack. Although the Rajapaksa regime has been criticized for its handling of the IDPs, it has actually kept its promise to release the IDPs in about six months.

Minority politicians should learn from the greatest and most successful Tamil leader of the 20th century - Mr. Thondaman senior. Thondaman steered his community to full citizenship, and protected them from the attempts of both the Marxists and Tamil extremists to wanted them to take the path of violence.

Will Mr. Rajapaksa win?

I believe that Mr. Fonseka's arrival into the political arena will in fact have the effect opposite to what political schemers like Mangala Samaraweera have been hoping for. The positioning of Fonseka as the opposition candidate will in the end have a disastrous effect on the UNP organization. Many will now clearly see the bankruptcy of the Ranil-Mangala politics of hatching plots and following a policy based on devious deals, personality politics and sleight of hand.

Many UNP supporters will surely cross over to the Rajapaksa campaign.

The Tamils who supported individuals like Mano Ganesan would see that Ganesan is a totally unprincipled politician who cannot understand the thinking of his own voters. When Ganesan was visiting Canada and Europe, he had no hesitation in participating in meetings where Prabhakaran's picture and the Eelam flag were prominently displayed. Today he is endorsing Fonseka. Some of Ganesan's votors wiil feel that their dignity has been severely offended. Those Tamils who may not have voted for Rajapaksa may now vote for him to spite Mr.Ganesan.

The up-country voters, be they Tamil or Sinhala would have little reason to opt for the UNP-backed Fonseka. With S. B. Dissanayake's cross over, there will be others who will follow the trend.

As the steam gathers, support for Mr. Rajapaksa will gather even more, and a momentum that no one expected will come into being. Mr. Fonseka will have to content mainly with larger and larger doses of stories of corruption to support his claim to the throne. Managala Samaraweera will use his artistic talents and past knowledge in constructing new corruption stories. As the campaign sputters, the JVP will begin to blame Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe for mismanaging it. Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe will blame Mangala Samaraweera or the JVP and plan another brilliant exit plot. He will go on a speaking tour in India and Europe while the presidential electron campaign is roaring away in Sri lanka, and go to Phukut to relax.

The Sinhala nationalist voters (SNV) will not forget that the Mavil Oya (Mavil aru) battle was declared and won when Fonseka was in hospital. The SNV will remember that the East and North were de-merged under Rajapaksa who refused to yield to the UNP and TNA demands for an executive remerger. The SNV will remember that the UNP, Mangala Samaraweers and others opposed the Rajapaksa government's early military tie-up with Karuna. The SNV will note that it was Rajapaksa who crafted a foreign policy which was at once friendly with Pakistan, China and India, and levered these countires to Sri lanka's war effort.

The SNV will note that the Rajapaksa government stood firmly against Columnists who continually hounded the administration demanding to stop the war and declare a political package to appease Prabhakaran. The SNV will remember with satisfaction that the British and French foreign ministers who came with a mandate to free Prabhakaran were rebuffed. The SNV will remember that all this was done by a president who had to buttress a minority government by generously laying out the bacon. Irrespective of one's political beliefs, these reveal the hand of a master political strategist at the helm. Thus the SNV will see that the war against the LTTE was not won just on the battlefield, but that it owes its success to a lot of political positioning and a definite vision on the part of the incumbent president.

Fonseka's foray into politics would be a meaningful step if he stays in politics, comes forward as a member of parliament and run for high office after establishing his credentials as a principled politician, be it in the UNP or elsewhere.

As it is, Fonseka is due for ignominious defeat.

Mr. Rajapaksa will win his second mandate hands down.

The Marxist candidate, Wickramabahu and Sirirtunga cannot even convince themselves to agree with each other. They will lose their deposits.

[The author was a Vice-Chancellor of the Vidyodaya University (now Sri Jayawardenapura University) during the time when Mr. Rajapaksa worked there and S. B. Dissanayake was the student leader. The author is currently affiliated with the National Rsearch Council of Canada and the University of Montreal in Canada].

Food in short supply and life inside camps still hard says detainee

Report from ABC News Australia:

'Life unbearable'

As the numbers decrease, camp conditions are improving but Kannan says food is in short supply and life inside is still hard.

"The situation in the camps is unbearable. When it rains it's very, very hard. Water enters the tents and we can't stay inside the tents," he said.

"It's extremely hot and recently, because of the hot weather, a lot of diseases have started spreading and the worst affected are the children.

