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March 31, 2010

The government spars with aid agencies; the displaced still suffer

Imperfect peace

from the print edition of The Economist

NEARLY a year after the end of Sri Lanka’s long civil war, life remains grim for hundreds of thousands of Tamils in the north of the country, displaced in the final months of fighting. Now they face a new threat. International agencies are running out of funds to meet their needs, after the government’s rejection of a United Nations-led mechanism for channelling humanitarian assistance to the country. By March 25th only $15m had been promised for the year, just 4% of the estimated total required for humanitarian aid in the camps and return areas.

To tide over the immediate crisis, the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is poised to announce a three-month package of assistance for “urgent life-saving activities”. The money, from an OCHA emergency fund, will cover the supply of water, food, emergency shelter, sanitation and health care to those still in displacement camps.

Aid agencies, however, say that more than a short-term cash injection is needed. Until permanent housing is built, many of the displaced will go back to their villages to live in shacks with little hope of paid employment and scant access to basic services. The agencies urge the government to secure funds for the whole year. But this process has been stymied by an ugly spat over the procedure for raising aid.

For the past few years OCHA has overseen an annual Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP), on the basis of which aid pledges were made. Habitually released to donors in January, this defined priorities for aid and estimated the sums needed. But in March the government decided abruptly that this year there will be no “consolidated appeal” because the CHAP mechanism was useless. It wants the funding channelled instead through a presidential task force headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s brother, Basil.

Rajiva Wijesinha, formerly of the ministry of human rights, says that the government found the assumption that Sri Lankans were “living through the UN, are fed and clothed by the UN” intensely irritating. Even during the worst days of the war, he insists, the government kept functioning and did “most of the clothing and feeding of our people”. But the decision also stems from increasingly acrimonious relations between the government and UN agencies. Some agencies were openly critical of the colossal human loss incurred in the army’s final assault on Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009. The atmosphere has worsened since the UN’s secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, decided in March to appoint a panel of experts to look into alleged war crimes.

The presidential task force this week distributed to some agencies a bulky paper outlining its plans for the shattered north. It argues the humanitarian phase must give way to one of recovery and development. But UN sources in private say the plans are too long and complex and fail to make clear the priorities for funding. They worry that, as the government fumbles with a new procedure, competing disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti are fast eating into a dwindling pool of resources.

With donors still uncertain where to send the money—and for what—services to displaced Tamils are in peril. On March 8th the UN’s refugee agency, citing funding shortfalls, stopped distributing shelter cash-grants to families returning from camps to their bombarded villages. The agency has less than half the $39.8m it says its programmes need in 2010.

A report from the office of the UN’s resident co-ordinator in Colombo says agencies providing shelter are also struggling to secure funds to build housing fast enough to keep pace with the numbers going home. Aid agencies are talking to donors to secure funding for operations at Menik Farm, a huge displacement site in the Vavuniya district still housing 84,152 people. In March inmates shared water enough for just 66,000 people. The agencies are still distributing dry rations. But there has been no money for perishables such as vegetables and fish since January. ~ courtesy: The Economist ~

The state of state sovereignty: A response to Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr Nihal Jayawickrama, for whom I have considerable respect and affection, makes some very valid and necessary criticisms in his article ‘The Myth of State Sovereignty’ in the Sunday Island (March 28, 2010) and on DBS Jeyaraj’s Transcurrents (Sri Lanka seems to be the only country where eroded concept of state sovereignty is being erroneously invoked).He is however gravely in error when he considers state sovereignty a myth or at best, an obsolete doctrine.

Though one cannot credibly uphold an absolutist conception of the state, it would be plainly absurd to claim therefore that the state is a myth, an obsolete or outdated concept. Similarly, while the Westphalian notion of state sovereignty has been eroded and one can no longer absolutize the concept, it is wrong to assert as does Dr Jayawickrama, that state sovereignty is ‘outmoded’, ‘obsolete’ and a ‘myth’ invoked solely in and by Sri Lanka.

The cornerstone of the ‘contemporary world order’ is not international law, it is the state. What is the organising unit and operational agency of international law and is it as material and ubiquitous as the state? What is the actor that supersedes the state in the contemporary world order? There is none. The United Nations is an intergovernmental body and the UN Security Council without which no case can be referred to the newly established ICC, is comprised precisely of powerful states. The contemporary world order rests on the state, state power and sovereignty, exercised in accordance with the perceived interests of that or those states.

Indeed international law supersedes state sovereignty only when a powerful sovereign state or a collection of such, so decide, or permit, the use of international law for purposes that serve or coincide with ‘national’ i.e. state interests. I might add that the Sri Lanka will learn this the hard way if there is even a whiff of a July ’83, somewhere down the road.

If state sovereignty were an obsolete doctrine, it should have been noticeable at least in the UN Human Rights Council, where our resolution on Sri Lanka (which secured a larger vote in favour than even the Goldstone report on Gaza), commenced with an invocation of non-intervention on the basis of state sovereignty.

Dr Jayawickrama’s notion of the contemporary world order is hardly contemporaneous. It describes a trend that was dominant during the heyday of what is now known as ‘liberal humanitarian interventionism’; a sub period of the ‘uni-polar moment’ in contemporary world history, itself a phase of post Cold War history. That moment is over and the echoes of its doctrines remain only in Dr Jayawickrama’s zone of domicile, the UK-EU, and occasionally in the larger Anglo-American domain.

Far from abandoning the notion of sovereignty, there has been a reaction to its erosion in the form of the breakup of Yugoslavia and the unilateral concessions made by Yeltsin. That reaction has come from the rising Asia -- most notably China- a resurgent Russia and most of the global South as represented by the Non Aligned Movement. The last named includes some of the most enlightened and progressive administrations on the planet such as Lula’s Brazil, which has in its cabinet, renowned Critical Legal Theorist Roberto Mangabeira Unger formerly of Harvard. One of my most cherished souvenirs is a photograph of Lula perusing my book on Fidel’s Ethics, taken on the occasion that he delivered what would be his farewell speeches to the UN Human Rights Council and ILO, in which he made a stirring reiteration of the relevance of ‘national sovereignty’ and the role of the state.

The laudable commitment to the doctrine of state sovereignty on the part of the world’s most populous democracy, secular India, a rising economic power which the US considers its counterpart in Asia, is manifest whenever the issue of Kashmir and any suggestion of a UN or international role of any magnitude, including that of international human rights probes, comes up. So much for obsolescent doctrines which only that funny little place Sri Lanka, continues to believe in.

If Dr Jayawickrama were to content himself with charging that GOSL is abusing the concept of state sovereignty one could scarcely disagree. State sovereignty has certainly been over-invoked and abused by the GOSL in the post-war period; in peacetime. The problem today is that the closer affinity between ‘national sovereignty’ and (republican) ‘popular sovereignty’ has been glossed over in favour of the equation of ‘national sovereignty’ with ‘state sovereignty’ and ‘state sovereignty’ with ‘state security’, which has itself been equated not with the more holistic recent doctrine of ‘human security’ but with the government of the day, so that the monstrous equation concludes with any activity outside the parameters prescribed by the dominant ideology being anti-government activity; anti-government activity being anti-state activity, tantamount to activity against the security of the state and therefore against national/state sovereignty itself -- while the role of the state is increasingly defined in ethno-religious terms. An illustration of this phenomenon is the hitherto unprecedented detention of a young Sinhala woman author and convert to Islam.

That unconscionable narrowing of state sovereignty to state security and that too defined in the narrowest partisan sense, was perhaps pioneered by the 1970-77 administration of Madam Sirima Bandaranaike and chiefly by Hon Felix Dias Bandaranaike, on whose watch Lord Avebury of Amnesty International was deported, the Civil Rights Movement and its head, Law College principal Raja Gunasekara were hounded, and fledgling civil society experiments such as the Marga Institute, derided. Dr Jayawickrema would be better placed than I to confirm this.

While I am no lawyer, the writings and speeches of Lakshman Kadirgamar, who was hardly unfamiliar with international law, is a textbook example of basing one's external policy precisely and explicitly on the doctrine of state sovereignty while committed to the ratification of international human rights conventions. Mr Kadirgamar’s foreign policy, and even his critique of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), had as its foundation stone the doctrine of state sovereignty. I daresay nothing drastic has happened in the world order since his assassination by the Tigers in 2005, to render obsolete the Kadirgamar approach. If anything, the increasing shift of power within the ‘contemporary world order’ to Asia (and China in particular) has lent his approach greater relevance.

The writer is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. He was Sri Lanka’s former ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. These are his personal views.

March 30, 2010

A film about the war called "Maathaa" is being shot on location at the "No-fire zone" in Mullaitheevu

by Kath Noble

It is impossible to imagine what the last days of the war were like for the people caught up in it, even standing on the same ground, looking at what they left behind.

In the few square kilometres between the sea and the lagoon to the north of Mullaitivu, where Prabhakaran breathed his last and Sri Lanka was liberated from 30 years of the most tragic suffering, no house stands undamaged. Most have gaping holes in their roofs, while their walls are pocked with bullet holes.

Their occupants have not returned. The landscape is punctuated by the remains of burnt out vehicles. Cars, buses, tractors and trucks. They lie where their passengers abandoned them, either to make good their escape on foot or to die by their side. Only the bodies have been removed. The stumps of palm trees indicate where nature too got in the way of the Army and its slow march to victory.

Still, the atmosphere is so peaceful. The sun shines down brightly on what is a really rather beautiful place. It is hot, but not uncomfortably humid. Away from the once populated areas, the jungle is thick and vibrant green. Even during the day there is very little noise, just insects and birds and the occasional bark of a stray dog.

There are soldiers everywhere, of course, but they go about their work with little in the way of pomp and circumstance. Most of the time, at least. I woke early on the first morning to shouts of ‘Left! Right! Left! Right!’ from the field outside the house in which I was staying as the young men performed their morning exercise routine. By the time I had emerged to wander along the road, they were already busy trimming the grass and filling potholes.

It was my first glimpse of the No Fire Zone. We had arrived late, having taken the whole day to drive up from Colombo. It was like being transported in a tardis, from the light in the known world south of the Omantai checkpoint to the dark of what so nearly became Eelam.

I had fallen asleep that night with considerable difficulty. There I was in somebody else’s bed, and they didn’t even know it. They could well be dead. It appeared to be the best preserved of all the houses in the area, complete with furniture, books, garden ornaments and a sizeable fish tank, but I was told that nine bodies had been found there.

Perhaps they had been sheltering in the very room I was occupying when whatever came through the space above my head now covered with plastic sheeting had landed. There was little point dwelling on it, I decided. If the owners had got away, they would have much more important things to worry about than my temporary squatting.

The purpose of my visit belongs to the same category of things that are uncomfortable yet best put to one side for the sake of getting something done.

I was there to participate in a film. From the moment I was asked, I worried about the ethics of joining in an activity that might delay resettlement. At the very least, it would be diverting the limited resources of the Army, occupying the time of a not insignificant number of soldiers over a period of nearly six months. There could be many reasons for the Government to prefer it to getting people back to their homes.

As I was told on several occasions, the No Fire Zone is a million dollar set. Whether any contribution for the use of the land is being made by the film company, and to whom, I did not find out.

Whether money would be acceptable compensation for a film that most likely won’t present what happened in the last days of the war from the perspective of the people of the area is another matter.

It is beyond my control.

Whatever one thinks of the politics, the film is sure to be entertaining. Directed by Buddhi Keerthisena, it focuses on a love affair between two young Tamils who get entangled with the LTTE and end up fighting to stay alive in the No Fire Zone. It is called ‘Maathaa’.

The main characters are played by Dharshen Dharmaraj and Yasodha Radhakrishnan, who are both excellent, and they are joined by a number of popular actors like Dharmapriya Dias in supporting roles. There are plenty of action sequences, which looked to me pretty convincing, probably thanks to the experience and infectious enthusiasm of the military liaison officer, Major Suranga Ramanayake. Most of the extras are soldiers. They put on a fine show.

Readers will be relieved to hear that my role was almost infinitesimally small, to the extent that one could easily miss it altogether if one happened to blink at the right moment. To find out more, they will have to go to see the film when it comes out in May or soon thereafter.

The film company wasn’t best pleased to discover what I do for a living, demonstrating the kind of irrational fear of journalists that has become so prevalent of late, and I was rushed back to Colombo as soon as humanly possible. That I was there for three days is an indication of how difficult it is to work in the No Fire Zone.

Everything has to be brought from a distance. Puthukkudiyiruppu, the nearest town, stands empty and looks as though it will remain so for some time to come. It is a pity, because there is more than enough work in cleaning up and rebuilding to support a considerable population, if funds and materials were to be made available by the Government. People could be getting on with it even while the Army was checking the surrounding jungle for landmines. It would beat idling in camps.

However, common sense doesn’t often figure in decision-making processes around here.

Take the monument marking the war victory, which stands in a stretch of water by the road from the No Fire Zone. I am all in favour of commemorating the soldiers who gave their lives in the fight against the LTTE. One cannot meet somebody who has risked everything and think otherwise. I have been to the monument near Parliament and I found it understated and rather moving, the perfect record of the sacrifices made.

A bit of triumphant celebration is called for too, given the many years of conflict Sri Lanka has undergone. The statue put up across from the banks of the Nanthi Kadal, of a man in combat gear, brandishing a rifle and the national flag, is quite nicely done. It is just that dumping it with a rather tasteless looking Souvenir Shop next to a place where so many other people were killed, before their relatives have returned home and without any kind of official recognition of their suffering, comes across as wrong.

It gives the impression that the Government has not even tried to imagine what the people caught up in the last days of the war might be feeling. Not for the first time, of course.

Their recovery, I came to the conclusion, is going to be a matter of luck.

Heading back to the rather better known parts of the country, one doesn’t have to come very far to find signs of life. Resettlement has started in Oddusuddan, which is little more than 20 kilometres away. By the time we reached Puliyankulam, there were people outside, hanging around in shopfronts and under trees.

The A9 was actually busy. Big blue tents with Chinese lettering were to be seen at intervals along the side of the road. The occasional UN vehicle sped past in a cloud of dust. Most reassuringly, in a funny kind of way, there were election posters. Nothing like we see in Colombo, where the faces of aspiring parliamentarians are now burnt into our memories through prolonged and most unpleasant exposure, but still. It felt almost normal.

My travel companions certainly seemed to think so. I had got a lift with a group of women soldiers on their way to cast their postal votes, and they sang at full volume for a good few hours. The rather tuneless ‘Surangani’ featured quite prominently, when they discovered that it was the only song to which I could reliably remember the words. They were completely relaxed, happy to be going on a trip for a change.

Still, there is a lot of work to do. Infrastructure all the way to Vavuniya is in a bad state. Many a house needs repairing. They need better roads too, and work on schools, hospitals, water systems and power supply. It seems a daunting prospect, but what awaits Sri Lanka is nothing compared to what has been achieved, in ridding the country of Prabhakaran.

My visit to the jungle north of Mullaitivu confirmed that, seeing just a tiny fraction of the network of camps, bunkers and secret hideouts that had been set up over the years, as well as the terrible results of his megalomania, for the people he sent to his frontlines and those he kept with him as a human shield.

It was good to see things are happening, even if not always in the right way or to the desired extent. A lot of wrongs are being done too. That is life. ~ courtesy: The Island ~

Two and a half million Sri Lankan Tamils have points of view numbering twenty-five lakhs

by S. Sivathasan

That a victorious war will ‘rejuvenate’ is the most common delusion of political senility" –– Peter Drucker

A no-war situation can yield dividends to the vanquished is another illusion. Veering from the thought that post-war developments have a dynamic of their own, it is necessary to map out a clear pathway. The compulsions are more for those who have experienced devastation most. Once Nehru was asked how many problems he had. His answer was 400 million. This was India’s population at that time. If a Tamil is asked, how many points of view there are among Sri Lankan Tamils, the answer would be 2.5 million. This is the only viewpoint in which all Tamils concur. It is in our DNA.

There is no need for stereotyped thinking across the whole range of human activity. Nor is there anything mystical or compulsive about it. Differential thought processes do not denote something either erratic or futile. But, when they remain so in perpetuity, splintering a community down the line, nothing concrete can come about. A future of promise demands unification around a corpus of ideas.

Tamils at the present juncture cannot work out a cohesive body of thought across the entire spectrum as demanded by the needs of the North East. The most compulsive segment requires isolation for priority consideration. When it’s prime relevance is agreed upon, all thought and energy should be devoted to it’s realization. Economic regeneration for forward social and political movement appears axiomatic. For a people prostrated by war to be resuscitated in peace, the imperatives have to be critically examined.

An immediate happening will be the forthcoming elections. The political entity to be seated in power on April 9 will seek to parley with the rightful representatives of the Tamils. Conversely, the formation of the Tamils, if formidable in numbers, cohesive and pragmatic in it’s thinking and is strengthened by a clear mandate, will thrust itself as the legitimate spokesperson of the Tamils.

A monolithic entity alone can command the force and the verve to steer its course single mindedly. Insignificant cabals, inchoate in thought and devoid of leadership, representing a splintered ethnic minority can make nonsense of the parleying process.

The Tamils have had an immediate precedent of voting 22 members as a single formation. The occasion exists now to make it even larger. A prospect that any Government would wish to have is a credible formation to negotiate with. It is within the capacity of the Tamils to provide that opportunity to the Government. What a Government in the flush of victory would most desire is the resolution of a seemingly intractable ethnic problem, shift it out of the way and make a beginning in reweaving the political fabric.

Even as the political issues are placed on the pad for resolution, immediate concerns of a disintegrated social group has to be addressed. Nourishment for the famished, an assured source of food for the impoverished, housing for the de-housed, and basic wherewithal to create means of employment are among the indispensables.

The representatives of the Tamils with a clear perception that the Government alone is capable of delivering the above, should chart their course accordingly. Knowing clearly that foreign aid is needed as a long and sustained programme for this purpose, the Tamil leadership should hark back to the Tokyo Pledge of 2003, enliven it and take off from where it was left. Over $ 4 billion remains yet untouched. The Needs Assessment Study done ahead of the pledge, has estimates worked out against each project for a total of 18 sectors. It is ready at hand for a renewal of the pledge and consequential action, though reviews are needed regarding conceptual parameters and implementation strategies.

Tamils and their leadership have to be fully aware that the war has consigned the North and East a few decades behind the rest of Sri Lanka. A redoubled effort for the next decade is the prime imperative for all segments of the country to be on par. It is towards this end that the fullest negotiating capability of the Tamil leadership has to be directed.

As seen earlier, the leadership with strength in numbers, clarity of purpose, unity of command and fortified by a strong mandate should pursue the negotiations to its logical end. The economic imperatives and political issues are not mutually exclusive. They are absolutely inseparable. The economic needs are of immediate relevance while the political issues to be taken up coterminously would demand protracted negotiations. Addressing the economic concerns is indispensable for the people to have the inclination and the mental stamina to participate in the political process.

The inescapable need for unity is a wish widely held by the Tamils. To some it is the coming together of disparate coteries, though having no clear views or principles. To the percipient what would matter is unification around principles, policies and programmes. They opt for a leadership long in the fray, mature in experience and worthy of their trust.

Such a formation has been in the forefront as the parliamentary leadership and is coming forward in it’s task of continuation. One has reason to suppose that its credentials are as worthy as those of it’s leader.

About unity in ideas, two historical parallels though seemingly inapt may be cited. The unification of Germany in 1871 is traced to the crushing and humiliating defeat of Germany by Napoleon around 1810. ‘Addresses to the German Nation’, a series of patriotic invocations by Fichte, Professor of Philosophy, galvanized a proud people by rubbing home the need for unity and the value of unification. To the Tamils, the scale of the blow in 2009 is not dissimilar. It should push them to the threshold of an agonizing reappraisal of past thinking and action. A community with a clearly identifiable ethnic identity should construct an acceptable and practical consensus around which all Tamils can coalesce.

A second parallel is the Meiji Restoration of 1868 in Japan. It was thereafter that the writ of the Meiji Dynasty was able to reach the extremities of the country. This was a principal feature of the restoration. The two happenings in Germany and Japan though in the 19th century and despite being separated by half a century, had one thing in common.

The historic changes in both countries ignited a great deal of critical thinking, leading to momentous developments. The comparison stops with the compulsive need for fresh thinking. To the Tamils, the point is urged that their unity should crystallize around certain core ideas.

A similar happening has taken place in Sri Lanka and a bridge non-existent for 25 years is now in place, in that the writ runs without interdiction. In addition, there is a further development. Now the thought processes of the Tamils while percolating to all segments of the country, also reach several parts of the globe. In such a context should emerge a corpus of ideas both cogent and cohesive. The community comprises two-thirds locally domiciled and one-third composing the diaspora. Down to earth interaction between the two entities, would result in eschewing contradictory positions or postures. First things first, with a sense of the possible appears a way to move forward.

Around this understanding may be constructed a workable course of action that is purposive.

Indian foreign policy failure in South Asia affects US interests in the region

by Upul Joseph Fernando

When America signed the nuclear agreements with India, Nicholas Burns the US under Secretary of State said, America is prepared to enter into a partnership with India in order to deal with India’s neighbors , Sri Lanka and Nepal. “We have become partners in South Asia. We work very closely with India, for instance, in trying to encourage a peaceful transition in Nepal. We work very closely with India on the question of Sri Lanka” This is how Burns described the partnership.

In accordance with this partnership , America rendered assistance to destroy the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka because India demonstrated to America that the Tamil Tigers are a threat to India as well as the region. In any event, in the final phase of the war, America had the necessity to save the civilians in the No- fire zone. In pursuance of this aim,using the American Navy it wanted to carry out a humanitarian mission. America made this proposal when Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s Foreign Secretary went to America during that period. India however disagreed with this. India rejected this proposal through Sri Lanka.

Similarly, during the tail end of the war, America had the need to save the lives of the Tamil Tiger political leaders who were surrendering to the Army via the intervention of the United Nations (UN) Organization. India however succeeded in forestalling that intervention by using UN Gen. Secretary and Nambiar his special representative sent by the former to Sri Lanka .

After the war was over, when America sought India’s assistance to mount war crime charges against Sri Lanka, India did not even allow the discussion in the UN of the war crime charges against Sri Lanka. In the end, America wanted India’s intervention to resolve the ethnic conflict. India’s interests however were centred on the development schemes in the North and East of Sri Lanka which were liberated through the war, and the establishing of an Indian consulate in Jaffna , rather than the political solution desired by America.

Similarly, when America voiced its protests against the Sri Lanka Govt.’s anti-democratic acts, India followed a policy of silence. Finally, when America began to turn and look around it saw China’s inordinate influence over Sri Lanka because the latter could not extricate itself from it. India which entertained apprehensions over Sri Lanka coming within the increasing influence of China step by step sought America’s assistance. But it was evident that America was of the view that because of India’s failed Diplomacy , not only the India – America partnership in relation to Sri Lanka has become befouled, even America’s power in the South Asia region itself has been undermined.

Nicholas Burns in his paper to the Council of Foreign relations on South Asia’s (which includes Sri Lanka) Indo -American partnership had stated thus …..“Leadership in South Asia is , of course , just one part of India’s increasingly important global role. As India is both a rising power and a Democracy, we in Washington view its growing influence in the world as broadly congruent with US interests. Both countries seek to promote democratic principles and institutions around the world because we know that stable Democracies are largely peaceful and better able to manage the consequences of globalization.

Whether it comes to ensuring that China’s rise is peaceful or preventing the Muslim world from turning its back on modernity or stopping rising economies from being ruined by rising temperatures, it is hard to think of two other countries with as much at stake or as much to offer to global stability.”

Yet, today,America’s problem is that, other South Asian States apart, India has not taken any measures towards safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Democracy under this partnership. Not only in regard to Sri Lanka of the South Asia region, even pertaining to Afghanistan, America was expecting a lot from India under this partnership.

In arriving at decisions relating to Afghanistan too, India’s views were taken into consideration by America under the partnership. Burns’ assessment was as follows: “India’s continuing involvement in Afghanistan is essential to that country’s stabilization and long term success, and co-operation between the US and India in Afghanistan has been close and encouraging”

Nevertheless, India had not fulfilled its anticipated role to the satisfaction of America under the partnership as regards Afghanistan. Though India exerted a huge and growing influence over Afghanistan under the partnership, it s was clear, that influence was directed against Pakistan and has therefore militated against America’s agenda in Afghanistan.

Now, America apparently is no longer in need of India’s assistance. India sees this as America inclining in favour of Pakistan and sidelining India. The latter began making attempts to advice America against assisting Pakistan in the eradication of terrorists, and take a tough stand against Pakistan. America’s weapons supply to Pakistan for terrorism elimination too was opposed by India, while warning America that Pakistan may use those weapons against India.

But, America which has understood that India’s Diplomacy has failed with regard to Pakistan, continued its arms supply and every possible aid to Pakistan to stamp out terrorism. Moreover, it has announced that it is prepared to go for a nuclear deal with Pakistan on the same lines as with India.

Following the signing of the nuclear agreement with India, owing to India’s pressures, America declined to sign a nuclear deal with Pakistan despite latter’s numerous requests for such a deal. But now, America is ignoring India’s opposition and has commenced preliminary discussions in that direction with Pakistan.

As a result of this change of policy by America, India is in a grave predicament today. On top of this, admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the US Pacific Command has declared that Lashka e Taiba now based in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are a monumental threat to India. It is evident therefore, if India is to ward off this threat, America’s assistance is imperative.

In addition, America refusing to hand over Headley, who is now in the custody of America, to India for interrogation, in connection with the Mumbai terrorist attack has further aggravated India’s plight. It is India’s failure to perform its South Asia leadership role duly safeguarding the American interest, which is at the epicenter of India‘s present inescapable quagmire. Owing to its own indiscretions India has created room for America to ignore it and deal directly with South Asia . India is the architect of its own misfortunes. ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~

Create the conditions that will banish the idea of separatism

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

In post war Sri Lanka, no one wants another spate of violent disturbances that would deny the majority of the people in all communities the long overdue harmony and lasting peace. There seems to be some confusion among politicians about the means of achieving this national objective.

To put it bluntly, lasting peace cannot be achieved by force or deception. How the idea of separatism got ingrained in the minds of disillusioned Tamils has been discussed earlier. Briefly it is the system that helped the power hungry politicians to exploit the ethnic division for their own short-term benefit. The system itself became increasingly helpful to this group at great cost to the people and the island nation

After the war ended, not only the Sri Lankans who endured the terrible losses and sufferings during the turbulent years but also the many concerned foreign governments and non-governmental organizations expected positive developments on the political front aimed at securing real unity and lasting peace. Although the jubilant government declared that the island has been unified and peace secured with the annihilation of terrorism, the mindful did not take this seriously because the root causes that led to the conflict remained unaddressed. The peculiar post-war developments reflect the nature of the domestic problems that have obstructed unity, peace and progress after independence. Even the April 8 general election is being contested without focussing on the key issues that need to be resolved for rebuilding the damaged nation.

Dayapala Thiranagama who knows very well the true history of the conflict and the reasons for its prolongation has explained lucidly in his latest article (groundviews 25 March 2010) how the politics of Sinhala Nationalism has undermined Sri Lankan Nationhood. The LTTE seized the many failures to resolve the political problem and the violent methods to suppress the non-violent protests of Tamils to wage the ruthless Eelam war. Tamil nationalism, which emerged as a corollary of the actions and inaction of successive governments aimed at safeguarding the interests of Sinhala nationalists, also contributed to the prolongation of the war.

Dayapala has opined that President Rajapaksa’s electoral success “has been the most significant electoral victory Sinhala Buddhist nationalism has gained since the victory of 1956 over the Sri Lankan polity, signalling grim prospects for the building of a Sri Lankan identity accommodating the aspirations of the ethnic minorities. We have already paid a high price for the tragic political outcome and the continuing legacy of the 1956 victory. The victory of the Presidential election and the up-coming general elections in April 2010 and its likely outcome can take us to a political project similar to the 1956 political project, making ethnic relations between the Sinhala community and ethnic minorities politically unworkable as well as discriminatory towards the Tamil community”. He has also categorically said that depriving the ethnic minorities their democratic rights has in turn undermined the democratic rights of all communities, including the Sinhala community.

Government’s top priority: Consolidating political power

There have been no logical moves to transform the military victory into permanent peace in a cohesive nation even after the war that ended 10 months ago. The first and foremost step is the launching of a genuine reconciliation process. But the government has been preoccupied with exploiting the military victory for its own advantage. The focus has been on consolidating political power at provincial and national levels. The April general election too is viewed in this light by discerning persons. The trump card has throughout been the historic military victory that liberated the island from the terror of the LTTE. Initially, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said he wanted two-thirds majority in the Parliament but later he said a substantial majority would suffice. It should not be difficult for him to increase this, given his success in attracting members of opposition parties to join the government.

But there have been different views within the government on the need for two-thirds majority. In the absence of a precise statement by the President, the ministers and party leaders in the present coalition government seem to think that with the two-thirds majority they will be able to fulfil their own political desires. The Prime Minister is reported to have said (Daily News 23 March 2010); the UPFA wants a strong mandate to negate the various internal forces that are hatching conspiracies against the country. On the other hand there is the feeling among those close to the President that this would ensure stability helpful for implementing swiftly the government’s development programme. The concept of development excludes the current deficiencies in democracy, rule of law, governance (public administration including law and order, accountability and in general the inappropriate Constitution which has failed to serve the entire population and the country.

With regard to the latter the emphasis seems to be on changing the present electoral system which defined a district as one electorate contributing to acrimonious intra-party rivalry and the absence of close link between the elected representatives and voters. It has also ensured that no single party gets the majority to form a stable government. Past experience shows the adverse consequences of introducing constitutional changes solely with two-thirds majority of the ruling party or parties.

The continued reliance on Sinhala nationalism for consolidating power for governance is evident from Dayapala Thiranagama’s remark. “In the absence of ideological and political challenge within rural Sri Lankan social formations, political parties such as the UPFA have benefited from a Sinhala nationalist and one-sided interpretation of Sri Lanka’s history. The school, the village temple and the rural peasant family have formed an organic social triangle which ideologically and politically grew stronger and stronger during the war against the Tamil Tigers fostering the politics of the hegemonic Sinhala ideology. This was the electoral bulwark of President Rajapaksa’s electoral victory and is likely to be repeated in the general election in favour of the UPFA, in spite of a war hero, Sarath Fonseka, behind bars.

The renewed threat of war crimes investigation will motivate the rural masses to demonstrate their solidarity with a political leadership, who stands against world powers. As in 1956, the current government has propagated a perception that its refusal to bend to international pressure is because of an anti imperialist mission – an essential ingredient of the Sinhala nationalist project. In order to build a Sri Lankan nationhood it is imperative that the rural social and political classes to be convinced that our political stability and common humanity with all other minorities in the country is our future, and that every human being has a right to enjoy a decent human existence irrespective of their nationality, language and social class”.

This is a formidable challenge and only a reputable Sinhala Buddhist leader can convince the rural Sinhala masses of the importance of non-discriminatory inclusive political system based on democratic principles for their own advancement and importantly the future of the island nation in the modern world. Unless the nationalism of the majority is inclusive and not confined to the Sinhalese as it is now, separatism will resurrect at some future time.

Prof. Carlo Fonseka in his recent article on ‘Ethics and Politics’ has explained the constitute elements of true democracy. He has said: “True democracy means much more than holding free and fair elections based on adult suffrage, at periodic intervals. The basis of democracy should be social justice for all in society. Democracy demands an unvarying respect for human rights of all .It requires independence of the judiciary. Without an honest acceptance of the concept of the rule of law, democracy degenerates into something like the law of the jungle. The public behaviour of the elected rulers must be transparent. They are finally accountable to the people who entrusted power to them to use it for the welfare of the whole society”. Politics lacks a code of ethics and realism in Sri Lanka and this has been the main reason for the disturbing situation.

The claim that the Sinhalese are the earliest inhabitants is untrue. It is the distinct language that evolved among a section of the early dwellers, all having the common Indian lineage and ancient caste system which characterised the Hindu society that obstructed social integration. The exploitation of the linguistic division for political advantage exacerbated the communal division resulting in the emergence of the notion of two nations in the tiny island which was part of the Indian continent during the ice age. The historical facts are reminded to stress the importance of unity in diversity, which is normal in modern societies. This doctrine has been crucial for their economic, social, cultural and political advancement.

The disturbing Fonseka factor

The controversial and highly embarrassing Fonseka episode sidetracked not only the government but also many citizens from the pressing national issues. The two top political and military leaders who jointly accomplished the military objective fell out soon after the war. Apparently they had diverse self-centred agendas for post-war Sri Lanka. Both earned the admiration of Sinhala nationalists. The support of Sinhala nationalists for the retired Gen. Fonseka in the last Presidential contest is mainly linked to his military role in the successful war against the LTTE. Thanks to the flawed system, the incumbent President was in the advantageous position able to benefit from his unchecked powers even during the election time.

By arresting the General soon after the January Presidential poll, who dared to challenge the incumbent President Rajapaksa as the opposition common candidate in the January poll, the government effectively took him out of campaigning during the April general election. Some of the alleged charges against him, though not yet lawfully judged are serious to undermine his popularity.

Rajapaksa regime has cleverly turned many negatives into useful means for short-term gains. The condemnations on the failure to act as promised to the UN Secretary General and foreign governments have also been construed as conspiracy to destabilise the present government that defeated the ruthless LTTE. This has enabled President Rajapaksa to sustain the view of the Sinhala rural masses that he is a bold national leader.

Apparently in the light of the pressure exerted by the UN Secretary –General Ban Ki-Moon and some Western powers on Sri Lanka regarding the lack of progress on the promised political reconciliation process and accountability during the final stages of the war, Sri Lanka has succeeded in accentuating the division between the Western powers and the non-aligned countries. The head of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) accused Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of trying to interfere in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka but later withdrew this allegation saying that the proposed panel of experts "would only be an advisory mechanism to advise him (the UNSG) on modalities, applicable standards and comparative experience relevant to the fulfilment of the joint commitment to a national accountability process in the context of Sri Lanka.” (The Sunday Times 28 March 2010)

Government’s post election priorities

Addressing the media at the Mahaweli Centre on March 28, the Sinhala Buddhist nationalist (JHU) Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Patali Champika Ranawaka said a new Constitution is not a priority and only a set of Constitutional amendments would be introduced on priority basis soon after the new UPFA govt was formed after the April 8 General election. These will abolish the executive presidency, strengthen parliamentary powers and make 17th amendment more effective,

The Minister pointed out: “The introduction of a fully fledged new Constitution is a long process that must go through a number of Constitutional and Legislative hurdles. Our purpose will be served without much trouble if we can do the job through Constitutional amendments in a targeted period of time without resorting to the long process of introducing a new Constitution.” On the anticipated electoral reform, he said: “In addition to the re-introduction of the First Past the Post system to replace the much criticized PR system under electoral reforms, more powers will be vested with Pradeshiya Sabas and each Pradeshiya Saba there will be a ‘Jana Saba’ for revitalized Gama-Neguma and ‘Pura Neguma’ programmes after re-demarcation of Pradeshiya Sabas”.

“The objective is to kick start the accelerated development programme that will ensure an economic, industrial, trade, cultural and even a spiritual progress in the next six years that will make Sri Lanka the economic power house in South Asia”, Minister Ranawaka said. (Daily Mirror 29 March 2010) It is significant that the ethnic issue not even the inoperative 13th Amendment was in the list of priorities. There is the perception that the panacea to all the political problems is development at the village level. Even devolution has become a taboo word. The Daily News 29 March reported that Minister Ranawaka emphasized that “the Government was not going for a Constitutional Amendment based on foreign influences”.

Missing reconciliation process

The resettlement of all the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their habitats has also not been effected as promised after the end of the war. This is also an essential part of the reconciliation process. Ideally this has to be along the line the post-apartheid ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ functioned in South Africa. Real reconciliation is not possible without acknowledging the past mistakes both in acts of commission and omission and displaying renewed faith in mutual trust. The present government some months ago dismissed this method as counterproductive in Sri Lanka’s case. Perhaps the perception is it would aggravate rather than heal the wounds. The alternative then is to act voluntarily with compassion and wide national interest to create conducive conditions for winning the hearts and minds of the disillusioned ethnic minorities. The indefinite imprisonment of former LTTE cadres without trial is also harming the reconciliation process.

A general amnesty for political prisoners is also consistent with the spirit of Buddhist philosophy. The contradiction between Lord Buddha’s doctrines and actions of the leaders claiming to be the followers and custodians of the Buddhist faith has also been highlighted by other analysts. The argument that the captives including those who surrendered are potential threat to the country is just hallucination. It is well known that many were forcibly recruited and brainwashed by the rebel leaders to obey their orders. Even now the mothers are desperately searching for their missing children. Having declared that there are no more militant leaders to fight against the State and to pretend there are still enemies within is incomprehensible. Even countries that have waged wars gave utmost importance to reconciliation which brought them closer giving hope for sustained peace, democracy and development.

The report compiled by the BBC Colombo correspondent Charles Haviland on the launching of a film on the five-day conference ‘on hope and reconciliation’ held in central Sri Lanka a few months ago attended by about four hundred Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim and mixed-race students gives the general mood of the youngsters in favour of national reconciliation and unity. The following quotes give an idea of the magnitude of the task that lies ahead to put the past behind and seek genuine reconciliation that will lead to unity, justice and peace for all citizens, which are essential for stability and rapid development.

"If my people did anything wrong, I am sorry, I am your brother for the rest of my life."

"I was born into a country of war. That’s all I have known"

“People try and frame you into a box”.

"There were misunderstandings among people also there was hatred people looking with a sense of suspicion to the other person even if it's their own race, ethnicity."

Some said they grew up with stereotypes. Kanishka Herat, aged 18, a Sinhalese, remembers that when the Tamil Tigers were strong, there were numerous suicide bombings in Colombo and elsewhere. As a result, he told the BBC, "There was a wrong impression given about the Tamil community and other communities".

The failure to implement the announced policies to alleviate the problems of the ethnic minorities has exacerbated the mistrust. It is the lack of political will of successive governments to implement the right policies that also promoted the idea of separatism.



A woman prepares tea in her makeshift home in Mullaithivu District. Thousands of people have returned to their places of origin and are in need of permanent housing/IRIN

Comprehensive rehabilitation programme needed

Former Sri Lankan ambassador K. Godage has proposed ‘a feasible rehab project for misguided Tamil youth’ based on the note sent to him by another concerned Sri Lankan, Charith Goonetilleke residing in Battaramulla (The Sunday Island 21 March 2010). He expects the government to implement it in the national interest. As noted earlier, the meaning of national interest depends crucially on the concept of nation in the minds of the leaders. Sadly, many Sinhala nationalists are yet to accept the reality that the island is a multi-ethnic country and the Tamil-speaking ethnic minorities have the same rights as the majority ethnic Sinhalese.

Godage has said: “The vast majority of IDPs are currently unemployed. Unemployment, combined with long-term stays at IDP camps, has resulted in unrest and increases the likelihood of social, physical and psychological problems for those displaced. Many of the IDPs possess valuable skills whilst others have the potential to learn new ones. This project aims to utilize those existing skills and willingness to learn by establishing the opportunity to develop sustainable livelihoods”. There is also economic gain to the country from such projects. What is needed is the attitudinal change that enables the decision-makers to think apolitically from the true long-term national interest.

The proposed project will enable “the IDPs in northern Sri Lanka to enjoy sustainable livelihoods by learning vocations such as tinkering, motor vehicle painting, motor winding, motor mechanics, electronics and upholstering seat cushioning, which will in turn contribute to national development”. This is a very practical suggestion. At present the government is only thinking of rebuilding the damaged infrastructure with foreign assistance.

The depressed mental state of war widows and mothers who have lost their children is a serious matter of concern to all interested in reconciliation and the future of post war Sri Lanka. It is immaterial now who was responsible or how this tragedy happened. Both warring parties have acted inconsiderately. A compassionate approach is needed now not only from the government but also other non-governmental groups concerned about the plight of unfortunate fellow citizens. It is rather odd to appeal for compassion here when this is one pillar of Buddhist philosophy. The victims are on both sides of the ethnic divide. Both sides must know the traumas of the other. This will help to bring together the divided communities; the division exacerbated by irresponsible self-serving political leaders, who have been and still are sticking to the calamitous divide and rule policy.

Tamil Diaspora

The Global Tamil Forum organised by a section of the Tamil Diaspora has earned the wrath of the Sri Lankan government for canvassing support for the right of the Sri Lankan Tamils to self determination. The meeting held in Westminster, London at the end of February 2010 was attended by Britain's foreign minister, David Miliband and other parliamentarians from both the government and opposition parties in Britain.

It was a concerted effort of the Tamil nationalists in the Diaspora to revitalize support for the Tamil cause in the wake of the demise of the LTTE.

In July last year, another group widely considered to be the overseas wing of the LTTE proposed a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam. According to the statement issued by Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, the co-ordinator of the Committee for the formation this body, the need for Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (a government in exile) has arisen because “not only is the very physical survival of Tamils in danger in the island of Sri Lanka, but Tamils also do not have any political space to articulate their legitimate political aspirations on the island”. But the reasons given are contentious in the light of many Tamils from various parties contesting in the April 8 general election. Some contestants are members of the constituent parties in the coalition government, headed by President Rajapaksa.

The disappointed LTTE loyalists in the Diaspora conducted improvised polls on independent and sovereign Tamil Eelam. Even if these were proper referenda involving the entire Tamil Diaspora, the verdict for Eelam would be useless except to satisfy the ideologues. They cannot be unaware how Bangladesh, formerly ‘East Pakistan’ detached from Pakistan and became an independent sovereign state.

A recent report published by the International Crisis Group, a well known think tank whose current president is Louise Arbour, former UN Commissioner for Human Rights has claimed that there is a very significant contrast between the attitudes of the Tamil Diaspora and the views and aspirations of Tamil leaders and political parties within Sri Lanka. The conclusion that the determined section of the Diaspora has not given up the concept of Eelam and is very strenuously pursuing the Eelam goal has been seized by the government and other interested bodies to warn that Sri Lanka is still facing grave threats, although the war against the vicious LTTE ended last May Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris has referred to this report alarmingly on several occasions.

This was also raised at a roundtable discussion held at The International Centre for Ethnic Studies on ‘Future Security & Implications of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and Emergency Regulations in Post-War Sri Lanka’ on 9 March 2010. Instigating the discussion, Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, Head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research stated that although the LTTE has been militarily annihilated, hardly any strategy had been administered to terminate powerful LTTE support networks in the international arena. He stated that the degree of damage to the LTTE international network has been minimal and insisted that the recent demonstrations from the pro LTTE supportive Global Tamil Forum and the Transnational Government indicates a heavy threat to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

Conclusion

Addressing the symposium on 'The future of Tamils and the Timely Approach' at the Ramada Hotel, Colombo (formerly the Holiday Inn) SC Chandrahasan, the founder of OFFER, a NGO helping the SL Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu and the eldest son of the Federal Party leader, the late SJV Chelvanayakam said, the proper time had arrived for the Tamils to solve their problems and a lot could be achieve, if they acted in a pragmatic manner. Shan Shanmuganathan, who convened the conference, in his welcome speech also said that Tamils should adopt a new approach and work towards their emancipation under a new vision. He also said: "We must have a consensual and compromising approach when dealing with the Government". Chandrahasan, having visited his birth place in Jaffna after 26 years, agreed there is an urgent need to raise the living standard of the people affected by the prolonged war.

A realistic plan devoid of the aforementioned pitfalls is necessary for gaining a secure future for the depressed Tamils. The Tamil Diaspora should not ignore the real conditions that exist in the war-torn North-East and the need for fresh pragmatic approach to the liberation sought by the Tamils over the past several decades. The past blunders in discarding good opportunities because of blind idealism should not be repeated. Let the whole world know who still wants to invigorate separatism?