"There's only one pump available for every 2,000 people, although recently the government has made efforts to create better water facilities. The education available to children is substandard."

By Karon Snowdon

Sri Lanka's government says most of the people associated with the Tamil Tiger rebels now held in detention will be released.

The secretary of the Ministry for Disaster Management and Human Rights, Rajiva Wijesinha, says of the 11,000 Tigers, only 200 are being charged.

He says the rest are in rehabilitation for eventual return to society.

"The vast majority we believe, even if they were involved in actual combat, were more people who were conscripted and forced to do so," he said.

"And then there are girls who I think were just forced into a rather horrid life for a few months.

"I think that in the long run we believe very much that what you would call real hardcore Tigers are extremely few."

Mr Wijesinha says most of the Tamil Tigers handed themselves in.

Returning home

Meanwhile, the government says the process of returning people displaced by the conflict to their homes is well under way and will be completed by the end of January.

It also claims the 130,000 people remaining in refugee camps enjoy complete freedom of movement and can leave at any time.

But Kannan, a refugee from one of the camps who spoke to Radio Australia while waiting at the Vavuniya bus stop for the bus back to the camp after staying with a friend in town overnight, says there are limits.

"The maximum number of days we can leave the camp is for seven days. I got permission for just two days," he said.

"If I go back even one day later then I will get into a lot of trouble. I don't actually know why they placed a limit. I'm not too sure why that rule is there."

But the government says temporary passes with return dates are necessary to budget for camp resources for those with nowhere else to go, as well as for the assistance given to people when they do return home.

Mr Wijesinha says no-one is being compelled to stay in the camps.

"The permit actually records when they think they will come back but there's no compulsion," he said.

"The freedom of movement is for them to go out to stay with relations if they like, to find work if they like."

The camps have been operating since October 2008 and most people have been in the camps since May.

Almost 300,000 people were detained in the camps and so far close to 150,000 people have returned home or moved in with friends or relatives.

'Life unbearable'

As the numbers decrease, camp conditions are improving but Kannan says food is in short supply and life inside is still hard.

"The situation in the camps is unbearable. When it rains it's very, very hard. Water enters the tents and we can't stay inside the tents," he said.

"It's extremely hot and recently, because of the hot weather, a lot of diseases have started spreading and the worst affected are the children.

"There's only one pump available for every 2,000 people, although recently the government has made efforts to create better water facilities. The education available to children is substandard."

Food rations, shelter materials and money have been given to Tamils as they return home.

The government's own deadline for the return of all the refugees was the end of the year, but has been extended to the end of January.

Radio Australia attempted to contact Sri Lanka's Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe but he was out of Colombo and unavailable for comment. courtesy: Radio Australia

The contradictory "shrapnel" from the bomb flung by Sarath Fonseka

By Dr.Susantha Goonatilake

Sarath Fonseka's announcement was like a bomb thrown by a terrorist, the shrapnel was hitting all over - bringing out contradictions.

UNP’s Ranil (and Ravi Karunanayake and Kiriella) were eating their own words as the UNP who signed the CFA handing over large tracts to the LTTE, supports Sarath Fonseka SF - the liquidator of the LTTE. The UNP government once killed far more JVP members and their supporters than Fonseka and Rajapaksa’s government killed LTTE members. The JVP whose insurrection was against separatism and the 13th Amendment now joined the UNP in support of SF on a platform of power abuse and anti-corruption.

SF on his part was now saying to the Indian magazine Outlook “I am for the 13th Amendment-plus”. Rajapaksa under Chandrika had supported the CFA and P-TOMS which would have consolidated the LTTE mini-state.

Only after the JVP entry with Mangala Samaraweera as vocal supporters for his Presidency, did MR start playing total patriot. JVP and Mangala Samaraweera (the latter, one of Chandrika's Sudu Nelum group) were now both cheering for SF.

As Ranil and company turned patriot by joining SF, MR famously announced in the SLFP 58th Convention "a patriot yesterday can be a traitor tomorrow’ meaning SF was now a traitor.

And one heard a great silence of disagreement from his partisan audience which had only minutes ago cheered his every word. The General who in defiance of anti Sri Lankan powers led the army to victory was now a “foreign agent” in government eyes.

For non-political bystanders, there were immediate benefits of the SF announcement. There was no dramatic change in the security situation, but presto no sooner than the General announced his dissatisfaction at holding hundreds of thousands, the IDP camps suddenly opened.

If there were LTTE among the IDPs, they could easily run away now, only the innocent would return. And as a side benefit, Colombo roads that were blocked for political rogues and catchers with no LTTE threat to drive through pompously, were to be opened. Magic out of SF's hat!

If this magic had been performed two months earlier - enough time to screen the IDPs - Sri Lanka’s bid to host the Commonwealth meeting would not have been embarrassingly refused a few days ago. How the detainees would vote would be crucial.

An aside: in an interview, UN Ambassador Palitha Kohona changed the story that Fonseka was to be summoned by US authorities for questioning on war crimes. Was this "revision" a reflection of the Rajapaksa-Fonseka clash?

Nalin Silva who had made many exposures of Tamil racism now wrote that SF will divide the nationalists and strengthen Tamil racists and the anti-national lobby.

"Hobson's choice" wrote Jehan Perera the NGO writer in the "piece" lobby. Another NGO member Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu asked "Rajapaksa vs. Fonseka Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee?” meaning no choice.

And a Van der Poorten, a remnant of the Burgher colonials who once lorded over the country, wrote "Between a rock and a hard place". He implied no real choice for anti-Sri Lankans.

And Indian Secret Service personnel with links to RAW, who write to our newspapers were spluttering in their columns to make sense. Disempowered descendants of colonial rule, Indian RAW colonialists and the neo colonial NGO industry were worried that both Fonseka and Rajapaksa were now the contenders.

A transformational moment, two persons who took on the LTTE against foreign wishes were struggling for leadership. Tamil separatist racism which had held Sri Lankan development to ransom for nearly 50 years had no national candidate.

A few other minor figures also announced their candidature, namely alleged "Marxists" Vickramabahu Karunaratna and Sirithunga Jayasuriya who would attract a few tens of thousands.

A monk had already announced his. Other candidates would follow mostly to appear free on state TV and to propagandize as proxies for either SF or MR.

MR was endorsed by the Manel Mal movement with SL Gunasekara and Gunadasa Amarasekera espousing his cause. Crossovers from the JVP and UNP were supporting him. The JHU which took away votes of the UNP middle classes on a platform of containing Christian fundamentalists were supporting.

Simple arithmetic indicates that not all of the UNP and JVP crossovers and the earlier UFPA members could all get re-elected on the UFPA ticket in the General Election They will do their own calculations and jump, this way and that.

Pillayan, the Chief Minister of the Eastern province "announced" that he and his TMVP would not campaign for Rajapaksa. A few hours later, the report was denied.

Sajith Premadasa whose father had allegedly handed over weapons to the LTTE leading to the cold-blooded massacre of 700 policemen was cheering for SF. The Karuna faction who led this massacre and who should be a prime candidate for war crimes was supporting MR.

A key unknown would be the minority vote. MR won the last Presidential race through the LTTE ban on voting. Other Tamils had now chosen the path of integration as evidenced by the various Tamil parties supporting either MR or SF. The CWC of Thondaman was supporting MR. But Rauff Hakeem's Muslim Congress opted for SF as did Mano Ganeshan.

The TNA, the LTTE front was "elected" only through the LTTE ban on other Tamil parties. Their racist predecessors had misled the Tamil people to the disaster which ended in the Nandikadal lagoon. Their disastrous strategy had denied development to the North and East and reduced the once prosperous Jaffna peninsula to the war damaged shell it now is. The TNA was said to be considering having their own candidate.

Lessons had not yet been learned. Sections of Tamils and Muslims together with foreign interests were still campaigning for breaking up the unitary state in the colonial tradition of divide and rule.

A meeting of Tamil and Muslim parties in Geneva funded by the Swiss government and organised by the separatist Tamil Information Centre suddenly surfaced. It was an attempt to resurrect LTTE ideology, especially the fictional Tamil homelands. Sanctimonious Switzerland who funded this event however had just instituted a barbarous ban on Muslim places of worship. Ethnic equality indeed!

The big state propaganda approach once rightfully used against the LTTE was being used by the government against SF. The JVP once the darling of the state channels during the last Presidential election, now decided to ban state TV coverage from their news conferences because of gross distortion. Fonseka was being covered by the private channels who had once taken antinational stands.

Many get their news today from "new media" (I do). New media like the Internet, SMS, and twitter could overcome any state media stranglehold. These new modes can be accessed by mobile telephones which the majority today have.