The rational thing to do at the present time, when the government is desperately looking for any remnant of the vanquished LTTE to sustain its standing as the guardian of the nation instead of taking meaningful actions towards political reconciliation, is to avoid falling into this trap and seek a reasonable political settlement jointly with moderates in other communities based on adequate devolution of powers to the provinces and power sharing arrangement at the centre. There are Sinhalese brethren who desire to empower the ethnic minorities and make them equal stakeholders in the national venture to build a strong united prosperous Sri Lanka. This is evident from the APRC process which too was abandoned expediently to please the Sinhala nationalists. International support will be readily forthcoming for a reasonable political settlement within undivided Sri Lanka.

The strategy of the LTTE to encourage Sinhala nationalism hoping this would facilitate the division of the island into two separate Sinhala and Tamil states has failed terribly. As stated at the outset Sinhala nationalism and Tamil nationalism are correlated. Let me reiterate; it was uncontrolled Sinhala nationalism and the opportunism of power hungry political leaders to exploit this for their own benefit that nourished the idea of separatism among the dejected Tamils.

The imaginary concern amongst the Sinhala nationalists that a strong Tamil community in Sri Lanka is a threat to the future of the Sinhalese is also one reason for keeping the Tamils powerless. Moreover, the discriminatory way national development was undertaken by successive governments also underpinned the idea of two states. Despite the known resource potential in the North and East, development of the two provinces was neglected. The failure to develop Trincomalee is a case in point.

The determined Tamils in the Diaspora should not act to bolster Sinhala nationalism as in the recent past or create the impression they are now a formidable threat to the Sinhala nationalists. The Tamil Diaspora too can contribute to the political reconciliation process in discreet ways. Now that the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is in the international spotlight nothing should be done to dim it.

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]

When will JVP realise that devolution of power is an important principle of democracy?

By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne

The leader of the JVP claimed that they are willing to form a government with all the willing partners of the opposition after the election. Of course, it has to be under the leadership of General Sarath Fonseka. If he is really serious, the JVP must be prepared to accept some sort of a common programme.

The UNP today is in a coalition with the Muslim congress of Rauf Hakeem and Mano Ganesan’s Peoples Front. Both these parties stand for devolution of power. In the mean time, the Muslim congress has a separate agreement with the Tamil National Alliance to “defend minority rights”.

Although the UNP has not come out this time with a clear committment to devolution, as a way out for the Tamil national issue, it has generally accepted that it will not go below the 13th amendment, which the UNP government has introduced in the past.

On the other hand the Tamil National Alliance in its election manifesto which was released two weeks back, has proposed a federal solution based on shared sovereignty and self determination for a united North Eastern provinces.

According to Lakbimanews the manifesto states further that “power sharing arrangements must be established in the merged Northern and Eastern Provinces based on a federal structure, in a manner acceptable to the Tamil speaking Muslim people”.

News item stated further that the devolution of power should be over, land, law and order, socio-economic development including health and education, resources and fiscal powers.

The TNA has stated that the Tamil People are a distinct nationality and has described the Northern and Eastern Provinces as the historical habitation of the Tamil Speaking People. Tamil people are also entitled to the right of self-determination, it added.

Apparently, the manifesto called for employment generation measures, through direct foreign investment in the North and East and expanding the avenues for tertiary education for those who cannot enter Universities.

Obviously, the JVP which has not broken its ties with the Sinhala chauvinism will not be able to come closer to the UNP led opposition, if they have dealings with the TNA. Also it is not clear how Sambanthan and other leaders of the TNA are going to link up with the other side of the Indian puppet show: Mahinda regime. Only Maha Brahma and the neo Brahmins of Delhi know the intricacies of the tie up they are planning! As usual it will be a grand flop with the Tamil voters of the TNA.

In the meantime the day dreaming of Anura Dissanayake also will have a similar effect on the radical vote, attracted by the rhetoric of the JVP. The most, the democratic national alliance says, about the Tamil national problem in its manifesto is, that all three languages Sinhala, Tamil and English will be made equal. What a surprise! Am I not correct to think that this was done long time back by JR Jayawardhane by his 13th amendment?

In fact killers of the JVP in 88/89 were hunting us down for the support we gave for the13th amendment which brought equality of some sort in addition to the devolution and provincial council.

Today they are merciful; they agree with the old rascal JR to give equality of languages. How long it will take for this petty bourgeoisie to realize that devolution of power is one of the most important principles of democracy?

Power of chauvinism is based on their opposition to devolution of power. This is the spinal cord of the dictatorial Mahinda regime. Those who are not willing to concede this truth are only bogus campaigners for democracy. The Left liberation fighters will have to march separately from such pretenders

Future of Lankan Tamils-Current Concerns and Approaches

by K S Sivakumaran

This columnist was one of the invitees to attend a special Panel Discussion held at Colombo Ramada Hotel on Wednesday March 24, 2010. The Liberty Ballroom was filled with many Lankan Tamils located in Colombo, some of them were the cream of a section of the Tamils intelligentsia in the capital. The theme of the Discussion was: Future of Tamils- Current Concerns and Approaches.

The invitation in Tamil was slightly modified to extend “Approaches in the context of the time” (Kaalathit Keatta Anuhu Muraihal). We were invited by Shan Shanmuganathan, a distinguished person with many credentials and who is also a nominee in the National List for the April 08, 2010 Parliamentary Elections.

Shan Shanmuganathan himself introduced the purpose of his endeavour while introducing four prominent people - S C Chandrahasan (returnee from Tamil Nadu and son of the late S J V Chelvanayagam), K Neelakandan (a lawyer and secretary of the All Ceylon Hindu Congress among other engagements), Prof S. Santhirasegeram (Dean-Faculty of Education, University of Colombo and the President of Kolumbu Tamil Sangam) and Ariya Sriharan (a Solicitor from U K among other credentials).

Four of the members in the podium voiced the opinion that there should be new approaches and rethinking on the subject of the future of the Lankan Tamils in terms of politics in the country.

While one panellist, Kanthia Neelakandan, underscored that while maintaining the Ethnic Identity of theirs the Tamils should also be critical in spotlighting the inadequacies that prevent a harmonious attention towards the marginalized Thamil people in the country giving examples. At the same time he too agreed that there should be new strategies and approaches to solve the practical problems that the Tamils face in the country.

But the main focus was on positive and optimistic approaches that the Tamils should initiate thus disregarding the worn out and unrealistic methods that the politicians had professed during the past 50 years or so.

Shan Shanmuganathan was very clear in enunciating his plan of program that seems realistic in the present context.

Surprisingly the late SJVC’s son Chandrahasan appeared to have changed his stance from confrontational politics which his father, the respected Federal Thinker professed to realistic approaches towards the ethnic problem. In fact he was a defender of the powers that be that had gone a long way in understanding the problems of the Lankan Tamils and had initiated some progressive implementation. From this columnist’s point of view this is indeed a welcome move. Indeed everything is subject to change.

Prof. S. Santhirasegetram’s intellectual presentation was very apt to the needs of the time. He informed that the developed countries in South and South East Asia are thinking of the future of their countries 20 years ahead. Futurology is the key word, he said.

Lankan born British Solicitor Ariya Sriharan suggested that the identification of different stances of the Tamil Diaspora towards their brethren in Lanka. However this columnist would have liked his proposition planned out in a logical manner.

And yet all views were listened to without any uproar and the discussion was conducted in a cordial and decent manner. Electronic media person Yogarajah moderated the discussion when the floor was open to the invitees. A few expressed their views but most of them remained silent.

Apparently the diehards of old thinking might not have found palatable the necessity to think new and find new approaches to the question in hand.

Yours truly endorsed the views of Suriyakumari that the Tamil print media in particular is biased to some extent in not taking a positive attitude towards the good things that have been done.

As far as this columnist was concerned the Tamil Press while presenting a balanced reportage of the events unfurling its features columns and political commentaries give a partisan interpretation and thus confusing the Tamil readers perhaps out of fear of militancy. But that element is gradually disappearing.

If I may be permitted to say, I wish that the TNA (Tamil National Alliance) should reconsider their confrontational and unrealistic attitudes in understanding of the present context and should move away from emotional outpourings that the uninitiated and na‹ve voters are led to believe. Instead a willingly cooperative measures vis-a-vis the Government in Power should be followed for viable and true harmony.

Again, the East should be allowed to develop in its own way instead of North centric politics.

As far as the electoral system goes, the constituencies from Moothoor to Paddirippu should form one Electoral District.

There are many more things I desire as a pedestrian observer of local politics and we may express them in these columns by and by. ~ courtesy: daily news.lk ~

Housing tops returnees’ wish-list

by IRIN

The latest UN figures show that 160,000 houses in northern Sri Lanka have to be repaired or rebuilt as the conflict-displaced return to their home areas.

Nagaranjan Kallaiamuda, 22, outside her makeshift home in Pulliyankulum-pic:IRIN

“That’s what I want the most,” said Nagarajan Kallaiamuda, 22, a returnee to Pulliyankulum village in Mullaithivu District outside her temporary shelter.

Her home today is nothing more than four poles surrounded by mud brick walls, topped with a piece of tin roofing that her family has managed to cobble together.

She spent much of last year in Menik Farm, a sprawling government camp for thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the town of Vavuniya, returning to her village in January.

“We had a small, but nice house. Now there is nothing left. Not even the bricks.”

Her story is echoed across much of Sri Lanka’s Vanni - an area comprising Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi districts and parts of the Mannar, Jaffna and Vavuniya districts - in former rebel-controlled areas of the north.

Along the A9 highway running through the north, few homes or buildings escaped unscathed, as fighting between government forces and the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - who had been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for over two decades - intensified.

Massive needs, limited resources

In addition to ongoing landmine clearance activities on the ground, which has slowed the activities of aid agencies, there is limited local building capacity to meet the demand, while financial resources remain a concern.

Current available funding allows for the repair and reconstruction of just 22,120 units. These include the World Bank-sponsored North-East Housing Reconstruction Programme of 14,000 homes, as well as 4,500 by the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), 3,220 by the Arbeiter Samariter Bund (ASB) and Solidar, and 400 by the Sri Lankan Red Cross with German Red Cross funding.

“Meeting immediate needs for shelter is key to safe and dignified returns, and is a basic condition if people are to start to rebuild their normal lives and to begin earning an income again,” Neil Buhne, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Sri Lanka told IRIN.

But that will take time.

“We can slowly rebuild our lives, but we don’t have any money. If we wait to build houses with our own money, it will take years,” Nagarajan’s neighbour, Viggneswaran Sinngamuththu, said. The 59-year-old is starting to cultivate his own land to grow vegetables and says he can earn some money, but “not enough to eat and build a house”.

Shelter grant

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides each returning family with a shelter grant of about US$220 as a first step towards helping them rebuild their homes and lives.

The grant is calculated to be sufficient to build a shelter that will last for two years.

However, many returnees are using the grant for other expenses.

“While the grant is intended to provide for initial emergency shelter, returnees in the spirit of regaining control over their lives are not limited in the use of the funds,” UNHCR senior programme officer, Laurent Raguin, explained.

At the same time, the agency lacks immediate funds to maintain the shelter grant for the 88,000 displaced or more than 25,000 families still in camps - the vast majority in Menik Farm.

UNHCR is operating on less than half of the $39.8 million needed for this year, Raguin said. “For the shelter grant alone, we urgently need $13 million in 2010," he said, warning that if immediate donor assistance is not forthcoming, funds will run out.

According to the UN, of the 192,000 who have left government IDP camps, more than 99,000 have returned to their places of origin, while 92,000 are living with host families.

March 29, 2010

Gujrat’s Narendra Modi and Sri Lanka’s “Notorious Deputy Minister”

By Chakravarthy

A 17th century English churchman and historian, Thomas Fuller said, "Be ye ever so high, still the law is above you", meaning "Be you ever so high, the law is above you".

Judges across countries including Sri Lanka, have used it in cases where the high and mighty try to keep the long arm of law at bay. Though powerful people may have used every machination at their disposal to stunt the law's long arm, but at least publicly, they have always acknowledged that the Constitution and rule of law are supreme.

If it is true that whatever be the stature of a person, everyone is equal before law, then why have so many ministers and VVIPs been able to thwart the due process of law, whereas the common man gets squeezed easily by the same legal system?

Narendra Modi, Barathiya Janatha Party’s Prime Ministerial hopeful and the all powerful Chief Minister of Gujarat, the state that gained notoriety for the killing of 2,000 Muslims in the Godhra riot on 27th February of 2002, was summoned in connection with the riots by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigating Team [SIT] on Saturday March 27th.

He was grilled for nine hours in two sessions till 01.10 a.m. on Sunday. An act, leave alone a Chie Minister, even a minion of the ruling party will never dream of it in his life under the present political situation in Sri Lanka, where as such treatment is meant for opposition supporters only.

What was the Godhra riots and what sparked it? Barathiya Janatha Party - the BJP that came to power through the Babri Masjid dispute, wanted to maintain the anti Muslim tempo to strengthen their political position and called the party carders to bring bricks to Ayodhya to build a Hindu Ram temple where Babri Masjid was situated. This was called ’Kar sevaka’.

The train that brought the returning ‘Karsevakas’ stopped at a station called Godhra city where a compartment caught fire accidentally and 59 ’Karsevaks’ died. It was presumed to be the handy work of the Muslims who lived in the neighborhood of Godhra railway station and massacring the Muslims started nation wide with the blessing of the law authority. No further description is necessary as the scene was not different from the 1983 anti Tamil riots in Sri Lanka.

Chief Minister Mody who is presently in power, was treated like any other accused being interrogated in a preliminary inquiry. He was questioned on a range of issues beginning with the intelligence failure on the Kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, how this could have led to the burning of the train at Godhra, the post-Godhra killings, and why the police failed to act, and right up to his incendiary speeches during the elections of December 2002.

He was also asked whether he gave specific instructions to police chiefs and bureaucrats who have been quoted as saying they got such orders – to allow Hindus to vent their anger after the train burning in which 59 Kar sevaks, were killed. SIT has evidence to the effect that Modi had specifically instructed that the bodies of carnage victims be brought to Ahmadabad. Modi reportedly denied all the charges.

The nine-hour grilling that tested the 8 years of bravado appears to have humbled the man who has been trying hard to project himself as a mascot for development and inclusive politics. Modi who waved confidently at reporters when he went for the inquiry, emerged from SIT office with his white kurta and churidar slightly creased and much of the sheen was gone. On Sunday, SIT chief R.K. Raghavan said further questioning of Modi could not be ruled out.

After earning the dubious distinction of being the first chief minister to be questioned in riot cases, this is what exactly what Narendra Modi said, "I have said before that the Indian Constitution and law is supreme and I, as a citizen and chief minister, am bound by it."

Well, Let us come to Lanka. I was shocked to read the news given below on the 22nd after noon from the online of a newspaper ; “An armed group believed to be associated with a notorious Deputy Minister attacked the MTV/MBC office at Braybrooke Place a short while ago damaging the place, an MBC official said“.

The next morning, while the Daily News shied away from reporting this incident [ was it due to guilty conscious?] others carried it extensively.

This notorious Deputy Minister who was trounced in the election was brought to the parliament through the back door by the “Lady”, forgetting the abuse he showered and the mischief he committed on her. Yes you need some type of people to do some type of assignments.

He runs a kingdom within the kingdom. Few years ago a late Muslim entrepreneur’s Super Market, that was named after the ‘Halal’ chicken he marketed in this locality was vandalized for the reason that no non Buddhists are welcome to run business there.

The President who lamented before that he could not go to Madhu Shrine even being the Prime Minister, now says the whole country is one and any one can go any where. But this buddy of him disproves his claim.

No journalists from the MTV/MBC could cover an event in his electorate without being assaulted or camera being damaged. As usual the President ordered police inquiry and few court cases were filed too but the results were not that favorable.

In fact, to express one’s dissent on a matter, there are legal - decent ways in a democratic country. What kind of a democracy is this? Are they ‘Sharia’ police?

Has not this “notorious Deputy Minister“, a Portuguese [by name] who pretends to be an ardent Buddhist, never ever been to Bangkok? Has not he experienced or at least seen what and what are happening within the sight of ‘Gautama’ there? Is he a teetotaler? Why not this Dutagemunu take his carders by CTB buses to Pat Pong or Pattaya beach in Thailand to teach them Buddhist morale?

Apart from this, this particular business organization is always targeted by the hooligans. An attack on their studio on Tuesday the 6th January 2009 was reported by the foreign media;

MTV/MBC attacked by armed gang. Extensive damage to the studio complex.

“SRI LANKA- A private radio and television station on the outskirts of Sri Lanka's capital has been attacked by an armed gang that inflicted extensive damage to the studio complex and interrupted its broadcasts, a spokesman for the station said Tuesday.

The rest is history.

The sleuths who discovered the Ex General’s money in bank vaults in less than a week after he was taken to custody, till today, after 15 months could find no clue on the above studio attack. A staff who told the CNN that the government was the culprit was haunted for arrest and he fled the country.

Something is itching me on the General’s Forex in the bank vaults. In January the Central Bank announced that the rule is relaxed to take any amount of Foreign money out of the country in person or transfer through banks. I do not know whether this rule still in operation or “An Election Special” like the Avurudu Special.

When the existing rule of, any incoming passenger bringing more than US$10,000 in value to be declared in the customs form, is not lifted, how can one take unaccounted money out of the country, puzzled the business community. Or are we so awash with Forex in the kitty? Can not the Ex General also say that he had kept it to take out?

Well, let us come back to Pannapitiya attack. The very notorious Deputy Minister at that time commented that it would have been an inside job to claim insurance. These are the intellectuals of this country that was the beacon of wisdom in the past, honoured today with doctorates.

Why is this organization frequently targeted by goons? Just because of the owners belong to a minority community? If so, are non Sinhalese in this country voice less species? The President in January said they are his relatives too. He who is accused of being nepotistic, has not seemed to have protected his “relatives” from goon‘s attacks.

Owners of this organization can jolly well wind up their commercial activities in this country and leave for good to Australia or UK where substantial of their relatives live. But what would be the position of the over 1,000 workers, majority of them are Sinhalese, who constitute from the lowest to the highest? Are there jobs available immediately? Are they to face the same situation what the Americans faced with Sub prime loan?

Further what will happen to the amount of tax the government and the Revenue Department collects from this organization? Have you forgotten the EPF etc. that lies with the department for many years?

I have never heard of any country that allowed a commercial enterprise to be attacked by unruly elements. Any government that is not business friendly will push her people in to poverty and penury. We have witnessed this from 1970 to 1977.

Shaw Wallace building that was nationalized in Kollupitiya still looks like a Ghost House. If the masses would have not opted for a UNP government in 1977, Lanka would have become Zimbabwe’s father 30 years ago.

Further one should realize what kind of message such rowdyism will carry to the overseas and local investors? Ten years ago when the JVP was let loose, I knew of few Sinhala business men who shifted their export oriented factories from SL to China.

In 1994, sooner the “Lady” won the Presidential election, a Japanese executive in the Prima Flour Mill at Rajagiriya was detained in the top floor by the workers on some demands. Today’s Japanese shun violence unlike the Chinese. They never step in to a place where greed, dishonesty and a blatant disregard of safety standards rule the day. The policy of earn money by any means belongs to Beijing.

Though Japan erected J.R.Jayawerdena’s statue in Tokyo in gratitude to the speech he delivered in favour of Nippon at the Peace Conference in San Francisco in 1951, till today there is no Japanese bank open here despite of the heavy bilateral trade. Why?

Will there be a Narendra Modi in Lanka’s politics? No never because in SL, "Be you so high, the law is low to you"?

When did Sri Lanka the Pluralist Democracy Turn into a Sinhala Supremacist Family Oligarchy?

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

"And should fate decree the rise of an efficient tyrant, so energetic and so proficient in warfare that he enlarges his dominions, no advantage will accrue to the commonwealth, but only to himself….” — Machiavelli (The Discourses)

Mahinda Rajapaksa is arguably the most successful leader in post-1948 Sri Lanka, just as Velupillai Pirapaharan was the most successful Tamil leader of modern times, until, intoxicated by hubris, he overreached and brought upon himself and his people a devastating defeat.

When Rajapaksa won the presidency less than five years ago, the existence of the ethnic problem and the need for a political solution were deemed axiomatic truths. Only a cabal of Sinhala supremacists, vociferous but politically negligible, occupying the margins of Lankan polity and society, refused to accept these twin realities. When President Rajapaksa repeatedly stated his disbelief in the existence of an ethnic problem, he was positioning himself within this Sinhala supremacist space. Concrete actions accompanied his ideological shift. The unitary state was declared unalterable. The homeland concept was rejected. The north-east was de-merged, sans a referendum. Sinhala extremist discourse became de rigueur, again. Gradually, almost insensibly, Sinhala supremacism began to assume a new gravitas, until it possessed the political heights and permeated the southern society.

The APC process was aimed at camouflaging this steady erosion of the post-1987 devolutionary gains. Minister Tissa Vitharana was appointed to head it, in a move calculated to reassure the doubters. The APC was an exercise in deception, the real purpose of which was to neutralise India and the West rather than find a solution to the ethnic problem. When the Experts Panel of the APC came up with a Majority Report outlining a devolution formula, the President rejected it and disbanded the panel. He used his allies in the APC to prevaricate and subvert the process from within and rejected any and all proposals emanating from it.

He also offered district level de-centralisation as the SLFP’s ‘solution’, thereby leaving all but the willfully blind in no doubt as to his anti-devolutionary intent. Today even the 13th Amendment is being dismissed as unnecessary and undesirable by a government intoxicated by its victory over the LTTE, and disinclined to countenance devolution to gain Indian goodwill.

Until 1987, Sinhala supremacism constituted the main obstacle to a political solution to the ethnic problem. The Sinhala Only of 1956 was its offspring while its influence was pivotal in causing the demise of the BC Pact and the DC Pact. The Black July marked its apogee, when Tamils were targeted for being Tamils in a ‘Sinhala country’ and the dominant commonsense excused this bloody orgy as a manifestation of the justifiable anger of the Sinhalese. For the Sinhala supremacists, even petty decentralisation was too much, because, in their eyes, Sri Lanka belonged to the Sinhalese, and the minorities, as mere guests, had no right to make demands. 1987 onwards, the LTTE became the main impediment to a political solution. For the Tigers even the most generous power-sharing agreement was too little. They too agreed that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country in which Tamils can never be equals and insisted that the only possible solution was a separate state comprising of the north and the east.

Sinhala supremacism and the Tigers were thus ideological twins, united in their refusal to admit the possibility of a Sri Lanka which belonged to all her citizens equally, in which no race or religion could dominate others. Occupying seemingly antithetical extremes, each helped justify the crimes and the excesses of the other by its mere existence.

As President Rajapaksa began implementing his agenda of counter-reforms aimed at taking Sri Lanka back to the status quo ante bellum, the intransigence of the Tigers served as an effective diversion. The Tigers, maximalist to the end, refused well-intentioned attempts to prevent a bloody dénouement, dragging the Tamil people into a crushing defeat in their wake.

The removal of the LTTE from the political scene has bared the real purpose of the Rajapaksa agenda. No longer can the absence of a political solution be blamed on Tiger maximalism. However the Rajapaksas do not require excuses for their Sinhala supremacism anymore (except in the event of an Indian reaction, in response to a reactivation of the Tamil Nadu factor). The post-2005 change in the southern commonsense has rendered the concept of ethnic problem obsolete and the slogan of a political solution anachronistic.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected, Sinhala hardliners hailed him as the true legatee of the 1956 Revolution. Events have proven them right. He has succeeded in turning the clock back to pre-July 1983. The best measure of his success is the critical absence of the terms ethnic problem and political solution in the new UNP Manifesto. The UNP has not become a racist party, as evidenced by its timely promises to reduce the number of military camps in the north and to address the issue of human rights violations (this, incidentally, is the only certain way of preventing an international war crimes inquiry, someday). The UNP has merely succumbed to the new Sinhala supremacist commonsense (just as it succumbed to Sinhala Only), not out of conviction but in a misguided attempt to woo the south.

Indian intervention and Tiger military successes compelled the Sinhala South to accept the need for a political solution to the ethnic problem, post-1987. Today the LTTE is decimated while Delhi clings desperately to the delusion of a Rajapaksa propelled political solution. In the absence of these twin pressures, the south seems quite willing to return to status quo ante bellum. Perhaps the Sinhala majority never really ceased equating the ethnic problem with the LTTE, rather than seeing the LTTE as a by-product of the ethnic problem. Perhaps the Sinhala majority does believe that, post-LTTE, Tamil concerns can be marginalised. And yet, the ethnic problem has not ceased to exist, simply because the new southern commonsense deems it non-existent. It has merely disappeared from the country’s political lexicon. It will take the resurrection of Tamil politics (hopefully in a peaceful and a democratic form) for the south to once again accept the existence of an ethnic problem and the need for a political solution.

The Rajapaksa regime has made permanent all temporary military camps in the north, via a Special Gazette. Visitors to the north talk about a proliferation of Buddha statues in this province peopled almost exclusively by non-Buddhists (“Namal Rajapaksa arrived on a sudden visit to Jaffna…with a statue of Sangamitta….to be enshrined in the newly built Buddhist temple in ‘Maathakal’, according to the First Son’s official website). A country with an ethno-religiously pluralist demographic base cannot sustain a majoritarian supremacist political superstructure without relapsing into crisis.

Just as Sinhala Only gave birth to the Tamil militancy and Black July ensured the ascendance of the Tigers, the ideological occupation of the Lankan state by Sinhala supremacism and the physical occupation of the north by a Sinhala Buddhist army may work in favour of Tamil extremism rather than Tamil democracy. If so, the resurgence of Tamil politics may take a non-democratic form, to the detriment of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

Underlying the Rajapaksa project is an implicit covenant with the Sinhala South: the Rajapaksas would defeat the Tigers and restore Sinhala dominance; in return the Sinhala South would consent to familial rule and dynastic succession. The Rajapaksas would protect the nation and the nation would promote the Rajapaksas.

The aim would be dynastic rule which is hegemonic in the south and dominant in the north (‘cooperative power’ for the south and ‘coercive power’ for the north). Since the Sinhalese are the majority, this mix may enable the Rajapaksas to implement their familial agenda with some legitimacy and behind a democratic façade. Whether economic factors (spiralling cost of living, deteriorating living standards) can upset this carefully calibrated balancing act remains to be seen.

Jaya Jayawe, a musical show organised by ITN (and attended by the President, his wife and brothers) was symbolic of Sri Lanka, remade the Rajapaksa way. The President was hailed as ‘the Lion in the Lion Flag’ and praised as the ‘Divine Gift’ sent to his mother’s womb ‘by the gods and the Brahmas from golden palaces’.

‘Mahinda Rajapaksa is our king…. King Rajapaksa’s name will be written in history in letters of gold’ sang a child. The innumerable encomiums heaped on the President included ‘Our Future’, ‘Our Solution’, ‘Our Comfort’, ‘Our Happiness’, ‘Our Light’, the ‘Father of the Nation’ and the ‘Wonder of the World and the Universe’, ‘Golden Sword which defends the nation’, ‘Golden Thread which unites sundered hearts’, ‘the Sun’ and ‘the Moon’…

Often turning points reveal their seminal nature only post-facto. It is so with the Rajapaksa revolution. When did we consent to the idea of a president for a term becoming a (de facto) monarch for life?

When did we begin concurring with the lie of Rajapaksa infallibility?

When did we accept the equation of President Rajapaksa with the nation and, in consequence, anti-Rajapaksaism with treachery?

What was the defining moment in this transformation of Sri Lanka from a pluralist democracy into a Sinhala supremacist family oligarchy?

At the launch of the original Mahinda Chinthana Manifesto in 2005, the theme song referred to Rajapaksa as a ‘King who believes in equality’. As subsequent developments revealed this was no idle expression of infantile vanity but the manifestation of a quality quintessential to Rajapaksa thinking, an omen of things to come under a leader who equated himself with the nation-state.

The hitherto inconceivable becomes normal in transformative times. Last week the Sirasa TV was attacked, again, for ‘promoting’ a show by a singer who had ‘insulted’ Buddhism. Subsequent to this violent outburst, the regime decided to deny a visa to the singer. Since the singer was invited by a state agency, the Tourism Promotion Bureau, the issue could have been resolved in a civilised manner, without making Sri Lanka seem like a suzerainty of religious fundamentalists (this incident is indeed indicative of the degree to which the tentacles of Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism have penetrated Lankan polity and society.

According to the Gulf Daily News, a Sinhala woman who had converted to Islam is being held by the Lankan police for writing a book insulting Buddhism; at this rate we will have our own ‘Faith Police’ before long). By trying to use the issue for cheap political gains, the government created an unnecessary image problem for Sri Lanka (the next step would be to pay billions to some international advertising firm to solve this image problem).

Sarath Fonseka was arrested accused of conspiring to overthrow the government and murder the President and his family. When his military trial began last week, these sensational charges were conspicuous by their absence. Instead he was charged with minor misdeeds — hobnobbing with opposition politicians and misusing his powers, as Army Commander. Though the government seemed to have lied and lied big, there was no outburst of outrage from southern society, which once worshipped General Fonseka. He too, like the civilian Tamils and the Sinhala victims of the Rajapaksas (journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda being the latest), has become invisible.

That too was a feat inconceivable just three months ago. The transformative achievements of the President, his capacity to make the inconceivable happen requires us to take the man and his project very, very seriously. The world beyond the pale cannot be resisted if its menace is regarded lightly – as the morality tale of the Tamils and their ’saviour’ Pirapaharan demonstrates.

March 28, 2010

World Cup Cricket Tamil Protest at Kensington Oval, 7th June 1975

by Prof.Michael Roberts

On 7 June 1975 as the Sri Lankan cricketers, minnows in the universe of cricket, took on the mighty Australians under Ian Chappel at the Kensington Oval in London in the early rounds of the first-ever World Cup in limited-overs competition, a small band of young Sri Lankan Tamil men invaded the centre-field and displayed placards as they lay down in protest.

Sporting encounters that attract large crowds have occasionally been utilised for symbolic political statements. One of the most striking moments was when the American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos mounted the podium to receive their medals for the 200 metres at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 wearing one black glove, black socks and no shoes as the American anthem was played and then proceeded to give the Black Power salute. This graphic statement “was designed to highlight the oppression of black people [in USA ] over the years and was headline news throughout the world.”

Though intrusive, such actions are peaceful political expressions which differ from explosive assaults that have claimed the lives of athletes or bystanders. The occasion when Palestinian militants from the Black September group held Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympics in early September 1972, resulting in the death of 11 athletes, one German policemen and 5 assailants during a series of fights, is perhaps the best known incident of the latter type. More recently, as we know, on 3rd March 2009 a body of Islamic militants attacked the convoy bearing Sri Lankan cricketers and ICC officials to the stadium at Lahore.

The Palestinian grievances and motivations are too well-known to require rehearsal here. Even now, we have few specifics about the perpetrators of the Lahore attack: information on this topic seems as murky as the murkiness of Pakistani politics writ large. It appears that the band of assailants was directed by jihadist thinking of the Salafi kind that is also favoured by the Taliban. Take this illustration of their possible line of thought: in Zarb-e-Taiba, a Lashkar-e-Taiba magazine, it was asserted in April 2004 that "we should throw [away] the bat and seize the sword and instead of hitting six or four, cut the throats of the Hindus and the Jews" (quoted by Praveen Swami 2009).

The Sri Lankan convoy did not quite represent such a target and it is possible to follow Ranil Abeynaike in speculating that the attackers shot to miss. Only a few policemen died and the cricketing personnel emerged mostly unscathed even though they were sitting ducks and plump targets. One can therefore surmise that local political projects arising from the dismissal of the provincial administration by central fiat prompted a symbolic statement of a peculiar Pakistani kind. I remain open to new evidence and alternative conjectures. But we are constrained by the peculiarity of this assault: as far as I know, no political association claimed responsibility and no placards or messages accompanied the action.

That then is the political significance of protest demonstrations. The activists bear placards, statements of purpose, expressions of their thinking. The Black Power salute was (is) a condensed message that did not require words because the American context that had spawned this defiant expression had filled the salute with meaning. Likewise, the Tamil Tiger Eelam flag carried by Maiyooran, the young Canadian Tamil who burst unto the cricket grounds at St. Georges , Grenada on 16th April 2007 when Sri Lanka played Australia during the 2007 World Cup, was replete with meaning for all those familiar with the Sri Lankan political scene.

It is because they embody vibrant political currents that such demonstrations demand attention from those engaged in political analysis. They provide raw material for one’s deciphering work and clues to the sociology of protest/resistance through information on the activists. In the first instance, therefore, the protest at Kensington Oval can be placed alongside other Sri Lankan Tamil demonstrations at cricketing venues around the world in our journey of comparative analysis, a journey that is still rudimentary in character.

I limit myself to three other moments because photographic evidence serves as basic data for juxtaposition. Besides

(A) the demonstration at Kensington Oval on 7 June 1975,

we have ….

(B) the lone ‘streaker’ Maiyooran at Grenada on 16 April 2007;
(C) the demonstration mounted by red-shirted Tamils at Manuka Oval, Canberra on 12 February 2008;
(D) the line of Tamil demonstrators with placards and flags on the roads leading to the cricket ground at Toronto when Sri Lanka played Pakistan on 12 October 2008.

As befitting the 1970s perhaps, the modalities of expression at the Oval were conventional and relatively ‘primitive’: the tactics involved bodily incursion into ‘sacred space’ with message-on-placard and a cyclostyled broadsheet (or maybe several … now lost?) distributed to members of the public. The Tamil activists of 1975 apparently had neither the capacity to print sophisticated pamphlets nor the requisite networks to incorporate the international media into their propaganda operation as affiliates in the manner in which Channel Four, Sky and The Times of London in England, and SBS in Australia, have been drawn into their campaigns by ‘Tiger International’ during the years 2009 and 2010. Likewise, their use of a leaflet seems ‘primitive’ in comparison with the innovativeness of those Tamil patriots who hired a sky-sign pilot to outline a message in the skies during a cricket match at Sydney(?) on one occasion (I forget the date and other details).

I do not have much information on those involved in the demonstration at the Oval and this essay should also be read as a fishing expedition seeking more information from those with pertinent data. But we must take note of the currents of revolutionary thought coursing through Left-oriented radicals and militant Arabs among the large and diverse population of migrants in London . The migrants included a number of Sri Lankan Tamil youth, mostly from the Jaffna Peninsula or Colombo , who had moved there in search of jobs or educational advancement. Many brought with them the political ferment that had emerged in the Jaffna Peninsula in particular from the late 1960s. This thinking was promoted by a conviction that the Sri Lankan polity discriminated against Tamils and did not adhere to the canons of merit in recruitment to either the public services or the universities.

One ground for grievance was the gerrymandering of university admissions in the prestigious science courses by the new ULF government of 1970 in Sri Lanka as a form of positive discrimination in favour of rural districts and a reduction of the extraordinary numbers of Tamils securing such spots. This programme hit the aspirant middle and lower middle classes among the Tamils the most. It was mostly from this social background and in such circumstances that many of the Tamil youth entered Britain to further their professional qualifications.

I was fortunate to receive information on these circles from Nalliah Suriyakumaran in Canberra/Melbourne who was himself in London from 1971-81. From a trade union background, Suriyakumaran was among those who founded the General Union of Eelam Students (GUES) in London (a strand which eventually contributed towards the development of EPRLF).

In the 1970s London hosted other militant groups from all over the world. There was debate and mutual inspiration derived from exchanges with each other, with the Palestinians being among the most admired. Some young Tamils also found the Libyan embassy welcoming. These young men were dedicated to their cause and a few even assembled at Balham Commons in the twilight hours of the morning for physical drill. Their emphasis on armed struggle led them to believe that Marxism was an essential ingredient for their future paths; but most of these students were from science or professional backgrounds so that their adoption of Marxism was of the most vulgar kind. However, in Eliyathamby Ratnasabapathy several young men found a father figure who could further their interest in revolutionary Tamil thinking. Ratnasabapathy was a key figure in the emergence of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS) in London in the 1970s. It was EROS which used its Palestinian links to gain military training in Lebanon in the latter part of the 1970s for Tamil militants from several different Eelam groups.

It is from within this environment that a body of young Tamils, including the TULF leader Amirthalingam’s son, mounted the demonstration against the Sri Lankan state at the Oval cricket grounds. We are indebted to the political sensibility and archival instinct of S. S. Perera, “Chandra” to his friends, for the survival of one leaflet distributed by these militants (see Roberts and James 1998: 91). Here then is the type of historical ‘fact’ that normally disappears into the dust, that overwhelming heap of facts that never enters the store of historical documents.

This broadsheet reads thus:

SEND BROWN “RACIST” SRI LANKA CRICKET TEAM TO PLAY WHITE SOUTH AFRICA
BECAUSE:

Sri Lanka 's crimes against the Thamil Minority are worse than those of South Africa

l. On May 22nd, 1975, 29 Thamil youths were arrested for clearing jungle areas - an unarrestable privilege extended to SINHALA youths.

2. Five young men, including Poet Kasianandan were arrested on the same day for distributing leaflets against the Infamous, Anti-Minority Constitution of 1972. Kasianandan was kept in solitary confinement for months, the last time he was arrested.

3. The Sri Lanka Cricket Team was not picked on merit. There was discrimination against prominent Thamil players of international standard.
SOUTH AFRICA was banned from the International Cricket circuit because of its APARTHEID.

It has been proved that "Sport" and "Politics" cannot be separated, especially in racialist countries.

Remember Black Power Salutes in the Mexico Olympics! OR The Master Racist Hitler, who in 1936 Olympics refused to shake hands with the great Negro Athlete Jesse Owens, who won 4 Olympic Medals in one afternoon.

We DO NOT wish to spoil your enjoyment of the game of cricket. But can we stand by and watch the SINHALESE play while 2.8 million Thamils are being deprived of their birthright?

The British Press and TV have reported on the near starvation of the Plantation Yorkers in Ceylon -- where Thamil children are being sold in the streets. ~

Why doesn‘t the British Press also report the atrocities committed by the Ceylonese government against the Thamils?

We are forced to protest at the "Test" matches, to inform the World. We also love and play Cricket. But we do not want rank racists -- whether they be brown or white - to play in the United Kingdom as representatives of a country where the rule of terror prevails. We want the world to see the injustice in Ceylon .

1. The attempted decimation of the Thamil nation's identity - an identity which has survived from pre-historic times!

2. The denial of the use of the richest language in Asia - THAMIL - which has its very own vocabulary and can stand its ground in literature and language perfection. We want all the people who live here to know that Ceylon Tea is produced by people reduced to the position of slaves.

We want the United Nations to take note of the Denial of Basic Human Rights to the THAMILS OF CEYLON, who have lived there for over 2500 years.

WHITE SOUTH AFRICA = SINHALA SRI LANKA

Distributed by: Boycott Racist Sri Lanka Cricket Team Action Committee,

OXFORD - 7th June, 1975.

Review of Leaflet

Documents such as this, of course, cannot be accepted as a presentation of definite truths. Rather they provide access to the minds behind the work. These minds, clearly, are engaged in persuasive propaganda and are themselves interpreting the world around them in order to move people towards their cause. Whether this purpose encourages the instrumental manipulation of ‘facts’ as against, or in combination with, the expression of heartfelt sentiments has to be deciphered in each instance. This is rarely an easy task and involves conjecture on the analyst’s part.

In this instance, clearly, the composers deployed some of the contemporary interests in liberal circles in the West to the advantage of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. The plight of the plantation labourers, who were mostly Tamils, as a result of the government’s Marxist programme involving the nationalization of tea plantations -- was an issue in the years 1972-75 and one dear to British hearts attuned to their cup of tea. So this motif entered the leaflet’s brew.

So too did the theme of apartheid. A movement with its engine-room in Britain had secured a fusion of several political forces (including USA ) that had recently imposed a sporting boycott of South Africa . This motif is utilised as the masthead for the Tamil protest so that the Sri Lankan state is depicted as “racist” and placed in the same pariah category as the Afrikaaners and Adolf Hitler. Specific Sri Lankan events, such as land settlement policy and the arrest of those protesting the new constitution, add further grist to this mill.

The leaflet presents a tale of Tamils in Sri Lanka being “deprived of their birthright” and in the process of having their identity obliterated. These wrongs are all the greater because they, “us Tamils” from the authorial position, have a rich literature and language and have a greatness that harks back to antiquity extending over 2500 years. In minting the age, and thus the venerable character, of the Tamil people, the composers of this leaflet seem to have been blissfully unaware that they were inscribing a trope, the figure “2500,” which is an integral part of the Sinhala conceptualisations and naturalizations of their (hegemonic) claims to the island. Conflict does seem to encourage replications of each other by opponents at the poles.

As the pictorial reproduction and words indicate, the phrasing and formatting of this leaflet was not marked by either elegance or correct syntax. That matters not one jot. What counts and what does emerge is the imperative in the ‘speech.’ This broadsheet was coined by persons impelled, by persons driven by a sense of grievous wrong.

This does not make all their claims valid as historical truth in the approximate sense that honest historians may reach, with luck as much as assiduity. Persons impelled by a cause are given to exaggeration. Seeking support from a wider international public is an exercise in propaganda so that force of sentiment can be directed by opportunistic advantage. Veracity of fact may not be a dominating yardstick in such compositions.

The hint of genocide in the past through the word “decimation” is just one wisp of bloated imagery in this document. But perhaps the worst instance of their very own act of gerrymandering comes within their verbal excursions into the cricketing arena.

Having been brought up in a cricketing environment these Tamils were fully alive to the hallowed status of the game in Ole England . So their demonstrative intrusion is wrapped in velvet: they love cricket, they play cricket, they insist; it is because they wish to highlight racism that they intrude upon the verdant green of cricketing Englishmen. After all, not only is the Sri Lankan state racist, its cricket selectors have ignored merit and discriminated against Tamil players. So proclaimed this leaflet created by protesting Tamils.

Moreover, their leaflet could not lie: it was coined in Oxford . Oxford is not consonant with lies. But lie it did on cricket (and maybe even about its alleged place of minting).

The Cricket Sideshow

Sri Lanka was not a fully-fledged member of the International Council of Cricket. Its participation in the Prudential World Cup of 1975 was made possible by the grace of ICC and MCC though perhaps assisted by the display of capacity in the field against high-level competition at various levels in the years 1963-75.

The squad for the World Cup was captained by Anura Tennekoon of SSC and S. Thomas’ College and was composed of the following: Dennis Chanmugan, Ajit de Silva, D. L. S de Silva, D. S. de Silva, Ranjit Fernando, David Heyn, Lalith Kaluperuma, Duleep Mendis, Tony Opatha, H. S. M. Pieris, Anura Ranasinghe, Michael Tissera, Bandula Warnapura and Sunil Wettimuny. The two players in the larger training squad who missed out on selection were Roy Dias (St. Peter’s) and Sarath Fernando (Prince of Wales).

Cricket at the highest levels in Sri Lanka during the 1940s to 1960s had been dominated by players emerging from the duumvirate of Royal and S. Thomas’ Colleges and the Christian denominational schools of St. Peters, St. Josephs, Wesley, St. Benedict’s, St. Anthony’s and Trinity (the latter two in Kandy). A fair sprinkling of Tamil men from these schools had been among those representing Sri Lanka in this period, the only Jaffna lad who did so being C. Balakrishnan who made his mark as a medical student playing for University of Ceylon.