Already there was a Sarath Fonseka Face book as well as a phoney one attempting to slander him. In countries like South Korea and the Philippines, such new media had been crucial in political campaigns.

Parents pawn their wealth for the education of their children on the belief in merit promotion as a passport to advancement. In the post war Presidential battle, talk of corruption and nepotism were coming to prominence.

During a press conference of a group endorsing MR, some journalists raised the corruption issue. A key person at the podium admitted that there was indeed much corruption, adding that many in the Cabinet were corrupt.

At the same venue, SL Gunasekara said that he had written a book on government corruption (although for other reasons he was supporting MR.) If the JVP had joined the government with its 39 seats when it had high popularity, it could have well prevented corruption.

Rajapaksa was also worried. He told the press that his family was being accused of waste, corruption and irregularities. He said that a big house could not be built in any part of the country without him, Gotabaya or Basil being blamed. "We are being accused of buying coconut estates in Chilaw and houses in Colombo 7," he said.

From being hailed as Maha Raja in billboards and songs, to be called a thief would unnerve any royalty. Both Fonseka and Ranil ratcheted up the rhetoric, SF saying that "This family gang should not be allowed to use the military victory to plunder the country.” Ranil claimed that LTTE Treasurer KP’s money was going into MR family fortunes and further that Rajapakse was trying to enter the Guinness Book of records as the wealthiest family in SL.

Clearly some of these rumours were wrong as the one that Gotabaya had bought Apollo Hospital - he only headed it as representative of the government owned Insurance Corp.

There is no doubt that Gotabaya Rajapakse was essential to the war victory. And one could add that without Basil to keep together the various political groups including through enlarging the number of ministers to the highest figure in the world, Parliamentary stability needed for the war could not have been reached.

But the expansion of the number of relatives and cronies in various positions has possibly reached intolerable levels. Government TV channels once had breath catching war reporting but soon, the same media was turned into blatant sycophancy of the ruling family with almost every government channel vying with each other to depict this Rajapaksa or that Rajapaksa.

Rumors are rife that the clan’s spread is far more extensive. "Informed persons" give various figures of Rajapaksa relatives in state jobs. An editor of a popular private newspaper told me the figure was over 250, others give different figures. These may be all in the category of gossip that MR referred to.

As the election campaign progresses, we should see more accurate lists. And no doubt the UNP and the JVP and their supporters will put out any such names in websites - with possibly COPE Chairman Wijedasa Rajapakse helping.

The Government information website accused the former Army Chief SF of illegally using vehicles and soldiers. SF went to the Supreme Court complaining that in contrast to the less vulnerable retired Navy Chief and Karuna, his security had been slashed putting him in danger.

His son-in-law working in the US was accused by pro-government media of irregular arms purchases. SF spat back saying that all purchases were done under Gotabaya. And SF's son was suing a website for millions for these accusations.

One area where there has been relatively very little corruption and nepotism is in the internal promotion scheme of the army. Under SF, a policy of merit promotions based on battlefield performance was adopted.

It seems none was promoted because of family connections. SF may have made mistakes in some promotions but as a principle, it was decisive for the victory.

Both SF and MR waged war with determination. Surprisingly both were saying similar statements now.

MR declared that he too wants to do away with the Presidential system - after his next term. Government spokesman Yapa said that the UPFA planned to abolish the executive Presidency but “need a two-thirds majority in Parliament to do it " and they did not have enough votes to do so.

The solution is simple. The UPFA can immediately move a motion in the Parliament to the effect that the Presidential system be abolished in six years' time. This will get near unanimous approval, both his UPFA and the UNP and JVP supporting. MR at a stroke would have diminished the opposition’s demand and win the Presidency easily.

The Presidential system after a referendum will then be abolished at the most, in six years time. And if Sarath Fonseka becomes the President, he would move a motion to abolish it immediately. At least in six years, we will undo JR’s curse.

There is also a very easy solution for Rajapaksa’s complaints that people were saying that his family was thieves. The simple solution was to declare publicly the assets of each candidate and of every relative and crony. Fonseka has required that.The pot is churning and should be further stirred.

I am saying this as a person who supported MR’s candidacy last time, both in ideas and resources - incidentally requesting no favours in return. MR looks a worried man these days, the post-war jauntiness has subsided. But I still think he will win. The electorate however may think otherwise.