By the late 19760s, however, the prominence of the Westernized set from these elite schools was being challenged by the emergence of good cricketers from Prince of Wales and St. Sebastian’s in Moratuwa and the Buddhist schools Ananda and Nalanda in Colombo , Dharmaraja in Kandy and Mahinda in Galle . Thus, significantly, the 1975 touring squad included as many as six from this cluster, while Ajit de Silva hailed from the relatively unknown school of Dharmasoka in Ambalangoda. As vitally, most of these seven were among the youngest players in the sixteen. However, cricket administration was still dominated by the Royal-Thomian personnel in the 1970s.

Favouritism can always bear on cricket selection in any country. In Sri Lanka four lines of favouritism could be identified as potential influences: (1) favouring someone from one’s old school, that is, alumni partiality; (2) favouring a player from one’s club; (3) that peculiar Sri Lankan phenomenon of an ‘uncle’ showing partiality to a young protégé he has adopted as his own and (4) partiality on “communal” lines, that is, favouring one’s ethnic group. Where one or more of these lines fuse, the force of partiality would be greater. But perhaps the greatest danger is not favouritism so much as strong dislike and vindictive action against a particular player evinced by a powerful selector or powerful captain with clout.

At present I do not have details on the Selection Committee who decided on the squad to tour England in summer 1975. But I do know that the preparations were exemplary and included a training stint in Nuwara Eliya for acclimatization. From my personal knowledge of cricket in the decade 1966-75 from a location in the hills of Peradeniya and occasional matches at the fringes of club cricket, the sixteen players listed above seem imposing, that is, of star quality.

So, the Thamil Action Committee’s allegation that “there was discrimination against prominent Thamil players of international standard” is simple concoction. This type of claim, I add, is not uncommon. Though I have not kept notes I have occasionally come across similar allegations from Tamil spokespersons in the 1990s and 2000s with no specifics to back the claim. I recall, however, that on such occasions such allegations either betrayed ignorance or sought to capitalise on the ignorance of the audience to which the remarks were addressed.

Such recent claims are either malicious lies or beliefs founded on colossal ignorance about the transformations in the domestic cricket scene in Sri Lanka since the mid-1980s. One development has been the decline in the degree to which Tamil youth in Colombo pursue sports and cricket at the top level in their schools. In the result one of the striking phenomenon of recent times has been the minute proportion of Tamil men playing cricket at the highest club level: one would be hard put to count a half-dozen Tamil club cricketers at any point in the 1990s and 2000s (Roberts 2006b, 2007 and 2009). One can therefore surmise that those, whether Tamils and attentive outsiders, who peddle such claims are people who have heard this allegation as earnest assertion from another earnest Tamil. In the context of Tamil patriotism and their own body of prejudices, as well as concrete evidence of some discrimination suffered by Tamils in the recent past in fields of employment, such a tale is absorbed hook, line and sinker. Believer of concoction then turns into earnest retailer. That is how the lines of grievance-politics spiral. Thus do new generations take to the streets in demonstration on cricket ground.

Alas that is also the modality of dangerous and malicious tale about alleged atrocity by an Enemy Other. That is how rumour spreads and swells and promotes ordinary individuals to become assailants in “riots.” This power has been documented by Kannangara, myself, Tarzie Vittachi and Tudor Silva with reference to the Sinhala pogrom directed at Moors in mid-1915 and the mini-pogroms against Tamils in 1958 and 1977. Ultimately, it could be said that those Sinhalese, whether state agents or ordinary-Silvas, who became assailants in the mini-pogrom directed against Tamils in mid-1977 and the horrendous pogrom of July 1983 did more for the Tamil cause in the international arena than the little band of Tamils who ventured to protest at Kensington Oval on 7 June 1975.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

De Silva, C. R. 1974 “Weightage in university admissions: standardisation and district quotas in Sri Lanka ,” Modern Ceylon Studies 5: 152-78.

De Silva, C. R. 1979 “The impact of nationalism on education: the schools takeover (1961) and the university admissions crisis, 1970-1975,” in M Roberts (ed.) Collective identities, nationalism and protest in modern Sri Lanka , Colombo : Marga, pp. 474-99.

Hopps, David 2009 “The Sri Lankan players’ reaction to their ordeal has shown how cricket can cope,” The Guardian, Wednesday 4 March 2009.

Kannangara, A. P. 1984 “The riots of 1915 in Sri Lanka : a study of the roots of communal violence,” Past & Present No. 102, pp. 130-65.

Narayan Swamy, M. R. 1994. Tigers of Sri Lanka , Delhi : Konark Publishers Pvt Ltd.

Praveen Swami 2009 “Jihadists no fans of cricket,” The Hindu, http://www.hindu.com/2009/03/05/stories/2009030560961000.htm

Ragavan 2009a “Interview with Ragavan on Tamil militancy (early years),” http:// kafila.org/ 2009/02/16/interview-with-ragavan-on-tamil-militancy-part-i/

Ragavan, 2009b “Prabhakaran’s timekeeping. Memories of a much-mythologised rebel leader by a former LTTE Fighter,” Sunday Leader, 24 May 2009.

Roberts, Michael 1994 “The agony and ecstasy of a pogrom: southern Lanka, July 1983,” in Roberts, Exploring Confrontation. Sri Lanka : Politics, Culture and History, Reading : Harwood Academic Publishers, pp.

Roberts, Michael 2006a “The Tamil movement for Eelam,” E-Bulletin of the International Sociological Association No. 4, July 2006, pp. 12-24.

Roberts, Michael 2006b Forces & Strands in Sri Lanka’s Cricket History, Colombo : Social Scientists’ Association.

Roberts, Michael 2007 “Landmarks and threads in the cricketing universe of Sri Lanka ,” Sport in Society, January 2007, vol. 10 (1): 120-42.

Roberts, Michael 2009 “Wunderkidz in a blunderland: tensions & tales from Sri Lankan cricket,” in Dominic Malcolm, Jon Gemmell and Nalin Mehta (eds.) Sport and Society, vol. 12, nos. 4/5, special issue on Cricket; International and Interdisciplinary Approaches, 2009, pp. 566-78.

Roberts, Michael 2009a “The Lahore atrocity: our cricketing ambassadors,” Island , 14 March 2009.

Roberts, Michael 2009b “Cricket and Lahore : atrocities, shambles, miracles,” Baggy Green, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 7-9.

Roberts, Michael 2009d “Marakkala kolahalaya: mentalities directing the pogrom of 1915,” in Roberts, Confrontations in Sri Lanka : Sinhalese, LTTE & Others, Colombo : Vijitha Yapa Publications.

Roberts, Michael 2010a “Ideological and caste threads in the early LTTE,” unpubd. Mss, awaiting adjudication.

Roberts, Michael 2010b “Understanding Zealotry,” http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/, 6 March 2010.

Roberts, Michael 2010c “Encountering extremism: biographical tracks and wists,” http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/, 6 March 2010.

Roberts, Michael & Alfred James 1998 Crosscurrents. Sri Lanka and Australia at cricket, Sydney : Walla Walla Press.

Sabaratnam, T. 2003 Pirapaharan, [a biography in chapter segments] serialised in http://www. sangam.org/index_orig.html.

Sabaratnam, T. 2009 “Beginnings of Violence,” draft chapter from his book in press -- kindly sent to me.

Silva, K Tudor 1980 ‘Katakata, opadhupa saha Lankave janavargika kälabimba’, Samāja Vimasuma ?? : 47-69.

Sivarajah, A. 1996 Politics of Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka, New Delhi : South AsianPublishers .

TamilNet 2007 “Tamileelam flag on pitch prompts paper’s ire,” 18 April 2007 http://www.Tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=21917

Vittachi, Tarzie 1958 Emergency 1958, London ; Andre Deutsch.

Wilson, A. J. 2000 Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism. Its origins and development in the 19th and 20th Centuries, London : Hurst and Company.

March 27, 2010

Video: Tamils on Probation

by Reporters, France 24 TV

As the last bastion of the Tamil Tigers fell, tens of thousands of civilians who had fled the fighting were detained in refugee camps. Now the Sri Lankan army has given them permission to return home. We went to meet these refugees who have lost everything.

Sri Lanka: Tamils on probation: courtesy of France 24

We were civilized 2,500 years ago - can’t you tell?

By Namini Wijedasa

I have this BIG problem with a bunch of people that live in a house located on a particular street. I don’t like them because I feel they don’t dress proper, they have loud parties and I’m sure they are disrespectful to my opinions, my upbringing, my background and my religion.

Besides I think they are ugly.

Despite my misgivings about these boors, they remain popular in the neighbourhood – certainly more popular than I am. When they do stuff, people like to emulate them. When they say something, people listen. I am now irritated beyond belief and I think I will teach them a lesson.

What I will do therefore, is hire a couple of busses from a public bus depot. I am considering enlisting the help of a parliamentarian to do this but I might go it alone because this leg of the operation is fairly easy.

I will then bring together about 200 or so hoodlums. At this point, I will certainly ask advise from an MP – preferably a ruling party one – on where to find such a large congregation of hoodlums and now to get them to work. But this shouldn’t be difficult either because hoodlums seem so common now. (Only problem would be to find someone who aren’t busy with election work).

I will pile them into the buses and take them to the house where these people that I don’t like live. We might sing rude songs on the way and I think I will ply my hoodlums with alcohol so that they are at their hoodlum best when they get to the venue. We may even moon at some police stations as we drive past.

We will initially pelt the house with stones and whatever other material we can find lying about- shatter a few windows, pound on some walls and dent their annoying wooden window frames. We will also try to force our way in and cause more damage. We will yell, screech and caw threateningly while rampaging menacingly around. We might leave a few leaflets behind denouncing the inmates of the house while forcing our views upon them.

No doubt the police will arrive at the scene, but we can vanquish those clods by telephoning another MP who will make sure that nothing serious happens to us, never mind the victims of our attack. Even if a couple of us are arrested we’ll be out soon.

With the right contacts, we would have to spend only one night in a police cell. What’s more, we can even get the errant police officers transferred out of their stations. Contacts, contacts, contacts – that’s all it takes.

In the end I might even cook up a relatively plausible reason for targeting these people I detest. Like how Sirasa was attacked on the pretext that we opposed them sponsoring a concert in Sri Lanka by a musician called Akon whose music video ‘sexy chick’ is undoubtedly the most watched You Tube clip in this country. (The real reason is we hate their guts).

That, ladies and gentleman, is my game plan for dealing with people I don’t like. I learnt it from the best in the industry. (Actually, I just read the newspapers). Once I am done with this bunch, I might lob a grenade at some other losers, post them a threatening letter or send a white van to their gate. I won’t abduct them, that would be going too far – but it sure as hell will scare the living daylights out of them and that’s satisfying enough.

I may also spearhead a smear campaign, spread malicious gossip, accuse them of conspiracies for which I have not a jot of proof, claim they are unpatriotic and that they supported the LTTE, say they are funded by the West to destabilize this otherwise exceptionally stable country….you know blah, blah, blah.

Boy, I love Sri Lanka. It is so easy to rough up your enemies. All you have to do is know the right people. There used to be a time when you were forced to be civilized in this country. No longer, thank god.

Today, that’s for suckers. Today we will protect every Buddha statue from here to North Pole and WOE unto anybody that stands in our way.

Besides we were civilized 2,500 years ago – much, much before anybody else. We are a proud and noble race. Can’t you tell? ~ courtesy: lakbima news.lk ~

Sri Lanka seems to be only country where eroded concept of state sovereignty is being erroneously invoked

by Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama

-But that doctrine has long been eroded, and Sri Lanka appears to be the only country in which it is still, quite vocally but erroneously, being invoked.-

A constitutional myth that has been developed in Sri Lanka in recent years is that of Sovereignty. Whenever the United Nations or a foreign government focuses on an act or omission of the Sri Lanka Government, the immediate response is that our sovereignty is under threat or attack.

When the UN Secretary-General announces his intention of appointing an expert committee to advise him on matters relating to compliance with international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, it is condemned as an infringement of our sovereignty. When the European Union announces that it proposes to investigate whether Sri Lanka is eligible under its regulations for the renewal of the privilege of GSP+, that investigation is condemned as a threat to our sovereignty. Indeed, any criticism of the actions of the Sri Lanka Government in any forum beyond our shores is perceived as an affront to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.

The concept of sovereignty first entered our constitutional lexicon when the 1972 Constitution declared Sri Lanka to be a "Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic". It proceeded to add that "Sovereignty is in the People and is inalienable". What Dr Colvin R de Silva sought to do by the use of the expression "sovereignty" in that context was to establish the attributes of a republic, as distinct from that of a monarchy. Despite the grant of "independence" in 1948, Ceylon had continued to be subject to the British Crown. As such, sovereignty had continued to be vested in Elizabeth 11, albeit as Queen of Ceylon. The Marxist parties, and the LSSP in particular, had consistently argued that independence was a sham for as long as we owed allegiance to a foreign monarch. Real independence would be achieved only when sovereignty vested in the people of our country. In fact, Sri Lanka did enjoy real independence in political terms since 1948, but under a Constitution provided by the Sovereign in the form of an Order-in-Council issued from Buckingham Palace.

The doctrine of sovereignty which is now being invoked so frequently and freely by politicians, political commentators and the media alike is not the concept of sovereignty referred to in our Constitution. What is being invoked is the rule of customary international law that once recognized the doctrine of state sovereignty. According to that rule, a sovereign had full, complete and exclusive authority to deal with its own territory and with its own nationals. It followed that international law did not permit any interference or intervention by any other state, or by the community of states, in respect of either of these matters. Accordingly, a state was free to deal with its own nationals in whatever way it chose to. In particular, it alone had the right to determine the subject-matter and content of its domestic laws. In the context of the doctrine of state sovereignty, it was inconceivable that international law could vest an individual with any rights exercisable against his own state.

But that doctrine has long been eroded, and Sri Lanka appears to be the only country in which it is still, quite vocally but erroneously, being invoked.

The erosion of the doctrine of state sovereignty, in so far as it related to the treatment by a state of its own nationals, began as far back as in the early nineteenth century with the incorporation of certain humanitarian norms in international law.

The first was a series of international treaties which declared that "trading in slaves is forbidden in conformity with the principles of international law". Their object was "the complete suppression of slavery in all its forms and of the slave trade by land and sea". Thereafter, every state enjoyed the right to board, search and confiscate any ship, to whomsoever it belonged, if it was engaged in the slave trade.

The second were the series of Geneva Conventions that now regulate the treatment of combatants and victims of war, including the victims of internal armed conflicts, such as those between the armed forces of a government and dissidents or other organized groups which control part of its territory.

The third were the series of multilateral labour conventions that now regulate working conditions. The fourth were the series of treaties that formed an integral part of the peace settlement following the end of the First World War in which provision was made for the protection of the rights of minorities living within the newly carved boundaries of several European states.

These were the only areas in which the doctrine of state sovereignty had begun to erode and where the international community could presume to judge, or even legitimately express its concern at, a government’s treatment of its own citizens. But the Second World War and the events that preceded it in Germany (and in the territories under German occupation), where unprecedented atrocities were perpetrated on millions of its own citizens by the regime then lawfully in power, demonstrated how hopelessly inadequate international law still was.

According to the strict doctrine of state sovereignty, any foreign criticism of the domestic laws that authorized those atrocities was illegitimate. It was also meaningless. Unless there was established a set of superior standards to which all national law must conform – an overriding code of international human rights law – history could well repeat itself. That was precisely what the Charter of the United Nations, to which Sri Lanka has been a party since 1955, set out to do.

The United Nations Charter was the standard-bearer, the first of several international treaties that helped to create an international human rights regime. Article 55 imposed a mandatory obligation on the United Nations "to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all". Article 56 imposed a similar obligation on member states to take joint and separate action to achieve that objective.

Therefore, while Article 56 bound each member state (according to the International Court of Justice) to observe and respect human rights within its territorial jurisdictions, it also imposed an obligation on other states and on the international community generally, to ensure that this obligation was fulfilled. From being solely a matter of domestic concern under the archaic doctrine of state sovereignty, a government’s treatment of its own nationals has now become the legitimate concern of the international community.

When the Government of Sri Lanka signed and ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the First Optional Protocol, it gave certain solemn undertakings to its own nationals and to the international community. First, that it would respect and ensure to all individuals within its territory the rights recognized in that covenant. Second, that it would adopt the necessary legislative measures to give effect to those rights. Third, that it would provide an effective remedy in respect of those rights. Fourth, that it would report periodically to the Human Rights Committee on the measures it has adopted and the progress made. Fifth, that it would give effect to the decisions of the Human Rights Committee in respect of individual complaints lodged by its nationals. It is a matter of common knowledge that the Government of Sri Lanka has failed or neglected to perform these obligations even to a reasonable degree. When a government fails to abide by the terms of a multilateral treaty, other states parties to that treaty have the right, under international law, to draw attention to that failure in any form or manner permitted by law, and in any forum they choose to.

Whether for purely cosmetic reasons or because of a genuine desire to improve conditions within their territories, an overwhelming majority of states have ratified or acceded to international human rights treaties. Therefore, there is now an international climate that is increasingly sensitive to the illegality of human rights violations, less willing to tolerate them, and more responsive to public and private efforts to prevent them. If some states choose to respond, while others do not, it is because realpolitik often determines the conduct of foreign relations. To invoke an obsolete doctrine of state sovereignty to defend oneself is to deride the contemporary world order. It may also suggest, particularly to the international community, that the facade of apparent defiance only seeks to obscure from view a host of rattling skeletons.

The challenge that faces the new Sri Lankan Government is to recognize, acknowledge and address the fact that in recent decades compliance with human rights obligations has remained on the backburner. The space that ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities are entitled to as of right has been denied them. Political dissent and opposition has been wedged in by suffocating authoritarianism. The startling revelations that the former chief justice continues to make of the cosy relationship and the frequent contact he had had with the head of the executive reveals the extent to which judicial independence and integrity had evaporated. The so-called thirty year war is no excuse for this state of affairs. As a great judge once remarked, "amidst the clash of arms, the laws are not silent; they speak the same language in war as in peace". To denigrate those who criticize us or to demonize those who seek to hold us to account, is only to lay bare our own culpability.

How did the Tamil Nationalist cause make a comeback in the form of TNA resurgence?

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The current Sri Lankan political discourse, thin gruel though it is, contains three morsels of content: democracy, the electoral system and national sovereignty. Some question whether the ‘mere fact of elections’ qualifies Sri Lanka, or any country for that matter, as a democracy. The second discussion is on the electoral system. The third debate revolves around human rights and international factors, with some emphasising national sovereignty and the others, democratic rights and freedoms.

Let’s take it head-on. How did the Tamil nationalist cause, its military manifestation crushed and its propaganda arm in self exile, make such a comeback in the form of the TNA resurgence? How can it be in question as to whether the ruling coalition will or will not obtain a two thirds majority, with its game-changing consequences? How was the outcome of the Eastern province election in doubt?

The answer to all these questions is that elections in Sri Lanka can and do make real changes. The people’s vote or if you prefer, the peoples’ (Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim) vote, counts for something more than mere camouflage. If for instance, the UPFA is forced to form an administration with the help of the UNP or the TNA, it will significantly alter the complexion of that administration and its policies. Had Prabhakaran not enforced a boycott of the presidential election of 2005, Sri Lanka’s and his own fate would have been drastically different. What more evidence is needed that what Sri Lanka still has, a multiparty electoral system, is real and worth protecting?

The UPFA promises to change the electoral system and abolish the pernicious procedure of the preference vote. To what intent and purpose, and to be replaced with what? To strengthen the sole decision making power of the party leader in the nomination of the party representatives? The preference vote at least gives the voter the right to indicate his or her preference among the individuals on the party list, and as the Southern PC election showed, that is no small deal, because the electorate does indeed decide against the favourites of the palace or party centre.

We are reassured that the German model will be the replacement, but we do not know what percentage of the seats will be directly elected and what percentage on the basis of PR.

The UPFA’s election propaganda seems a straightforward pitch for a return to the good old days of the pre-JRJ Westminster model. I find that prospect a wee bit chilling when I remember that all the discriminatory legislation that this country witnessed was passed under the old system and virtually none under the combination of PR and the directly and nationally elected Presidency.

The debate on human rights, or, more correctly the levelling of charge and counter-charge, continues, spiced up with the unconfirmed yet persistent report of Indian absenteeism in the NAM statement criticising Ban Ki Moon for his idea of an expert panel to investigate Sri Lankan wrongdoing. If the report of India sitting it out is true, it is truly portentous, but I shall not comment upon it unless and until it is confirmed.

The polarisation on human rights is not very helpful. It seems that some prefer to defend democracy even at the cost of national sovereignty while others prefer to defend national sovereignty even if it means putting violations and erosion of democracy on a back burner. First things first: there are those who believe that in an era of globalisation, national sovereignty, especially that of small states like Sri Lanka, is a fiction. Such people are in denial. It is precisely the inequities of globalisation that has caused a resurgence in the defence of national sovereignty, and if the cosmopolitan critics want to see what national sovereignty is like, let them meditate on Prabhakaran at Nandikadal, where the Sri Lankan state reasserted its sovereignty over its national territory and was stopped by none as it reunified the country, exterminating its armed enemy—despite a multidimensional external campaign involving states, movements, the media, and global civil society. The cosmopolitans underestimate the relative autonomy of the nation, the state and politics.

A mirror-image of these critics is those who over-estimate national sovereignty to the point of ‘absolutising’ it. For them, national sovereignty can be maintained against all comers and at any cost, while any criticism from overseas and any act of international solidarity are seen as neo-colonial violations of sovereignty. The paranoid mentality of such elements, and more dangerously, the spread of such paranoia, is evidenced in the twisted use of the Sinhala language itself, with the introduction of the new term, used in a wholly pejorative sense, to wit, "jaathyantharaya". In its literal translation it means ‘The International’ as in the marching song of the international workers’ movement, The Internationale, or the Third International or Comintern.

However, in current Sri Lankan political usage it means ‘the international factor’ or ‘the international actors/community’, with its abbreviation to ‘the international’ deployed with a totally negative, ominous inflection (‘jathyantharaya’ instead of ‘jathyanthara prajawa or ‘jathyanthara sadhakaya’ or ‘jathyantara kramaya’). These ideologues and apparatchiks do not care if democracy decomposes and rights are robbed, so long as national sovereignty is defended.

So in this sad polarisation, some use democracy to prise open the shield of national sovereignty, while others, their opponents, use national sovereignty as a shield to shroud the ghastliest violations of human rights and democracy.

What has the disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda have to do with national sovereignty? Why are lamentable wartime practices, explicable as the brutalisation of a thirty years war against a fanatical foe, going unchecked in peacetime, and since its alleged prime wartime practitioner is out of action who is continuing to do this, why—and what does it say about the earlier episodes?

None of this is necessary. National sovereignty and democracy plus human rights can both be protected by the establishment of a strong, internationally credible national commission of human rights. Why not a powerful national human rights commission such as those in the rest of South Asia? Neither the critics nor the defenders of the government take up this slogan: the critics prefer to push against national sovereignty hoping to puncture it and make for external intervention which can catalyse regime change – itself a silly thought because external pressure especially in the case of a small island, only cements the ideology of populist patriotism.

The defenders of the government come up with plans on paper, which totally lack any credibility, local or international. They would prefer not to appoint a powerful national commission invested with resources and comprising independent persons of distinction, even though such a move would take the wind out of the sails of Sri Lanka’s critics in the West and the UN and strengthen our defenders in the global arena, because patriotism is only a device to shield the state and the administration from genuine scrutiny and accountability, even if purely domestic.

While the war was on, it was necessary to err in the direction of the defence of national and state sovereignty in the face of doctrines such as R2P which could have been used to forestall our decisive victory over the Tigers. Today, with the war over almost a year ago, there is no such need to compromise on democracy and human rights, especially when there are solutions that can protect both while not harming national sovereignty. Today, there are no more enemies within Sri Lanka’s borders; the people of Sri Lanka have no enemies among our fellow citizens.

To conclude, the stakes and prospects at Sri Lanka’s elections show that we have a real and resilient democracy, while the debate on human rights, culture, etc reveal that this democracy is still a far cry from the norms of a healthy modern liberal democracy. To me, it really doesn’t matter whether, in a time of peace, the private media get its funding from overseas and to what purpose. After all, the tax payer funds the state media, which according to alarming recent accounts, sponsors extravaganzas at which songs are sung extolling an imaginary monarchy.

Yesterday, at war with the ‘textbook fascist’ Tigers we had to defend the democratic state even when it abused its power. Today we are no longer burdened by that imperative. Today, the right of the state to defend itself can and must be distinguished from the abuse of power by the state even in the exercise of that right. Yesterday we, the country, the people, the state, faced an existential threat; today we do not. Yesterday, when we were at war, certain things mattered; certain polarisations and demarcations, certain walls and drawbridges, were necessary. Today they do not, and what is to be commended is the slogan (sadly observed for too short a while) of no less a fighter against imperialism and for national liberation and the people, than Mao Ze Dong: a Hundred Flowers Bloom! Let A Hundred Schools of Thought Contend!"

March 26, 2010

The politics of Akon visa denial have a wider impact on Sri Lanka and Buddhism

by Dushy Ranetunge in London

The Sri Lankan government this week has decided to deny a visa for the American rap star Akon, even before he had applied for one. The politics of this decision is obvious.

The electorate that listens to and will participate in a Akon musical is perceived as being overwhelmingly liberal, Colombo centric, affluent UNP voters. While the cabal that opposes the Akon musical, are perceived as being less affluent UPFA voters, many of whom would have not even heard of Akon.

If the government had granted permission despite the protests by the radicals, it would have antagonised a part of its electoral home turf, which consists of Sinhalese Buddhist radicals.

Although President Rajapakse himself may not be a Akon fan, there is a high possibility that his son educated in St Thomas's College, Mt. Lavinia, and later at Cardiff University in Wales and drives a BMW X5 may have heard of Akon. He may have even listened to his music at that nightclub in Horton Place, Colombo 7, above the Coffee house, as he like many of his generation aspires to the lifestyle of the Colombians.

TC327A.jpg

But leaving aside politics, decisions of this nature have a wider impact on Sri Lanka and Buddhism.

Buddhism is perceived in the West as being a tolerant passive religion and Buddhist statues are perceived as creating an aura of calm and tranquility. As a result, the use of Buddha statues is somewhat different in the West.

Buddha statues are commonly used as garden ornaments and are found as a part of water gardens. In the Akon Video it is near a pool. Buddha statues are also used as a part of table lamps.

Tibetan/Chinese art also depicts Buddha in an erotic pose and could be found on the World Wide Web.

Buddhism is perceived and interpreted in different societies in different ways. Even within Sri Lanka Buddhism is perceived differently by individuals.

A few years ago, a visit to the Dambulla temple by a 11-year-old girl wearing just above knee high shorts was denied entry. According to the “Taliban” style dress code guard, shorts should be below the knee and shoulders cannot be exposed and should be covered.

They will not be visiting Dambulla temple again.

This year I witnessed another 11-year-old girl wearing seriously short shorts walking into Madhu Church for a service and there was no “Taliban” style guard stopping her from entering the church.

Later she walked into Tiruketisvaram kovil near Mannar. There was no dress code Taliban present to stop her and advise her on entry requirements to one of the five great Isvarams in Sri Lanka.

It was obvious that the Catholic Church in Madhu and the great Isvaram in Mannar were more tolerant in dress code than the Buddhist temple in Dambulla. Other than the issue of tolerance, there are financial implications. Those who wear shorts tend to be from the affluent classes in Colombo, and in this instance, individuals who are generous and make four figure donations.

The use of “Taliban” style dress code will merely drive this class of individuals away from visiting these Buddhist temples and reduce revenue.

More importantly, it will alienate them from Buddhism, increasingly reducing the participation of this affluent class and their future generations from Buddhist activity as is evident today.

The dress code and other rules and regulations increasingly demanded by Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka is a new phenomena, and follows a similar trajectory to the rise of Sinhala nationalism.

At the early part of the last century a majority of men and a significant number of women in Sri Lanka were topless and was widely photographed and sketched. Other than these photographs, which are found on post cards produced at the beginning of the last century, many of the prints published by travelers to Sri Lanka, such as the Russian Prince Alexei Soltikoff in 1841, depict these scenes all over Sri Lanka.

There was no “Taliban” to stop them or demanded a dress code when visiting Buddhist temples topless for most of our history. Therefore this “talibanism” creeping into Buddhism is a new phenomena, nothing to do with Buddhism, but recently introduced by present-day radicals and purists.

They argue it as being a present day requirement and point out that you cannot enter the Vatican or Mecca wearing such clothes, as they demand respect.

This argument is self-defeating as the attraction of Buddhism to the liberal and the educated is because it is different to the Vatican and Mecca. By bringing in rigid practices into Buddhism, they are in effect closing the doors to a certain segment of society, which cash strapped Buddhist temples could ill afford. It also destroys the reputation of Buddhism of being liberal and tolerant of all things.

In Buddhism we were taught that it was important to identify the thought behind the action.

Let us examine the Akon Video.

Akon has no known anti- Buddhist hostility. The film set with the Buddhist statue and pool where the Video was filmed would have been selected by the record company's artistic director and the video itself would have been funded and produced by the record label that has contracted him and in effect owns him.

Akon would be a small cog in a bigger wheel where he would have been driven to the set by the record company, and asked to perform to record the video. To Akon, the presence of the Buddha statue would have been as natural as seeing a Buddha statue at most garden centers in the West, where Buddhism is regarded differently to Christianity and Islam.

From a Western perspective, Akon would have not had any intent, in thought or action to insult or be seen to be hostile to Buddhism.

In this light, the actions of the Sri Lankan government are high handed and it damages both Sri Lanka and Buddhism. It creates a perception of Talabanism in Sinhalese society and the government succumbing to it.

It also damages the perception of Buddhism as being tolerant and understanding and being different to Christianity and Islam.

on the visit of Gen. Than Shwe ~ in Nov 2009 ~ by Vikalpa SL

The situation is compounded by the fact that this same government recently invited members of the Burmese Military Junta to Colombo. The Burmese Military Junta has been responsible for the death, torture and incarceration of hundreds of Buddhist monks who have risen against their tyranny in Burma.

None of these champions protested during that visit.

It exposes the hypocrisy of the present regime and raises more fundamental questions as to how the regime intends to provide space for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka, when it is incapable of providing space for the English speaking Sinhalese in the Capital. In both instances, Sinhalese radicalism seems to have a veto over the cultural space of minority groups.

Tamil National Alliance enters critical third phase-1

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The single –largest Sri Lankan Tamil political group in the dissolved Parliament was the conglomerate known as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The TNA which contested the April 2004 general elections under the “Veedu”(House) symbol of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) obtained twenty-two seats including two nominated under the national list.

RS326.jpg

[Click to read in full ~ in dbsJeyaraj.com]


March 25, 2010

UPFA rolls towards comprehensive win, will 'Chinthanaya' for National Reconciliation be implemented post election ?

By Harim Peiris

Among the more serious and politically important features of an election are the election manifestos that political parties present as their policy platform for seeking a mandate from the people. While not legally binding nor justiciable, it has significant political, moral and ethical weight. In the event of a party in power, it is arguably a component of the social contract that binds the government and the governed. It also provides a particular world view of a political party or group and a statement of intent regarding policy implementation.

The Mahinda Chinthanaya “idiri dekma” or vision for the future, the 2010 updated version of the original 2005 Chinthanaya is a more important document than the manifestos of the other parties contesting the general election, because the chief proponent of the Chinthanaya, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was re-elected by a fairly large margin earlier this year and is ensconced in office until the end of 2017.

Believing that the need for reconciliation between the diverse ethnic groups in Sri Lanka is self evident, an examination of the stated policy of President Rajapaksa and the UPFA as presented in the Mahinda Chinthanaya, Vision for the Future 2010, is an important exercise.

Firstly and fundamentally the Mahinda Chintanaya accepts the existence of and the need to resolve a political conflict, which it identifies as the “political crisis in the North and East”. The chosen instrument for this has been the All Party Conference (APC) and its more executive and working arm the All Party Representative Committee (APRC). The Chinthanaya 2010, page 58, states thus “The All Party Conference continued simultaneously and through its Representative Committee critical political issues were subject to open discussion. Rather than imposing a solution from above, I have sought to arrive at a solution through discussion and dialogue with political parties, civil society organizations and the people themselves. It is extremely difficult to arrive at consensus in a conflict rife with disillusionment, divisions, individual views and bloodshed.

However we have already laid the foundation to achieve consensus. While I agree that everyone has the right to his or her opinion it is my contention that we need to arrive at consensus on the facts. It is this wide national consensus that is required for national cohabitation”.

While political detractors throw cold water on the APC and the APRC as convenient time wasters, designed exclusively to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community, the reality is that until May last year, the war prevented a moderation of political positions by either side and right after the war ended the government entered election mode to seek a post war popular mandate. Policy making in earnest will only occur after the general elections. The war also prevented participation by the vast majority of the elected representatives of the Tamil people, who also had an unelected armed group as their supreme “sole” representatives. That situation has now changed. The Chinthanaya also talks of involving the newly elected representatives of the Tamil people in the APC and APRC process.

Secondly it is clear from a reading of the Chinthanaya that the devolution of power as existing in our constitution or provincial councils as per the 13th amendment to the constitution will be implemented in the North, finally granting a long standing policy recommendation of Minister Douglas Devananda and the EPDP. The TNA, which will most likely contest and win the Northern Provincial Council election is a post war and post LTTE convert to the provincial councils system. Interestingly this would be their first electoral foray at the provincial level.

The Chinthanaya on page 54 states thus “I will re-establish the Northern Provincial Council under the 13th amendment with immediate effect. I will seek the assistance of the Provincial Councilors of the Northern Province to expedite and strengthen the Uthuru Wasanthaya development program”. It is important for the success of the Northern Provincial Council that not only the letter but also the spirit of the law, with regard to the 13th amendment be implemented. Some of the lessons learned from the East, like the conflict between the elected Chief Minister and the un- elected Governor are avoided.

Thirdly, the Mahinda Chinthanaya promises rapid development of the Northern Province. There are some very specific goals and projects outlined. It is important that this be done with the consultation and the participation of the local people and their elected representatives. Moreover the Chinthanaya promises a phased roll back of the high security zones in the North. This in actuality is in the Jaffna peninsula.

Fourthly, the issue of resettling the internally displaced persons in their original districts of habitation is an important aspect of reconciliation and the Chinthanaya states thus on the issue. “Under the Uthuru Wasanthaya program me, the internally displaced living in welfare camps in Vavuniya are being resettled. All those from Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna and part of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi are already resettled. The remainder from Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi Districts will be resettled systematically without delay, based on the speed at which the de-mining process takes place.

A comprehensive project will be implemented to resettle the Muslim persons forcibly evicted by the LTTE from the Northern Province during 1990, in their respective places of origin with due attention being paid to their housing, livelihood and infrastructure facilities”.

The fifth issue of national reconciliation is an accounting for the people killed and injured through the conflict and on this issue the Chinthanaya states thus “My government and I are fully aware that it is the Tamils and Muslims who lived in the Northern and Eastern Provinces were the most affected by the conflict that lasted for 30 years. However, now there is sustainable peace and this is what the people of the north and east expected and so did the rest of the country. I am aware that there are wives who have lost their husbands; parents who have lost their children; children who have lost their parents”. Accordingly a Reconciliation Commission, like the one appointed by the PA government in 1994 to document the human losses of the JVP insurrection, will be a tested method of bringing closure to the families of the victims of conflict.

Sixth and finally is the issue of the ex combatants of the LTTE, with over ten thousand of them in government custody and in a legal limbo, many of them just children and forcibly conscripted, the Chinthanaya states thus “Armed combatants will be rehabilitated in keeping with their own social and cultural identity and will be handed over to their parents”.

So the above is the publicly stated and the people mandated policy of President Rajapaksa. With the UPFA rolling towards a comprehensive electoral win at the general election, the real issue is, post-election will these stated policies be implemented? The answer to that lies in the availability of political space and the perception of political self interest by the President and the government.

The presence of close political allies not really sympathetic to the above would be a significant hurdle to overcome for the Chinthanaya to be implemented as stated above. But that issue is an entirely different discussion, which this column will engage in next week, unless political events dictate otherwise.

(The writer served as Presidential Spokesman from 2001 – 2005) ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror.lk ~

TNA highlights Sinhalese influx into North Lanka

by P.K. Balachandran

In the intense competition for the ethnic Tamil vote in the run up to the April 8 Sri Lankan parliamentary elections, parties touting Tamil nationalism are highlighting the “dangers” arising from the post-war influx of Sinhalese into the predominently Tamil Jaffna peninsula and the Wanni.

Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which is the strongest of the Tamil nationalist parties, is drawing attention to the construction of permament Sri Lankan army camps in the Wanni. Suresh Premachandran, who is contesting from Jaffna district, told Express that the construction of permament camps meant the transformation of the existing camps into family stations, which in turn, would mean a great increase in the population of the Sinhalese. This fear stems from the fact that the Sri Lankan army is almost exclusively Sinhalese.

“The army has about 40,000 troops now in the Wanni.Very soon, the troops’ families will join them. Once a permanent settlement comes up, infrastructural facilities like Sinhalese schools and Buddhist temples will come up, and the ethno-cultural character of the Wanni will change,” Premachandran said.

Tamil nationalists point out that the predominantly Tamil Wanni has been substantially denuded of Tamils by the war, which had gone on for 30 years. The existing Tamil population has been impoverished by the war, especially in the last two years of it.

C.Sridharan, another TNA candidate in Jaffna, is quoted by Sudar Oli daily as saying that the army is constructing 4,000 family quarters at Kokkavil. There would soon be at least 8000 school going Sinhalese children, for whom Sinhalese schools would have to be opened, he said.

“Similar family stations will come up in Iyakkachchi, Palai and Jaffna,” he warned.

A lawyer, who did not want to be named, said that Buddhist temples (most Buddhists are Sinhalese in Sri Lanka) were mushrooming in Jaffna. He said that a Buddhist temple had come up recently near the ancient Thiruketheeswaram temple in Mantottam in Mannar district in west Wanni.

Visiting Sinhalese traders have put up temporary shops all over Jaffna. “ Very soon, these shops will be regularised and we can do nothing about it because the municipality is not under our control,” the activist said. “ Sinhalese shops have come up even around the Nallur Kandaswamy temple, when our custom does not allow it. Traditionally, shops are allowed only temporarily, during temples festivals. But who has the power to question these things?” he asked.

The Sri Lankan government’s view is that just as there are Tamils living amicably among Sinhalese in south Sri Lanka, Sinhalese should be able to live among Tamils in the north, because the country belongs to all ethnic groups. There were Sinhalese in the north before the Tamil movement became militant, it is recalled.

On the charge that army camps were mushrooming in the Wanni, Military Spokesman Maj.Gen.Prasad Samarsinghe said that these were not new camps. “And they are there to protect the Tamils from the LTTE,” he added.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had only recently told Straits Times that there still were “sleeping cadres” of the LTTE, who could be activated by interested parties both at home and abroad. There were still people in the north who believed in Tamil Eelam, he pointed out. ~ courtesy: Express Buzz ~

Kilinochchi struggles with returnee influx

by IRIN

The northern Sri Lankan town of Kilinochchi – former capital of the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) – is struggling to address the needs of thousands of returnees.

Returnee Kumari Devarasa has just returned to her home in Kilinochchi

According to Sri Lankan military officials, more than 24,000 people or close to 30 percent of the town’s original population have returned since December – many of whom are living in tents.

Aid agencies pulled out of the town in September 2008 as the decades-long conflict intensified.

The Sri Lankan Army successfully captured the political headquarters of the LTTE in Kilinochchi in January 2009.

“This was an unparalleled victory," President Mahinda Rajapakse said at the time.

"Kilinochchi was the capital of a state dreamt of by a terrorist organization. It will no longer be available to them. We should pay the gratitude of the whole nation to those heroic soldiers who achieved that victory."

But 10 months since the government declared final victory over the LTTE in May 2009, Kilinochchi is grappling with an influx of returnees.

Before 2008, more than 90,000 people lived in the town, accessible through the strategic A-9 highway than runs between Kandy and Jaffna.

According to military officials from the Sri Lankan 57th Division, the town was completely evacuated during the Kilinochchi offensive, while much of the infrastructure - including schools, hospitals, water and electricity supplies - was badly damaged or destroyed, with nearly 80 percent of all homes affected.

“The Tigers destroyed the town when they were retreating,” a senior military official claimed.

Thousands of residents fled the city en masse in the conflict’s final days, only to find themselves in displaced people’s camps in the town of Vavuniya or elsewhere.

A family outside their home in Kilinochchi. Many residents use the tarpaulins provided to cover their homes

Repairing the damage

But since the government decision to allow residents to return to their places of origin, ensuring quality returns over quantity is also proving a major challenge.

“Lack of proper housing and water facilities is a major problem,” one local aid worker in Kilinochchi, who asked not to be identified, told IRIN.

Many homes were damaged, leaving occupants particularly vulnerable to the southwest monsoon rains, which begin in June and run to October.

“Our makeshift houses lack proper roofs,” Kumari Devarasa, a housewife who resettled last month, told IRIN. “The houses lack basic toilet, water and electricity facilities. It’s a very hard life.”

Residents say the government has provided assistance, including wood, to build and repair their homes, while others continue to live in tents provided by NGOs or have covered their shelters with tarpaulins.

Others still complain about access to health and education.

Livelihood concerns

“We don’t have proper jobs,” Nalini Jabesan. “We live from random amounts/stipends that the government gives us and doing odd jobs.”

David Sivasundaram, a shop owner who resettled last month, described life as “a daily struggle”.

“I don’t think the government has enough money to help us on a large scale,” he said, repairing the war damage to his shop. “Where can they find money?”

“I have many complaints, but right now I don’t want to say this is somebody’s fault. Whatever the situation is, we have to fight ourselves for a better life,” another returnee said.

Many returnees now live in tents

UN aid agencies are gearing up to assist the government in the resettlement process, including food, emergency education, shelter, health and access to safe drinking water.

According to the UN, more than 185,000 have returned to their homes or are staying with host families since the return process began, while some 93,000 continue to live in camps, the vast majority in and around the town of Vavuniya, northern province.

Pics: by Udara Soysa/IRIN

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IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but its services are editorially independent. Its reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations and its agencies, nor its member states.

March 24, 2010

Bahrain resident arrested in Sri Lanka for authoring book allegedly 'offensive to Buddhism'

Author held in book row

A BAHRAIN resident has been arrested in Sri Lanka after converting to Islam and writing two books in Sinhalese allegedly offensive to the spiritual leader of Buddhism.

Sarah Malanie Perera, 38, was detained in the capital Colombo on Saturday as she was due to leave her homeland after a three-month holiday.

Discover Islam has now issued an international appeal to human rights groups to help secure her release, after being contacted by one of her sisters.

Relatives in Bahrain also fear she may not be allowed to return here as her residence permit expires today.

Ms Perera came to Manama in 1985 to assist her elder sister Mariam, who owned a gifts and flowers shop called Madhuri in The Palace Hotel, Adliya.

She worked there for two years before staying at home to care her sick old mother Aisha.

Ms Perera later worked as an assistant accountant for the US Navy, before becoming a teacher at the Child Development Centre, Juffair.

Born and brought up in a Buddhist family, she embraced Islam in 1999 after studying religion at Discover Islam.

Her father Norbet Perera, mother Soma and sisters Padma, Rasa, Padmani and Malanie, later also converted to Islam at separate times.

They are now called Mohammed, Aisha, Fatima, Raihana, Fowzia and Sarah respectively.

"Ever since she (Sarah) embraced Islam, she was compiling a book on Islam and comparative religion," said her sister Mariam yesterday.

"In September 2009 she has completed her compilation.

"She has printed it into two beautiful books entitled From Darkness to Light and Questions and Answers.

"During her visit to Sri Lanka, she printed the books and was due to come back to Bahrain on Saturday.