COURTESY:DAILY MIRROR

"What went wrong with Sarath Fonseka"?-Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse speaks out

Question:

Although the LTTE has been obliterated separatist elements are still operating in the country. Can you describe the present security situation in the country?

Gotabhaya :

After ending 30 years of terrorism people are looking forward to go back to normal life. The real benefit of ending terrorism can be gained only if we can regain what we have lost. A large number of lives were lost, the economy was shattered, tourism and investments suffered and development was disrupted. It is only by rebuilding them that we can achieve real victory.

However we must give priority to security. Now we have ended face to face confrontations. The duty of the security forces now is to work according to information provided by intelligence sources. The intelligence units have done their proper duty since the annihilation of terrorists. We have been able to arrest terrorists hiding in Colombo and outstations and police and security servicemen arresting them.

Nearly 11,000 LTTE cadres have surrendered to the Army. Another 1,000 are in police custody. Hidden arms have been found on information given by them. The LTTE network in the western province has been broken. We are continuing these activities to prevent the LTTE raising its head again.

The security forces have another responsibility. That is to resettle IDPs. The security forces are also engaged in de-mining activities and providing security in areas where resettlement is taking place. The forces are also responsible for the rehabilitation of the 11,000 LTTE cadres in their custody. There are nearly 500 child soldiers too. They are being rehabilitated with the assistance of civilians. Important Tamil personalities have highly praised this work.

The Navy has a vital duty in protecting the sea area and prevent any more terrorist arms shipments reaching the country. The Air Force has to do air surveillance work to protect the country’s airspace. We cannot forget the security of our motherland.

The police is combating the underworld and the drug menace. The country’s security should be enhanced to enable life to return to normal. We have removed fishing restrictions in the Northern seas. Now the fisheries industry is picking up and more and more tourists are visiting the east.

Question:

Separatism had gained strength internationally. How did you break their international network? The opposition leader has been questioning about LTTE assets alleging that K.P. is housed in a luxury bungalow with all comforts.

Answer:

After defeating the LTTE we took steps to break its foreign network. After the killing of Prabhakaran the channel 4 television network boasted that K.P. had succeeded him as the LTTE leader. Within a few weeks we arrested K.P. with the assistance of several other countries.

People who did not praise us for arresting K.P. are now making various allegations against us. Secrecy was the major factor which helped net in K.P. who was the fund raiser and arms procurer of the LTTE. K.P. has vital information on LTTE secret dealings. These had to be elicited through careful and prolonged interrogation.

If anyone is criticising us he or she will only be blaming for intelligence units. Following information given by KP a large number of LTTE financial assets abroad have been frozen. Some of the ventures started with LTTE funds are legal business in those countries.

We have to convince those governments that they are dependent on fraudulent LTTE funds. Intelligence officers are taking great pains to prove it and get LTTE assets forfeited. This had to be done secretively.

Q: At the time of the 2005 Presidential election a portion of the country had been given over to the LTTE through an agreement. The Armed Forces had been made to believe that the LTTE was invincible. How were the Armed Forces able to make a turn around and achieve this convincing victory?

A: People forget the fact that President Rajapaksa as soon as he assumed office in 2005 made a change in the Defence policy after analysing the information provided by Intelligence and Armed Forces chief.

He informed India that we had to strengthen our security forces to counter a possible attack from the LTTE if we went in for negotiations. The President gave the Forces which had lost its morale a clear objective.

We started our ‘Api Venuwen Api’ concept to boost the sagging morale of the Armed Forces. We looked into the welfare of war heroes without awaiting till the end of the conflict. The state of indecision was ended and the Forces were able to gain victory because they had a clear objective earlier.

The Armed Forces had to be mere onlookers when the LTTE breached the ceasefire agreement more than 3000 times. On the contrary we gave strength and encouragement to the Forces to go forward.

Q: Gen. Sarath Fonseka had said that even though every past leader wanted to solve the terrorist problem they could not do it due to problems in the Army. What have you to say about it as Defence Secretary and a former war hero?

A: That is a slur on the Army. The Armed Forces and police have worked with great dedication during the past 30 years. They sacrificed 26,000 lives and 20,000 others were disabled. It was the sacrifices made by them that had raised the Armed Forces to this invincible position.

The Armed Forces could not accomplish this earlier because the country’s leaders failed to take correct decisions. For instance Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa and Maj. Gen. Vijaya Wimalaratne carried on this war successfully in 1987 but they had to halt their operations halfway because there was no proper management and clear foreign policy on the part of the country’s leadership.