"She was sending some copies of the books through cargo and the owner of the cargo office, who happened to be linked with an extremist racist organisation called Helaurumaya, contacted the police claiming the book was offensive to Lord Buddha."

Mariam claimed the group forced the police to detain her sister beyond the 24-hour limit before a case must be transferred to the courts.

"Sarah went home after taking three months holiday to finish a property issue, as my father died six years ago and no one was there to care for it," she said.

"As we all are married and have families plus jobs, it was impossible to go back earlier and thought she would finalise the matter during her vacation.

"But we didn't know she would be arrested for writing the book."

A Discover Islam official said the arrest of Ms Perera was unfair and demanded Bahrain's authorities take action to ensure her quick release.

"We want all the international authorities and human rights organisations to help sister Sarah," they said.

Relatives say Ms Perera's books were not abusive to Lord Buddha and merely explained the original teachings of Buddha according to the Buddhist scriptures.

They said she wrote it to explain why she chose to convert to Islam and it was an attempt to bring people of all faiths closer by recognising their similarities.

Ms Perera is being held in Mirihana Police Station, Colombo, while investigations continue. ~ courtesy: Gulf Daily News ~

Update:

The Daily Mirror online reports quoting Police sources that Sarah Malanie Perera is being held at Mirihana Police Station for alleged "Anti state" activities.

Update by BBC - Mar 26, 2010: Sri Lankan Muslim convert accused of being 'anti-state'

Permanent military occupation of the North and East

By Sujeewa Amaranath

In an official gazette notification earlier this month, President Mahinda Rajapakse declared that the extensive network of army camps established during the war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will be made permanent. This indefinite military occupation of the northern and eastern provinces is aimed at the forcible suppression of the basic democratic rights not only of Tamils but of all working people.

The number of army camps in these two provinces, which have a population of about 3 million, has increased to 147. Two of the LTTE’s former strongholds—Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu—will become security force headquarters and permanent forward maintenance areas. Apart from the new military camps, at least a dozen new police stations will be established in the northern Wanni area captured from the LTTE.

Rajapakse claimed that his renewed war against the LTTE from mid-2006 was to “liberate” the Tamil people from the “clutches of terrorism”. The defeat of the LTTE last May has only brought a further trampling on democratic rights throughout the island. In the North and East, the permanent presence of the army means not just military camps but roadblocks, checkpoints and patrols and the systematic surveillance, harassment and intimidation of the local Tamil population.

Most of the population of former LTTE-held territories in the Wanni fled as the Sri Lankan army advanced. Towns and villages were devastated by the indiscriminate use of artillery and aerial bombardment. In the final months of fighting, more than a quarter of a million civilians were trapped in a small pocket of LTTE territory. A UN estimate puts the civilian death toll as more than 7,000 for the period from January to May 2009.

After the collapse of the LTTE resistance, the army herded 280,000 men, women and children into military-run “welfare villages” surrounded by barbed wire and heavily armed soldiers and operated as prison camps. About 95,000 people are still being held in these detention centres. Those who have been allowed to return to their devastated towns and villages are subject to police restrictions and have been given little aid.

As well as acquiring land for the new army camps, the government is planning to establish large high security zones (HSZ) around important installations such as the new headquarters in Kilinochchi and Mullaithivu. Such areas are out of bounds for civilians and have previously resulted in the forced displacement of residents.

After the LTTE’s defeat in eastern province, the army established a HSZ in the Sampur area and prevented thousands of people from returning to their homes, farms and businesses. The government later declared a portion of the Sampur HSZ to be a Special Economic Zone, offering military protection to investors. In the northern Jaffna Peninsula, 15 high security zones have been established since the 1990s, covering 160 square kilometres or 18 percent of the peninsula’s land mass. Around 130,000 people have been unable to return to their homes as a result.

The government is currently detaining thousands of young Tamils without trial as “LTTE suspects” at unknown locations. Now it has announced plans to use these detainees as a cheap labour force under a program initiated by Justice Minister Milinda Moragoda to “rehabilitate” alleged LTTE cadres.

The Island reported on March 13 that more than 10,000 LTTE suspects will be “settled” in various prison labour camps including in the districts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Jaffna. One of the army’s “welfare villages”—Zone 5 of the huge Manik Farm camp near Vavuniya—will also be used.

According to the Justice Ministry, the spouses and children of LTTE cadres will be free to move in and out of the camps, but the detainees will be subject to strict security measures to ensure the “smooth functioning of the facilities.”

The government has already announced the establishment of a dairy farm at Suriyawewa near Trincomalee, involving about 500 former “LTTE cadres.” Ceylon Cold Stores, a large company manufacturing beverages and milk products, will invest in the project, but the army will be in charge.

The Island reported: “One of the most important aspects of the government initiative is to set up agricultural/livestock farms at Kandalkadu, Thrikonamadu which would be vested with the Sri Lanka army and air force. There would be six separate farms with each capable of accommodating 500 ex-LTTE combatants each, sources said, adding that about 11,000 acres would be allocated for this project.”

The involvement of the army and air force in these projects points to the further militarisation of all aspects of life in Sri Lanka, including the economy. Far from there being any demobilisation, the country’s huge military—one of the largest per capita in the world—is being kept in place and entrenched as a permanent feature, particularly in the North and East.

The government has also maintained all of the police state measures built up over a quarter century of war, including the state of emergency that gives the president extensive powers to detain people without trial, censor the media and ban industrial action. This apparatus is being kept in place not just to suppress the country’s Tamil minority but the working class as the Rajapakse government prepares to impose far-reaching austerity measures after the April 8 parliamentary election.

The Socialist Equality Party
 (SEP) is standing candidates in the election to begin to mobilise working people in defence of their living standards and democratic rights. The SEP demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all security forces from the North and East, the freeing of political prisoners, the dismantling of detention camps and the repeal of all repressive laws. A fight for these demands is necessary to unite Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim workers in the struggle for a workers’ and farmers’ government based on socialist policies. ~ courtesy: WSWS.org ~

March 23, 2010

Post war Sri Lanka needs a Deng Hsiao Peng or Vladimir Putin who made their countries strong

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Does the UNP and Opposition leader Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe suffer from a compulsion towards electoral suicide or is it a condition of political sado-masochism? Only someone who is politically suicidal or sadistic towards his own party and its supporters could have gone to Jaffna last week, in the throes of a crucial election campaign at the end of which the UNP must deprive the ruling UPFA of a two thirds majority, and made the speech that he did. If the Tamil Net report of his speech is untrue he must contradict it immediately and loudly.

Mr Wickremesinghe has a millstone of his own choosing decorating his neck, namely the abiding memory of his policy of appeasement towards the LTTE. He chooses to add to this weight with a promise that all military camps will be removed, and a commission of inquiry will be established, topping it off with an apology for the travails visited on the people of Jaffna (with no mention of the travails the people of Jaffna visited on themselves and the rest of the country by incubating and succouring a fascist movement, bolstering it over other, more humane armed options even within the Eelam struggle). The list of deaths he apologises for includes Mr. Amirthalingam, murdered by the Tigers after tea!

Extracts from the report follow:

“All military camps in Jaffna peninsula will be scrapped if UNP wins” – Ranil

[TamilNet, Friday, 19 March 2010, 16:25 GMT]

Ranil Wickremasinghe, leader of United National Party (UNP), who arrived in Jaffna accompanied by his wife said that all the military camps in Jaffna peninsula will be scrapped except Palaali Sri Lanka Army (SLA) camp, in the UNP election campaign meeting held in Jaffna Veerasingham Hall Friday...More than five hundred people attended this meeting where UNP chief candidate for Jaffna electorate Ms. Vijayakala Mahendran, Mrs. Ranil Wickremasinghe, Tissa Athanayake, the General Secretary of UNP and its treasurer Swaminathan were present...

• A Commission of Inquiry will be established and it will immediately begin to find what had happened to the persons gone missing in Jaffna peninsula during the present government.

• No one except the government armed forces will be permitted to bear weapons and all paramilitary groups will be done away with.

“We all have to beg the forgiveness of the people for all the pain we had inflicted on them,” Ranil Wickremasinghe said.

“The burning of Jaffna Public Library, attacks of Dalada Maligawa and Maha Bothi, the loses of political leaders like Amirthalingam, Raviraj, Maheswaran, Joseph Pararajasingham and many others are all tragic indeed,” he added.

“All of us are responsible for all these tragic events for which we have to apologize to the people,” Ranil said.” (TamilNet March 19, 2010)

Mr Wickremesinghe’s discourse of ritualistic abasement is going to lose him Sinhala votes while it gains him no Tamils votes either, because the Jaffna people will vote for the TNA, Gajan Ponnambalam or Douglas Devananda. By the way, in its election manifesto the TNA has neither a word of criticism of the LTTE (not even for assassinating Amir, Neelan and the Yogeswaran couple) nor an apology to anyone, Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim.

The UNP leader probably assumes that all he needs do is to deny the UPFA a two-thirds majority at the upcoming election and that at the conclusion of President Rajapakse’s second term, the ‘patriotic project’ would have run its course to the extent that an exhausted and frustrated electorate would naturally turn to him, as it did to his uncle JR Jayewardene in 1977. There are at least three things wrong with this picture: as Opposition leader, JRJ and his second in command Premadasa, gave the UNP more, not less, populist mass appeal than the SLFP led coalition. Secondly, a weak or average performance by the UNP at this election opens the door for post election defections (ostensibly to ‘save the country from the TNA in the face of Ranil’s appeasement of federalism) which could make up the game changing two thirds. Thirdly, Mr Wickremesinghe’s ‘minoritarian’ profile opens space for a ‘patriotic-populist’ Second Opposition in the form of the Fonseka-JVP bloc, which will be so bitter towards him that it fields a candidate at the next Presidential election and draws enough votes to split the Opposition and elect (or re-elect) a ruling party candidate!

Which brings us to one of the most crucial questions in Lankan politics: what, apart from every incumbent SLFP administration’s obvious tilt towards him, keeps Mr Wickremesinghe as the leader of the UNP, when the cost to that party, the Opposition, the democratic system, the economy, the country and the people is so colossal, cumulative and continuous?

What does his continued incumbency as leader say about the UNP and the social stratum that seems to have a hammerlock on that party? The equation between that social stratum and Mr Wickremesinghe was best exemplified by the photographs on the front pages of last Sunday’s newspapers, of Mr Wickremesinghe (supposedly) singing ‘Delilah’ in the Mustangs tent at the annual Royal-Thomian match. Those pictures would not have gone down well with today’s electorate. They revealed Ranil as the ‘organic leader’ of a decadent social class which lamentably, seems to have a death grip on the UNP.

by sarasene.com

Meanwhile, President Rajapakse’s interview given to the perspicacious Ravi Velloor of the prestigious Straits Times (Singapore) left me with mixed feelings. The story was prominently displayed and filled an entire page. President Rajapakse came off as confident, successful and strong. It was clear that no one – Brown, Miliband or the Global Tamil Forum -- could kick Sri Lanka or its people around on Mahinda Rajapakse’s watch, and of that I was proud. That’s the good news. Having read it however, I wondered what the legendary Lee Kwan Yew, who may well have read it himself, would have thought, since our President also came across as a little defensive and evasive, lacking a clear message and vision. Overall, the impression was one of confidence and strength but the interview revealed some blind-spots:

1. The understanding of the issue of equity not in socioeconomic terms but solely in spatial or geographic terms: not rich and poor, or ‘haves and have-nots’ (as Premadasa had it), but ‘Colombo’ vs. the provinces. It ignores the disparities within the cities and provinces, including the Western province. An earlier SLFP administration which proceeded on this ideological basis spawned one of the most damaging policies in independent Sri Lanka, namely district-wise standardisation in university admission. There is also no realisation that Colombo, the hub of connectivity with the world, a focus of educated professionals and the corporate sector and the most multicultural area of the country, must not be neglected or treated as a hostile or occupied territory.

2. The inadequacy of the understanding of the ethnic problem and the inconsistency and underestimation of what is needed to resolve it. Vacillation instead of a clear vision as to how the problem should be solved. (‘Village level devolution for the North and East’ when delivering this year’s Independence Day speech, ‘13th amendment minus police powers’ when talking to any foreigner.)

3. The lack of awareness that, while imitation is dangerous, one has to learn from the success stories of other countries and leaders. Deng Hsiao Peng learned from his visit to the US in 1979 and Singapore in 1984. His dialogue with Lee Kwan Yew in that year is widely credited as a conceptual catalyst of China’s economic miracle.

4. Lack of awareness that the building of ports and harbours alone will not develop a country, and that modernizing reforms are needed, high standards of education and a first rate administrative apparatus have to be restored, corruption has to be drastically reduced and the best brains in all fields (especially scientific and professional) have to be incentivised to remain in Sri Lanka or return, thus reversing the brain drain. The Asian economic miracle, be it in East Asia or China under Deng Hsiao Peng, did not occur on the basis of vilifying the cities and glorifying the rural and the provincial, but modernising them, opening them up and integrating them into the world economy.

When one observes the political behaviour of Ranil Wickremesinghe, I feel reconfirmed in my own mind that my policy of critical support for President Rajapakse, an adaptation of the Maoist policy of ‘unity and struggle’ is still the right one. This does not however pertain to the upcoming Parliamentary election because the choice is not between Mahinda and Ranil but between the ruling coalition which is on a drive for a two thirds majority, and the opposition which itself presents two options, the UNP and the Fonseka-JVP faction. Military uni-polarity is imperative in a state, particularly a small island, while political uni-polarity is not.

Post war Sri Lanka needs a Deng Hsiao Peng or Vladimir Putin, who made their countries strong through ideologies of rapid modernization and modernising, globalising reforms. It needs President Rajapakse to study and learn from them. Ranil’s UNP, with its social insensitivity to the sentiments of the majority of the people, of the masses, is incapable of spearheading a socially sustainable modernisation. Mahinda, a far more organic representative of the masses, can be the vehicle of such modernisation provided he is capable of transcending the more backward mass sentiments. Perhaps what he needs is a parliament that will keep him on his toes and act as a check on the ideological apparatuses of the state. Such a balance of forces may once again bring out the best in him. If, however, post-parliamentary election, the configuration continues pretty much as it is, and the hegemonic ideology remains undisturbed, what will be Sri Lanka’s trajectory?

Ranil Wickremasinghe,The Gentleman Politician

A Birthday Tribute
By Dr.Levins T.C.Rajaratnem

Ranil Wickremasinghe

PATRIOT

It is a fallacy to think that only a selected few can be Patriots. We have had great many patriots from the UNP. The first in independent Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) was Rt.Hon.D.S.Senanayake. Then, Dudley Senanayake and the others who defected and formed the SLFP. The then UNP did not accuse the defectors as Traitors and unpatriotic elements. A careful study into the political career of Ranil Wickremasinghe (RW) would reveal the rare combination of experience, expertise and knowledge of the Leader of the opposition.

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RW is a Patriot by his own right. We must learn to respect and honour those whom we see as having made valuable contribution to the country and society. He is well respected within the country and in other countries.

FAMILY & PROFESSIONAL LIFE

Ranil Shriyan Wickremesinghe was born on March 24, 1949. He was Prime Minister of Sri Lanka twice, from May 7, 1993 to August 19, 1994 and from December 9, 2001 to April 6, 2004. A member of the United National Party, he was appointed as party leader in November 1994. He is also the leader of the United National Front.

RW, the second son of Esmond and Nalini Wickremasinghe and was educated at Royal College , the Faculty of Law of the University of Colombo and the Sri Lanka Law College . He took oaths as an Advocate in 1972. He is married to Dr.Maithree Wickremasinghe, a scholar and Author.

POLITICAL CAREER

RW was elected to Parliament in 1977. He was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the government of J. R. Jayawardene, and was later appointed as the Minister of Youth Affairs and Employment. He was later given the portfolio of Minister of Education.

He was appointed as the Minister of Industry, by President R.Premadasa and he initiated industrial reforms and established the Biyagama Special Economic Zone. He was appointed the Leader of the House of Parliament in 1989. On May 7, 1993 RW was sworn in as Prime Minister after the assassination of President R.Premadasa when Prime Minister D. B. Wijetunge was appointed President.

In the Parliamentary general election 2001 UNF, led by RW won 109 seats and PA was able to obtain 77 seats. Consequently he was able to form a new UNF government and was sworn as the 17th Prime Minister of Sri Lanka on 9th December 2001. However the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga still remained as the President of the country. This led to a check mate position where the President and the Prime Minister were from two opposite parties. Although, according to the Constitution, both head of state and head of government was the President, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe(RW) was able to appoint his own cabinet and he had the control over the government. The then President Chandrika Kumaratunga also chaired cabinet meetings as de facto head, but her influence over decision making was strictly limited.

CBK’S CALLOUS DISREGARD FOR DEMOCRACY

President Chandrika Kumaratunga sacked three ministers of the cabinet and took over the ministries using her constitutional powers ending the uneasy coalition between her and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while he was out of the country. Addressing the nation she claimed that this decision was taken in the interest of national security. Ranil moved out of Temple Trees like a gentleman.

In the Parliamentary elections held in 2004, RW’s UNF lost governmental office. Despite the expectation of a full six year term, and planned projects cut short by the defeat, the UNP was optimistic that it could regain power in a future election. Within 14 months of UPFA’s victory, the radical JVP wing's (composed of over 30 members) parting of ways with the government, left the UPFA's parliamentary composition well short of the required majority.

In December 2004, RW was nominated by the United National Party as its Presidential candidate for Presidential Elections due in late 2005. The Supreme Court decided in August 2005 that the elections should be held that year despite the then President's argument that her term would end in 2006. The, then Prime Minister, was nominated as the Presidential candidate of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

In the Presidential election held on November 17, 2005, RW was defeated narrowly by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who gained 50.29% of the vote to RW 48.43%. A large number of the minority Tamil population in the Northern and Eastern parts of the country, who were largely expected to back RW were prevented from voting by the extremist Terrorists, which had enforced a boycott of the polls.

DEMOCRATIC IDEALS

Ranil Wickremasinghe has been observed as a cool and patient person with dignified manners worthy of his upbringing and not avaricious and as a politician who observes the decency, decorum and norms of democracy. Unfortunately for RW numerous members who were elected through the UNP defected from the Party for reasons best known to them. These are the traits of politics and the loyalty syndrome lacks its credibility.

ELOQUENCE & STRENGTH

RW is an eloquent speaker- Concise and precise. There is no beating around the bush. He goes straight to the point. No pretences. Absolutely honest and dignified in success and in defeat. His own party men have betrayed him but he remains calm and cool. Never perturbed by defeat but gathering momentum and strength each time he experiences new ideals by defeat. As Swami Vivekananda has said “What are failures and stumbles…they are the poetry of life”. RW has become an astute, mature and dignified Politician who never gnashes his teeth to his opponent.

My memory of Ranil Wickremasinghe dates back to Jeyaraj’s words which depicted that he found him to be a splendid conversationalist, a man who had read nearly everything and who remembered everything he read.

He is a politician who did not clamor for attention and rarely struggled to get his name attached to publicity.

He speaks with confidence and with clarity in his own style. He is a great and fascinating orator. He was immensely tolerant of other people and looked after his friends, whether they had something to celebrate or much to fear.

Let me quote Rudyard Kipling’s poem on IF which illustrates the characteristics of RW

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

The writer can be contacted on levinstcrajaratnam@gmail.com

'Precise motivation for the MTV/Sirasa attack yet to be established'

Monitoring election violence in Sri Lanka Parliamentary Election 2010: Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) Media Communiqué 3

23 March 2010, Colombo, Sri Lanka: CMEV continues to receive reports regarding the misuse of public resources for electioneering. CMEV has recorded 32 (29%) cases of public property misuse out of the 110 confirmed Major Incidents as of 22nd March 2010.

A.W.Chaminda Kumara, a supporter of UPFA candidate Roshan Ranasinghe(candidate no 01) sustained injuries in an attack allegedly carried out by a group of UPFA supporters. The incident took place near Walekada Junction ,Polonnarauwa 19th March at around 10.00 two other supporters of Roshan Ranasinghe also sustained injuries due to the attack and were admitted to the ward no 10 of Polonnaruwa Hospital. (captured on 20th March 2010)

Attack on MTV/MBC Media

CMEV unreservedly condemns the attack on the MBC/MTV office located at Braybrook Place, Colombo, yesterday 22nd March 2010. CMEV has learnt that one of the buses used to transport the attackers was from the Kelaniya Bus Depot. On 22nd March CMEV contacted the Slave Island Police Station, CI Malin Perera, informed us that according to the statements recorded from the arrested persons, some of them are supporters of UPFA candidate Duminda de Silva (candidate no 08) who were on their way to a musical show organized by him. Duminda de Silva categorically denied the involvement of his supporters in the incident.

Whilst the precise motivation for the attack has yet to be established, CMEV notes that it took place in the heart of the capital in the afternoon and against a media organization that has been attacked before. The attack, in the context of a general election in particular, adversely impacts the free flow of information, public perceptions in respect of their access to information and the Rule of Law. CMEV calls on the Police to take effective and speedy action against the attackers without fear or favour.

Repeated reports regarding the misuse of public property

CMEV Field Monitor reported that a meeting was held on 23rd March at the Ashraff-Athaullah Memorial Hall, Pottuvil for school teachers and principals at around 12.00 pm.

According to the CMEV Field Monitor, UPFA candidates namely A.H.Abdul Basheer(candidate no 03),A.M.Lebbe(candidate no 05) and A.M.Athaullah(candidate no 02) and Eastern Provincial Council Minister of Road Development, Irrigation, Housing and Construction, Rural Electrification and Water Supply Uduman Lebbe addressed the gathering.

CMEV learnt that the schools in the Pottuvil area were closed at around 10.30am on the 23rd in order that the principals and teachers could attend the above meeting.

CMEV contacted Mr.Muthalif, Deputy Director of Akkaraipattu Zonal Education Department, who said that permission had not been granted to close schools on the 23rd. He further stated that he came to know that it was the Ministry of Education of the Eastern Provincial Council that had given approval.

Secretary of the Eastern Provincial Council Ministry of Education Mr.Weerawardhana, informed CMEV that this was not the case, that he was not aware of the incident and that he would look into the matter.

Mannar: on 22nd March CMEV received reports regarding the misuse of a building and staff of the National Youth Council, Mannar in the campaign of the incumbent Minister of Re-settlement and Disaster Relief Services and UPFA candidate Rishard Badiudeen(candidate no 01). Reportedly, a meeting for organizers and supporters of Rishad Badiudeen was held on 22nd March at the Council.

CMEV contacted the National Youth Council, Mannar and an officer attached to the council denied that such a meeting took place.

Attempts to contact Rishard Badiudeen were not successful.

Jaffna: According to CMEV Field Monitor UPFA candidate for Jaffna District, Alexander Charles (candidate no 04) has conducted a meeting in the Kachai Government Tamil Mixed School on 18th March 2010 at around 01.30 pm

When contacted, Alexander Charles, categorically denied the allegation.

Nuwaraeliya: Allegedly the incumbent Minister of Youth Empowerment and Socio Economic Development and UPFA candidate Arumugan Ramanathen Thondaman(candidate no 10) conducted a meeting at Pathana College of Education main hall on 17th March 2010.

CMEV learnt that five principles of government schools and trainees attached to the college also attended the meeting. Three of them were identified as the Principles of Barathi Maha Vidyalya, Highlands Central College and Kotagala Tamil Maha Vidyalaya, respectively.

CMEV Field Monitor reported that a lorry (CP PA 5267) belonging to the Kotagala Pradeshiya Saba is being used in the campaign of UPFA candidate Shanthini Chandrasekran(candidate no 09).N.Sadasivam, a UPF Praseshiya Sabah Member from Kotagala, denied the allegation.

CMEV welcomes the Election Commissioner’s guidelines prohibiting public property misuse and highlights the section 104B (4) (a) of the 17th amendment to the Constitution, which clearly states that;

The Commission shall have the power during the period of an election, to prohibit the use of any movable or immovable property belonging to the State or any public corporation

We urge the Commissioner to exercise the powers vested on him in the interests of protecting and strengthening the integrity of the electoral process.

As of 22nd March 2010 CMEV has recorded a cumulative total of 170 incidents including 110(64%) Major Incidents. The Use of Firearms has risen to 31(28%). CMEV has recorded 22 Major Incidents from the Central Province, 17 from the North Western, 16 from Sabaragamuwa, 12 from the Eastern Province, 11 from Uva, 09 from the Southern Province, 08 each from the Western and Northern Provinces and 07 from North Western Province.

CMEV has received 127 complaints against the UPFA, 25 of which were made by party members. The UNP was accused in 07 incidents, whilst in 35 cases the party affiliation of the perpetrators has not been identified. CMEV has recorded a complaint against an independent group contesting in Badulla.

India’s silence a dent in Sri Lanka's position before UN ?

by Upul Joseph Fernando

It has come to light that India has not supported the letter of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) aimed at opposing the decision of the General secretary of the United Nations (UN) Organization, Ban ki-Moon, to appoint the panel of experts to advise him in regard to Sri Lanka (SL). It is evident from this that Sri Lanka’s efforts to repulse the war crime charges brought against it by the UN Organization is weakening. UN Organization French representative recently said, China and India are working against war crime charges being tried against Sri Lanka.

After his announcement however, it has become known that India has not supported the letter originated by NAM against the appointment of a panel of experts by the UN Gen. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. It is possible that India decided not to support the NAM letter after the Western countries pressurized it . Some say ,in case even if India is to oppose the appointment of the panel of experts, it has decided to remain impartial due to the pressure brought to bear on it by the Western countries.

Even today India is a country which can exert immense pressure on the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) countries . If India is honestly in favour of the appointment of the panel of experts , India is possessed of the capacity to stop the NAM letter expressing opposition to the UN decision. Yet , India possibly could prefer not to displease Sri Lanka while also winning over the favour of the Western countries . From this it is deducible that India while opposing the war crime charges being tried against Sri Lanka from behind the scenes , it is also apparent India is cautious not to offend the Western countries All in all, it is becoming increasingly clear that the new stance of India has led to the undermining of Sri Lanka’s battle in the face of the war crime charges.

If China too like India decides to follow a middle path policy with regard to the war crime charges which are being mounted against Sri Lanka, the latter will be plunged into deep trouble. Sri Lanka nurses the belief that China will not let Sri Lanka down . When the Western countries had the necessity to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN security Council , China and Russia took measures to oppose it..

Whenever Western countries were desirous of bringing a proposal to impose sanctions against Iran via the UN security Council , China on many occasions had objected to them. However finally, when the UN Security Council brought forward three proposals against Iran , China assented to them, yielding to the pressure applied on it by the Western bloc..

To China , Iran is very important unlike Sri Lanka . When compared with Iran , from China’s standpoint of its international interests, Sri Lanka is a small country. China’s ties with Iran pertaining to the military, economy and political affairs are tremendous viz a viz Sri Lanka . Despite this , when the Western countries brought proposals against Iran , China yielded to the pressures of the Western countries to support those proposals. In like manner , in regard to Sri Lanka too, if Western countries pressurize China , there is immense possibility for it to bow to those pressures .

As regards the war crime charges against Sri Lanka , Ban Ki -Moon, the UN Gen. Secretary, had from the very outset followed a lenient policy . When China and India trod the path of opposing the war crime charges being tried against Sri Lanka , Ban ki Moon’s chances of pursuing this policy was facilitated . However, in the face of mounting pressure from the Western countries , Ban Ki-Moon was invariably compelled to change that policy. He then decided to appoint a panel of experts to advise him in relation to Sri Lanka. India which pressurized Moon to preclude the war crime charges being brought against Sri Lanka, however ,when the UN Organization took steps to appoint a panel of experts , has now relented and is silent, giving in to the pressures mounted by the Western bloc .

For the Western countries which have subdued Ban ki Moon and India , subjugating China is no big task. Sri Lanka must blame itself for pushing the Western countries to take this tough stand against Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Govt. provoked the Western countries via the NAM letter designed against the appointment of the panel of experts.

If the panel of experts are appointed owing to the pressures of the Western countries , even if Ban Ki- Moon harbours the secret desire to follow a soft policy in favour of Sri Lanka , because of the emergence of the NAM letter he too is pushed to the edge.

Libya which is against the war crime charges being levelled against Sri Lanka and expresses support to Sri Lanka , is the spokesman for the President of the UN General Assembly this year. When the media questioned Libyan Spokesman Ali Treki whether he is in favour of the NAM letter , he dodged the question by requesting them to ask that from Ban Ki-Moon or Sri Lanka. It can be inferred from this, even the countries that stood by the NAM letter in support of Sri Lanka are slinking and slipping away on this issue today. The International media too have confirmed that most countries which are members of NAM have not signed the letter.

The Sri Lankan Govt. by trying to use NAM against the UN organization or the Western countries had driven itself into a grave quagmire . India dissociating itself from the NAM letter , alone is proof that Sri Lanka is not on the right track. It is not impossible that the Western bloc can take into its fold more friends in the future to defeat the challenges posed by Sri Lanka. For the Western bloc which has been successful in subjugating China and turning it around against a powerful country like Iran , a close friend of China ; influencing the latter against Sri Lanka and pressurizing it to align with them is no big deal. ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror.lk ~

Visa denial follows the rock-throwing protest

Akon Denied Visa to Perform in Sri Lanka

By Ranga Sirilal

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka on Tuesday said it would deny a visa to singer Akon, whose planned April concert in the island nation sparked rock-throwing protests by Buddhists offended by one of his videos.

A day earlier, hundreds of people stormed the head offices of the Maharaja Broadcasting and Television (MBC/MTV) Network, a sponsor of Akon's planned April concert. Four employees were injured and windows and parked cars were smashed.

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A police officer takes photos as an office worker makes a call after attackers openly stoned the head office of Sri Lanka's largest private broadcaster, in Colombo March 22, 2010. The assault in the commercial heart of the capital damaged the head office of the Maharaja Broadcasting Network, injuring four of its employees

Akon's video for the song "Sexy Bitch" features scantily clad women dancing in front of a statue of the Buddha. Sri Lanka's ethnic majority Sinhalese are primarily Buddhists.

"Taking into consideration the allegations leveled against the singer Akon, the government had decided not to issue him a visa to conduct the concert in Sri Lanka," Anusha Palpita, the Government Information Department's director-general, said.

Palpita said that the main allegation against Akon was that he was "defaming Buddhism in his music videos."

Representatives for Akon could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sri Lanka's Buddhist clergy are hugely influential in ordinary life and politics, and in the past hardline Sinhalese nationalists have become violent against those they see as offending Buddhism.

The attack by an estimated 200 people on the pro-opposition network, which runs three TV and four radio stations from its headquarters in central Colombo, came as the campaign for parliamentary polls on April 8 heats up.

In December 2004, a hand grenade attack at a concert by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan killed two people and wounded 19, which was blamed on Sinhalese nationalists angry the concert fell on the first death anniversary of a renowned Buddhist monk.

(Editing by Bryson Hull) (courtesy: Reuters)

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A man prepares to throw a stone at the offices of Maharaja Broadcasting Network, Sri Lanka's largest private broadcaster, in Colombo March 22, 2010. Witnesses said the attackers shouted slogans against the network's sponsorship of a concert by Senegalese-American R&B singer Akon next month.

Akon has released this statement: [Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly]

“I was not aware that the statue was even on the set of the video until now. I would never set out to offend or desecrate anyone’s religion or religious beliefs. I myself am a spiritual man, so I can understand why they are offended, but violence is never the answer and I am disheartened to hear about what happened yesterday in Sri Lanka.”

American Talent Agency, the booking company responsible for the concert, had this to say, “Due to the recent events that transpired yesterday in Sri Lanka, we have decided to postpone Akon’s upcoming show. We are working diligently with the local promoters to ensure the safety of both our talent and the fans before committing to a new date. Akon is looking forward to performing for the people of Sri Lanka and we hope to have this situation resolved in the coming weeks.”

March 22, 2010

Will Google's China move set a new tone?

Google’s decision to scale back operations in China ends a nearly four-year bet that Google’s search engine in China, even if censored, would help bring more information to Chinese citizens and loosen the government’s controls on the Web.

Instead, specialists say, Chinese authorities have tightened their grip on the Internet in recent years. In January, Google said it would no longer cooperate with government censors after hackers based in China stole some of the company’s source code and even broke into the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights advocates.

“It is certainly a historic moment,” said Xiao Qiang of the China Internet project at the University of California, Berkeley. “The Internet was seen as a catalyst for China being more integrated into the world. The fact that Google cannot exist in China clearly indicates that China’s path as a rising power is going in a direction different from what the world expected and what many Chinese were hoping for.” [Excerpted from NYTimes.com]

Harmonizing with Tamil diaspora befits President Rajapaksa’s much stated goal of an indigenous political solution

by Jehan Perera

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has reaffirmed his determination to appoint a panel of experts to advise him on Sri Lanka’s adherence to its international obligations pertaining to human rights. This has evoked a predictably negative response from the Sri Lankan government and, indeed, the more nationalist sections of civil society, whose position was that the elimination of the LTTE was necessary even at high cost for the restoration of normalcy in the country.

The government’s consistent position on this issue has been that whatever happened during the period of the war with the LTTE, and subsequently, is an internal matter. The government has also been very critical of those international and local organizations that have called for investigations into the allegations of human rights violations, with the local ones feeling more under threat than their international counterparts.

The biggest concern for the government in regard to the calls for such investigations is the charge of war crimes that allegedly took place in the last phase of the war. Such a charge can conceivably target the highest political authorities who had responsibility over the military. The President of Sudan has suffered this fate. He has been indicted for alleged war crimes in that country’s civil war. As a result President Bashir has had to limit his movements abroad for fear he might be arrested in a country that decides to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and its enforcement mechanisms. The reach of international law has become so unpredictable that high level Israeli government officials now find themselves compelled to restrict their international movements.

The danger for the Sri Lankan government leadership is that unless the issue of human rights violations and possible war crimes is effectively resolved it will continue to haunt them. International human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have become strong critics of the government’s human rights record. They have been in existence for several decades and are likely to continue to be in existence for several more decades to come. They have a mandate to investigate and prevent human rights violations worldwide. Once they believe that they have a case they are not likely to drop it, as it is part of their mandate and rationale for existence.

The government also faces another problem from beyond its borders that is unlikely to go away on its own. This is the more than one million strong Tamil diaspora, which is a very well organized and powerful lobby group. During the early years of the war, in the 1980s and 1990s, they were a formidable lobbying group for the LTTE and for its cause of a separate Tamil state. This changed with the September 11 terror attack in 2001 in the United States, which turned the international community against those who employed terrorist means to achieve their political ends. However, the elimination of the LTTE and the end of terrorism in Sri Lanka can once again strengthen the hand of the Tamil diaspora to lobby against Sri Lanka in the countries where they are now living.

The existence of international human rights organizations and the Tamil diaspora means that the pressure on the Sri Lankan government with regard to the human rights situation will not go away. The government may choose to ignore, denounce or resist this pressure, but the pressure will remain. The indications now are that the pressure will increase rather than decrease. The manner in which the UN appears to be standing its ground with regard to establishing an expert panel on Sri Lanka is an indication of this growing pressure. This will also embolden activists amongst the Tamil diaspora to increase their own lobbying efforts which give them a purpose that is larger than merely earning a mundane living abroad.

In this context, the swift mobilization of the Non Aligned Movement to oppose the UN decision to appoint an expert panel would have come as a welcome gesture of solidarity to the Sri Lankan government. In a letter to Mr Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary of the Non Aligned Movement which represents more than seventy countries said that the appointment of a panel of experts to monitor a member state was in contravention of the mandate of the UN. The strongly worded content of this letter was reminiscent of the equally strong statements that made last year in Geneva at the meeting of the UN’s Human Rights Council. The attempt by a section of that Council to pass a resolution critical of Sri Lanka and calling for an investigative mechanism to be set up was defeated by the majority of members.

The swift mobilization of the Non Aligned Movement, and last year of the majority of countries in the UN’s Human Rights Council, is a testimony to the diplomatic capacities of the Sri Lankan government. Many in the Non Aligned Movement would remember Sri Lanka’s successful hosting of the Non Aligned Conference in 1975, which took place in the newly constructed Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, a gift from China. Even today these countries see a need to keep together to resist international initiatives against some of their members that could be used to set a precedent and be used against them also in the future.

One of the strongest statements made after Sri Lanka’s victory at the UN’s Human Rights Council last year was the one made by the Indian representative. His statement was extremely critical of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navaneethan Pillay’s actions, which he described as overstepping the UN’s mandate by probing the affairs of a member state. Much the same sentiment can be seen in the statement of the Non Aligned Movement in opposing the UN Secretary General’s special measures to assess the human rights situation in Sri Lanka.

One of the reasons for Indian and other third world activism to keep the UN and other international bodies from intervening in Sri Lanka against the government’s wishes is not difficult to see. These countries have their own concerns that a course of interventionist action taken against Sri Lanka could also set a precedent against them in the near or distant future. For instance, Indian has for many years been resisting international efforts to mediate or engage in fact finding missions in Kashmir, where a high level of human rights violations has been reported. Other states of the Non Aligned Movement would also be having similar concerns, as they battle ethnic movements for autonomy and secession and have to endure a high level of human rights violations in doing so.

But with the international pressures for intervention mounting on Sri Lanka, it would be judicious if the government were to adopt a problem-solving approach that would take the concerns of the international community into account while safeguarding Sri Lanka’s own sovereignty and national interests. Accordingly, the Sri Lankan government can consider putting in place a credible investigation mechanism of its own to look into what happened in the past. This could be a fact finding commission accompanied by a truth and reconciliation process. It may be possible to reveal the truth of what happened, and the context in which those situations arose, where disclosure and not punishment is the goal. Such a process can distinguish between acts that primarily had a military motivation behind them, as against those in which a criminal motivation predominated.

The second component of the problem-solving approach would be to implement a political solution to the ethnic conflict. Even now the basic framework for such a framework exists in the form of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which is an outcome of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord of 1987. The Provincial Councils that have been established in term of that law are now well accepted by the general population who are now quite familiar with the Provincial Councils. Strengthening the Provincial Council system so that they will serve the people of the south and west, in addition to the north and east, could become the foundation of a political solution to the ethnic conflict. It could be used to address the unmet needs of the Tamil-speaking minorities of the north and east, without unduly upsetting the Sinhalese ethnic majority that the hand of Tamil separation is being strengthened.

I was in Calcutta last week to attend an international conference on the rights of minorities where Justice Rajinder Sachar, who was the chairperson of the high powered committee appointed by the Prime Minister in 2005 to investigate into the situation of Muslim and other minorities, delivered the concluding lecture. In discussion he suggested to me that India could reconcile the Tamil diaspora to working alongside the Sri Lankan government and civil society if justice was done to the Tamils in Sri Lanka. There are multiple advantages of working closely with India to fashion a solution to the ethnic conflict, and harmonizing with the Tamil diaspora is only one of them. Another important advantage would be to draw on India’s extensive knowledge on schemes of political autonomy and non-territorial autonomy which is has pioneered, and which can be considered as indigenous to Asia. President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s much stated goal of an indigenous political solution may not be too far off if pursued with the requisite zeal. ~ dailymirror.lk ~

Difficult homecoming for Muslim IDPs

PUTTALAM, 22 March 2010 (IRIN) - Resettlement efforts are under way for thousands of displaced Muslims from Sri Lanka’s north who have been languishing in refugee camps for nearly two decades, officials say.

The internally displaced people (IDPs) were forcibly evicted in October 1990 from the northern districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and some parts of Vavuniya by the insurgent Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Najeefa Mohamed Hussain's houses were destroyed in Jaffna. Thousands of Muslim IDPs have yet to return to their homes ~ Photo: K. Dushiyanthini/IRIN

About 75,000 Muslims are estimated to have fled, making their way towards government-controlled areas in Vavuniya and Anuradhapura, as well as to Puttalam District on the northwestern coast, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services, Rishad Bathiudeen, announced in December 2009 that the government would start resettling more than 100,000 Muslim IDPs in camps in Puttalam to their places of origin.

“We are currently carrying out a survey for resettlement,” Bathiudeen told IRIN, noting that resettlement areas still had to be cleared of mines from the conflict.

“Once the demining is completed we will resettle them in their places of origin,” he said.

Overlooked

The minority Muslim community comprises about 8 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 20.2 million, according to the Department of Census and Statistics.

Rights groups say their plight of the Muslim IDPs has been largely ignored throughout most of the conflict.

While international attention has focused recently on the thousands of ethnic Tamil IDPs displaced near the end of Sri Lanka’s 26-year conflict, analysts and aid workers have expressed concern that the Muslim IDPs will continue to be overlooked.

“While we recognize the urgency for the resettlement of the IDPs, northern Muslims are worried that there is hardly any acknowledgment of their existence and needs, and they are left out of any planning of the entire resettlement process,” said Shreen Saroor, a Muslim IDP and activist.

Abdul Gaffor, who lives in an IDP camp, cannot afford to build a house for himself ~ Photo: K. Dushiyanthini/IRIN

In a January 2010 report, the ICG urged the international community to consider the Muslim IDPs’ right to return to their land. It also called on the government to clarify plans for the return and resettlement of the IDPs.

“Their right of return should be clearly established, while also recognizing that some may not want to leave their current homes and should not be forced,” it said.

Stay or go?

While some of the IDPs have constructed houses and others have been living with host families, most are still in the camps, where conditions are basic, although there is access to clean water and sanitation.

Many of the IDPs were fishermen, farmers or butchers before fleeing but they now mostly work as labourers or masons.

But even with the prospect of resettlement, the decision to return home for Muslim IDPs - after 20 years in Puttalam - is not clear-cut.

At the Saltern Internal Displacement Camp in Puttalam, some IDPs said they had visited their ancestral homes in Jaffna, Mannar and the north of Vavuniya. They found their houses had been destroyed and their belongings looted.

“I was born and lived in Jaffna. I owned a beef stall there. I was very happy and healthy, but now I am sick and sad,” Mohamed Yusuf told IRIN.

“Nevertheless, I want to go back to Jaffna and live. But I am not sure whether it will happen before I die,” he said.

While some said they had adapted to life in Puttalam, many said they were willing to go back if the authorities provided them with basic needs such as a house.

“I have worked in Saudi Arabia for 10 years as a housemaid, and managed to build three houses in Jaffna, but all of them were destroyed,” said Najeefa Mohamed Hussain.

“I want to build at least one house in Jaffna, but I am not financially able to make it a reality,” she said.

IRIN (Integrated Regional Information Networks) is part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but its services are editorially independent.

March 21, 2010

Are the "whims and fancies" of smaller parties going to be heard for "strengthening President's hand?"

by M.S.M. Ayub

The ruling coalition, the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) seems to be obsessed with the hope of winning more than two thirds of the parliamentary seats at the General Election scheduled to be held on April 8. Leaders and the members of the constituent parties of the coalition have no doubt whatsoever of being beaten by the two main opposition coalitions, the UNF and the DNA. Those two are in fact not coalitions, but two parties, the first one being the UNP while the other one is the JVP.

Interestingly the leaders of the UPFA do not seem to be sure of why they need two thirds of parliamentary power. Ministers and leaders of the UPFA seem to think that with the power they hope to get at the General election. they will be able to fulfil their various hopes.

Constitutional Reforms and National Integration Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara said at a press conference in Colombo on March 15 that the Government will change the existing Constitution by introducing radical reforms and introduce a new electoral system when it obtains a two-thirds majority. “It is the Opposition that prevented this on three occasions,” he had stated.

A state owned Sunday newspaper on February 28 quoted Minister Rajitha Senaratne as saying that the Executive Presidency will be responsible to Parliament and the immunity given to the President will be done away with. Those are the two main draconian powers in the Executive Presidency and the President is ready to leave aside those powers, he had said. He also had said that the present PR system will be amended and the First Past the Post System will be introduced.“After the General Election with a strong Government and the elimination of so-called Sinhala extremists, we would be able to give a practical solution to the national question by consulting Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils so that all can live peacefully”, he had further added.

However, the same newspaper of November 1 last year had quoted Deputy Minister of Justice Dilan Perera as saying that the Executive Presidential system has been very advantageous to the country in recent times. When the executive presidency was introduced to the country, the minorities supported it and the minority parties thought they can always have more support for their cause under the Executive Presidential system, he had added.

Constitutional Affairs Minister D.E.W. Gunasekara again had told the BBC on March 18 that the Government if elected with two thirds majority at the forthcoming election will abolish or reform Executive Presidency .The Minister added that a political solution aimed at minority Tamil community’s grievances may also be included in the new constitution after consultations with other parties.

However, the country is not aware of any official decision that has been taken by the leaders of the ruling coalition to the effect that they would abolish the Executive Presidency or replace the existing electoral system with any specific new system or carry out any specific action to find a solution to the ethnic problem.

Realistic or not, contradicting each other or not, all these are mere promises by the Ministers, if not their genuine hopes. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was more realistic and genuine when he urged the voters, at a meeting of UPFA trade union leaders on March 12 at the Sugathadasa Stadium in Colombo, to return a strong parliament with a comprehensive majority so that the government would not be at the mercy of the minor and minority parties which call the shots in return for their support.

Addressing UPFA trade union members he said that a balanced Parliament means the government need not cave into the whims and fancies of the minority or smaller parties whenever it wants to pass a Bill. This seems to be a genuine sentiment of a leader who had to appoint the world’s biggest cabinet in order to satisfy the leaders of smaller parties that helped him to secure the parliamentary majority.

However, it would be interesting to know what the leaders and members of smaller parties that have joined the Government claiming that they were strengthening President’s hands, felt when they heard these remarks by the President. Perhaps it carried a message to those smaller parties and the minority parties in the UPFA .

However no smaller party or minority party within or without the UPFA uttered a single word, supportive of, or against this remark. Does this mean that they endorse the sentiments expresed by the President? The silence of the parties within the ruling coalition is comprehensible, since their very survival and the ministerial aspirations of their leaders depend on the friendly relationship between them and the ruling party. In other words they are now at the mercy of the SLFP with the seeming possibility of the UPFA securing a comfortable majority in the parliament.

The smaller parties outside the government apparently would not speak on this subject since that would amount to admitting their limitations. Minority parties may have been offended or embarassed but they have already found with the last Presidential Election results that they were not that strong in influencing the Government.

The President’s comment is in fact applicapable not only to the parties outside the UPFA, but also to the smaller parties in the UPFA and in the last Government. However, the candidates of those parties contesting the General Election do so under the betel leaf symbol of the UPFA whereby they have given the sole authority to decide on their future to the Secretary of the UPFA.

The constituent parties, especially the smaller parties of the UPFA cannot make any demand to the UPFA hierarchy as separate political entities now, as that would go against the wishes of the President. (He has also urged the voters to return a strong parliament so that government would not need to cave into the whims and fancies of the minority or smaller parties) At the same time, if these parties do not have any policies that are different from those of the UPFA , that nullifies the very existence of those parties as separate political entities. Or else they can make proposals which might or might not be considered by the UPFA hierarchy. In the final analysis they have now become non-entities as separate parties.

All in all, it is appropriate for the smaller parties in the ruling coalition to get their membership absorbed into the Sri Lanka Freedom Party or the UPFA as the National Unity Alliance (NUA) leader Feirial Ashraff did last month. (She has not disbanded the NUA, but has caused it to disband by enrolling herself in the SLFP.) ~ courtesy: dailymirror.lk ~

March 20, 2010

Election enemas are dehydrating democracy

by Rajan Philips

Sri Lankans must be turning out to vote within five year spans more than anyone else in the world. But too many elections are not a recipe for enhancing democracy. In fact, excessive elections could diminish democracy. In Sri Lanka, they are a huge strain on the system, more so on the personal stress level of the world’s most captive election commissioner. The gentleman has no choice; he cannot even retire.


In a political sense, Sri Lankan elections are public enemas administered by the state apothecary to dehydrate democracy. There was a presidential election in January, and before the country could recuperate its political wits, a parliamentary election is due a week after the April Fools day. In between, there have been some quite bizarre happenings that together bode ill for democracy.

There is a school among political commentators – from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Qadri Ismail - that challenges the very practice of representation through elections as being antithetical to the essence of democracy. The essence of democracy is equality of citizens, and not simply a rule by majority. Elections are a necessary condition of democracy but not a sufficient condition. There can be no democracy in a political society without elections, but having elections alone – no matter how frequently – does not mean that the society is under democratic governance.

Elections give the elected the right to govern, but that is only a delegated right to be exercised within the limits of the constitution, conventions and the rule of law. More important, they do not take away the right of the people to question the government between elections, any time and ever time.

Sri Lanka offers enough examples where the process of representation has privileged the majority based on their numbers and underprivileged those who do not have the strength in numbers. Sri Lankan elections have twice produced parliamentary tyrannies, in 1970 and 1977, and it was to prevent another such tyranny that J.R. Jayewardene created the 1978 Constitution. The upshot has been the growth of a presidential tyranny.

The present government is acting on the false premise that its victories in successive elections give it the prerogative not to be questioned by anyone, and the right to silence anyone who dares to question the government. That the government is so behaving is not surprising, but what is surprising and worrisome is that such governmental thinking is being assimilated by opinion and decision makers outside the government.

People come out in large numbers to vote at elections and then go back to their daily humdrum chores. Few of them, to borrow from Harold Laski, have the energy or the resources to spare for politics in between voting. So the task of watching the government and checking its activities falls on the official opposition, the media as daily reporters, the judiciary as independent referees, and the general intelligentsia as opinion makers.

If any one of them comes up short or fails in their respective tasks, the government can go astray, whether benevolently or malevolently – doesn’t matter, and democracy would be in peril. When a government tries and succeeds in controlling any or all of them, then it is: good bye democracy, hello tyranny. The Sri Lankan government has quite a chorus lined up to sing in the seemingly seamless transition from democracy to tyranny as a transition mandated by the will of the people. No government, whatever its majority vote, can claim mandate to asphyxiate democracy and impose tyranny.

Erosion of democracy since January

The erosion of parliamentary democracy, as we had come to know it, was facilitated by the 1978 constitution, and the same erosion continues unchecked to this day. The rate of erosion has picked up over the last few years, and the events between January and April are nothing less than cataclysmic in the political sense. But few seem to care and those who do are quickly dismissed as Colombian elites who are woefully out of touch with the rural masses. The dismissive pundits are no less Colombian, their rural touch is no less insubstantial, and their only touch is with the government. Some of them stand to lose their state stipends and perks if they were to criticize the government.

Quite apart from the pundits and the intelligentsia, the official opposition has gone mute and the main pre-occupation of its leader is to retain corporate control over the grand old Uncle Nephew Party, aka UNP. Ranil Wickremasinghe is more interested in preserving the elephantine symbol but wouldn’t lose sleep over the government’s premeditated attempts to weaken and destroy democracy. A few of the government’s trespasses are of particular concern, although none of which has overly excited Mr. Wickremasinghe

SFTC320.jpg

Gen. Sarath Fonseka

Take the arrest of Sarath Fonseka. No one has any illusion that Sarath Fonseka is a Dalai Lama, or an Aung San Suu Kyi, not to mention that people like them will be in even bigger danger than Sarath Fonseka in the present day Sri Lanka. What is at issue is the manner of his arrest and the trial process that he is being subjected to. There is hardly any country in the world where a retired Chief Justice would publicly offer an unexceptionably powerful legal opinion challenging the arrest, detention and trial of a retired Army General turned political candidate. It happens in Sri Lanka and the opinion of the Chief Justice has no weight in the scales of military justice.

Most sections of the media and opinion makers conveniently ignore the foulness of General Sarath Fonseka’s arrest and soundness of Chief Justice Sarath Silva’s opinion, by focusing on their personal pasts which are not relevant to the issue. It remains to be seen how the civil forums of justice will deal with Sarath Silva’s opinion when those arguments are formally presented to them. The independence of judiciary is a fundamental pillar of constitutional democracy, and the judiciary must not only be independent but also appear to be independent. No one is suggesting that the Sri Lankan judiciary is not independent, but there is enough reason to suggest that the government would not even let them appear to be independent.

Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the Fonseka fiasco, at least to this writer, was what happened at the Kandy Post Office to scuttle the threat of a Sangha revolt against the State. That the High Priests were threatened with internal sedition and loss of property affiliations came as neither surprise nor shock to anyone. A little-reported story that shocked me was what transpired at the Kandy Post Office. According to one news story, the Mahanayakas sent out letters inviting the clergy for an unprecedented gathering of the Sangha in Kandy, on Thursday, 18 February. The letters were stamped and mailed at the post office on Friday, 12 February. The letters never left the Kandy Post Office! Perhaps this was the first deliberate violation of mail-trust in Sri Lanka’s postal history. Nothing further needs to be said on this matter.

The government has created another record for all the wrong reason. After dissolving parliament for the April election, the government had it recalled to extend the emergency regulations which otherwise would have lapsed. I am not sure if such a recall of parliament has ever happened in Sri Lanka since parliamentary government began in 1947. Under the earlier constitutions and conventions, the declaration of emergency during an election automatically triggered the recall of parliament to deal with the ‘real’ emergency situation. The declaration of emergency was powerful enough to “resurrect a dead parliament”, G. G. Ponnambalam once waxed eloquent in the Supreme Court. The present government, on the other hand, resurrected a dead parliament to prevent the emergency regulation from falling dead. And the old parliament will be in recall even as a new parliament is being elected. Amidst all this, Sri Lankan democracy stands confused and diminished.

Relevance of the Indian Political Model of governance to Sri Lanka

By Arjuna Hulugalle

From time to time one hears the call for introducing the Indian Political Model of governance. To get proportions correct and see the relevance of the Indian model to Sri Lanka , one has to look at India in the same way as one looks through an amateur telescope from the rear of the tube. The subject focused will naturally look tiny.

India ’s population and size is at least fifty times as large as Sri Lanka.

19 states of the Indian Union out of 28 states are larger in size population wise or area wise to Sri Lanka.

In fact, we can, at most, make comparisons on the lines of an Indian state, if we want to stretch our imagination and draw a comparison with India.

Let us have a look at how an Indian State works. The Indian States have elected State Assemblies, which govern the State. Powers are decentralized from the State Assemblies to the Districts, the Blocks (Municipalities) and the Panchayats. The State Assembly of an Indian State in this context will be equivalent to our Parliament.

However, the evolution of our system has been quite different and the chances of a similar structure here may be difficult to be accepted by many, especially some of the Tamil political establishment. This is so even after the defeat of the LTTE and many illusions laid to rest. The demands in the past have been for separation, merger of the Northern Province and the Eastern Province and for self determination. It will take a long time to change that mindset.

The TNA election manifesto confirms this state of mind. A Tamil friend dismissed the TNA manifesto as a ploy solely to canvass votes. After all it was the same TNA that supported General Fonseka at the Presidential election and they knew that the General had no intention of complying with any of the conditions of the TNA manifesto. Is it then indicative of a residual strain dating back to times which the country had hoped was past history, when one asked for something much more than one imagined one could get?

The story of Victor and the importance of being realistic

This reminds me of a story about a friend of mine called Victor and this story goes back many years. Victor was an exceptionally bright student and had qualified as the youngest graduate to pass out in the UK in his field. Victor had however, an intriguing mentality.

His brother in law visited him in his home one day to find Victor had advertised a cow. Potential buyers were in and out of Victor’s cattle shed without Victor being able to close the sale. The offers were around Rs 1750. but what Victor wanted was Rs 5,000. After watching this for sometime, the brother in law asked Victor as to why he was asking for such a ridiculous price. Victor’s answer was:

"You never know, some idiot may turn up and make that offer. I am waiting for that."

No idiot turned up and Victor was left with the cow.

Adjusting the sails and being realistic

Not only the TNA but all Sri Lankans have to be rational. Here, the words of the American writer, William Arthur Ward could help to get our bearings: "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."

Sri Lanka is, a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual country and being at the cross roads of West Asia and East Asia, and its proximity to India , it has a culture of rich diversity, which if properly managed is its greatest strength.

At a macro level, there are broad divisions vis a vis ethnicity and the religions. However, the actual diversity is even more complex. Within the ethnic groups, there are several sub-divisions. Among the Sinhala and Tamil communities caste can have a haunting presence though its importance is receding. Then there are the regional and economic differences. The urban - rural divide is still very pronounced and the colonial tradition to concentrate on the urban areas and the capital city continue. The Western Province , where Colombo is situated controls 50 per cent of the GDP of the country. This has led to tension and even today this is reflected at the elections.

The best example of our diversity is reflected in the Northern and Eastern Provinces , where for the first time, the people are able to exercise their franchise without fear, and 1814 candidates from a record number of parties are contesting for 34 seats. The Northern and Eastern Provinces are not a monolithic domain of a LTTE based entity as many were made to believe for years.

The task ahead

The question to be grappled with is how to work on a concept that would nurture diversity, yet administer it effectively so that the integrity of the State will not be endangered.

We also realized that all segments of society had to be assured of Justice and Equity and through this a common destiny in the entire country would be nurtured and managed to work for the common good. In other words, a Sri Lankan identity had to come about while accepting and recognizing the diversity within the Sri Lankan nation.

Several external Constitutional experts, even those from India have been "coerced" intellectually to conclude, that all Sri Lankan problems will be solved with a political solution redressing the grievances of the Tamil community in the Northern Province and Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. The point is that there has been an awful lot of pressure to think that way for less than rational reasons. In reality, Sri Lanka needs a solution to meet the aspirations and grievances of all Sri Lankans and be acceptable to all. In fact, as a Muslim intellectual put it, the rehabilitation particularly of the mind should not be restricted to the North and the Eastern Provinces . It should be island wide. All have suffered over the past decades.

Kick starting a change by turning to the Mahatma

Where are we to start? Like the advice that was given to Rajiv Gandhi in the context of initiating the legislation for the Panchayatiraj in India , we too should turn to Mahatma Gandhi. We need an indigenous solution. The Western models we have tried out since Independence have failed.

We know that change is always vehemently resisted and will take time to take root. Change has to start at the village because it is the primary unit and the vast majority of the country live in villages. If the village can be made self reliant and function properly it will give the momentum to a healthy change throughout the country. This process can be initiated immediately and in tandem to the discussions on the macro issues.

There are 14,400 villages in Sri Lanka . They are already administratively demarcated and referred to as Grama Sevaka Divisions. The population is generally less than 1500.

The structures for the governance in villages should be on interest sectors focused on development and the decisions taken based on knowledge and not restricted to political patronage and manipulations. Is this being realistic in a society which is highly politicized? It may need structures to be put in place where the political interference can be reduced or minimized because the village has to have substantial autonomy. The interest groups will maintain a democratic balance to keep the focus on the development work of the village. Over time a new culture will emerge.

Every village needs by statute a fixed sum from the Central Government. The suggested figure is Rs 5.000.000 for its development work. An investment of Rs 5,000,000 in a village will generate an additional Rs 10,000,000 because the businessmen and investors will then bring in that money to stimulate development.

Role of women

In this political construction, women will play an important role. Firstly, they will have at least a sector, which devotes its entire energy on matters connected with women. In practice, from the experiments of the Gramrajya that have been conducted, women are the most active participants in the process of rural democracy.

What is most important with the concept of developing the Gramarajya is that it can concentrate on giving local activity and employment which will keep women with their families away from migration within the country and overseas. This will make a very substantial contribution to the mental and physical health of a nation.

Functions assigned in the Indian example

We can surely take a leaf from the Indian Constitution. The 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1991-1992 made rural democracy mandatory, creating a three tier grass root democracy at the village, block (Municipal) and district levels in the states. 29 subjects are managed by the elected representatives of the Panchayats. They are

1. Agriculture, including agricultural extension;

2. Land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation;

3. Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development;

4. Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry;

5. Fisheries;

6. Social forestry and farm forestry;

7. Minor forest produce.;

8. Small scale industries, including food processing industries;

9. Khadi, village and cottage industries;

10. Rural housing;

11. Drinking water;

12. Fuel and fodder;

13. Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways and other means of communica tion;

14. Rural electrification, including distribution of electricity;

15. Non-conventional energy sources;

16. Poverty alleviation programme;

17. Education, including primary and secondary schools;

18. Technical training and vocational education;

19. Adult and non-formal education;

20. Libraries;

21. Cultural activities;

22. Markets and fairs;

23. Health and sanitation, including hospitals, primary

health centres and dispensaries;

24. Family welfare;

25. Women and child development;

26. Social welfare, including welfare of the physically and men tally handicapped;

27. Welfare of the weaker sections, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes;

28. Public distribution system;

29. Maintenance of community assets.

Rural democracy

Giving rural democracy high priority and high exposure will make a big difference in the political landscape of Sri Lanka . Stable villages will result in overall stability in the country. No one will be marginalized in this construction because each village will be active with its own development.

The Indian model of the States does not stop at the village level. It deals with the Blocks (our equivalent of the Pradeshiya Sabhas) and the Districts with strong planning and administrative structures.

In our case the Districts could have much greater autonomous powers. This is a response to a historical imperative of the agitation and war which we have put to an end. An example for us here is the Swiss Cantonal construction. The Swiss Cantons are in fact smaller than our Districts but have substantial autonomy again because of historical reasons. This has led to stability and development within a Swiss identity. Though small they have an adequate critical mass for self reliance which our districts also have. Maybe the term District has to be changed to a term like "Territories" to make it more appealing as a Unit of decentralization and devolution in Sri Lanka.

Constitutional concessions are most often horse traded and inspired by mere expediency. One should avoid if one can. What is needed is an actual platform for genuine development to reach the people rather than appeasing the illusions and vanity of the elites. A meaningful evolution will also take time and constitution making has to be an evolution. The conceptualists of the Indian Panchayatiraj system envisaged that it will take 25 years for the system to come to fruition. That was stated when the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution was enacted in 1991. It is only now that the strength of the system is emerging as a success story.

March 19, 2010

Rajapakses Have put in place a new Paradigm Premised on Sinhala Supremacism and Family Bandyism

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Words can be like tiny doses of arsenic; they are swallowed unnoticed, appear to have no effect, and then after a little time the toxic reaction sets in after all. If someone replaces the words ‘heroic’ and ‘virtuous’ with ‘fanatical’ long enough, he will come to believe that a fanatic really is a virtuous hero, and that no one can be a hero without fanaticism”.- Victor Klemperer (The Language of the Third Reich)

The evening began with a lullaby. A lullaby of the ‘heroic saga’ of ‘King Mihindu’ and his ‘Chief General Gotabhaya’, of how they defeated the ‘demons’ threatening the motherland. ‘Mihindu came and saved your Mother Lanka, Son’, sang the songstress, while in the foreground a troupe of dancers rocked a baby to sleep. A century from now Lankan mothers will sing such lullabies to their sons, the comperes assured the audience confidently.

The show ‘Jaya Jayawe’ was billed as a ‘Musical Tribute to the Heroes of the Nation’. As song succeeded song, it became clear that the heroes so honoured were just President Mahinda Rajapakse and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse (albeit a long way behind). And their mother, to whom the last song of the evening was dedicated: ‘Mother, are your watching from heaven, as the Son, who the gods and the Brahmas sent to your womb from golden palaces, is protecting the Nation?’ queried the songstress, mellifluously, casting reverential looks at the said heaven-donated son in the audience.

“The Young Alexander conquered India. Was he alone? Caesar beat the Gauls. Did he not even have a cook with him?” Bertold Brecht famously asked in his poem ‘Questions from a Worker who reads’. The message conveyed by the Jaya Jayawe extravaganza was clear – the Eelam War was won by President Rajapakse (also known as King Mihindu), with some backing from his brother Gotabhaya. Just him, and his brother, no other helper, not even a cook. According to this rendition, Rajapakse, a gift to the nation from the heavens, defeated the Tigers almost single-handedly. This ‘version’ cannot be laughed off as counter-factual nonsense, because it is solemnised by official sanction and Presidential blessing. The musical show was organised by the state owned Independent Television Network (ITN) and attended by the President, his wife and brothers, Basil and Gotabhaya. Occasionally the cameras showed row after row of impassive young men in wheel chairs and their uniformed escorts. But that evening, these disabled servicemen, and their absent comrades dead and living, went un-honoured. There was no song about their deeds, nor any acknowledgment about the terrible price many of them were compelled to pay.

Not even the LTTE, which deified Vellupillai Pirapaharan, had such a uniformly leader-centric narrative of the war.

The ITN had billed the show, with nary a shadow of irony, as the antithesis of ‘panegyrical songs’.

One song expressed pride in having a king such as Mihindu. Another crooned that he united the nation’s heart and gave the nation a tomorrow and that the ‘nation is forever with you’. ‘You are the country, you are tomorrow… you are us…. Mihindu’ said yet another song. My personal favourite is the one which hailed the President as ‘the Lion in the Lion Flag’, and as ‘Our Time, Our Legacy, Our Future, Our Solution, Our Father, Our Comfort, Our Happiness, Our Light…..’ ad nauseam. The President was called the ‘Father of the Nation’ and the ‘Wonder of the World and the Universe’, ‘High King’ and ‘Divine Gift’; he was compared to a ‘Golden Sword’ which defends the nation, and a ‘Golden Thread which unites sundered hearts’. Another song exhorted the populace to give thanks (say ‘sadhu’) because ‘we got a king’. An ‘ethnically integrated’ song hailed the President as the Sun and the Moon, in Sinhala and Tamil (Hiru and Sandu to the South; Thinakaran and Chandiran to the North). ‘Mahinda Rajapakse is our king…. King Rajapakse’s name will be written in history in letters of gold…. We owe King Rajapakse,’ sang a little boy, barely older than a toddler, lispingly.

The final song referred to Rajapakse’s mother as ‘Our Mother’ (ape amma), in an unconscious echo of the North Korean practice of referring to Kim Il Sung’s mother as the ‘Mother of the Nation’ (an early indication of the dynastic rule that was to come). In Buddhist literature there are stories of miraculous conceptions (our version of Immaculate Conception); children, who are to perform preordained tasks, are conceived in a manner that is beyond the norm of procreation. The conception of Prince Siddharta and the conception of King Kusa (in the Kusa Jathakaya) are cases in point (in both instances the mother is sleeping alone).

According to Mahawamsa, a childless Viharamahadevi, on the advice of a senior monk, begged a dying Samanera (a student monk) to be reborn in her womb. After the Queen left, the Samanera died, “and he returned to a new life in the womb of the queen while she was yet upon her journey” (The Mahawamsa). The baby thus conceived became the legendary Dutugemunu. By referring to Rajapakse as the son who was sent by divine beings from golden palaces to his mother’s womb, the song implied that this too was a miraculous conception of the aforementioned sort. With this seemingly inane but innocuous reference, Rajapakse is sanctified with a divine flavour, enhancing his status as the Chosen Hero-King.

All evening, Rajapakse (accompanied by his brothers) listened to the saccharine lyrics with manifest complaisance. Clearly this ‘Leader rooted in the People’ (Janamula Nayakaya, as the ITN repeatedly called him) did not find anything amiss, let alone embarrassing, in this mishmash of extravagantly servile laudations, this idolatrous outpouring. Rather, his demeanour indicated that, as far as he is concerned, this is his due, what he is owed, the treatment he expects. What such an attitude says about the man and his worldview, his ambitions and his expectations is not hard to surmise. Here is a leader who sees absolute and lifelong rule as his right and his destiny. A man with such a mindset is unlikely to leave tamely at the end of his second term. On the contrary, he will do whatever it takes to stay on, because for him, retiring would be simply unthinkable.

Amongst this avalanche of delirious encomiums certain specific themes can be identified. Mahinda Rajapakse won the war. Mahinda Rajapakse saved the country. Mahinda Rajapakse is the King. Mahinda Rajapakse is unique not just in the world but also in the universe (I fully agree with this). Mahinda Rajapakse has surprised the world (ditto). Mahinda Rajapakse is the only hero and the only leader, forever. Mahinda Rajapakse is the Father or the Nation. Mahinda Rajapakse is the nation and its future. However silly these claims may seem from an intelligent and rational point of view, they warrant close attention because the man on whose behalf these are made is the Executive President of Sri Lanka. If the UPFA gets its two thirds, President Rajapakse would be able to create his own constitution, the main object of which would be to perpetuate his rule (and that of his family).

Leni Riefenstahl’s artistically magnificent and ideologically diabolical movie, Will to Power, was an early indication of what Nazism was and where it was headed. Watching it, with the benefit of hindsight, it is hard to conceive how the contemporary world failed to see the signs of danger. Perhaps such insights are possible only with hindsight, since reason can be blind to the menacing potential of unreason. Amongst the fare of Jaya Jayawe was a song which was written for and sung on the occasion of the launch of the original Mahinda Chintana in 2005. I had watched that event live on TV and listened to the song without the slightest sense of unease, merely dismissing it as another example of infantile but essentially harmless self aggrandisement our politicians are lamentably addicted to. I did not notice that the lyrics referred to Mahinda Rajapakse as a ‘King who believes in equality’; even if I did notice the term ‘king’ I would have dismissed it as a manifestation of self-conceit, sans political significance. It is with hindsight I realise that this usage was not a mere passing fancy or a but something quintessential to Rajapakse thinking and project.

The evening also contained a Guest Lecture by JRP Sooriyapperuma, which, despite its howlers, was remarkably perceptive. He defined ‘Jaya Jayawe’ as a symbol of the ‘New Civilisation’ that is coming into being. Each political era has its cultural representations and Mr. Suripapperuma is absolutely correct in identifying the show as representative of the ethos of the Rajapakse era. Jaya Jayawe has a task – that of manufacturing consent for Rajapakse Rule. Jaya Jayawe promotes the concept of a leader who is not the First Citizen of the country (as is apposite in a democracy). Jaya Jayawe advocates the idea of a leader who is superior to the people, of an infallible leader, of a divinely anointed leader, of a leader who is not a leader for a season but the Leader forever - a leader who resembles the absolutist monarchs of yore rather than the democratic leaders of the present. This leader is the Father of the Nation and to him the nation owes the duty of absolute, unquestioning obedience. Since the leader is infallible, questioning him or his deeds is unnecessary. Since he is the nation, such questioning is treasonous. In this worldview there is no room whatsoever for dissent or opposition. One cannot disagree with or oppose the divinely dispatched leader who represents the nation without committing the crime of heretical treason.

The fate of Sarath Fonseka is symbolic of the politics of this ‘new civilisation’. Fonseka is being tried by two military tribunals but neither of the two charge sheets against him includes the ‘crimes’ for which he was arrested – conspiring to overthrow the government and to kill Rajapakse and his family. Clearly Fonseka was arrested because leaving him free would have sent the wrong signal to potential dissenters within the Rajapakse camp. So long as Ranil Wickremesinghe remains at the helm, the Rajapakses do not need to fear the UNP. But the possibility of a rebellion by disgruntled SLFPers cannot be ruled out, and thus needs to be avoided at all costs. Making an example of Fonseka, dragging him in the mud and locking him up, is the best way to discourage others from taking on the Rajapakses. In this sense, the arrest and the trial of Fonseka are the equal of a public hanging. The aim of the Rajapakses is not just to punish their bête noire but also to send an unequivocal warning to any who think of emulating him.

In 2005, we would have dismissed as impossible the possibility of Mahinda Rajapakse being hailed as King or Basil Rajapakse as a contender for Prime Ministership or Namal Rajapakse contesting elections. What would have seemed grotesque and inconceivable then seems normal and mundane now. A few years ago, when Rajapakse denied the existence of an ethnic problem and thus the need for a political solution, he seemed an antediluvian figure.

Today even the UNP Manifesto contains no reference to an ethnic problem or a political solution. The Rajapakses have caused a revolutionary transformation in public conceptions and perceptions, gradually and insidiously putting in place a new paradigm premised on Sinhala supremacism and Rajapakse supremacism. At this rate, by 2015, we may deem as common or garden, the fantastically idolatrous encomiums contained in Jaya Jayawe; or see Rajapakse rule and dynastic succession as normal; or believe mindless obedience to be our patriotic duty; or regard as traitors all opponents of the Ruling Family. We would be slaves who celebrate our politico-psychological bondage as the ultimate freedom.

Where and with whom were you and your wife between 3.30PM on Jan 26th and 4.45 PM on Jan 27th?

An open letter to Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake

by Elmore Perera

Dear Dayananda,

A Free and Fair Election – An impossible dream ?

We, the People have a Sovereign right to exercise our franchise at free and fair elections. The very last time we could do so was in 1977. Giving vent to our disgust with the governance then prevailing, we gave J.R. Jayawardena, who claimed to be the long-awaited saviour of the Sri Lankan nation, a 5/6th majority. Free and fair elections were soon relegated to history. The election process rapidly degenerated to the level of the notorious Wayamba Provincial Council election in 1999.

ECTC320.jpg

In an attempt to stem this ominous trend, the OPA beginning in 1994, attempted to monitor elections. At the end of a discussion some of us had with you re monitoring the 1999 Presidential election, you claimed to have been at the receiving end of my lectures in SLIDA. I immediately assumed (rightly or wrongly?) that you had endorsed the need for exemplary conduct I consistently tried to instil into those who chose to listen to what I said.

In an attempt to reduce rigging at the Presidential election of 1999, you had affixed the now infamous “stickers” to Polling Cards. The potential abuse of such stickers was prevented by the accidental detection of this secret move of yours, by a VV.I.P. Consequent attempts made by a triumvirate of the most powerful personalities at that time, with the obvious connivance of a state agency, to sideline you and replicate the Wayamba election, were thwarted by justification of your bona fide and lawful, though admittedly futile and costly, act. However, you had not been vested with any power to control or even contain the violence and blatant violation of election laws that took place.

Disgusted with the mockery that passed off as “free and fair elections”, we the people, through our elected representatives in Parliament, adopted the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, drastically curtailing the extent of the Executive power of the Sovereign People which had been delegated to the President, and creating an Elections Commission of five members, endowed with extensive powers, for the sole purpose of restoring the conduct of free and fair elections.

The 17th Amendment, passed with only one abstention and no one against, became operative on 3rd October 2001, and provided the Elections Commission (EC) with sufficiently extensive powers, inter alia, to appoint other officers to the EC and delegate to them any power, duty or function of the EC, to notify the Inspector- General of Police of the facilities and the number of police officers required and then deploy them to secure the enforcement of all laws relating to the conduct of free and fair elections, to prohibit the misuse of any state property, and to enable the Competent Authority to take over the management of SLBC and SLRC in respect of all broadcasts which impinge on the election.

Regrettably, no Elections Commission was constituted and consequently, in terms of Section 27(2) of the said Act, you were vested with all the extensive powers, duties and functions of the Election Commission. Your failure to exercise most of these powers culminated in your validating the 2005 Presidential election where about 500,000 electors in the South and almost all the electors in the North were unlawfully disenfranchised.

Rather than invoking the extensive powers vested in you, so as to promote the conduct of a free and fair 2010 Presidential election, you only requested the IGP to continue to deploy the police officers himself, in the manner indicated by you. Belatedly, you issued directions for the immediate removal of cut-outs (and even provided the funds needed for same) and the cancellation of certain transfers. However, such directions were disregarded with impunity. You had chosen not to take cognisance of the fact that this IGP had been appointed by the President in violation of the Constitution, and had even been vested with the powers of the National Police Commission, also in violation of the Constitution, and certainly had to display greater allegiance to the President who appointed him, and to the Defence Secretary to whom he reports, rather than obey your commendable directives, confident that you would, deliberately or otherwise, not exercise the extensive powers vested in you to ensure compliance with your directives.

The “directives” reportedly issued by you to Ministry Secretaries and others re the abuse of state resources were largely disregarded, in violation of the Constitutional requirement that “every person under whose control such property is, for the time being, is required to comply with and give effect to such directions”. You did nothing further. You appointed a Competent Authority to control the broadcasts of SLBC and SLRC. The issuance of comprehensive Guidelines and even Directives failed to have any significant effect on the SLBC and SLRC. Without invoking any of the powers vested in you to “secure the enforcement of your directives”, you frequently appeared on TV, and attempted to exculpate yourself from your betrayal of the trust placed in you, by repeatedly complaining that your many directives, inter alia, to the IGP, to all Secretaries and the Media and those of your Competent Authority were not being heeded, and that you were helpless. You merely revoked the appointment of the Competent Authority without enabling him to take over the management of SLBC and SLRC, in respect of all political broadcasts or any other broadcast, which impinges on the election, under Arts 104 B(5)(c) and Act No. 3 of 2002.

To cap it all you announced that a “Sticker” would be placed on each ballot box to signify that it had been duly “checked”, “closed” and “sealed”. The necessary implication was that any ballot box which carried this “sticker” must necessarily be presumed to have been duly checked, closed and sealed by the Senior Presiding Officer in the presence of the Candidates and/or their duly nominated agents. You cannot plead that you did not realise that this procedure lent itself to mass-scale non-verifiable corruption. A news report of ballot boxes having been transported in a Navy Vehicle was immediately suppressed.

We the People, looked up to you to honour the trust placed in you by us, through our elected Representatives, and to hold a free and fair election. You signally failed to invoke the extensive powers set out in Articles 104C and 104E, to notify the IGP of the facilities and Police Officers required, appoint competent, non-partisan retired officers (of whom there are many) to direct the deployment of the facilities and Police Officers made available by the IGP, so as to ensure a “free and fair election”.

At about 2.30 p.m. on January 26th 2010, a public announcement was made on several TV Channels that casting a vote for General Sarath Fonseka was of no value because his name was not included in the list of Electors and that, even if elected, he could not lawfully hold the post of President. On this being brought to your notice, you issued a written statement that General Sarath Fonseka was indeed, lawfully entitled to be elected and function as President. Soon after this was broadcast on the TV, two or more VV.I.PP of the UPFA visited you at the Elections Secretariat and after some time you left the Secretariat in their Company. Thereafter you were seen in the Secretariat only minutes before you announced on 27th January, 2010, inter alia, that this was the worst election you have ever conducted, it was only when Indra de Silva was IGP that you were able to conduct a peaceful election, you had been told by powerful persons that your only function was to count the votes in the ballot boxes and announce the result, your election staff could not even ensure the safety of the ballot boxes, you will attend to the incidental functions relating to that election in the next few days in January and not thereafter even set foot in the Secretariat premises, and you wished to particularly thank the IGP Mahinda Balasuriya because he complied with all the requests made to him by you.

To the astonishment of the Public, you returned to the Elections Secretariat on 2nd February 2010, and retracted all the statements you made. You also declared that you were willing and able to conduct the General Election which will determine the future course of this country. Many, including me, have lost all faith in your commitment to conducting any free and fair election. You are, once again making attractive statements which, from your own recent experience, you no doubt know very well, will go unheeded. You have not even bothered to appoint a Competent Authority but have directed Party Secretaries to seek fairplay from the very Chairman who blatantly refused it. You have left it to the IGP to deal with any Police officers who failed to actively support the President. You have turned a blind eye to the flagrant abuse of State Resources. You are just going through the motions.

I challenge you to appear live on TV and truthfully divulge to the country where, and with whom, you and your wife were between 3.30 p.m. on 26th January 2010 and 4.45 p.m. on January 27th 2010, and also invoke all the Constitutional powers vested in you, not for the purpose of boosting your tarnished image, but for the purpose of conducting a free and fair election. If you do so, public confidence in your ability and willingness to conduct a free and fair election may well be restored, and it will not be necessary for me to tender an unqualified apology to you and your wife for having brought you to this state, and also to the Sri Lankan Nation for having prevented your removal from the election process in 1999 and thereby facilitating, what I believe, were fraudulent elections in Sri Lanka.

Please be aware of the maxim “Facts cannot lie, but men can”

With best wishes to you and your wife.

Yours sincerely,

Elmore M. Perera
B.Sc., LL.B, F.C.M.A., Dipl. PMD (U. Conn), TREND (U. Conn), CSSI,
Chartered Management Accountant, Chartered Surveyor,
Management and Training Consultant,
Attorney-at-Law, Commissioner for Oaths, E-mail: elm144@sltnet.lk
Notary Public and Company Secretary,

Former Addl. Director SLIDA and Surveyor General,
Past President, Organisation of Professional Organisations,
Vice President, Citizens’ Movement for Good Governance

'Banging the head against every organization and country would not help Sri Lanka's economy in the long run'

“Banging the head against every organization and country may help boost one’s ego but would not help country’s economy in the long run. This does not mean that Sri Lanka should compromise its sovereignty for perks. It means that Sri Lanka needs to be civil and diplomatic when dealing with the outside world,” says the March 20th editorial of Daily Mirror.lk.

Full Text of the editorial:

It certainly is quite interesting to watch the manner the government, which at one point was insisting that it could do well without the GSP + facility, makes announcements about every single step of its talks with the EU to regain the concession.

Of course Sri Lanka would still have survived, though with a lot of difficulties, if the EU decides against lifting the suspension. There would have been a major down turn in economy. Still the country would have pulled through with some scars.

The GSP plus certainly is critical and that’s exactly why the government sent a delegation to have a dialogue with the European Commission with a view to get the suspension lifted.

Professor G.L. Peiris told media on Wednesday that the government team that returned from Brussels had a promising start and that Sri Lanka remains optimistic about the outcome of talks. Prior to his announcement there were quite a few statements to the effect that everything was hunky dory with the EU.

So it appears that whatever rhetoric and grandstanding to the effect that Sri Lanka can absorb the loss of the tariff concession without much of an issue the government has been giving away all signs that it is desperate to get it back to sustain the economy. One may well say that if Sri Lanka had maintained same accommodating tone instead of the confrontational note with which it approached the issue of GSP + and moved to make a few adjustments it may perhaps would have retained the EU tariff concession. Banging the head against every organization and country may help boost one’s ego but would not help country’s economy in the long run. This does not mean that Sri Lanka should compromise its sovereignty for perks. It means that Sri Lanka needs to be civil and diplomatic when dealing with the outside world.

It’s easy to shut the door saying ‘we can do without you’ and then lament, go with bended knees a few days later and become the laughing stock of the world. Sri Lanka could have avoided all that embarrassment if the politicians acted like mature statesmen instead of behaving like spoilt brats. While these politicians have only local audience in mind when they make these explosive statements, they often forget that most of those inflammatory speeches land on web and are disseminated world –wide.

Hope at least the GSP+ episode will serve as an eye opener to them.

Dr. Palitha Kohona quotes NAM’s “118 member strong support” against UN expert panel

Inner City Press reported on March 18th that not all members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) supported the recent letter to UN Secretary General of the United Nations against the appointment of an Experts Panel on Sri Lanka to advise him on “accountability issues”.

However, the Inter Press News Service (IPS), in an interview with Dr. Palitha Kohona, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to the United Nations quotes to him have said, “the 118-strong NAM has made its point.”

According to IPS Dr. Kohona had further stated, "Sri Lanka has resisted external pressure in the management of its internal affairs and the perception of Sri Lanka being singled out for harsh treatment must be avoided."

Thalif Deen, U.N. Bureau Chief of IPS spoke to Dr. Palitha Kohona and excerpts from the interview as follows:

Q: There are unconfirmed rumours that the secretary-general is being pressured by some Western nations to take an unyielding stand against Sri Lanka. Any truth to this rumour?

A: I don't know. However, it would be strange indeed if any country were to exert pressure on the secretary-general to penalise a small developing country which had almost single-handedly crushed a ruthless terrorist organisation, and which success enjoys the widest support within the country, as clearly demonstrated by the unprecedented success of the government of President (Mahinda) Rajapaksa at a series of elections, when better documented violations of international humanitarian standards are occurring elsewhere, even as we speak.

Q: Since the relationship between the United Nations and Sri Lanka continues to deteriorate, will the government permit a proposed visit to Colombo by U.N. Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe in the near future? If not, why?

A: I do not believe that the relationship with the U.N. is deteriorating. There are continuing discussions with the organisation which is normal. This is not the first time that we have been engaged in this complex institution - and as a sovereign and equal member of the organisation, Sri Lanka will continue to play its rightful role. We understand that USG Pascoe will visit Sri Lanka in due course following the invitation issued by the president.

Q: The Western powers failed to get Sri Lanka on the Security Council agenda primarily due to opposition by China. But Beijing has caved in under Western pressure to approve three Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran, a country which has a much stronger political, economic and military relationship with China than Sri Lanka. Do you anticipate a situation when China will eventually relent to Western pressure on Sri Lanka - if not now, at least later?

A: In the light of what has been said above, it is unlikely that this matter would reach such a pass.

Q: The NAM letter implicitly accuses the secretary-general of playing politics when it says that the Non-Aligned countries "are of the conviction" that the proposal to appoint a panel of experts on the eve of parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka "could do more harm than good to the country's ongoing and relentless efforts aimed at reinforcing reconciliation and national unity." Is he?

A: Sri Lanka has always had the highest regard for the secretary-general and acknowledges the difficult task that he is performing in the service of the organisation. We are confident that he will act in a manner that will not inflame the political sensitivities in the country, especially in the lead-up to a general election (in Sri Lanka in early April).

Q: How negative is the reaction in Sri Lanka to the U.N. proposal to appoint a panel? And if permitted, could the secretary-general's decision be a precedent for similar action elsewhere?

A: The reaction within Sri Lanka to comments made by the secretary-general and his spokesman, as underlined in a statement issued by the foreign ministry, is, unfortunately, extremely negative. We also have a recently re-elected president who is enjoying unprecedented approval ratings.

All parties need to reflect on the political consequences of the course of action currently being discussed and remind ourselves of the importance of permitting Sri Lanka the space to address its internal issues without the irritant of external interference which could also be precedent-setting in a global sense. I note that an accountability mechanism has already been outlined by the Attorney General (of Sri Lanka) before the Human Rights Council.

March 18, 2010

'Non Aligned Movement's letter defending President Rajapaksa government was not agreed to by NAM member India'

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 18 -- Amid charges by the UN that the Non Aligned Movement's letter defending Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa government was not agreed to by all NAM member, notably India, the UN is insisting there is no contradiction between its statements about a panel to advise Ban Ki-moon about approaches to war crimes in Sri Lanka.

On March 18, Inner City Press asked Ban's Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq about his quote that the panel would not be established very soon and Ban's March 16 statements that there would be "no delay."

"To many it seems contradictory," Inner City Press began. "By many you mean you?" demanded Farhan Haq.

Well, no. Even after the briefing, a number of UN correspondents who neither ask nor write about Sri Lanka approached Inner City Press to say they too found it confusing, no delay but not very soon

Haq tried to square the comments by saying no delay in considering the terms of reference. Presumably Ban considered this before informing Mahinda Rajapaksa he was going to name the panel. Again, timing in this regard should be compared to Guinea, where the September 2009 killing of 150 civilians has already triggered a UN panel, terms of reference and investigation long completed. No delay?

To Read this Inner City Press Report in full: On Sri Lanka, UN Puts Spin on "No Delay," Jabs at NAM, Will Fonseka Meet Pascoe?

Also Inner City Press on March 19th quoted the UK Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant saying that the UN "does have a mandate through the UN charter to uphold human rights and humanitarian international law, and therefore he is entirely within his rights to set up a group of experts who will advise him on taking forward his concerns about some of the allegations that have been made in the recent months in Sri Lanka."

Full report: UK Disagrees With NAM Letter

Australia says Sri Lanka’s 'prospects for lasting reconciliation requires stronger civil society and free media' in the country

Hon Stephen Smith, MP, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs has said the importance of “Proper, transparent and compassionate treatment of those citizens of the north and east” while emphasizing that “it will be important for post conflict reconciliation in Sri Lanka."