If they continued ignoring the halt orders given by the leadership it would have been described as a conspiracy. Thereafter the Indian Peace Keeping Force was brought here and the LTTE was suppressed to a certain extent. Subsequently the IPKF was sent back. Who made this decision? Was it the Armed Forces or the country’s leadership?

Anew Government assumed office in 1994 and it restarted negotiations with the LTTE in spite of its armed attacks on the Forces. That decision was also taken by the leadership rather than the Armed Forces. If arms and other procurements are not supplied at the proper time the Armed Forces cannot be blamed for any defeat suffered by them. We understood.

This properly enhanced the Armed Forces cadre and provided them with the necessary wherewithal in time. Earlier leaders did not strengthen the Armed Forces thinking it would pose a threat to their own position.

If the Government which came to power in 2002 took these steps without falling prey to the LTTE tactic of declaring a unilateral ceasefire this victory would have been achieved at that time.

A video tape done on the Army’s 60th anniversary had described the ceasefire agreement as the greatest betrayal in the history of the country. This proves the importance of decisions taken by the country’s leadership.

President Rajapaksa never failed to increase the cadre of Armed Forces. The strength of the Civil Security Force was increased from 20,000 to 40,000 personnel. He provided the funds necessary for strengthening the Armed Forces and police notwithstanding the strictures imposed by the world economic crisis. He took spot on decisions after taking Indian concerns into consideration properly.

Q: The President once said that although many people tried to take credit for victory no one was prepared to take the blame in defeat. Actually to whom do we owe this victory. Is it the President, you as Defence Secretary, Armed Forces Chiefs or to each and every one of you collectively?

A: I explained the responsibilities of the President as Commander in Chief. We should not forget that this is a collective victory of all including the Three Forces, Police, Civil Defence Force and the civilians. We also owe this victory to war heroes and civilians who have sacrificed their lives for the past 30 years.

The Army destroyed the enemy and captured land. War heroes at the battlefront were the people who first faced enemy bullets. The Navy had to protect the sea and destroy floating store houses of arms and ammunition belonging to the LTTE. It also had to maintain supply lines to 40,000 troops in Jaffna. The Air Force supported advancing troops by destroying terrorist formations and ammunition dumps.

All these have to be taken into consideration collectively rather than individually to adduce the nature of the victory. The Commando Regiment, Special Task Force and Special Forces were built up over a period of 25 to 30 years. Maj. Gen. Vijaya Wimalaratne made a great contribution to bring the Gajaba Regiment to the present status. Kamal Gunaratne, Jagath Dias, Chaggie Gallage and Shavendra Silva are all his products. I have also served under him in the Gajaba Regiment.

Then the Police made a great contribution by breaking LTTE cells in the North and East and the Western Province. The Civil Defence Force protected the threatened villages. When the war was raging in the North it was the Navy and Air Force which looked after the security in other parts of the country.

It was I as the Defence Secretary who proposed to the Security Council to increase the cadre of the Armed Forces. The President ordered the Treasury to grant the funds for it. All these people have to take credit for this victory.

Q: Gen. Sarath Fonseka says that armaments were purchased by a company headed by you and not by him. What have you got to say about it.

A: From the time operations were launched people opposed to it brought bribery and corruption charges to attack me.

When I took over as Defence Secretary my first job was to end corruption. I wanted to eliminate third parties which was the basis for corruption.

I started Lanka Logistics and Technologies as a State company to act as a third party when needed in the government to government arms purchases. Armed Forces chiefs only did the technical analysis of the arms purchased.

This process helped to save millions in arms procurement work. But this system operated on heavy purchases above a certain limit. Transactions below such limit were handled by respective Armed Forces Chiefs. The former Army Commander has said that he never sat on Tender Boards. In the meantime he says he has ended corruption and fraud. This is contradictory.

Q: Sarath Fonseka who says he is contesting the Presidential Election has charged that you did not allow him to stay in his post until the Army celebrated its 60th anniversary. What is the actual situation about this?

A: President Rajapaksa’s intention was to appoint former Navy Commander Vasantha Karannagoda as CDS because he was an efficient officer who was ahead in seniority.

But I told the President that if it was done it would create problems. People are aware of this problem. Therefore Sarath Fonseka was made CDS. Actually the injustice was caused to Vasantha Karannagoda in this instance.