He also added that, “It is for this reason that Australia continues to advocate resettlement of all remaining displaced persons in safe and dignified conditions as soon as possible.”

Full Text of tabled Statement - Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith, MP
Re: Sri Lanka, 17 March 2010

I wish to update the House on the situation in Sri Lanka since my last report to the House on 14 September 2009.

In particular, I want to update the House on the ongoing political and humanitarian challenges facing Sri Lanka and Australia’s strengthened financial and diplomatic support for the people of Sri Lanka to help Sri Lanka meet these challenges.

I highlight some recent progress on resettling internally displaced civilians, an immense task.

I underscore Australia’s long-standing bilateral relationship with Sri Lanka, underpinned by substantial people-to-people links. Our bilateral cooperation continues to expand in important areas, including combating people smuggling and human trafficking. Addressing transnational issues such as these is important, not only to Sri Lanka and Australia but to our region.

I do so at a time when President Mahinda Rajapaksa has recently been re-elected, following Sri Lanka’s first nation-wide election after over two decades of conflict. And at a time when Sri Lanka prepares for parliamentary elections on 8 April.

Political challenges

Mr Speaker, as I said in my statement to the Parliament in September last year, the military victory in Sri Lanka has changed the situation on the ground irrevocably.

During my visit to Sri Lanka in November last year, I urged the Sri Lankan Government to win the peace, after decades-long military conflict, by forging an enduring political settlement for all Sri Lankans.

I acknowledged that this would not be easy. Nor would it occur overnight. It would come only after a process of political reform and rapprochement between all parties and communities.

While the outside world could help in practical ways, the solution needed to come from within Sri Lanka, from the people of Sri Lanka. The re-elected Sri Lankan Government has both a special responsibility and opportunity to use its second term to promote the political freedoms and the reforms, including the empowerment of minority communities, that will enable all citizens to have a stake in the country’s future.

Australia believes that Sri Lanka’s democracy, its rule of law and its national security would be enhanced by a stronger civil society and an independent and free media.

Such freedoms could enhance Sri Lanka’s prospects for lasting reconciliation.

Another crucial part of the reconciliation and peace building process is the proper conduct of elections. In this regard, it was notable that polling for the Presidential election proceeded reasonably peacefully in most areas.

There were, however, reports of violence and possible violations of election law in the lead up to and following the Presidential election.

As we approach the 8 April elections, Australia urges the Government of Sri Lanka and its civil institutions to ensure that there are credible investigations into past election incidents and measures are put in place to prevent similar problems arising again.

Mr Speaker, as Members would be aware, the former Army Chief and Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka was taken into detention on 8 February and faces charges of undertaking political activities while still in the military and violating military procurement guidelines.

General Fonseka was brought before a military court at Navy Headquarters on 16 March and is due to appear again today. General Fonseka is challenging the legality of his detention through Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court.

The international community, including Australia, has been and is watching these developments closely. Australia has underlined the importance of General Fonseka and his supporters being treated fairly and transparently in accordance with Sri Lankan law.

Mr Speaker, decades of civil war have impacted terribly and adversely on Sri Lankan civilians. Australia made repeated calls during the conflict, and since, for all parties to make the welfare and protection of civilians the absolute priority, and for international law to be respected.

Australia has called on the Sri Lankan Government to investigate allegations of human rights violations and violations of international law.

Proper and transparent investigation of these allegations is an important step towards reconciliation.

We welcomed the announcement by the Sri Lankan Government on 26 October 2009 that it would establish an Expert Committee to investigate allegations contained in the recent US State Department’s Report to Congress on Incidents during the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka.

The deadline for the Committee’s report was extended from 31 December 2009.

It is important that the Expert Committee moves more quickly to progress its investigations and implement its findings. We look forward to the Committee’s report, due by 30 April 2010.

I welcome President Rajapaksa’s re-election statement on 27 January in which he committed to govern for all Sri Lankans, build on the peace already achieved and move forward on a reconciliation program.

Others have indicated a willingness to explore options for reconciliation and long term stability.

The Tamil National Alliance said in its platform for parliamentary elections to be held on 8 April that it would accept a “federal structure” in the north-east. Obviously this is a sensitive political issue for Sri Lankans to resolve.

I encourage all political voices to engage together in a sincere process to achieve lasting political reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Humanitarian challenges

Mr Speaker, following my visit to Sri Lanka over 9-10 November last year, which was the first by an Australian Foreign Minister since 2004, it was very clear that the humanitarian task facing Sri Lanka was immense.

Australia has been a close observer of the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka both during the recent intensified fighting and since the end of the military conflict in May 2009.

Throughout, we have stressed the need to make the welfare of civilians an absolute priority.

Australia held concerns about the camps for internally displaced people and we put these concerns directly to the Sri Lankan Government at the time, calling for freedom of movement for displaced persons and management of the camps in accordance with international humanitarian standards.

My discussions with the Sri Lankan Government in November 2009, including with President Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, revealed that progress had been made in tackling the challenging task of resettling hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens and rehabilitating their communities.

However, for several reasons – including the scale of the resettlement task – the Sri Lankan Government was not able to meet its self imposed deadline of 31 January for completing the return of all internally displaced people to their place of origin.

This process is continuing. Of the nearly 300,000 civilians displaced by the conflict, over 185,000 have been released and are living either in their own homes or – in greater numbers - with host families.

Living conditions in the 12 remaining camps, which now house over 90,000 internally displaced people, continue to be difficult but reduced numbers have relieved the problem of over-crowding.

Efforts are being made to meet the basic needs of people still in these camps and essential services are being provided.

During my November visit to Colombo, I discussed with the Sri Lankan Government the importance of freedom of movement for all internally displaced civilians.

Accordingly, Australia welcomed the Sri Lankan Government’s announcement of 1 December 2009 which allowed freer movement for people in the camps.

Tens of thousands of people have taken advantage of that decision to travel outside the camps. Many of these civilians and those recently resettled have suffered immensely through decades of conflict which has resulted in significant trauma for many Sri Lankans.

In addition to the situation in the camps and resettlement areas, we remain watchful of the conditions for over 10,000 individuals who have been separated from the civilian population and held in detention as ex-combatants.

We urge the Sri Lankan government to regularise the legal status of this group and afford international agencies access to those held in detention.

Enhanced diplomatic efforts

Mr Speaker, Australia has adopted an enhanced diplomatic and humanitarian effort to help Sri Lanka address the challenges of recovery from over two decades of civil war.

On 2 November 2009, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Mr John McCarthy as Australia’s Special Representative to Sri Lanka.

Mr McCarthy’s role has reinforced the messages that I and our High Commissioner in Colombo have put to the Sri Lankan Government on the importance of – and Australia’s support for - stabilisation and resettlement of internally displaced civilians within Sri Lanka.

Special Representative McCarthy has also engaged with the international community widely on the challenges faced by Sri Lanka.

He has been consulting extensively on the importance of supporting reconstruction and rehabilitation programs in the north of the country. These programs are important both for humanitarian reasons and for laying the foundations for lasting peace.

Mr McCarthy visited Colombo with me in November and has just completed a further visit to Sri Lanka this month, where he met President Rajapaksa.

During this February visit, Mr McCarthy was also able to travel north with our High Commissioner to the Jaffna Peninsula where they visited camps for internally displaced civilians and resettlement areas, and met local government and community leaders.

n a number of discussions overseas, both in the corridors of international meetings and bilateral visits, including in London in January and in New Delhi in March, I underlined the importance of international support to assist Sri Lanka meet its challenges.

Humanitarian assistance

Mr Speaker, Australia continues to respond generously to the humanitarian challenges facing Sri Lanka.

Our aid program is targeted to meet the needs of displaced civilians, their resettlement and the rehabilitation of their communities.

Our aid efforts in the camps are focussed on the well-being of internally displaced people, and not on the camps being a long-term settlement option.

The proper, transparent and compassionate treatment of those citizens of the north and east will be important for post conflict reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

It is for this reason that Australia continues to advocate resettlement of all remaining displaced persons in safe and dignified conditions as soon as possible.

Australian officials in Sri Lanka are working closely with central and local government authorities and community groups to determine how best Australia can continue to address the needs of the displaced, and support their resettlement and rehabilitation.

A senior AusAID official visited resettlement areas in Northern Sri Lanka in late February for this purpose.
In many cases resettlement areas have been badly affected by conflict.

There are impassable roads, destroyed houses and a lack of potable water. Infrastructure, including schools and health facilities, is damaged or non-existent. Large swathes of agricultural land are as yet unusable and tools to restart livelihoods are scarce.

In addition, there is the ever-present danger of landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Mr Speaker, demining is an essential first step to allow people to return home and rebuild their lives.

For this reason, Australia has already announced its commitment to provide up to $20 million for demining over the next five years to ensure that the northern part of Sri Lanka can be made safe for resettlement.

Aid announcement

In November 2009 following my visit to Sri Lanka I informed the House that Australia was looking favourably to assisting both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank on their reconstruction projects in the north and in the east.

In Singapore in the margins of APEC I had a conversation with Mr Zoellick, the Executive Director of the World Bank, indicating.

Australia's in-principle support for those reconstruction efforts so far as the World Bank is concerned. Today I announce that Australia will provide an additional $20 million in targeted assistance to Sri Lanka.

This support will be delivered through international organisations who are making a practical contribution to stabilisation efforts. It is focussed on enabling people to return to their home communities and to re-establish the economic and social infrastructure required for recovery.

$12 million will be provided to the World Bank to co-finance their Emergency Northern Reconstruction Project.

Over an 18 month period, the World Bank project plans to help over 100,000 displaced people by providing cash grants, raising standards of living and rebuilding essential community infrastructure.

Australian funding will go directly to resettling families, allowing them to regain some control over their own lives and to start repairing their houses and clearing their fields and wells.

Our assistance will also provide seeds and essential farming and fishing implements to improve food security.

$8 million will be provided to co-finance the Asian Development Bank's North East Community Restoration and Development Project. This project aims to rapidly improve living conditions by restoring basic social infrastructure including critical health facilities and schools.

It will restore village roads, provide irrigation and water supply schemes and restore electricity supplies.

It will give priority to districts affected by conflict including parts of Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar and Kilinochchi.

The assistance I am announcing today builds on Australia's existing support for housing to enable internally displaced people to be resettled more quickly.

Large scale damage to basic housing infrastructure in the north remains a critical challenge, with the total number of houses damaged or destroyed reported to exceed 230,000.

This follows on from the $3 million Australia provided in November 2009 to UN Habitat to provide cash grants to affected families for quick repairs and longer term reconstruction of housing, as well as restoring land titles

Bilateral Relationship

Mr Speaker, Sri Lanka is important to Australia. Australia and Sri Lanka share strong bilateral relations, built on our shared Commonwealth membership, as well as links in trade and investment, defence, education, sport, culture and development cooperation.

The people-to-people links between Australia and Sri Lanka are strong with around 100,000 persons of Sri Lankan extraction now living in Australia, contributing to all aspects of our society.

The opportunity now exists for the diaspora to play a constructive role in promoting the conditions for sustainable peace. I urge the diaspora to look forward and work in positive ways to help communities inside Sri Lanka realise a peaceful future for themselves.

Australia is committed to working with Sri Lanka to help address the serious challenges facing today’s world, including counter-terrorism and people smuggling, climate change and organised transnational crime.

Such issues require global solutions and Australia is firmly committed to supporting and enhancing the vital role of multilateral institutions, including the United Nations, in meeting these challenges.

People smuggling is an issue that affects our entire region, not just Australia.

We are working more closely than ever before with international organisations, in particular the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and with regional partners to combat this issue, through such groupings as the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.

People smuggling remains a high-priority transnational issue for source, transit and destination countries in our region.

People smugglers and people smuggling syndicates work without regard for human safety or national legal frameworks. Australia is working together with Sri Lanka to address people smuggling.

In a Joint Ministerial Statement I issued with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister on 9 November 2009, Australia and Sri Lanka reaffirmed our continuing commitment to work together to combat people smuggling and related organised criminal activities, including:

- enhancing cooperation to bring to justice the criminal organisers of the people smuggling trade;

- taking a leading role to promote regional cooperation to act against transnational people smuggling networks, and

- undertaking a public information campaign to alert Sri Lankan citizens to the dangers of maritime people smuggling.

We acknowledged our ongoing constructive bilateral cooperation between key domestic operational agencies and underlined our commitment to work together in practical ways to address people smuggling issues in a cooperative and comprehensive manner.

Conclusion

Mr Speaker, Sri Lanka is emerging from a long period of conflict and insecurity towards greater stability. With new presidential and parliamentary terms soon to begin, now more than ever is the time to forge a new beginning for all its citizens and take forward national reconciliation and lasting peace.

As a long-time friend, Australia has been, and will continue to be, committed to working with Sri Lanka to build a peaceful and prosperous future for all Sri Lankans.

March 17, 2010

President Rajapaksa wants to be remembered as "man who loved his country, his people, and did his best to serve them"

"As a man who loved his country and his people, and did my best to serve them," is how President Rajapaksa wants to be remembered in history. He told of his aspirations for the "Rajapaksa legacy" in an interview with Ravi Velloor, South Asia Bureau Chief of Straits Times.

On the matter concerning Gen. Fonseka in the wide ranging interview with the newspaper, President Rajapaksa said, "this fellow had placed cash of 700,000 dollars (S$975,534) in a bank after the elections. This man put it in lockers not regular deposits. And that was only half the money and only because the locker wasn't big enough to take more." He also said that Gen. Fonseka is "a fool" and had advised him against entering politics.

President Rajapaksa discussed wide ranging matters from his plans post general elections, peace and political political settlement with Tamils and development in the interview with Singapore's premier newspaper.

Full text of the interview as follows:

POLL PROSPECTS

Q. You start your campaign on 19th. How would you rate the UPFA's prospects for the parliamentary poll. Do you think a two-thirds majority is possible?

A. I am very relaxed. Two-thirds or one-third is immaterial for me because when I became president I didn't have a majority. The Speaker was appointed by the opposition. After four years when I dissolved the parliament I had 47 new people, including the Speaker, in my party and I had a majority. So, I am not interested in numbers but this will be a very comfortable victory. Of course, two thirds will help to change the constitution because the opposition has never supported us on this matter.

AGENDA AFTER THE POLL

Q. What would be topmost on your agenda after the poll? With the presidential and parliamentary polls out of the way you have an open road for five years.

A. Of course, the peace settlement is a must. Then there is the economic challenge. In the four years I was president I have doubled per capita income to US$2,014 (S$2,806). My target is to double this to US$4,000 by the end of my tenure in office. Remember this took place was when the war was on. With infrastructure, development, we can do it.

We had noticed that all the development was taking place in Colombo and its neighbourhood. I think this was because all the leaders were from Colombo (guffawing). They gave roads, electricity, good schools... were only in Colombo. My intention is to build the rural economy through infrastructure. Which is why Hambantota.

Q. You are consciously shifting some of the economic weight to the South?

A. Yes, well to the whole country, including the North and South.

Q. So, there might be an international airport in Jaffna some day?

A. Yes, we might be able to do it. In the old days we used to fly from Jaffna to Tiruchy in India. At the moment I am developing the airport in the South. We will see after we finish that. Palaly airfield in Jaffna is now an air force base. If these mad fellows give up their Eelam dream — which will never happen as long as I am here — we can think about it. They must give that up.

Q. Are these pro-LTTE people still active?

A. It is more outside Sri Lanka than within the country. There are (expatriate Tamil) people living on this Eelam thing. They have their own agenda. They live on this. And the people who are collecting money abroad for the LTTE have lost their living because Tamils are not willing to contribute funds anymore. So, they want something to happen here to impress and activate them.

Many Tamils want to come back. The second generation and third generation Tamils aren't Sri Lankans really. They can't speak a word of Tamil or Sinhala. It's true for Sinhalese outside as well. But a lot of the educated people who went abroad, they have come here. From Canada I had a lawyer... leads a very comfortable life there, but he wants to come and invest and work here.

Right-thinking people know they can come and do business here. In Colombo, business is largely controlled by Tamils. We had 90 per cent Sinhalese some 30 years ago, but now the Sinhalese are 27 per cent. The approach to my house is lined by Muslim Tamil homes on both sides. The other day I called all of them into my home for a meal.

Q.What about the executive presidency. Will you dilute its powers as you promise?

A. It is up to the parliament. Parliament has passed these things, so let the parliament decide.

Q. But Parliament will do what you tell them to do.

A. I know… or I hope so (laughing). But I think some things will need to change. I would prefer a president answerable to parliament or give up all this and have a prime minister answerable to parliament. And maybe retire, and give advice to the government like Lee Kuan Yew — as a Mentor. But look, if I did not have this executive presidential system could I have ended this war?

Q. In your WSJ article you promised to now build a "nation for all".

A. The opportunity is there for all, including politically? Do you know my Cabinet? It is inclusive of all main communities…

Q. Well I do know that you have some 108 ministers out of a parliament of just 225 MPs...

A. No, no... (laughing). This is wrong. Cabinet is 51 members, the rest are junior and other ministers although they call themselves ministers. All ministers get the salaries of an MP. The only thing is they get personal staff and red lights on vehicles. We did an assessment and the additional costs of all these people is about Rs 49 million every month.

For one four-star general in the army (a reference to Fonseka), with 600 people looking after him, and his two houses and all the other houses no one knows where or how many he had, it cost 20 million Rupees a month.

Q. You say you want to see Sri Lanka as the Singapore for South Asia. What do you mean by that?

A. No, that is not what I said. I always say Sri Lanka is for Sri Lankans. It is not a Singapore model, although I am impressed by its growth. Some people want to make this into a Singapore or New York or Dubai but I always said Sri Lanka should become a model for by itself. In the 1960s Lee Kuan Yew said he wanted to build Singapore up like Sri Lanka.

Q. What is this model Sri Lanka you have in mind?

A. To be a hub for education, for aviation. shipping, communications and tourism. We are building five ports around the country. We are expanding Colombo Port, we are building Hambantota. There is Kankesanthurai in the North. And we aren't mentioning Trincomalee because it is a naval base at the moment. We are building a new international airport after 60 years.

When I went to Kandy they said you are building ports and airports in Hambantota but you aren't giving us anything. I said if you can bring the sea through the Mahaveli irrigation project I can consider a port for you. One can think of a seaplane facility at the Victioria Reservoir. I am surprised at some of the things that even educated people can say.

RECONCILIATION AND A POLITICAL SETTLEMENT WITH TAMILS

Q. You wrote about a "full reconciliation program". What does this mean?

A. This is what I believe. That without peace, there is no development. And without development, there is no peace. You go to a village or a farm and go to a student or a man who is in a relief camp and ask him. Do you want constitutional amendments? Their answer invariably is: 'We want a house', or 'we want to educate my child. We want electricity.' This is what they will ask.

If you develop these areas there will be a new generation that will emerge and new politicians. This is why I went for elections knowing that people in the north of Sri Lanka will not support me. Actually I was surprised I got a quarter of the votes polled there. I went there, spoke to them in Tamil. They knew development was coming. It shows development has value.

Q. What would be the political contours of this program? What pieces do you need to put in place in order to get there?

A. This is what I want to discuss with the new MPs after the election.

I visited a refugee camp once for a function. A Colombo lawyer who was supporting us said if the North and Eastern provinces could be merged that would help us. I was listening. At that point a young man got up and said: Sir, please don't divide the country again. We were traitors to our country. Better keep us under one umbrella. So, in my speech, I said he gave the answer. I will not merge North and East, I shall merge the whole country. If we concede to the merger call, the Muslims will ask for a province. After that, the Burghers could come, and there other communities, too.

Q. You don't know this boy?

A. No! He was completely unknown to me. He was from Mullaitivu (where the Tigers once held sway) I touched his muscles and they were firm and strong. I said: Good, good!

Q. Even so, isn't there some merit in the federalist principle as a solution? It has worked in India, in Switzerland.

A. Federalism is a dirty word in Sri Lanka. It is linked so much with separation. If I want to leave politics and go home, the best way is to talk of federalism. They won't accept me after that. I am a politician, no? The actual situation is, see this country. This is not an India, a huge country. You cannot forget the history of Sri Lanka.

Right now, just because all the Chief Ministers are from my party, I have some control over them. But they do have enormous powers. They even have Security Council meetings. If you give them the powers they will do whatever they want. They might say Indian Tamils cannot come here… to their areas.

Q. What about implementing the 13th Amendment? Especially, handing over police powers and control over land to Provincial Council governments?

A. We must discuss with them. The 13th Amendment is there. Other than the police powers we have given them all the powers to the provincial councils. We have nothing to do with land. What can I do when there has been no Provincial Council in North? But there must be some (central) control. I have seen people even giving away irrigation reservoirs to friends and business partners to be filled up.

As for police powers, knowing my people, I would say, please do not devolve that power. See what happened when Sonia Gandhi went to Uttar Pradesh (and Chief Minister Mayawati, who is opposed to the Congress party, denied her permission to enter her constituency). They are fighting for control of the police. You know, chief ministers are chief ministers.

I have learnt from India. You think I would make the same mistake? See what happened in Mumbai. It took eight hours to fly in the National Security Guard commandos because they needed the requisite permissions.

Q. Would you say the LTTE is gone for good?

A. No. There are sleeping cadres and there are interested parties, especially outside Sri Lanka. That will take time. It has been just nine months since the war ended... Just because the leaders were eliminated, it is not over. The movement will take some more time.

There are sleeping cadres, trained suicide bombers. They were a factory of suicide bombers. They were in Colombo, they are outside in various countries. Interested parties can try and make use of them, although I don't think it will happen. The suicide killer jacket they designed and made was marketed abroad. That is why we need the international community to help us on this. They are not operating from here.

Q. Does this impede your free movement?

A. I cannot sit here and say because of this I cannot move around. I have been a grassroots politician and I was with the people. Isolation from the people is something I cannot dream about.

When I heard about the killings of 64 people in a bus bomb attack, three months after I was sworn in, we were at a meeting. I said let's just go there. But security needed two hours to prepare. Finally, the helicopters were called. People were shocked that I had reached there within a matter of two hours.

You have to take a risk. You just cannot hide away although security would like to do that — they like to isolate us. Now, the JVP and Fonseka factor is there so we have to be a little more careful. The threat is not from the LTTE alone. As for the LTTE, in the villages, once an outsider comes they immediately know. But the Fonseka factor is another thing today...

TAMIL QUESTION

Q. How are your Tamil lessons shaping up? Where have you reached?

A. Progressing. I even try to make speeches in Tamil these days.

Q. You said you would call the Tamil parties after the polls. But who would you talk to? Would you have problems finding an interlocutor, seeing very few credible Tamil names around. Who do you deal with if the UPFA sweeps the polls?

A. This is the problem with them. The Tamils are divided. I will call them for talks but of course, they can’t ask for what the LTTE asked. There will be a new generation of Tamils.

Yesterday, I saw a lot of Indian workers in the South. They come on three-month holiday visas. I saw them working on threshing and harvesting machines. So I was saying that you can’t go anywhere in the country without seeing Indians workers everywhere. Even in my village. They are willing to work for half the pay and work longer hours, day and night. .

Q. Do you have specific programs targeted at bringing Tamils into the mainstream, such as into army and police?

A. We have already started that. In the East we have already hired nearly 500 to the Police. In the North, for police we have selected about 450 from Jaffna. I told them, these boys are trained. Just teach them some law. If the army is disciplined — and this is why I am keen to discipline the army — they will have the national feeling.

THE FONSEKA ISSUE

Q. What are your feelings toward Fonseka? Cannot Fonseka be accomodated under this national reconciliation you are planning?

A. He is a fool. On 16th November he was sitting right here and I asked him if he was interested in contesting (the presidential election) and he said, No, sir... I haven't made up my mind. Even on the day of his last visit he didn't tell me.

So I advised him. I told him that politics is not the army. In the army, when you have an order they follow. In politics you give order and they react in a different way. I told him you are going to people whom you have criticized. So he said that also is politics, no? I said, be careful. One day they will drop you. I told him, whatever he might think, I know this game and I am going to win this election. Whoever is my opponent doesn’t matter to me. Of course, after my victory, you can come and see me whenever you want.

But his whole campaign was one of mud-slinging. I could have stopped him contesting, because he couldn’t retire until I permitted him to. I could have just sat on his retirement request until after the nomination papers were filed and that would prevent him from contesting. But I let him contest. I didn't want people to say I was frightened. I told the army they could do whatever they wanted to on any evidence they had, after the elections. He was on holiday in China when the war was in its last days.

Do you know that when I was in remand — I was in remand for three months back in 1985 — I didn't get the comfort he is getting. My mother was gravely ill and they wouldn't allow me to see her. When I went to the hospital she was already gone. But if I pardon him what about army discipline? What about the court martials of other officers? What can I do! This is the British law. They gave it to India and us. Fonseka himself put thousands of soldiers under court martial. At one time the figure was 8,500. I shouted at him and I had to release them.

Do you know he wanted to increase the size of the army to 450,000? I asked him how much do you have now? He said 200,000. And I said, now that the war is over, you want 450,000? He said 'Every village you have to guard. You have to be careful. Cannot release these fellows (IDPs) for three years.' He said there are external threats. So I asked, who he was talking about? 'And he said, India'. India's standing army is 1.5 million, its paramilitary forces are about 1 million. So what can 450,000 do against 2.5 million? I told him, let me worry about external forces.

This fellow had placed cash of 700,000 dollars (S$975,534) in a bank after the elections. This man put it in lockers not regular deposits. And that was only half the money and only because the locker wasn't big enough to take more.

Q. How convinced are you about the charges against him? He was accused of plotting a coup, but those charges don't appear to have been formally laid.

A. There was something going on. I cannot discuss all details as inquiries and legal proceedings are on. He was moving special forces to Colombo and forces that he considered were loyal to him — he comes from the Sinha Regiment. This was told to me earlier but I never took it seriously. And he was harbouring deserters. It is up to the police and security forces to frame the charges. It is not for me to get involved. Let them handle it. Whether he is found guilty or not guilty is not my concern. But the procedure must go on. The law must be enforced irrespective of persons.

FOREIGN POLICY

Q. What options are opening up now there is peace?

A. We are a non-aligned country. That is our approach. I do not have to shape policy as such. Anybody who helped me I was ready to accept. But unfortunately, the countries decided on themselves not to help us in development work or in the fight against terrorism. I treat everybody equal. But you must understand India, of course. India is our neighbour. We must have good relations whether in war or in peace.

Q. Will the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement go through with India soon?

A. This is what I just told you. Without the Cepa, the Indians are already working here. If you try to introduce it the way that people mind it... (that would be counterproductive). we cant enforce it by force. Let the businessmen decide and when they realise that this will benefit them. Then automatically they will push for it. I think that urge is taking shape now. PM Manmohan Singh understands this, too.

Q. Stepped up military ties with India now that the Tamil factor is no longer relevant? Would you start buying arms from India?

A. We don't need such arms now. When a shipload of arms arrived from China after the war — this was arms ordered by our friend Fonseka — I had to turn it back. We don't need that much of arms and ammunition anymore.

Q. How do you view the rise of China and what opportunities does it offer Sri Lanka?

A. My view is now India has taken up development in the whole North. A lot of railway line restoration there is done by the Indians. That doesn't mean Sri Lanka has been captured by India.

Now take Hambantota port. It was offered to India first. I was desperate for development work. But ultimately the Chinese agreed to build it. Take Treasury bonds. Who controls it? The bulk is invested by Americans. Now take sovereign bonds. Who controls it? The British. China is only doing development work. We have to pay back their loans.

Q. Every analyst talks of Hambantota. Will there be a Chinese naval base there one day?

A. I was interested in that harbour and port in Hambantota for the last 30 years. As I said my economic policy was not to develop only Colombo. I know that China is not interested in putting a naval base here. I will not allow this country to be used against any other country. Whether it is China, India, Pakistan... we are a non-aligned country.

PERSONAL

Q. One complaint heard widely in the island is that there are too many Rajapaksas. What do you say to that?

A. Oh, that is true. But for that matter how many Kennedys were there in administration. Or Bushes. Or the Gandhis. I have only two brothers in administration.

Q. But you also have a nephew now running Uva Province.

A. But he was elected. He got the highest votes. He went for an election. The Rajapaksas have a 76 year history of electoral politics. We don't know any other business. (Guffaws). Our business is elections, both winning and losing… although you will hear we own appam shops and thosai shops. I must admit I am the only one who didn't sell my property to contest elections. My father did it. Every election he would sell his land.

Q. What are your hopes for your son Namal who is contesting the parliamentary poll next month? The official government website carries this line: 'If Sri Lanka is to develop at a rapid pace, Namal Rajapaksa should have the controlling authority.' Do you agree?

A. He has new ideas. But he has to be a back bencher. But knowing Namal he isn't using my name as such. He never accompanies me on my campaigns. He has his youth organisation for the last four or five years. When he was a student he wanted to join the party. I said, No, go study first. He quietly started this organisation and started working around the country. He has addressed 260 meetings alone and without party support. He didn't go to government television. He has gone on private television — a programme called 360 degrees — when asked to say how he wished to be known as, he said, my father was known in the 1970s as G. A. Rajapaksa's son. Now they call him Mahinda Rajapaksa's father. I want one day for the President to be called Namal's father.

Q. You are poised on the brink of unprecedented power, it would appear. Shouldn't there be some check on you?

A. There is always the people and parliament. One day I will have to answer the people if I do something wrong. Not to NGOs who get their money from abroad.

Q. How would you like history to remember you?

A. As a man who loved his country and his people, and did my best to serve them. ~ courtesy: Straits Times ~

March 16, 2010

In Pictures: They came to India in boats. And now?

by Malini Morzaria

"I want to go home," Nisha tells me. She is one of the 100,000 Sri Lankan refugees who fled the 26-year-long civil war and are scattered across India's vast Tamil Nadu state.

Nisha's journey as a refugee began in 2008 when she left Vavuniya. She had already been uprooted twice, taking refuge in areas within Sri Lanka.

"There was war. I was afraid for my child, my husband, I was afraid," she told me. Her closest family is still in Vavuniya. "My parents have told me there are no more problems, there is peace now," she adds.

Her husband was a farmer in Sri Lanka, here he takes contract paint jobs. "He is away a lot, and comes home once a week to check in." She lives with her son in one of the camps run by the Indian government.

Like in many wars, there have been thousands of civilian casualties - husbands, brothers, sisters, uncles and in Pushpa's case, her father. "I cannot go back," she says her eyes spilling over with tears. "I still remember," she says, as she brushes them away and continues.

In Pushpa's village, there were 25 people taken one night, "mostly men," she recalls. They were all returned, dumped in a pile on a road, either severely injured or dead. Her father was amongst the fatalities.

Pushpa's brother was in a camp in northern Sri Lanka. "I went to visit him before we came to India, but we were separated by a fence." They were not able to talk much. She came to India in 2009 by boat.

"There were 100 families in my village before, now there are two remaining - I cannot go back." Her tears begin afresh.

SEVEN KILOMETRES APART

I have been unable to get my visa to Sri Lanka to visit the northern part of the country, so this is my first personal view of the conflict and its impact on Sri Lankans uprooted by war.

In Sri Lanka, the long conflict that came to an end last year has displaced almost 300,000 people. Many are still living in camps in the northern part of the island in the Vanni region. Slowly, the people are moving back home.

India's Tamil Nadu is vast and diverse. We pass lush green hills interwoven with palm-tree-shaded lagoons with a patchwork of crop fields. The distances between the camps are huge and many hours are spent on the road.

I have been able to retrace the journey of a Sri Lankan refugee arriving by boat. First is the strip of beach where the refugees arrive, often by night, and are left on Adam's Bridge sand dune in Rameshwaran.

In legends, I am told, one could walk between India and Sri Lanka. Apparently the countries are only seven kilometres apart at their closest points.

The new arrivals then pay for a ride in a beach buggy [open truck] to a main road. Next stop is a police check, then the transit camp. Here it takes a few days for intelligence agencies to clear the arrivals. Finally, they are sent to one of the 100-plus camps.

PUSH AND PULL

Colleagues who have been visiting the camps in India over the last few years tell me that this is the first time they sense hope and that many refugees see the "light at the end of the tunnel."

A journalist, who has recently been to Sri Lanka, tells me: "The majority of the Tamils in Sri Lanka just want to get on with their lives."

She observes that the Tamil minority, who have been fighting the Sinhalese majority for autonomy in the north of Sri Lanka, have gained nothing in almost three decades of fighting. "They are back to square one."

For those that have been the victims of war - civilians sandwiched between the government and the rebels - the memories are still powerful and will push or pull.

To go back home or to remain refugees in India will be a personal and subjective choice for each family as they closely track the fragile peace in Sri Lanka.

Podi, a widow, was married to a Tamil and they have lived in a camp in India for over twenty years. "My children and grandchildren do not want to go back - for them India is home."

What about her? "I would like to go back and live my last years in Ceylon [the Colonial name for Sri Lanka]. But I will go alone."

For captions, click on bottom right of screen for full-screen mode, then click on show info. Copyright Malini Morzaria/ECHO

Malini Morzaria works for the European Commission Humanitarian department (ECHO) based in New Delhi, India.

Gen. Sarath Fonseka Calls Charges Against Him 'Bogus'

by Robert Mackey

Four months ago, Gen. Sarath Fonseka was the commander of Sri Lanka’s army, hailed as a national hero by the country’s Sinhalese majority for putting an end to the long, bloody rebellion by Tamil separatists. Two months ago, after retiring, General Fonseka was barnstorming the country as a presidential candidate.

Today, having been arrested just days after failing to win the presidency, he sits in a small room at a military facility in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, under armed guard, reduced to communicating with the world through handwritten statements smuggled out for him.

The video report also includes comments by Sarath N. Siva, a former chief justice of Sri Lanka’s supreme court, who told journalists on Monday that General Fonseka’s arrest was contrary to both Sri Lankan law and international conventions on human rights.

[click here to read in full ~ in The Lede ~ NY Times Blog]

Why has Pottu Amman’s name been included in "Wanted" persons list of Interpol?

by Upul Joseph Fernando

Even today, the names of Pottu Amman and two others linked with him have been posted under red notice in the ‘wanted list’ of Interpol website. If Pottu Amman is dead, there is no reason for his name being published in the ‘wanted list’ in the Interpol website. His name has been included in the Interpol ‘red notice’ list last December.

Does this mean that, though the Sri Lanka (SL) government earlier concluded that he was dead, by last December there were clues to impel the government to change its view? According to government sources , Pottu Amman’s name is in the Interpol list because his death certificate was not issued.

Previously, the Sri Lankan government declared that Pottu Amman also died at the time Prabhakaran was killed. However, Pottu Amman’s body was not recovered though the government was able to discover the bodies of Prabhakaran and the other Tamil Tiger leaders who died.

Neither, is there a photograph testifying to his death in the possession of the government despite the fact that the bodies of all the other Tamil Tiger leaders who died with Prabhakaran, and their photographs are available.

The government on the other hand said, Pottu Amman’s body could not be recovered because he committed suicide by setting fire to himself ; therefore, even his ashes could not be discovered. It was also the governments’s view that his wife too committed suicide with him. When the Indian government asked from the Sri Lankan government . for the death certificates of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman to conclude the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, the Sri Lankan Govt. confirmed that both had died.

In a case heard against Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman ,in a Court in Sri Lanka , the Sri Lanka Security Division declared that both of them had died , but only Prabahakaran’s body was found , while Pottu Amman’s wasn’t. The Court accepted this averment.

Even though India was informed of this , India did not accept this information. India refused to accept the death certificate of Pottu Amman without his body being discovered. Pertaining to the acceptance of the death certificate of Prabhakaran , it called for more evidence to confirm his death,Later , the Indian Intelligence Service began directing its attention towards searching for Pottu Amman.

The Indian intelligence service was able to obtain a clue from a person who was with Pottu Amman during the final phase of the war in Wanni. He informed that Pottu Amman in the final phase of the war had sustained gunshot injuries and received emergency treatment for it . However , before receiving full treatment , he fled the scene In any case , he assumed that , as the injury was very serious , it was impossible for him to be alive without his injury having been treated.. He also presumed that that he could have died while escaping. . On the contrary , if he had received treatment , he could be alive , he added. The Indian Govt. began entertaining the belief that Pottu Amman could still be alive only after receiving this piece of information from the Indian intelligence service.

A popular Indian Tamil Magazine ‘Ananda Viketan’ meanwhile published that, the issue whether Pottu Amman is dead or is still alive is shrouded in mystery.

When the Tamil Nadu MPs visited Sri Lanka sometime ago , they met and questioned Basil Rajapaksa about Pottu Amman, the Magazine reported. Basil Rajapaksa has replied that, although the security Division identified the body of Prabahakaran, they could not say anything with certainty pertaining to Pottu Amman. The magazine carried a photograph of Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman dressed in white seated together which had been published in a pro Tamil Tiger website.

This magazine related the background story to this photograph which was taken a week before the conclusion of the war on the 18th of May 2009, and after Prabhakaran appointed Pottu Amman as the Tamil Tiger Deputy leader. All the Tamil Tiger leaders had graced this occasion and have expressed their consent to this appointment, the Magazine added.

Thereafter, the Tamil Tigers had separated into three groups: one group was to engage in repulsing the advancing Army; the second group was to flee the battlefield while the third group was to be in the ready to surrender to the Army when it penetrates. Prabahakaran had given these instructions, and all present have agreed to this plan, the Magazine reported.

If Pottu Amman who was in the group that was fleeing had escaped, then, where is he?. This is the question which has been the main theme of discussion among the Tamil Diaspora, Magazine further states. Some members of the Tamil Diaspora claim that Pottu Amman is in Eritrea.

The Defense secretary recently announced that the Tamil Tiger funds, assets and commercial ventures are in Eritrea. However, the authorities of Eritrea had rejected the Sri Lanka government’s offers to take action against them. In any event, the Tamil Diaspora taking into account the division of opinion among those in the Tamil Tiger International chain, is of the view that if Pottu Amman is living , he is unlikely to come to the open now. Speculations are rife among the Tamil Diaspora that K P who was arrested earlier, surrendered to the Sri Lankan government after he became aware that Pottu Amman was alive and in fear of him.

It is common knowledge that in 2002, K P was ousted from his post of leader of the International chain, and was replaced by Castro, the assistant to Pottu Amman. According to the Sri Lankan governmnet , Castro committed suicide during the war period. Nevertheless, the government has admitted that the International chain launched by Pottu Amman is still in operation.

Even though K P had been captured, the chain had not been disrupted. This admission has further fuelled the suspicion that Pottu Amman is still among the living.

It is possible that Pottu Amman’s name got entered into the Interpol ‘Wanted’ list because his death is a matter of uncertainty from the standpoint of the SL Govt. Who are these individuals, Charles and Navaratnam supposed to be linked to Pottu Amman whose names are also in the Interpol list? Has the Govt. got any clue that Pottu Amman has fled with the other two individuals and is living ?

At all events, even if the realization dawns on the SL Govt. that Pottu Amman is living after all , and every doubt in that regard is dispelled, it is impossible to imagine that the Govt. would officially make an announcement to that effect . ~ courtesy: The Daily Mirror ~

The Tamil National Alliance must demonstrate its "firebreak" between federalism and separatism

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The sin of the Tamil National Alliance in the post-war period and the current electoral context is that of omission rather than commission. It has failed to qualify and de-limit its use of the concept of ‘self determination’ and thereby signal its full separation from separatism. It would be unfair not to acknowledge the TNA’s significant shift and to denounce the alliance as committed to the cause of separatism.

The TNA is not a hardcore separatist organisation. Its separatism during the war years was at the point of a gun, as my late friend DP Sivaram (‘Taraki’) used to gloat. Today its separatism is residual, tactical and opportunistic. If history offers an opportunity for a separate state the TNA will go for it or go along. Some elements within the TNA probably see themselves as working over the long term, for the separatist goal, and pray that the Sri Lankan state will not provide an alternative while others probably pray that the Sri Lankan state will in fact provide an alternative, thereby saving them from the travails of the separatist trajectory once again.

The TNA is caught between a rock and a hard place, or has chosen not to extricate itself from that spot. The pressures from the Diaspora make the TNA reluctant to formally abandon secessionism, which it retains in the guise of an unqualified invocation of ‘self determination’. This however, will place it at a disadvantage in negotiating with the State and place the State as a disadvantage in talking to the TNA. As myopically, it will place the TNA at a disadvantage in relation to a rising Asia when push comes to shove - however cordial its current dialogue with our neighbour India.

Self determination may be trendy in the West, but recent history has shown that Western support can easily be countered by any Asian state if it secures the support of the rest of the continent especially its neighbours. ‘Kashmir’ and ‘Tibet’ are the code-words which guarantee the aversion of the two major Asian giants to any notion of ethnic or ethno regional self determination within an existing state.

The TNA is ambiguous about the degree and definition of self determination: is it up to and including that of secession, i.e. of the setting up of a separate state? Or is it purely internal self determination, within the boundaries of Sri Lanka as it exists? The Oslo accords made for the consideration of internal self determination and federalism, but that was when the LTTE was alive and kicking, maintaining a state within a state ( thanks to Ranil Wickremesinghe’s CFA) and Tamil nationalism had a far stronger bargaining hand than it has now. All that’s gone now.

The TNA would counter that it is quite willing to give up secession if provided with a suitable alternative, but that won’t do. Self determination up to and including secession or self determination without secession explicitly ruled out is no longer something that can be bargained with. Federalism is: the TNA can well say that it is willing to give up federalism or place it on the back burner for a specified or unspecified period in exchange for a viable alternative such as regional autonomy within a unitary Sri Lanka. Self determination is however something that has to be unilaterally abjured in its external variant. The TNA simply has to make a commitment that is unconditional and unilateral, to a solution within a united Sri Lankn state. This does not necessarily mean an unconditional unilateral commitment to a unitary form of state, but to a united, single country.

Self determination is an elastic concept and it has been debated as to which collectives are entitled to this right in full measure. Asbjorn Eide, UN expert clearly concluded that the Tamils of Sri Lanka, as a national minority or minority nationality, are not entitled to classic self determination but only to autonomy or at best , strictly internal self- determination. Now it may be argued that Mr Eide’s views are irrelevant, for if the Tamils perceive themselves as a nation, they are, and there is some truth to this. It does matter that a collective perceive of themselves as a nation entitled to self determination and is willing to fight and die for that self image. That however is only part of the story. The other parts are that there is another notion of a larger Sri Lankan nation which is accepted as a legitimate entity by the international community and the narrower notion of a Tamil nation exercising its right of self determination runs counter to this. Furthermore, the Tamil notion of self determination up to the right of secession is contested by the Sinhalese, an overwhelming majority on the island. The third part of the story is that the Tamils fought and died for this concept and lost the war they fought for it.

The TNA must remember that the mere adherence to non-violence is a necessary but insufficient condition in most democracies. What is also need is a commitment to the unity of the country; an unconditional abandonment of anything that can be legitimately seen as a loophole for separatism. That certainly does not go for federalism, but it does so for unqualified self determination, as Sheikh Abdullah, who non violently advocated complete self determination for Kashmir, discovered during the tenure of that exemplary liberal democrat Nehru, and Herri Batasuna, the parliamentary representative of Basque separatism learned in enlightened European community member Spain. Let’s not even talk of the political space that would be available to a Kurdish equivalent of the TNA in secular, democratic Turkey.

The trouble with the TNA is analogous to that with the Federal party. The only way in which it could achieve its goals was if the South or a majority of it agreed, but the South never knew whether it was committed to the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact as an end state , a final status agreement, or as a stepping stone to federalism, and it never quite knew whether federalism would stop at that or whether the FP’s Tamil name, Ilankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi, or Ceylon Tamil State/Kingdom party, instead of the simpler,straightforward ‘Samashti’ (federal) meant a Tamil Nadu like Tamil state within a federal Ceylon or a Tamil kingdom outside of it. The TNA is contesting the upcoming parliamentary election under precisely its old Federal party tag, the ITAK. It is incumbent upon it to clarify whether the A for Arasu in ITAK means ‘state’ or ‘kingdom’ and whether ‘state’ means autonomous region or independent state.

In short, the TNA has to demonstrate the firebreak between federalism and separatism, and that ‘self determination’ is not a bridge from the former to the latter. This is no Sinhala chauvinist demand; it only reflects a point made by the late Prof Urmila Phadnis when she wrote in her last work, that unlike in the ethnic politics of India, in Sri Lanka’s Tamil politics there is an observable and lamentable ‘autonomist-secessionist continuum’.

Is there discrimination against Sri Lankan Muslims in the field of cricket?

by Izeth Hussain

The focus of this article is on what looks like discrimination against Sri Lankan Muslims in the field of cricket. This might seem to the average reader to be a matter of parochial and marginal importance, something of interest to Muslims and cricket fans, and therefore not a matter of national importance. I want to make a few preliminary observations to suggest that what looks like anti-Muslim discrimination is indeed a matter of national importance because it seems to show that the Sinhalese majority is not prepared to offer any political solution over our ethnic problems on any internationally recognized basis.

One way of solving ethnic problems is through devolution. It applies when a minority ethnic group claims to have a homeland, which can lead to a demand for autonomy or outright separation. Sri Lanka came to terms with India to solve the Tamil ethnic problem through devolution in the form of the 13th Amendment, which has in fact become part of the Constitution. What requires to be done in the aftermath of the total military victory over the LTTE is to apply 13A fully or with some modifications, and extend its application to the North. But the Government is not giving that option any priority at all, nor is the opposition making an issue of it. The prospect is one of endless vacillation over a political solution on the basis of devolution.

What really is the problem? I believe that the problem is that the Sinhalese, or more particularly the Sinhalese at the power elite level, are deeply allergic to the notion of sharing power with the minorities. In fact the farcical application of 13A up to now suggests that the Sinhalese at power elite levels are deeply allergic to sharing power even with their fellow-Sinhalese. How then can they be expected to jump with joy over the prospect of sharing power with the Tamils after the LTTE has been right royally whacked? The problem about a policy of vacillation of course is that Tamil Nadu, Delhi, and the Tamil diaspora have not been whacked by our troops. Furthermore the international community – meaning really the powerful Western countries – will see our vacillation as morally ugly prevarication. The situation could become rather nasty, perhaps even very dangerous, to Sri Lanka, a point that I have been making ad nauseam in earlier articles.

However devolution, the sharing of power, is not the only internationally recognized way of solving ethnic problems. There is also the way of giving fair and equal treatment to the minorities. According to widespread popular perceptions the world is chock-a-block with ethnic rivalry and dissension, leading too often to conflict which in turn can lead to the setting up of separate states. It is an accurate enough perception in terms of one perspective, but if you change the perspective another picture emerges. There are in the world no more than four ethnically homogeneous states, meaning states in which the minorities are so minuscule that they can under no circumstances constitute any significant problem for the majorities.

According to some criteria there are twelve such states. The rest of the globe pullulates with thousands of ethnic minorities, over four thousand of them if we go on the linguistic criterion. In terms of this perspective the surprising thing is not there are so many ethnic conflicts leading to separation, but that there are proportionately so few of them. What is the explanation? It is that in the comparatively few cases in which there are claims to a homeland the separatist drive is halted through devolution, while in the rest the minorities are given by and large – though there can be many cases where the fate of the minorities is ghastly – fair and equal treatment.

The fundamental reason why our major ethnic problem, the Tamil one, has proved to be an imbroglio over so many decades is that the Sinhalese power elite has been allergic to sharing power with the minorities, and therefore cannot bear the thought of devolution, and also because it has been allergic to giving fair and equal treatment to the minorities. The historical record shows that it was in fact this second factor that drove the Tamils to demand devolution and then separation.

I will now give some material to illustrate what looks like a failure to give fair and equal treatment to Muslims in the field of cricket. This particular field has a very special importance because of the widely prevalent notion that at least in cricket we have a Sri Lankan nation, a field of activity in which all our ethnic groups have come together. This notion results largely from the fact that a Tamil, Muralitheran, has been given the status of a national icon. But one Tamil icon does not constitute a nation. Our failure to build a nation – as shown by anti-Muslim discrimination – is total.

The immediate provocation for this article are some observations made recently by Trevor Chesterfield about the strange case of Ferveez Mahroof who has not played cricket at the national level for about a year. But I will first go into earlier material suggesting anti-Muslim discrimination. There is not much of such material because the preferred games of the SL Muslims have been rugger and football, not cricket, producing in Ashy Cader a ruggerite who is regarded by many aficionados as Sri Lanka’s greatest. I am not aware of charges of anti-Muslim discrimination in rugger etc; only in cricket.

The first case I have in mind is that of M.A.Wahid who in the pre-Second World War days established himself as an outstanding spinner, and also a steady batsman. I am told that he was so outstanding as a schoolboy that Dr C.H.Gunasekera went to watch him bowl as part of the program to promote SL cricket. But even though his performance in club cricket was consistent, Wahid rarely made it to the national team. However he was chosen for a tour of India in the late ‘thirties or very early ‘forties. Five matches were played, in all of which the SL side fared poorly. Wahid was chosen only for the last match, in which he put up an excellent performance including a half-century as an opening batsman. I.H.Walbeoff, the solitary Burgher in the team, was not chosen for any of the five matches. The Muslim perception, I distinctly recall, was that throughout his cricketing career Wahid was often the victim of anti-Muslim discrimination.

In the subsequent period up to the time we got test status three Muslims made it to the national team without any undue difficulty, namely the two openers Makin Salih and A.C.M.Lafir, and the spin bowler Abu Fuad. There were no complaints about anti-Muslim discrimination during that period. After we got test status the situation changed abruptly with the strange treatment accorded to Uvais Karnain. He had what the newspapers called a "dream debut" with both bat and ball against New Zealand in a one-day match. He failed in the next match, and perhaps in another as well, and was quickly dropped from the national team, never I believe to be given his opportunity again. Was that axing due to anti-Muslim prejudice?

A possible answer is suggested by a newspaper letter written by Hamid Kareem. In the latter half of the ‘nineties a newspaper had some material on the charge that SL Muslims used to cheer the Pakistan side against the Sri Lankan one, a familiar charge around that time. In his letter Kareem stated that he was present on the occasion when Uvais Karnain failed with his bat, and his return to the pavilion was greeted with howls of racist execration – Thumbia! Marakkalaya! And so on.

That could have been perhaps the most disgusting eruption of rank racism among cricket spectators anywhere in the world at any time. Yet, there was no public reaction reported in the newspapers. It may be that the exclusion of Karnain from the national team was not racially motivated. But the episode to which Kareem referred certainly attests to a maniacal anti-Muslim racism among some Sri Lankans.

My next exhibit is the contrasting treatment given to Marvan Attapattu and Navid Nawaz, both of whom had been identified as future batting stars while they were still youths. I recall Gamini Goonesena, who knew his cricket, writing of them in those terms. Attapattu began his national level cricketing career spectacularly with something like six ducks in a row. But the selectors persisted with him, quite rightly as it turned out because he established himself as a world class batsman and proceeded to captain the national team. Navid Nawaz, on the other hand, was tried out a few times at national level cricket, he failed, and was dropped for many long years. But as he was a consistently impressive performer in club cricket, he was again given his opportunity in the national team. He failed again, possibly because by then his nerve had been shattered. Was the contrasting treatment due to anti-Muslim prejudice? I don’t know, but most Muslims are convinced that it was so.

I will now refer to a rather amusing development. Dilshan, while still a fledgling in national level cricket and still uncertain of his tenure there, suddenly changed his first names from the Malay Tuan Mohammed to the Sinhalese Tillekeratne Mudaliyansage. He may have been taking on names from his presumably Sinhalese mother because – for entirely private reasons which had nothing to do with his cricketing career – he thought it fit to declare a partial Sinhalese identity. But my fellow Muslims were convinced that the intent behind the change was to secure his place in the national team. Some time later a Muslim who as a schoolboy had shown promise of becoming a national cricket star scored a dazzling century in Australia. An Australian reporter asked him whether he had hopes of playing for the SL national team. The reply of the young fellow was that to qualify he would first have to change his name. More recently another cricketer who has been hoping to qualify for the national team also changed his name to a Sinhalese one.

Many Muslims have been convinced that Ferveez Mahroof was subjected to discriminatory treatment during the last World Cup series. Another bowler, it was alleged, was suddenly and suspiciously being built up as a greatly improved bowler when that was not apparent at all, and was included in the World Cup Final in preference to Mahroof. It was even alleged, and came to be widely believed both by Muslims and non-Muslims, that a top politician had asked the SL captain, "Why do you want to include a Thumbia in the World Cup Final?"

The story was put out in pamphlet form by a well-known Muslim politician, who like other politicians was not famous for veracity, and distributed to Muslims on a large scale after Jumma prayers. I myself believe that the story was apocryphal, an Opposition stunt typical of our utterly unprincipled politics. Unfortunately the preferred bowler fared badly and came in for much criticism, including by Sunil Gavaskar. It came to be held that we could have won the World Cup if not for the racially prejudiced exclusion of Mahroof.

I come now to my final exhibit, Mahroof again, who has been included in the provisional squad for the ICC World T 20 series. Trevor Chesterfield wrote in the Island of March 8 as follows:- "His omissions from the Test and ODI squads in the past year have had the selectors claiming injury. What an interesting excuse. As he has been playing all season in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which makes anyone who follows the game closely whether selectors are doing the same, or whether certain coaches have a difficulty with the lanky Wayamba all-rounder, so apt are they in giving faux reasons by failing to explain the extent of the mysterious injuries."

Every single Muslim to whom I have referred Chesterfield’s article has responded immediately with the remark that Mahroof has been the victim of racist discrimination. But I must emphasize that Chesterfield himself has not implied anything of the sort, and therefore he should not be drawn into any controversy arising from the present article.

I must make an important clarification before concluding this article. What looks like racist discrimination could well be susceptible to valid explanation on other grounds. We must remember that every society under the sun has injustices in it to varying degrees, and some fields of activity have more injustices than others. For some reason that I cannot fathom Sri Lanka cricket is a field in which some of our greatest virtuosos in injustice have flourished. Some of the victims were driven into premature retirement, causing incalculable loss to our cricket.

I mention the following names more or less at random:- Anura Ranasinghe, Brendon Kuruppu (now and in the past), Roy Dias, Sidath Wettimuny, Asanka Gurusinghe, Attapattu, Chamara Silva, Graeme Labrooy, and so on. But at this point I must caution against excluding racism as a possible explanation for injustice in addition to everything else. Too often Sri Lankans who are not racist at all are prone to make that exclusion.

In this article I have focused on discrimination against Muslims only in cricket, a tiny segment of our national life which however has as I have pointed out much significance for nation-building. On the broader picture of anti-Muslim discrimination I can do no better than refer to veteran Muslim journalist Latheef Farook’s book Nobody’s People published in 2009, an outspokenly courageous and detailed exposition of his subject.

As I cannot here go into details about it I will mention a few details from just one page, details of which the general public is mostly unaware:- non-Muslims in Negombo and elsewhere who were not affected by the tsunami were provided tsunami aid and also housing facilities while Muslim tsunami victims in and around Kalmunai were ignored; in August 2006 around 60,000 Muslims from Muttur were driven out totally empty handed because of the war, their plight being given only belated recognition; under various pretexts Muslim-owned lands in the East were arbitrarily acquired for colonization by Sinhalese brought in from the South.

What should be done? It seems obvious that the Government will go on vacillating and prevaricating over devolution with consequences that could be unpleasant, even dangerous, to Sri Lanka. It is a situation in which it becomes all the more important to show that the Government is willing to resort to the other method of dealing with ethnic problems: give what the international community can recognize as fair and equal treatment to the minorities. We have to work out what precisely has to be done by way of practical action. An evident lacuna to be filled is legislation to deal with the multifarious manifestations of racism – such as the yells of racist contempt and rage when Uvais Karnain failed at the crease.

We need grass roots institutions such as Race Relations Boards which in many countries have proved to be very effective in scotching racism. Minister Moragoda’s initiative over an Equal Opportunities Bill is most welcome. When it was originally mooted by G.L.Peiris in 2000, it was aborted through sickeningly rank racist opposition. At that time I wrote several articles about it, and predicted that it would be resurrected. I hope now that Minister Moragoda will get going with it, and ensure that we have a Bill that is not emasculated into total impotence.

Tamil Representation in the North and East and Fearmongering by organizations like the SPUR

By Kath Noble

Having lived through so many years of conflict, you’d have thought everybody in Sri Lanka would be extra careful about suggesting policies Tamils might consider discriminatory. After all, that’s how it started.

Even the few individuals who persist in justifying measures like the standardisation of university admissions as having been necessary to correct the imbalances that were created during the colonial era accept that these were what the LTTE and other groups used to rally support for the armed struggle. You’d have thought they would see the danger.

But apparently this is not the case. Indeed, some people appear to have no idea whatsoever.

This occurred to me the other day on reading a press release issued by SPUR, an association of expatriate Sri Lankans based in Australia. They want the Government to undertake an immediate census of the North and East, with a view to cutting the number of representatives from those districts in Parliament.

It’s not that this is completely mad. Population figures for the areas that were under the control of the LTTE are known to be wrong. Surveys have been conducted every ten years since 1871, but officials couldn’t enter many parts of the North and East in 2001 and work had to be abandoned altogether in 1991.

It is data from 1981 that is currently being used for most of the districts in the North and East. Given that the areas in question have been devastated by war in the intervening three decades, it’s commonly accepted that the number of people living there has dropped. They have either moved away or been killed.

This issue was first brought up after the elections for the Jaffna Municipal Council in August last year. Many observers expressed concern at the low turnout, which came in at about 22%. This, they said, indicated that Tamils had no confidence in Sri Lankan democracy and weren’t interested in choosing between the parties standing.

It may have been true, but there was rather more to the story.

One commentator pointed out that while some 100,000 polling cards had been issued, only 54,000 had been delivered. The other registered voters weren’t to be found at the addresses given on the electoral register. This meant that a rather better estimate of the turnout would have been around 41%, which is hardly bad for a local poll.

Similar concerns were expressed after the presidential election. The Election Commissioner made a statement on the issue, stressing that voter registration details needed to be updated.

SPUR claimed that their actions were inspired by and in fact the logical consequence of Dayananda Dissanayake’s remarks.

They included plenty of their own rhetoric, of course. SPUR said that the disproportionately large number of MPs from the North and East gave Tamil groups like the TNA undeserved power in Parliament and allowed them to force mainstream parties to accommodate their separatist aspirations, adding that this posed a serious threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation.

If I had a rupee for every time such a wild claim was made, I’d be laughing.

It’s hard to see how anybody could take these assertions seriously. There hasn’t been much progress towards Eelam in the last six years, despite the TNA having 22 MPs. Indeed, the most important organisation with separatist aspirations has been crushed. There has been no accommodation whatsoever. To suggest otherwise is quite ridiculous.

The TNA owes any undeserved power it has enjoyed to the guns of the LTTE. Voters were simply the intermediaries.

SPUR is pretty good at fear mongering, it would seem.

But this foolish rhetoric aside, people should look carefully at the call being made by SPUR. It is only through addressing their logic and building support for a more sensible line that the country will really prosper.

Dayananda Dissanayake was correct. The electoral register should be as accurate as possible, and that means efforts need to be made to gather fresh information in the North and East. It is not only a matter of calculating the turnout. Voters who have moved elsewhere in the country may be disenfranchised as a result of the flaws. With so many IDPs, this should be a clear priority for the Government. Dayananda Dissanayake was right to point this out.

What troubles me is the corollary to the Election Commissioner’s statement that was casually inserted by SPUR, that the number of MPs from those areas should then be cut accordingly.

Of course it is right that seats in Parliament should be allocated on the basis of population. That is democracy. If 100,000 people suddenly upped and left the Galle district, for example, they ought to lose a representative. Nobody could fight against it and expect to win.

But this is hardly the time for rash action.

As mentioned earlier, the reason the population of the North and East is thought to have plummeted in the last three decades is that those areas have been in the grip of a very bloody war. That much is obvious.

What should also be clear is that the situation there is a long way from normal. Infrastructure is being rebuilt, but work is only just beginning. Some parts of the districts in question are still being demined. Weapons are being found all the time. It isn’t exactly encouraging. People who fled their homes only recently may go back with relative ease, for lack of a better option really, but those who left the conflict zone a few years ago or more will hesitate. There are disputes over land to be resolved. They will also need time to become confident that there are schools for their children, healthcare facilities and jobs to sustain themselves. At the moment this isn’t at all clear. It will be a while before the economy in the North and East gets going again.

However, they will certainly return. We are talking about their homes, if not their homeland.

Rushing in to calculate how many people need to be represented and therefore how many seats the North and East are due in Parliament isn’t going to be viewed with anything like understanding. It will be seen as taking advantage of a crisis to get one over on Tamils.

I suppose it is fortunate that the parliamentary election is coming too soon for anybody to decide to act on the suggestion by SPUR this time. The process is already well underway.

But a census is due in 2011. The data will then be available, and there will be plenty of time to move for a cut in the number of MPs in the North and East before the next round of voting. When that comes five years later, a lot more people will have gone back to their homes in the former conflict zone. They will have fewer representatives in Parliament.

That will be unfair.

SPUR ought to be against it, given that their name implies they are a Society interested in Peace, Unity and Rights, none of which would be advanced by such a hasty and indeed stupid move. Perhaps these concepts are a little difficult to make out from all the way over there in Australia. The consequences of ill-conceived policies certainly won’t be felt so keenly.

It’s easy to see why the Government might be tempted to try its luck on this issue if it is returned to office as expected. Its support amongst Tamils is pretty low and isn’t likely to increase. They have long preferred the UNP and, unless the new administration undergoes a fairly significant transformation in outlook and direction, they aren’t going to change their minds. Indeed, the situation can only get worse for the SLFP. The rest of the country will have forgotten the war victory by 2016. People will be far more concerned about the economy and the idea of a change will be even more appealing than it is today. The Opposition will find itself in an excellent position, which is a prospect that is hardly going to be viewed without concern. The chance to get rid of a few seats the Government couldn’t win anyway may prove to be rather beguiling.

In the circumstances, this should be a serious worry. Nobody is going to start another war quite yet, given the suffering they endured in the one that the LTTE has just lost, but there would be no harm in trying to avoid giving Tamils any more reasons to feel hard done by. They have enough already. If Sri Lankans had known what measures like the standardisation of university admissions were going to bring, the vast majority of people would have been inclined to think again. Let them do so now. COURTESY:THE ISLAND

War Crimes,Genocide,Crimes Against Humanity and the principle of Individual Criminal Responsibility

by Nirmala Chandrahasan

As there has been much discussion on the above topic and interest has been further sparked by the recent arrest and on going trial of Radovan Karadzic before the war crimes tribunal in the Hague on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in Bosnia Herzegovina during the civil war in the former state of Yugoslavia, and the arrest warrant issued by the ICC (International Criminal Court) for President Omar al Bashir of Sudan on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in Darfur, I thought it might be useful to set out briefly what constitutes war crimes and the background to the setting up of the ad hoc criminal tribunals and the ICC, which is a permanent international criminal court.

These events have focused attention on the expanding jurisdiction of International humanitarian law (i.e. the laws of war), and on the principle of individual criminal responsibility, which makes it possible for high military and political figures within a state to be brought to trial for their actions. It also underlines the fact that International Humanitarian Law and the principle of individual criminal responsibility first enunciated at the Nuremberg and Tokyo military Tribunals after the second world war, are also applicable in internal armed conflicts within states. Although war between states except in self defence is prohibited under the Charter of the United Nations, wars are still prevalent. Within states internal conflicts have proliferated with or without the intervention of third states. The security of the state and restoration of public order often require the use of legitimate military action. IHL tacitly recognizes these concerns but balances this with concern for the welfare of the individuals who are the victims of the armed conflict. Hence the law of armed conflict is today known as international humanitarian law.

IHL revolves around two concepts. Firstly, that in a war it is necessary to distinguish between combatants and non combatants and secondly that there are limits to the means and methods of armed conflict. Hence, protection of the civilian population is one of the fundamental principles, together with the prohibition of the use of weapons that cause superfluous injury or suffering. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 set out what war crimes under the head of Grave Breaches are; these include among others, acts such as murder, rape, pillage and the recruitment of children. The rules in the 1977 Protocol 1, additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, are designed to reaffirm and strengthen the principles of customary international law.

In an effort to provide more effective protection for the civilian population, the basic rule is that attacks on civilian population and civilian objects are forbidden.

Armed conflicts often lead to large scale displacement of civilian populations and the creation of IDPs or internally displaced persons. The suffering and displacements can be minimized where both sides to the conflict observe the laws of war. The laws provide for civilians to be protected from attack in demilitarized zones and or corridors provided for them to leave the fighting zones. IHL prohibits the displacement of the civilian population for reasons related to the conflict unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand. Should such displacement be carried out all possible measures shall be taken in order that the civilian population may be received under satisfactory conditions of shelter, health, safety and nutrition as per Article 17 of Protocol 11, additional to the Geneva Conventions, which relates to non international armed conflicts. This article which also reflects rules of customary international law is applicable even in the case of states who are not parties to this Protocol. Systematic and widespread violations directed against a civilian population would constitute Crimes against Humanity.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 requires all state parties to enact legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing or ordering to be committed, any grave breaches of the Conventions.

Furthermore, the state parties are under an obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed such grave breaches and bring them regardless of their nationality before its own courts. It may also hand over such persons to another state provided such party has made out a prima facie case. Hence war crimes attract a universal jurisdiction. In 1945, after the conclusion of the second world war, military tribunals were set up at Nuremberg in Germany and Tokyo Japan, for the trial and punishment of the war criminals.

The Tribunals had jurisdiction inter alia over war crimes which were defined as violations of the laws and customs of war (the Geneva Conventions had not yet been formulated) and crimes against humanity, which were defined as murder, extermination, enslavement ,deportation and other inhuman acts committed against a civilian population, before or during the war, and persecution on political, racial or religious grounds, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated. It was at these trials that the principle of individual criminal responsibility was developed and many high military and civilian officials were tried and punished. It may be noted that criminal responsibility was attributable not only to those giving orders to commit the crime or approving of such policies, but included those military or political officers who disregarded their legal duty to take adequate steps to secure the observance of and prevent breaches of the laws of war.

In the years after the Second World War the obligation to enact penal legislation and search out and punish war criminals set out in the Geneva Conventions, were for the most part observed in the breach, by states. It was nearly fifty years after the Nuremberg and Tokyo military tribunals that a Security Council sponsored ad hoc international criminal tribunal the ICTY, was set up in 1993 in the aftermath of the civil war in the Former Yugoslavia, and thereafter other criminal tribunals came to be set up.

At present, Radovan Karadzic, who was President of the Bosnian Serb Republic (Srpska), and Commander in Chief is being tried. It is contended that he approved of the atrocities committed against civilians, such as the Srebenica massacre of Muslim men and boys, as part of a campaign of terror to demoralize and drive out the Muslims and Croats, during the course of the civil war in Yugoslavia. He is facing trial on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide before the ICTY at the Hague. There are also 27 others facing trial in this court. Similarly, in the context of an insurgency in the Darfur region of Sudan, the President of Sudan, Omar al Bashir is accused of unleashing a campaign of terror designed to drive out and destroy the ethnic tribal population of this region and is charged with having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ad hoc special military tribunals have been set up in other parts of the world. In Rwanda, after the ethnic riots and genocide, the International criminal tribunal for Rwanda the ICTR was constituted under a Security Council Resolution in November 1994. A special tribunal for Sierra Leone was set up under a UN Security Council resolution in 2002 at the Hague. Currently, Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia is on trial in this Court.

He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of IHL which includes terrorizing the civilian population, collective punishments, rape and sexual slavery, and the use of child soldiers in the neighboring state of Sierra Leone, where he supported and backed the insurgent group RUF, which had carried out a brutal campaign. Other leaders of insurgencies and rebel groups have been indicted and are facing trial before the ICC. They are Thomas Lubanga Dyilo militia leader in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords resistance Army, Uganda and Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Central African Republic. These leaders are charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes including recruitment of children under 15 years of age.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) came into being in July 2002, when 120 nations voted in favour of the Rome treaty and the required number of ratifications by states was completed. The Court has jurisdiction over the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression The jurisdiction of the Court is complementary to that of states. Under the category of war crimes, it includes both the grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols as well as serious violations of the laws and customs of war in respect of both international and non international armed conflicts. The statute of the Court states that such crimes can be committed not only under the direction of state officials but also by organizations of insurrectional or separatist movements, so that the above crimes committed by members of non state entities i. e. militant groups can also be brought within the Courts jurisdiction.

A case would be inadmissible if it is being investigated or prosecuted by a state which has jurisdiction over it, unless the state is unwilling or genuinely unable to carry out the investigation or prosecution. The determination of whether it has jurisdiction is made by the Court. The Court may exercise its jurisdiction where there is a referral of a situation to the Prosecutor by a State party, requesting the prosecutor to investigate, or a referral by the Security Council. The Prosecutor may also initiate prosecution on his own initiative, on the basis of information received.

However, the Court has no jurisdiction in respect of a state which is not a party to the Rome Treaty except where there is a referral by the Security Council, or the state concerned voluntarily accepts such jurisdiction. Some of the states not parties to the Treaty are the USA, Russia, India China Israel and Sri Lanka. The cases before the Court currently are from African countries which have referred them to the Court namely the cases of Lubanga Dyilo, Joseph Kony, and Bemba Gemba, and is indicative of the fact that many African countries are cooperating with the ICC.

The matter of enforcement of IHL has been a weak point and the setting up of a permanent International Criminal Court and ad hoc criminal tribunals is helping the process of enforcement. However the absence of an international police force is still a major drawback as the Court has to depend on states to capture or hand over the indicted persons for trial, as in the case of the former President of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosovic, and Radovan Karadzic. The establishment of the ICC can, however, have the indirect effect of encouraging states to fulfil their obligations under the Conventions and pass enabling legislation, so that domestic courts can take up these matters, rather than have the ICC take over the case. Special tribunals within the domestic jurisdiction have been set up in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Iraq, East Timor and Cambodia.

The 2010 General Elections and rise of ethno-nationalist politics in the East

by Jehan Perera

The ethnic divide in the country is not only manifested politically but also socially in the lack of positive integration in which members of the different ethnic communities keep to themselves. As a result there is a government attempt not to permit pockets of ethnic segregation to develop. One such arena is the university system.

The problem that has arisen in Southeastern University, Oluvil in the Ampara District has brought this issue of lack of integration into focus. Southeastern University was an outcome of the war that made it difficult for Muslim students in the East to make the journey to Batticaloa to attend classes at the Eastern University. The founder of the SLMC, the late M. H. M. Ashraff was instrumental in getting the university started in 1995, since when it has been seen as a university for Muslim students from the East.

However, in the recent past the government has begun to send Sinhalese students into Southeastern University. As in the case of anything that is done newly, there have been tensions between sections of the student body and the new entrants. I was in Ampara the day after the university was closed due to student clashes. There were at least three explanations I heard for this clash. One was that some Sinhalese students had got elected to the student union and that had not been kindly accepted by some senior students.

Another was that the Sinhalese students drank alcohol inside the university premises which was objected to by the Muslim students. The third was that the clash had originated in the political rivalries that have become accentuated due to the imminent General Elections, and was meant to undermine politicians such as Mrs. Ferial Ashraff, whose popularity cuts across ethnic boundaries.

The forthcoming General Election is proving to be a fertile ground for nationalist politics in the East. Prospective politicians who have little to offer the electorate and who, indeed, have parachuted there from other parts of the country, have resorted to nationalist slogans that transcend district-based concerns. I saw posters put up by an organization that called itself "We Digadamulla Sihala" and urged the Sinhalese voters to give their vote to a Sinhalese regardless of which party they voted for. The rationale for this is to prevent the splitting of Sinhalese votes to maximize Sinhalese representation in the Parliament from the Ampara District.

The reality of ethnic segregation in Ampara was brought out in the dialogue that was organized by the Media House in Ampara with the provincial correspondents of media organizations. When the journalists sat as one group, they sat separately, rather than interspersed and mixed. The organizers of the dialogue, too, had arranged the journalists into two groups for the purpose of holding two seminars concurrently, one for Sinhala-speakers and another for Tamil-speakers.

Prior to the seminar starting I asked one of the journalists, a Muslim, about the situation in Ampara in order to get a preview prior to making my own contribution. He looked all around him and lowered his voice and said it was not safe to be overheard.

When my turn to speak to the Sinhalese journalists at the seminar came, I asked them whether they could freely express themselves or did they feel a sense of intimidation. One of the journalists immediately responded and said, yes, there was intimidation, and went on to speak about what had happened at the Southeastern University. Initially, I was puzzled and thought he had misunderstood my question, as in my mind the intimidation related to slain journalists such as Lasantha Wickrematunge and to disappeared ones such as Prageeth Eknaligoda, and to assaulted ones such as the victims of powerful government politicians.

However, it soon became clear that the journalist was expressing his concern about the intimidation of one community by another. In the case of the incident at the Southeastern University, it was evident that he believed that the Muslim community, which is the largest in Ampara, dominated and intimidated the others. From this perspective he said that the Sinhalese students there were victims and had not one to speak up for them as the teaching staff at Southeastern University was Muslim. During this discussion, the reason for the poster urging the Sinhalese to vote for Sinhalese candidates only became clear. The journalists pointed out that although the ratio of Sinhalese to Muslims was almost equal, the number of Muslim candidates who got elected to Parliament from the Ampara District was double that of the Sinhalese, because the Sinhalese split their votes by voting for Muslim candidates such as Mrs. Ferial Ashraff.

As could be expected in a situation of ethnic polarization, the seminar I had with the Tamil-speaking journalists, most of whom were Muslim, brought out an entirely different set of grievances. They pointed out that the population of Sinhalese had been growing as a proportion of the total population ever since Independence due to the land settlement policies of successive governments that had favoured the Sinhalese.

That had caused a deprivation of land rights that the Muslim and Tamil people of that area had traditionally enjoyed and that was given to the Sinhalese. They gave the example of a housing scheme in Norochcholai in the Ampara District, where Saudi Arabian aid had been provided for housing to the Muslim victims of the tsunami. But after the houses had been built the government insisted that a proportion of those houses should be given to Sinhalese who were not victims of the tsunami.

The strong criticism of such actions by the government does not bode well for its success in the Muslim parts of the East. On the other hand, the Muslim journalists spoke warmly of Sinhalese community leaders who were indigenous to Ampara in contrast to the government politicians who came from outside.

One journalist recounted how the Buddhist monk of the Budurangala temple had publicly invited all Muslim and Tamil victims of the tsunami to his temple and urged the Sinhalese people to welcome to them. He also gave the example of another Buddhist monk from another temple in Ampara, who had blamed Sinhalese leaders from outside Ampara for blocking the housing scheme for Muslim tsunami victims at Norochcholai and said that he would not oppose it as Muslim victims could not go anywhere else.

The end of the three-decade old war that pitted the government against the Tamil militant movements and divided the population created a reasonable expectation that Sri Lanka would be able to reach reconciliation and healing. Although the open conflict has ceased, the divisions that existed in the past are still very much alive. The violence, suspicion, and segregation of the conflict have become deeply embedded in social and political life. The seminar at Ampara revealed how the differences that exist between communities are mobilized by political leaders to further communal agendas.

Thus peace building and reconciliation are critical needs in this post-war era. Unfortunately, a glance at the election manifestos of the main political formations shows that the political will for conflict transformation is absent.

One of the challenges to national integration and reconciliation will be to give people from different ethnic communities a better understanding of those from other communities. However an election campaign that sees an international conspiracy against the country in collaboration with traitors within is gaining strength. The political acknowledgement of past grievances that is necessary for healing and reconciliation seems far off. At present the indications are that a bipartisan approach that recognizes the current problems and seeks a common solution will be very difficult to achieve. The stance of politicians is replicated among their grassroots communities, furthering divide and promoting ethnically polarized voting patterns. Civic groups will have to strive to bind up the wounds that their political counterparts create in their bid for political power.

They came….. Enjoyed….. Saw….. Made an impact in our hearts

by Lasantha De Abrew

The North- South Dialogue Desk of Lanka Centre for Social Concern co-sponsored the much awaited educational tour of the Arippu school children to Colombo and Kandy . On our last visit to Arippu, we promised a tour for the students from grades six to eight.

The Principal, Mr. Ravi Croos, Rev. Fr. Arul, Rev. Sr. Subashini and a few teachers accompanied the children. On the first day they visited the Lake House to see how the news papers were printed and dispatched, Vihara Maha Devi Park , the Zoological Gardens in Dehiwela, and the Majestic City in Bambalapitiya. On the way to Majestic City , Ashok, Vasanthi and their relations treated these little ones with tip-a-tip and tasty ice-cream and they enjoyed it while seeing the trains go by for the first time in their lives. At Majestic City , they were thrilled to get into the escalator for their maiden journey. Pushing and pulling and succeeding at last really brought them a lot of fun and frolic.

They lodged at the Jesuit Provincialate in Negombo for these two days. I suppose this would have been the biggest number of visitors they ever had at this newly turned Provincialate, one hundred and fifty guests from Arippu. Surely the Provincialate was rocked with a lot of noise, splash of water, laughter and what not in every corridor, and inconvenience to the inmates including the dogs, Leo and Juleo. We are very sorry and apologize for the inconvenience but the little ones made Akkarapanaha their safe haven and experienced care and concern from Frs. Anton Weerasingha, Dexter and Mr. George.

On the second day of the tour, the little ones had the privilege to be in the Parliamentary balcony to watch the proceedings of the last session of the dissolved parliament extending the state emergency for a month. They were thrilled when they were entertained with noodle soup at the parliamentary canteen. Then they visited the twenty eighth floor of the Bank of Ceylon tower in Colombo . They enjoyed the freshness of the Galle Face Green but not much interested in the sea as they are the children of the sea at Mannar. The planetarium was the next destination where they learned and enjoyed although they were tired. St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade and the Air Port visitors’ gallery were the final exposure points of their last day in Colombo . The little ones were overjoyed to see the planes taking off and landing. Their experience was that these planes were used to attack them. We could see the little faces becoming frightened as the planes were landing, bringing back some memories of the cruelty of war into these tiny minds. It must never happen again.

On third day, the final one they visited the Elephant orphanage in Pinnawela, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens , and the National Seminary in Ampitiya as all of them are catholic, and had a short stay just in front of the Temple of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. In Kandy they had time for a crash shopping spree to get some mementos, gifts for their parents to celebrate their unforgettable trip to the south.

They were emotionally filled when they saw the orphaned baby elephants. Some of them were in tears and whispered to one another, “How pitiable to be without parents”

Frs. Gabriel, Ranjit, Lasantha, our new secretary Mr. Lakshin and Kevin accompanied the little ones of Arippu some parts of the tour.

They enjoyed…. were thrilled…… tired…… experienced lots of care and love…… from Southern Sri Lanka

Before we end, I love to share an act of sincerity of one of these little ones. One of them found a purse at the Dehiwela Zoo. Immediately he ran to me and handed over the purse. It had more than five thousand rupees. Next day I was able to find the owner, an employee of the zoological gardens and hand over the purse. This employee, Mr. Siripala commented, “Father, this is a very rare incident. Usually children who come on excursions want money. Here the child gave back the purse with lot of cash. When I learned that the child was Tamil I felt ashamed. I have labeled the Tamils as tigers. I will write to the school to thank the children. I have met a sincere Tamil person, I will never generalize again…….”

Set record straight on list of civil society activists issue -National Peace Council

Statement by National Peace Council

There have been news reports carried in the media that human rights lawyer and head of Transparency International, Sri Lanka, which is currently monitoring election abuses, J C Weliamuna, may be arrested and detained.

In addition there have been reports that the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives and joint convenor of the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Secretary of the Free Media Movement Sunil Jayasekera figure in a list of civil society activists who are said to be supportive of the political opposition. All these organizations and the persons named have worked with the National Peace Council as part of its own mandate to foster ethnic harmony, respect for human rights and national reconciliation in the country.

We are concerned about reports on Mr Weliamuna. During the last few weeks there have been several state media allegations against the Sri Lankan branch of Transparency International. There were publicized reports about the misuse of funds which the organization has publicly claimed as completely fabricated and false. We note that on the 27th September, 2008 two grenades were thrown at the house of Mr Weliamuna. One exploded and damaged the building. The other was found inside the property. If it had exploded it could have seriously harmed Mr. Weliamuna and his family. There was a serious outcry locally by the Bar Association and human rights organizations, including the National Peace Council. However, there were no serious investigations appear to have been taken into the attack and as far as we are aware no one was has been arrested.

As a civic organization we believe in the right of such organizations to critique social and political institutions, and to point out injustices that are not being addressed and need to be corrected. Criticisms of this nature need to be taken in the spirit in which they are made in order to help eliminate corruption, promote respect for human rights and democratic governance. Sri Lanka has subscribed to the UN Declaration and international human rights covenants. The right to dissent and the freedom of expression and human rights are also enshrined in our own Constitution. We expect any government to abide by the Constitution. Further, promoting good governance is not only the responsibility of the government but also the duty of every Sri Lankan citizen. This is the duty that is being performed by the organisations and activists who have been targeted for attacks.

Sri Lanka and the people of our country stand s to lose if human rights violations are countenanced by the authorities. In February this year, the European Union confirmed the suspension of the GSP+ tariff concession to Sri Lanka on the grounds of the government's non-compliance with human rights and good governance requirements. This has been followed by UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon's announcement that he will set up an expert committee to advice him on Sri Lanka's human rights situation which has drawn sharp criticism from the Sri Lankan government. Criticizing the European Union or the United Nations and the international community will not be helpful for Sri Lankans in the long term even though some pre-election mileage may be gained by such statements made by some Government spokespersons.

The Attorney General has been cited in media reports asking journalists in voluntary exile to return home. While this is a positive statement, the National Peace Council calls upon the government to set the record straight about the purported list and the threat to Mr Weliamuna and others who campaign for freedom of expression, human rights and combating corruption in public life. and ensure their safety so that they do not have to flee overseas.

Governing Council

March 15, 2010

Journalists close to Gen. Sarath Fonseka threatened with arrest

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is very worried by attempts to intimidate at least four journalists linked to jailed opposition leader Sarath Fonseka, who are being threatened with prosecution. They have been summoned by the anti-terrorist police and they fear they could be arrested at any time for a period of 90 days, which is allowed by the law.

“We urge the authorities not to arrest these four journalists: Tissa Ravindra Perera, Ruwan Weerakoon, Prasanna Fonseka and his brother Mihiri Fonseka,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is very regrettable that the proceedings initiated against retired general Sarath Fonseka, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s leading opponent, are being accompanied by a witch-hunt against his relatives and supporters.”

The press freedom organisation added: “If these journalists, some of whom were able to benefit in the past from their proximity to Gen. Fonseka, are detained by the police and judicial authorities, it will be seen as yet another abuse of authority aimed at silencing opposition media figures.”

The four journalists were questioned by members of the Terrorism Investigation Division this week. According to a Colombo-based reporter, they were questioned about their relations with Gen. Fonseka, who is facing a possible court martial. One of them, Weerakoon, who covers defence matters for the daily The Nation, has been hospitalised under police guard after suffering a heart attack apparently brought on by the pressure he has been under for several weeks.

Reporters Without Borders has been told by several sources that these journalists, some of whom have been in hiding since the presidential election in January, are physically and mentally exhausted. They were with Gen. Fonseka at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel when it was besieged by the army on the day after the election, in which Rajapaksa defeated Fonseka.

Gen. Fonseka allowed several of these journalists to cover the final stages of the military operations against the Tamil Tigers rebels in 2009, when he was still army commander. As a result, their reporting highlighted his successful handling of the war.

Reporters Without Borders also condemns the climate of intimidation resulting from the recent release of an alleged list of journalists and human rights activists to be kept under surveillance by the security services. According to a diplomatic source in Colombo, around 30 people are on the list including the representatives of Transparency International Sri Lanka and the Centre for Policy Alternatives, as well as Sinhalese and Tamil journalists.

“If the existence of such a list is confirmed, we urge the authorities to put a stop to these practices,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Finally, Reporters Without Borders calls on the police authorities to release the findings of their investigation into the disappearance of political reporter and cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing in Colombo on 24 January.

Secret list reveals Sri Lanka government's media hit list

Journalist included in leaked secret service memo

A leaked list – believed to be compiled by the Sri Lankan intelligence unit – has revealed the names of 35 leading journalists and NGO officers of interest to the country’s secret services.

The list then grades each of them according to their importance to the intelligence services

AITC315.jpgAmnesty International fears that the leak was a deliberate move by the government to intimidate and harass journalists in the country.

Mike Blakemore, Media Director of Amnesty International UK, said:

“Such a blatant leak can have only one purpose and that is to intimidate those individuals on the list and deter anyone from speaking to them.

“Journalists are often at the forefront of protecting and defending individuals’ human rights. It is their bravery that can help expose abuses and bring them to an end.

“Sri Lanka needs to respect media freedom and allow human rights defenders to go about their work freely and without harassment.”

Amnesty International is calling on all its supporters to write to the Sri Lankan authorities expressing their concern for the safety and well-being of the 35 people on the list.

Two human rights defenders, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and J C Weliamuna, are at particular risk.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Sri Lankan NGO, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and J C Weliamuna, Sri Lanka director of international NGO Transparency International, have both been threatened previously and are graded as being of great interest to the intelligence services on the list. Other colleagues from their organisations are also named.

Background:

In September 2008, a grenade was thrown at the house of J C Weliamuna, damaging property but causing no injuries. That attack was thought to be in retaliation for his legal representation of clients in human rights cases where the Defence Ministry was implicated. Despite demands from local and international human rights groups, there was no credible inquiry into this attack.

An article on 20 February in the national daily newspaper, Sri Lanka Guardian, reporting on a meeting between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and a group of ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party lawyers, singled out J C Weliamuna, specifically, saying “something must be done about him”.

Meanwhile, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu received a death threat via an anonymous letter posted to his home in August 2009.

At least 14 media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka since the beginning of 2006. Others have been arbitrarily detained, tortured and allegedly disappeared while in the custody of security forces. More than 20 journalists have left the country in response to death threats. None of these attacks has been properly investigated or prosecuted.

Sri Lankan journalists have given Amnesty a list of 56 of their colleagues who face serious threats, including some working for the government-owned Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, as well as the Independent Television Network, Lak Hada and the Lake House Group. [AmnestyInternational]

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Will there be any “justice” in this court-martial for my father?

By Apsara Fonseka

Today we email to illustrate the proceedings against the General on March 16 & 17.

To request that anyone with any love for his/her nation try even in a small way to defend the supreme interests of this nation and not the petty interests of a small group.

The Executive, Legislative and Parliamentary arms have been equipped with powers to balance and counter balance each other. All three work for the people and are answerable to the nation.

Today we see the President, extend his executive powers to merge both the legislature and the parliament, destroying the very system created to safeguard the people who have put him in power.

The trial against the General is itself illegal. The Army Act does not apply to him. This has been established, and have been backed by important officials both in Sri Lanka and abroad including the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake in the US, and Shadow Defense Secretary Liam Fox in the UK. They have all urged due process of the law and more importantly - transparency.