We gave Karannagoda a secretary’s post. We cannot satisfy everyone 100 percent. Even though Sarath Fonseka was removed from the post of Army Commander none of his privileges were controlled.

When requested he was given the opportunity to handle the Army’s 60th anniversary celebrations and the army Tattoo. He was allowed to use General’s house as well as his quarters at the Army headquarters.

Army tradition is to deploy the Army Commander’s regiment for security duties at the army headquarters. We even broke this tradition and allowed the Sinha Regiment to maintain security duties at army headquarters in response to a request made by Sarath Fonseka. Although none of the privileges were denied, a wrong impression has been created in the country.

This may be a distorted view created to gain political advantage and public sympathy.

Q: Do you say that this has been pre-planned?

A: This has not happened overnight. There is justifiable suspicion that this interpretation has been made to create this environment in league with other parties.

Q: Does Sarath Fonseka believe that his recommendation has been overlooked in appointing the Army Commander

A: The President has the full powers and discretion to appoint the army commander. That is why Sarath Fonseka was appointed Army Commander a few days before retirement by retiring then Army Commander Kottegoda who had two more years for retirement.

Kottegoda then called on the President and said he preferred to go to war if the President wanted and that he had adhered to the Peace Accord on the compulsion of the then leadership. If the President accepted his offer, things might have been much different today. Fonseka says G. A. Chandrasiri was not made Army Commander. But then Chandrasiri was already serving on an extension after his retirement age.

Chandrasiri had performed a great service as special forces commander in Jaffna. I suggested that he should be made CDS. The two officers below him had not directly participated in the war. The next in line was Jagath Jayasuriya and the President decided to appoint him as Army Commander.

(Excerpts of the interview with Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa telecast live on ITN and Rupavahini Channels on Saturday)

December 08, 2009

Fonseka says he wont be ceremonial President like William Gopallawa

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

abolishing

Opposition says Sarath Fonseka becomes ceremonial president by abolishing executive presidency but Gen.Fonseka says he will retain powers

wont be

Fonseka says that he wont be a ceremonial president like William Gopallawa after abolishing executive presidency.

agreement

Fonseka says - "I will have some powers as the president according to the agreement which I have got into with the opposition"

13th amendment

While JVP critices Mahinda for agreeing to 13th amendment plus demand of EPDP Gen. Sarath Fonseka indicates he is ready for more devolution

stand

Tilvin Silva of JVP condemns EPDP for asking 13th Amendment plus & challenges Mahinda to out line his stand on the 13th amendment

beyond

Sarath Fonseka tells "Outlook" magazine " I’m for 13-Plus because we need to move beyond the Indo-Lanka accord (1987)…

prorogued

Parliament likely to be prorogued for a month after emergency is extended

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Mangala accuses Rajapakse family of three dubious real estate transactions

tweet bundle from the twitter pages by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

indirectly

SLFP(M) leader& ex-cabinet minister Mangala Samaraweera indirectly accuses Rajapakse family members of three dubious real estate transactions

Nittambuwa

Mangala drops a bombshell query - "Who paid Six billion rupees & purchased 300 acres land at Nittambuwa"? Who has that kind of cash now?

Kuliyapitiya

Mangala asks -"Who is the mysterious purchaser who arrived in a helicopter & bought 92 acres of land in Kuliyapitiya"? Who Mangala Who?

Giriulla

Mangala asks - " Who is the young man who arrived in a helicopter & bought 62 acres of land in Giriulla"? Why cant Mangala tell us the name?

evidence

Mangala Samaraweera insinuates that members of Rajapakse family are responsible for these alleged purchases but does not provide evidence

provoked

Ranil Wickremasinghe's attack on Rajapakse family at UNP convention provoked president Rajapakse into enticing SB Dissanayake to Govt

click for latest updates by D.B.S. Jeyaraj, on Twitter

Human-rights and conflict-resolution activists refute US Senate report on Sri Lanka

"The report, which was endorsed by both the Committee chairman, Sen. John Kerry, and the ranking Republican member, Sen. Richard Lugar, came under immediate attack by human-rights and conflict-resolution activists who have long urged Washington to condition any aid to the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa on improvements in its human-rights performance.

"This report is an incredibly shoddy, ill-informed piece of work that grossly overstates the strategic importance of Sri Lanka to the United States and woefully understates the degree of abuses carried out by the government there," said Robert Templer, director of the Asia programme at the Brussels- based International Crisis Group (ICG)."<