Nevertheless, the government, not heeding it's own laws, nor the principles of common decency will press forward with this closed case, away from the eyes of the general public, away from the eyes of the media, and away from the ensuing public reprisal.

7 charges will be filed against the General - three alleging involvement in politics while being in military service and 4 alleging he did not adhere military instructions.

Whatever charges they allege they are bent on keeping him in detention.

The court martial is just a ploy to say he needs to be held longer, and to take him out of the general election taking place on April 8.

It is also a ploy to keep the trial from going public and up for questioning.

The court martial judge panel is already biased given that they are all Presidential appointees.

In an Army controlled by Gotabaya Rajapaksa - there can be no fair trial. The fact that the public and the media are not able to witness the evidence they provide for their charges (which were collected after the arrest) will definitely make it easy for them. Furthermore, last month, even before any charge was filed Gotabaya Rajapaksa went on national television to say that the General will be convicted for 5 years.

Therefore, the government does not need a reason, nor proof to convict the General - and this mockery of Army law is just the cover up for them to make their judgement official.

According to the Military Spokesman, this trial will be concluded before the general election on April 8 - a fantastically short time for a trial in Sri Lanka.

The President's plan is to convict him so that he cannot participate in the election.

We know you all see through this government ploy.

They have already passed judgment

Their only fear is an ensuing public reprisal and that's why they are pushing for a closed case with a court martial.

Please assist us to bring this trial to a civil court for a fair hearing.

March 14, 2010

Mrs. Gnanie Nalliah: A lady with a passion for teaching

An appreciation by Ms. RanjanaThambirajah (Nee Sabaratnam)

MrsGNTW321.jpg

Mrs. Gnanie Nalliah ~ 04.02.1918-21.03.2009

March 21st 2010 marks the first death anniversary of Mrs Gnanie Nalliah who passed away in Vancouver, Canada at the age of 91. The nonagenarian was a well known mathematician in the Jaffna circle and taught at Chundikuli Girls College Jaffna for more than 25 years.

Some teachers leave an indelible mark on the young hearts and the memories linger with those when they become adults. One of the teachers who made a mark in my younger days was the Late Mrs. Gnanie Nalliah. The first impression I had of Mrs. Nalliah was not in person but from the senior students and my older siblings who studied under her at CGC. In time I came to learn that she was a strict teacher, good at teaching math, who never raised her voice and was funny at times.

I remember vividly when she became our Maths teacher in 1970 in the seventh standard. She taught Algebra, Geometry and Arithmetic to our class. I still remember how she explained congruent in Geometry, simple and compound interest in Arithmetic and the pronumeral applications in Algebra. She always referred to zero as “poochiyam” in Tamil than “cypher” which was commonly used by other teachers. We had her for two terms and then she was delegated to a senior class.

Two years later, she returned to us as our Maths teacher in the ninth standard. This was the time when young girls in their early teens went through their adolescent years becoming mischievous and having an attitude on every facet of life. To top up the situation, a newly appointed teacher, fresh from the University was delegated to our class not only as a class teacher but also to teach us Biology. Our class took the advantage of her inexperience as the opportunity to disrupt her classes. The fun we had lasted for a term or two until the news reached the Principal’s ears, Mrs. GES Chelliah. One can guess who was replaced as our class teacher, none other than Mrs. Nalliah.

This time around we saw Mrs. N as a different person. She was very strict and stern as our class teacher. Since she had been teaching math when she wasn’t our class teacher, she had a better understanding of the culprits who were disruptive in class. Set a thief to catch a thief became her motto, and she made the naughtiest students as class monitors. A threat also came to us as that she would personally meet our parents or send warnings out through our older siblings. Sending a warning home through an older sibling was of course detested by every younger sibling so we were brought to our senses very quickly. The psychological warfare she imposed on us made a vast difference in our class behaviour. She came with a mission; she didn’t stop until her mission was accomplished. Nor did she enforce the threats she made.

In the Seventies, the salary for the tutorial staff was paid mid-month and the Principal had to go to the bank personally to make the cash withdrawals. Mrs. Nalliah accompanied the Principal to the bank and assisted in the distribution of salaries to the entire tutorial staff. Students eagerly wait for their “free periods” to have some fun when she disappears for her monthly chore. Mrs. N was too conscientious of her missed classes and she would use her lunch time to teach us the missed components. As teenagers, we did not like the idea of spending our time in “calculations” as we were more worried about our lunch time game such as “killi-thattu” (a grid game). Mrs. N also made special Saturday classes if she happened to miss the school for personal reasons. Such was her whole-hearted devotion and dedication to her profession. Now as a parent I believe that teachers don’t come in the calibre of Mrs. Nalliah with such dedication and passion.

Mrs. Nalliah was a also good educator in the ways she handled the young minds. She was good at throwing idioms and phrases aptly to the situations. If we were are unable to tackle a maths problem and ended up in tears she would say “Kalvi ennum payirrukku kanneer enum malai miha miha avasiyam( tears of rain are essential to a plant of education). One of the most popular idiom was “pandriyodu serntha kanrum pauvi arunthum “(a good natured calf will also learn to eat ‘dirt’ if it chose to live with the pigs). This idiom was very popular in our class for two reasons. One was that “pauvi” was colloquially used differently and the other was that we had a bevy of marked mischievous girls in our class. Whenever Mrs. N starts this particular phrase it will be finished as a chorus by the whole class.

She hated being disrupted when explaining a concept in Math. If she caught someone chatting with the neighbour, she would immediately stop and stare at the offenders. Every eyes would follow her glance, even at that moment if the offenders do not realise the situation, then the chalk would fly like a rocket from her hand over to the girls concerned, and most of the time the chalk would find its target. I was not an exception for this situation and I quickly learned not to talk in class.

Mrs. Nalliah was well known for her Mathematical skills for the GCE Ordinary Levels, and she was well sought after by the wider community for Maths tutoring. She held her private tutoring lessons at her house “Gnanasthan”at Perinpanayagam lane, Chundikuli Jaffna. She maintained a principle that she wouldn’t take any girls from CGC if she teaches them at school indicating that she was not going to teach anything different from the class.

Our College Monday morning Prayers were generally conducted by our Principal or by a teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed the times when Mrs. N took the podium. She always came up with a story which had a moral at the end.
Mrs. Gnanie Nalliah hailed from Thunnalai, a village in the Vadaimarrachi region. Her father was a Principal of Hartley college of Point Pedro in the early twentieth century. She was named as Gnanapooranammah at birth shortened as Gnanie in later stage. One of her siblings was also known for his principalship was late Mr. K.Pooranampillai who had been a School Principal at The Hartley College and then at St. Johns College, Jaffna.

In her conversations she had mentioned that her studies were disrupted to a halt when her mother was bedridden for nearly six years. She pursued her studies after she got married to Mr. LWD Nalliah and she had to sit for her exams when her son was a baby. She received her degree from the University of London, United Kingdom. These may be the reasons that she was reiterating the value of studies to us girls. She always encouraged girls to study to and use the time wisely and also instilled high morals and principles in life. One of the concepts she inculcated to the girls which was passed on to her by her mother was that if you do a good deed at school, most of the people won’t notice it but if you do a bad deed that the whole school community will carry the story home. So think about your actions before you commit yourself to a task.

In my GCE Ordinary Levels year she would open a lunch time session weekly for all the girls, irrespective of the class, to voluntarily come up with their mathematical problems. Even though I was studying under a different teacher, the offer was put to good use by some of us. Closer to the examinations she would extend invitations to interested students to come to her house to have a go at the past examination papers. I am always grateful for the services she rendered to us during that exam time free of charge! Her moral values were never matched with monetary values.

Mrs Nalliah was always neatly dressed in pastel colour saris and her falls was always pleated and pinned to the side. Her hair was always coiffed to a neat bun. One of her saris was quite popular among students coined as “rocket sari”. This was the post era time when the Apollo 11 has landed on the moon. The sky blue colour sari falls was painted by her artist husband depicting the landing on the moon by the three astronauts. Whenever she wore that sari there will be someone at school wanting to examine the detail of her falls.

She was a virtuous lady with a humble manner and was highly respected by the wider community. Nick-naming a teacher was the norm in every school and these names were generally referred names instead of given names. However Mrs. N escaped without a nick name.

Mrs. N did retire from her teaching service in the mid-seventies after serving Chundikuli Girls College for more than twenty five years. The college is in debt of her service to a generation of students. The retirement didn’t deter her from tutoring students at her home and then in Colombo. The 1983 communal riots in our Island brought a massive emigration of Tamils abroad. Mrs. Nalliah emigrated to Vancouver Canada to be with her son and family. The emigration did not prevent Mrs. N from tutoring math. Math was her life. I did hear from her relatives and friends that as an octogenarian she was able to keep her mind active by teaching maths for the younger generation.

She was a regular church goer and had faith in God and spiritual values and worshipped at the Methodist churches. She also had preached in some of the churches when she was requested. Once she was asked to preach at the Vannarpannai Wesley Methodist Church for a women’s day service. She mentioned that she was a bit nervous to get on to the pulpit among the strangers until she saw my late father’s face as the only known person.

Mrs. Gnanie Nalliah had the genuine passion for teaching and mastered the art of paedogogy to the amazement of students. May God bless her family for her services rendered to the community. As Paul says in the New Testament her life can be described as “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7)

Gnanie Nalliah did light a candle of understanding in our hearts which shall not be put out.
I wonder why God does not make Mrs. Gnani Nalliahs’ anymore with high morals and values. The current world requires many more Gnanies!

May her soul rest in peace.

The 17th Amendment to the constitution must be amended to be implemented

by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

One of the more frequent critiques of the government with regard to what is characterized as Human Rights relates to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. It is claimed that the failure to fully implement that Amendment makes clear the authoritarian inclinations of the current government.

Not entirely surprisingly, this criticism has figured large in the attacks on the government made by the current opposition. Thus it seems to feature as one of the principal concerns of the European Union, which had been sedulously advised by the opposition with regard to human rights problems in Sri Lanka.

What the opposition failed to mention was that, while in power themselves, it never occurred to them to criticize a system which bestowed unbridled power on the Presidency. When President Jayewardene appointed first his personal lawyer to be Chief Justice, and then passed over the most senior judge on the Supreme Court because he refused to hand over an open letter of resignation, that was seen as a necessary characteristic of strong leadership.

With the advent of President Kumaratunga however the UNP changed its tune, and they saw the virtues of a principle that should have been put forward long before, namely that there should be limitations on the discretion of any appointing authority when it comes to important constitutional positions. Unfortunately the activation of this principle was with the assistance of the JVP which, in common with other left wing movements in Sri Lanka, has a sentimental affection for the Westminster system.

So, in 2001, as part of what was termed the probationary government of President Kumaratunga a couple of years into her second term, the 17th Amendment was introduced. It mixes features of two constitutional dispensations, that of the Executive Presidency and that of the Westminster model.

On the latter system, the Head of State who appoints to significant offices is a titular figure. He acts on the advice of the real executive authority, a Prime Minister. Whilst the discretion of the Prime Minister is in theory unlimited, ie he can recommend anyone for appointment by a titular Monarch or President, in practice he is restrained by the possibility that the appointing authority might question the recommendation.

Contrariwise, in an Executive Presidential system, the Executive President appoints, but his discretion is limited by the necessity of obtaining the consent of an appropriate body. The most obvious example of this is the American Senate, which must ratify Presidential appointments, whether to Cabinet or to the Supreme Court. Even when the President can in effect command a majority in the Senate, he will exercise his discretion carefully, since it would be embarrassing to have untoward questioning during the confirmation proceedings.

What is extraordinary in Sri Lanka is the provision that an elected Executive President should act as the rubber stamp of another body (in some cases, though in others he appoints, with the Constitutional Council having to ratify). In fact the rubber stamp role was challenged several years ago by President Kumaratunga, who ignored the recommendation of the Constitutional Council regarding an Elections Commission. I cannot recall now whether any attempt was made to compel her to act on the recommendation, but certainly no compulsion was in effect brought to bear, which is why Dayananda Dissanaike continues in his current office.

Another anomaly is the great distance at which the Constitutional Council, which is supposed to dictate decisions to the elected President, derives its authority. The manner in which it is constituted is another wonderful example of unsystematic legislation. The Council consists of ten members of whom three are ex officio, namely the Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. These last two recommend five others for nomination by the President.

In making these recommendations, the two major figures in Parliament must consult leaders of political parties and independent groups in Parliament, and three of the five should be nominated to represent ‘minority interests’, after consultation of Members of Parliament (not leaders of parties in this case) belonging to ‘the respective minority communities’.

Of the remaining two members of the Constitutional Council, one is nominated by the President, which is fairly simple. The other is nominated for appointment by the President ‘upon agreement by the majority of the Members of Parliament belonging to political parties or independent groups other than the respective political parties or independent groups to which the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition belongs (sic)’.

Nothing is said about what should happen if there is no agreement with regard to this last – which is what held up appointments to the Constitutional Council last time round – or if the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition fail to agree, or if other parties claim they were not properly consulted. There is no clarity about what is meant by ‘minority communities’ nor which ones are to be privileged through this amendment.

In short, the 17th Amendment was hastily cobbled together by legislators who simply did not bother about consistency or precedents elsewhere. It is singularly inappropriate for the Executive Presidential system we have, and as was shown by President Kumaratunga, nothing can be done if the President is not inclined to accept the recommendations of the Council.

However, both because unworkable and impractical legislation must be changed, and also because it does make political sense to fetter the discretion of any individual to make important appointments (whilst ensuring the primary role of an elected Executive as compared to other individuals or bodies without commensurate authority from the people), it would make sense following the General Election to review the 17th Amendment as soon as possible and introduce some sanity.

Fortunately the oft expressed wish of the President to institute a Second Chamber suggests a simple route to follow. As in the case of the American Senate, such a Chamber could be entrusted with ratification of appointments which the President would make. Some would be ratified through a simple majority, others could require two thirds.

There may be other methods of achieving the desired results, but what is clear is that the 17th Amendment itself should be changed. Given the controversy it has caused, clearing the matter up should be done as soon as possible, but it is important to ensure adherence to established constitutional principles and practices, and not engage in the ad hoc responses which so many amendments to the current Constitution have exemplified.

The Rajapaksa regime and the role of Basil the presidential sibling

Basil Rajapaksa Talks to C.R.Chandraprema

"Come Mr Chandraprema" says the usher. I follow him into the smallish modestly furnished office in the presidential secretariat. A national dress and kurakkan satake clad gentleman is sitting at his desk looking through some files with a couple of officials in attendance. Seeing me he asks, "Can’t this wait until I finish this interview?". The room clears and I am left alone with presidential advisor and Gampaha district parliamentary candidate Basil Rajapakse. The governing party does not have a prime ministerial candidate at this election, but the occupant of this modest office has been the effective second in command of the government for the past four years.

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Basil Rajapaksa - pic: businesstoday.lk

I look around the cramped office as I settle down in a chair. The modest office hardly looks like the nerve centre from where many things in this country are made to happen. Every important or intractable issue in the country, whether it be running election campaigns, finalizing nominations lists within the governing party, negotiating with the many coalition partners within the UPFA, wooing politicians away from the opposition, talking to the Indian government, making representations to the UN, deciding on infrastructure projects for the war ravaged north, etc etc, passes through this office.

Yet, over the past four years, there was little or no real publicity for anything that Basil Rajapakse did. He had no press secretary to whisper in our ears, "Boss met so and so last week and said this and so and so said that…" There was only a bare mention of meetings held or visits overseas in news broadcasts. Beyond that, there were no details of what actually happened. In the halcyon days of UNP rule, President Premadasa’s motto was "Never do anything without the public getting to know about it." His rivals Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali followed much the same policy and anything they did, whether it was making decisions on national security, building a dam or negotiating with the Indian government, was always done in the glare of publicity. But Basil was a figure who operated mostly in the shadows.

The contrast couldn’t be sharper than when one compares Basil with Sarath Fonseka. When SF was army commander, he had his own coterie of journalists. Any journalist who wished to be in his good books could highlight only what happened on land. The air and sea were out of bounds. Even on land, SF had to be the central figure. One officer who proudly wrote in a Ceylon Light Infantry anniversary publication that it was Maj Gen Nanda Mallawaarachchi who had led and won the Mavilaaru operation, was booted out of office. Victor Ivan pointed out in the Ravaya that Keith Noyhar the defence correspondent of The Nation was not beaten within an inch of his life because he was in league with the LTTE, but because he got his defense stories from the sea side. And journalist Namal Perera also got his teeth knocked out because he acted as the conduit between the sea going types and Noyhar. On one occasion, as the members of the security council waited for the arrival of the president, Sarath Fonseka had said to no one in particular "Patthara karayonta kanna bonna paga deela thamai ova liyawaganne." Wasantha Karannagoda sitting on the opposite side of the table had wanted to know "Kauda yako paga dunne?" Nothing further had happened, due to the timely arrival of the president.

The then army commander had one eye on the defence columns while the other eye was on the war. What we see in hindsight is that SF had been planning his entry into politics for years. Here was a military officer seeking publicity or a monopoly of the credit the way a politician would. BR, in contrast, operated largely in obscurity as a civil or military officer of the state would. No political column reported any discussion he had with visiting dignitaries, or the sensitive negotiations he routinely carried out with the partners as well as the enemies of the regime. People saw him on TV only at opening ceremonies. Everything else he did was largely unknown. So naturally, my first question to BR was: Why did you think of contesting elections, and coming into the public domain, without remaining on the national list?

"After the presidential election" says BR, "The president realized that he had got the highest number of votes and the biggest majority from the Gampaha district. In 2005 too the people of Gampaha gave him an overwhelming mandate. Assigning me to this district was his way of saying thank you. Furthermore, the Gampaha district lost many of its leaders in quick succession. We lost Anura Bandaranaike, Sripathy Sooriyarachchi (who played a major role at the presidential elections of 2005), senior SLFP leader Reggie Ranatunga and the leader of the House Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. Since that time, SLFP politicians from parliamentary to PS level as well as the venerable maha sangha had been asking for a national level leadership for Gampaha, as they have always had. It was with this in view that I was assigned to contest the parliamentary election from the Gampaha district".

That brought me to the inevitable question. Why maintain a low profile for the past four years if he was going to contest an election? In the old days, Lalith Athulathmudali used to have reporters who sent in stories to the newspapers from his residence. Every political column got inside information and exclusives about who did what. How is it that BR never sought to get his doings into the political columns?

"I was brought in to undertake certain tasks on behalf of the president" says BR. "I did not do those tasks in my personal capacity. It was always under the guidance and the leadership of the president. Therefore, the publicity as well as the credit should be his. Another reason was that a good part of the work assigned to me had a humanitarian character such as rehabilitating war ravaged areas. It would hardly be appropriate to seek political mileage or publicity from that kind of work. There was also the added factor that some of the tasks I undertook, could not have been carried out under the glare of public attention. The continuous dialogue we maintained with India was one such area…"

Sri Lanka today basks in the afterglow of having defeated terrorism. But none of this would have been possible without the cooperation of India. As the war in Sri Lanka progressed into the latter half of 2008, India sounded exactly the same as the west, emphasizing that there could be no military solution to the LTTE problem and that negotiations were the only way. As the military operations progressed, Tamil Nadu erupted in protests and Chief Minister Mutuvel Karunanidhi himself went on hunger strike. For all the world, it did appear that October 2008 was going to be another July 1987, where India would step in to stop the war. As the crisis reached a flashpoint, Basil Rajapakse was sent to India to talk to the Indian central government. After his visit, India took a 180 degree turn in its policy towards the Sri Lankan war, and adopted the stance that enabled Sri Lanka to finish off the LTTE. Details of this hectic diplomacy never found its way into the political columns. So I ask BR, what really happened in India in October 2008 that made India change her stance so radically?

"My first mission to India, explains BR, was in 2006 when the war recommenced with the Mavilaaru incident and Muttur was recaptured". The Muslim residents of Muttur refused to go back so long as the LTTE positions in Sampur remained intact. The LTTE had long range weapons in Sampur. Mavilaaru and the adjoining areas were not designated as an LTTE area in the ceasefire agreement. But Sampur was. If we went into Sampur we knew that there would be protests from the west and we also knew that pressure would have been brought on India. So the president asked me to go to India and explain things. I discussed matters with the Navy commander, and the commander of the Mavilaaru operation Maj Gen Nanda Mallawarachchi. I visited the area and got all details about LTTE shelling from Sampur and went to India. I explained to India why it was necessary to go into Sampur. This was the beginning of the government’s dismantling of the LTTE’s quasi-state".

"Thereafter, I maintained this relationship with India throughout and kept them informed of what was happening as and when the need arose. When it came to 2008, the period you refer to, the Indian government was not stable. It was a coalition government and there were protests in Tamil Nadu with chief minister M.Karunanidhi - an indispensable partner of the Indian government - on hunger strike over the Sri Lankan issue. Around this time the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Alok Prasad, went to see the president and told him that the situation in Sri Lanka had created a crisis situation for the Indian government as well, and he specifically asked for me to be sent to India. The president told me to go to India at once. I did not know what to expect at the other end. But I collected all the necessary details from the defence, foreign and even the fisheries ministry where there were issues of Indian fishermen straying into Sri Lankan waters and vice versa. I even met senior judges of the supreme court to discuss legal terminology in case we have to enter into an agreement".

"I traveled to India in the night and met the Indian foreign minister in the morning. Immediately after our meeting, the foreign minister left for Tamil Nadu to talk to Karunanidhi while I prepared the Sri Lanka-India joint statement with the foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon and the defence advisor M.K.Narayanan. When the Indian FM got off the plane in Chennai, we managed to fax a copy of the draft joint statement to him. He showed the joint statement to Karunandhi and got his assent for it. In the meantime, Prabhakaran had issued a statement describing Karunanidhi as "The saviour of the Tamils". We managed to prevent that from getting out for fear that it would make Karunanidhi change his mind. I too was surprised at the manner in which everything fell into place within about 24 hours.

``Chief Minister Karunanidhi called off his hunger strike, and the tensions that had been building up against Sri Lanka dissipated. Our forces were able to continue with military operations. From that time onwards, we did not allow things to slide backwards, and the secretary to the president Lalith Weeratunga, myself and defense secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse maintained constant contact with Alok Prasad, Shivsankar Menon and Narayananan on the Indian side. The former Indian high commissioner Alok Prasad played a key role in all this. I think both parties realized that we were faced with the same problems and were up against the same adversaries - especially overseas adversaries. I think there was the realization that if we don’t stick together, they will destroy both our countries".

He speaks animatedly about India. Like his presidential sibling, BR too has a close relationship with the Indian authorities which began before 2005, when Mahinda Rajapakse was Prime Minister. Maintaining this relationship through the stresses and strains generated by the war, was obviously one of the highlights of his career. Throughout the war, BR was sent on trouble shooting missions overseas. In March 2009, as the war drew to a close, BR led the government team that visited the IMF headquarters in Washington DC, to persuade them to grant a stand by facility to Sri Lanka to tide over the difficulties arising from the global economic meltdown of 2008/09. Soon after the war, he also had to visit the UN and work with the then Permanent Representative H.M.G.S. Palihakkara to defuse a situation that arose with the threat of Sri Lanka being taken up for discussion by the UN security council.

Speaking of the manner in which he was able to work around problems coming from certain quarters overseas, BR says: "After the east was captured, and the LTTE confined to the north, some countries said that the government was bent on following a military course of action and that if they give aid to rehabilitate the east, they will be encouraging a military solution and that therefore, no aid should be given. But I approached Japan for this purpose and found them to be quite responsive. Once aid started coming in from Japan, things gradually changed. When it came to the north and east, the president had a four D concept – demilitarization, democratization, development and devolution. The first phase was handled by the defense secretary. I was in charge of the second and third phases. Democratisation has been proceeding apace in the east, and is now being introduced to the north as well. In those areas, even village level voluntary organizations had been destroyed and representative institutions had to be built from scratch".

" The aim was to bring the north and east on par with the other seven provinces. The basic infrastructure in those areas had been destroyed, roads were in a state of disrepair, there was no electricity, agricultural land had been abandoned. Our aim through Negenahira Navodaya and Uthuru Wasanthaya was to restore some of these basic facilities. Once these two provinces had been brought to the level of the other provinces with regard to these basic facilities, they would be able to move forward with the rest of the country in accordance with the Mahinda Chintana vision for the future. Today, if you visit the east, you will see that it’s on par with, or even better than certain other parts of the country. Very soon, the north will also be like that."

Even though the prosecution of the war would not have been possible without him, BR’s sibling Gotabhaya Rajapakse too never sought to hog the limelight or monopolize the defence columns and he did not have a coterie of loyal journalists. It was thus made possible for a subordinate officer to lay claim to all the credit for ending the war. The end result of that was that he and many others, barely escaped with their lives in the presidential election drama. As Gota himself had shouted at the now blacklisted Kariyapperuma brothers of Telecommunications Regulatory Commission fame at Temple Trees the day after the election (they had come to congratulate the president) the issue was not a case of winning or losing but living or getting killed!

The Kariyapperumas were alleged to have consorted with the enemy while enjoying all the perks of office conferred by the government. The government obviously has a marketing problem. In the days of the UNP regime, nobody could have even thought of stealing the credit for defence matters from Lalith Athulathmudali or Ranjan Wijeratne or for development work from Gamini Dissanayake or R.Premadasa. So I ask Basil Rajapakse, is he really satisfied that the development thrust launched by the government has been adequately marketed among the public in the way that the UNP government of 1977 marketed their development projects?

"We put out a good product. Marketing it is a different task…"

His voice trails off, seemingly not very convinced about the answer himself. After holding forth for a while about marketing, BR finally admits that they have not really been marketing their development projects. The development thrust over the past four years is much bigger than the development thrust of 1977. Yet the present government has not been rubbing awareness of it into the public the way the UNP government of 1977 did. The UNP government talked so much about development that at the presidential election of 1982, opposition politicians referred to Jayewardene as "Sanwardene".

"But" says BR optimistically, "Those who see what we have done will tell others and it goes by word of mouth. It’s more satisfying when people realize things that way. I have never taken journalists on tours of the north and east. But journalists have gone on their own initiative and written about the changes there. I get much greater satisfaction in seeing such reports. Even though we have not made a deliberate and concerted effort to market what we have done, I believe that the people are aware."

I remain unconvinced. There was of course some truth in BR’s point because surveys carried out during the presidential elections did show that a very significant majority believed that the infrastructure of the country was being developed under the present regime. However the missing ingredient is perhaps a sense of awe, the feeling that no other government could even think of such feats – a feeling abundantly instilled in the people by the UNP govt. of 1977. Despite such shortcomings, in an unplanned kind of way, BR’s name has become associated with development as he has been seen more at opening ceremonies than anywhere else. There is the feeling that the people of the Gampaha district have only to cast their votes and prepare their wish lists, and it’ll all be granted. But what can you do in a district that is already developed to a large extent?

"Gampaha is to some extent a developed district" agrees BR "But there are areas that are not developed. During the first two years, I want to concentrate on getting all the basics into place, the road networks, from national to local government level, electricity and irrigation, water supply projects and the like. The next phase will be improving the schools in the district so that nobody from the district will have to come to Colombo for a quality education, and expanding tertiary level educational opportunities within the district. Another area that will get priority is the development of the hospitals in the district. The reduction of crime, and the protection of the environment will be my other priorities. The overall aim will be to make Gampaha the most preferred district in the country".

Usually, it’s the opposing side or the challenger who sets the tone of an election. One thing that we find at this election is that the main issue of the presidential election held barely six weeks ago – corruption – does not seem to find any mention at all now. If the final outlay of the Kerawalapitiya power plant had been inflated to twice the actual cost, the opposition should be screaming about it at this election as well. And if the Rajapakse’s had bought the Tangalla Bay Hotel and Basil Rajapakse was living in a newly constructed mansion at Balapokuna Road in Kirullapone, then they should be shouting from the rooftops about this too. But all we hear is about the cost of sugar, maalu paan and kelawallo. I ask BR about his alleged property buying spree.

"When people began to say that I owned such and such hotel, and such and such property, I didn’t know what hotel or property they were referring to. Many people wanted me to come forward and explain things. But I didn’t know where to even start. I went to a certain leading Buddhist monk and sought his advice on what I should do. He suggested that I should keep quiet, meditate and wait for the truth to prevail. I am very pleased at the trust reposed in us by the people and our intention is not to betray this trust in any way. I was very hurt about these allegations at that time".

"My father had been in the state council and parliament and he had lost much as a result of politics. There are those of many talents in our family - in defence, in engineering, law and so on. But one area that we have never had any talent is in business. Nobody in our extended family has run even a tea boutique. Our family name does not figure in the Company Registrar’s list. So in such a situation, when we hear stories about us having bought hotels and the like, we certainly were very upset. It was very hurtful to find out who had been spreading these stories. Some of these individuals were those who had obtained various favours from this government. There was an instance when one businessman who had built himself a large house came to me and said: They say that my house is yours, and have even put pictures of it on the internet!"

A look of mild amazement crosses his face as he talks about the ill-gotten gains issue. Indeed, while most politicians have allegations of taking commissions, no politician has ever been accused of owning houses actually belonging to well known people or owning businesses conspicuously owned and operated by yet more well known people. One of the reasons why we don’t hear much about Rajapakse corruption at this election is probably because Basil Rajapakse was one of only three candidates to declare his assets in terms of the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Laws of 1975 and 1988. Perhaps this could be considered an innovation arising from this otherwise excruciatingly boring election – using the assets declaration as a weapon to beat off enemies. ~ courtesy: Sunday Island ~

Cardinal John Henry Newman: His Great Mind was Felt Even in Sri Lanka

By Professor S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Three Sundays ago (February. 21), a kindly retired priest next to me at church gently reminded me that it is Cardinal John Newman Day, in celebration of Newman’s birth in 1801. In September Newman will be beatified - that is, “the official act of the pope whereby a deceased person is declared to be enjoying the happiness of heaven, and therefore a proper subject of religious honour and public cult in certain places.”

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Ordained an Anglican priest in 1825, Newman’s influence across the ecclesiastical spectrum is so wide that it is said that it would be presumptuous if any single communion claims him entirely for its own. For Rome’s Second Vatican Council, Newman is said to have been its ecumenical guide and moral preceptor. At the same time, it is said that the average evangelical services are conducted today, as Newman would have liked. There is hardly a university without a Newman Centre.

Newman’s emphasis on the conscience made him take his Church of England towards Rome. The watch-phrase was that the Protestant Reformation had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Their Oxford Movement, so named because many of its members were from Oxford University, was also known as The Tractarians because of their extensive use of tracts and as Newmanites showing Newman’s influence in its formation.

The Oxford Movement in 1833 began a Catholic Revival in Anglicanism because since the rift with Rome early in the sixteenth century, the Puritans (hardline Protestants) had rid Anglicanism of many Catholic articles of religion, influenced by continental reformers. The Newmanites argued for the re-inclusion of traditional catholic faith erroneously jettisoned in the heat of the Reformation. They saw Anglicanism as a third branch of the Catholic Church along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. In this view, the Anglican Communion never rejected its Catholic roots because Britain parted from Rome for political reasons unlike the Germans (Luther), French (Calvin) and Swiss (Zwingli) who parted for theological reasons.

Arguing for the reinstatement of Roman Catholic practices in the Anglican Church at some point made it impossible for Newman to reconcile Episcopal authority with Anglicanism. In 1845 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church and admitted to Roman holy orders in 1846. He was made Cardinal in Rome in 1879. Many in the Oxford movement had preceded him into the Roman Church and many followed him. The Oxford Movement itself was continued by other leaders like Edward Pusey. Newman lived a celibate life even as an Anglican, practising a monastic life. Many Anglican traditionalists felt betrayed by Newman’s defection to Rome.

Given up things of value

Newman’s great mind was felt everywhere, even in Sri Lanka. The idea that the English Reformation had given up things of value now gripped every Protestant mind. Sri Lankan missionaries had generally been protestant Methodists or from the Anglicans’ Church Missionary Society (CMS) characterized by Protestant (i.e. Low Church) practices. The great mission schools were by them. As Church of Ceylon records show, the bishops of this low-Church persuasion, soon gave way after Newman to High Church bishops who advanced Catholic teachings. I have seen an old prayer book connected to Pusey (with rubrics on when to cross ourselves and quietly say Hail Mary three times). It was promoted by one of these bishops and is still privately used by some Anglicans.

The Rev. Robert Pargiter who came as a Methodist Missionary to Sri Lanka joined the Anglican Church and was principal of St. John’s College, Jaffna (1846-66). My own ancestor, the Rev. Elijah Hoole (not to be confused with the great Methodist missionary working in Madras by that name after whom he was named) had been converted at the Methodist’s Hartley College, Point Pedro.

He was switched to Anglicanism around 1850 and worked as Tamil Pandit at St. John’s College (named after St. John the Evangelist) and later as native Pastor of the Church of St. John the Baptist, Chundicully. Even as Methodists were influenced by the Oxford Movement to see the Anglican Church as a half-way house between Methodism and Rome, others became outright Roman Catholics. We read of J. Rowley Smythe of the Ceylon Civil Service in Jaffna being received into the Roman Catholic Church with fanfare on December 8, 1869 by Rev. Fr. G. Salaun, OMI.

The greatest catch of all was the Rev. Peter Percival. He had gone to Bengal as a Methodist missionary in 1826 and was sent to Jaffna where he set up the Methodists’ premier Jaffna Central School (now Central College). Here he chaired the Tamil Bible Translation project revising the Tamil Bible, having received the authority to do so from the British Bible Society, chairing the committee of six missionaries assisted by Tamil Pandits Elijah Hoole and Arumuka Navalar. At the end of the project in 1850, Percival returned to England and, now a high-church Anglican priest, was sent to Madras by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (or SPG) in 1852 where he worked at Madras University.

The SPG was founded in 1701 by the Bishop of London for work in the Americas. The founders were on the Catholic rather than protestant side of Anglicanism and gave the society its own distinctive high-church understanding of its missionary vocation. According to Daniel O’Connor, this understanding was of an episcopally governed church working in close collaboration with the state, and a parochial system with an ordered liturgical and sacramental life and systematic education and catechesis. O’Conner says the society’s name consciously echoed the Roman Catholic “Propaganda Fide” of 1622. Despite its stress on “pastoral care, social action and supporting training programmes,” the SPG had a blemished record of owning slaves into the early nineteenth century where the death rate of slaves on SPG plantations - 4 out of 10 slaves within 3 years of arrival - was higher than on southern US plantations. As the US was shut to Anglican missionary activity after independence, the SPG was in decline.

Slavery

The Evangelicals led by William Wilberforce’s group in the British Parliament rid the British Empire of slavery. Under the influence of the Oxford movement, the SPG was a new vibrant movement, reliving its principles of service by converting drunken British dockworkers to Anglo-Catholic Christianity. Although Newman was gone, his movement within Anglicanism was afire. The SPG would in 1851 found St. Thomas’ College, perhaps the most socially sought after school in Sri Lanka. The Church of England and Henry VIII hanged Sir Thomas More as a traitor and after Rome canonized him in 1935, it took 45 years for Anglicans to add him to the Anglican Calendar of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church. Admirers of Newman hope not to wait that long to see Newman recognized for his contributions to Anglican thought and life

March 13, 2010

Sarath Fonseka refuses to appear before military tribunal

Rejects Presidential directive ordering court-martial proceedings

“Mama meka bara ganne nehe” says the General

Ex-Envoy to Canada Daya Perera may head Fonseka legal “dream team”

Retired Four – star General Sarath Fonseka has refused a directive to appear before a General Court Martial on Tuesday March 16th and Wednesday March 17th.

He has re-iterated the position he took at the recording of 'summary of evidence' that he is not covered by military law and that his arrest is illegal.

On Thursday March 11th , the Government named a three member General Court Martial presided over by Major General Harsha Weeratunga. The Court will hear five charges contained in two different Charge Sheets.

According to JVP frontliner Anura Kumara Dissanayake, former joint spokesman for retired General Fonseka, lawyers will represent the former Commander of the Army. They will object to the constitution of the General Court Martial on the grounds that it is illegal.

Among lawyers retained by retired General Fonseka is Daya Perera, PC, one of the country's best known criminal lawyers.

Until recently Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Canada, he is one of the few criminal lawyers qualified in military law in Stanmore, Middlesex, UK and spent time with the British Army of the Rhine back in the late 1960s.

A former Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, he is currently holidaying in Canada and is due back in Colombo shortly.

At forenoon last Thursday(March 11th) , retired General Sarath Fonseka had a visitor. It was at the heavily-guarded Navy Headquarters annexe where he is confined.

Major General Crishantha Silva, the Military Secretary, was to convey to him officially that he would have to face a General Court Martial. He wanted to hand over a set of documents including:

(a) A Convening Order by President Mahinda Rajapaksa (as Commander in Chief) assembling a General Court Martial to hear charges against him in the Ward Room (Officers’ Mess) of Navy Headquarters.

They were to sit on March 16 and 17. It gave the names of the President and two members, all Major Generals. It also contained the names of four more Major Generals as "Waiting Members."

(b) Charge Sheet 1 containing three charges.

(c ) Charge Sheet 2 containing two charges.

(d) Abstracts of "summary of evidence" recorded at the Ward Room of the Navy Headquarters by Chief of Staff of the Army Major General Daya Ratnayake.

The video camera of a soldier rolled, as Major General Crishantha Silva tried to convince the former Commander of the Army to accept them. His response came in both English and Sinhala. It seemed senior Army officials wanted to have some evidence that Gen. (retd.) Fonseka was indeed directed to appear before a General Court Martial.

"I am not under legal arrest," he intoned and added "mama meka baara ganney nehe (I am not accepting this). Maj. Gen. Silva walked away with the documents in his hand.

After much deliberation among senior Army officers, Government officials and legal advisors, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, signed a convening order for assembling a General Court Martial.

Major General Harsha Weeratunga will be the President. He is Director General, Financial Management at Army Headquarters. Weeratunga is also the brother in law of Army commander Lt.General Jagath Jayasuriya.

Other members are Major General Lalith Wijetunga, Quarter Master General at Army Headquarters and Major General Aruna Jayatilake, Commandant, Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force. (SLAVF). The latter replaced another Major General who was earlier selected.

The original plan to appoint a tri-services General Court Martial with acting Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Roshan Gunatilake, as President had to be abandoned.

This was after Government's legal advisors pointed out that the Army Act, which was the first to become law, had no provision for a tri-service court martial to try offences committed by those in the Army.

However, such provision was available in both the Air Force and the Navy Act that had become law later. This was how a naval rating who tried to assault the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with a rifle butt in Colombo in July 1987 was tried by a tri-services court martial. It had been constituted under the Navy Act.

The Convening Order named Rear Admiral Shamindra Fernando as the Judge Advocate. He is a volunteer naval officer and is attached to the Attorney General's Department. His task will be to give advice to the court on questions of law or procedure relating to the charges. He is empowered to invite the attention of the court to any irregularity in the proceedings. He could question witnesses on any relevant matter and if felt necessary by the court sum up the evidence and advice upon the law relating to the case.

The names of four Majors- General have been listed as ‘Waiting Members.’ This is in keeping with Court Martial Regulations where an accused who challenges the composition of the General Court Martial could opt for a name from "Waiting Members." The four are Major General M.P. Peiris, Major General Lalith Daulagala, Major General M. Hathurusinghe and Major General Kamal Gunaratne.

However, the need for such a move will not arise in this instance. Gen. (retd.) Fonseka has taken up the position that he is not liable for any action under military laws since his retirement. He boycotted the recording of "summary of evidence." Thus, he wants to keep away from the General Court Martial too.

A significant feature of the Convening Order by President Rajapaksa is the following assertion. He has said, "I am of the opinion having regard to the exigencies of service the aforementioned officers shall constitute the members of the Court Martial, as officers of equal rank to that of the accused officer above named are not available."

This clearly showed that the Government wanted to appoint a General Court Martial comprising members in the same rank as General Fonseka. However, they could not find officers in the rank of four star Generals. Hence, they settled for the closest rank by naming three Major Generals.

Provision for such appointments under "exigencies of service" is contained in Section 6 (2) of the Subsidiary Legislation under the Army Act (The Court Martial - General and District - Regulations). It says: "The members of a court martial for the trial of an officer shall be of an equal, if not superior, rank to that officer, unless in the opinion of the convening officer to be stated in the order convening the court, officers of that rank are not, having regard to the exigencies of the service, available."

When the General Court Martial begins on Tuesday, it will first hear indictments against retired General Fonseka contained in Charge Sheet 1. On Wednesday, it will take up accusations against him in Charge Sheet 2.

Confirmation that the retired General will not attend the General Court Martial came at a news conference on Friday. JVP's Anura Kumara Dissanayake, joint spokesperson for Gen. (retd.) Fonseka at the Presidential elections, said lawyers would attend the Court Martial hearing (on behalf of Gen. (retd.) Fonseka) and challenge the "legality of trying the former Army Commander before a Bench comprising officers junior to him in rank."

He claimed that there was no provision in the Army Act to arraign him before a Court Martial and such a trial was "illegal." Hence, he said, the retired General would not attend hearings.

Gen. (retd.) Fonseka's absence at the General Court Martial will not impede proceedings. Army officials are likely to place a loudspeaker at his annexe for Gen. (retd.) Fonseka to follow the proceedings.

In addition, on Tuesday, a Major General will visit him to escort him to the Ward Room nearby (Officers’ Mess) where proceedings will be held. If he refuses, the officer concerned will report to Court that the accused has declined to attend court. Thereafter, the court is likely to resume proceedings in absentia.

Since investigations are still in progress on some serious allegations against retired General Fonseka, charges on these matters before the General Court Martial will not materialise.

Instead, Government's legal advisors have recommended that such charges be framed under civil laws when inquiries are complete. These relate to allegations of a conspiracy to overthrow the Government and an alleged attempt to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) are continuing investigations into these aspects. Also being investigated are a number of other deals by Hicorp (Pvt) Ltd., a company associated with retired General Fonseka's son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne.

This week, TID detectives recorded statements from three journalists who were closely associated with General (retd.) Fonseka. They are Ruwan Weerakoon, Prasanna Fonseka and his brother Mihiri Fonseka.

On Thursday, Military Spokesman Major General Prasad Samarasinghe announced at a news conference at the MCNS (Media Centre for National Security) the composition of the General Court Martial. Though he gave the legal provisions, under which retired General Fonseka was being tried he declined to reveal the exact charges.

The General Court Martial would take up for hearing three different charges on Charge Sheet 1. On Wednesday, they will take up the two charges in Charge Sheet 2.

CHARGE SHEET -ONE

CHARGE SHEET 1 - The first charge, is said to relate to remarks General Fonseka, who was then serving as Chief of Defence Staff, had made to one time United National Party Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando. He has since joined the UPFA Government.

This is before Gen. Fonseka returned to Sri Lanka from a visit to the United States in October last year. He has spoken on the telephone and made what is being described by Army sources as some "sensitive and serious remarks."

These sources charged that the remarks were "traitorous and disloyal words." Johnston Fernando has claimed that Gen. Fonseka had a lengthy telephone conversation with him when he testified before Major General Daya Ratnayake who recorded "summary of evidence." He has in his testimony given details of the utterances made by the former CDS.

This is alleged to be a violation of Section 124 of the Army Act which deals with "traitorous words." It says: "Every person subject to military law who uses traitorous or disloyal words regarding the Sovereign shall be guilty of a military offence and shall, on conviction by a court martial, be liable, if he is an officer, to be cashiered or to suffer any less severe punishment in the scale set out in section 133, and, if he is a soldier, to suffer simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or any less severe punishment in the scale set out in section 133."

The second charge , relates to General Fonseka, whilst serving as Chief of Defence Staff, sought the help of former UNP Kurunegala district Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando to have his name proposed at the UNP Working Committee as the Presidential candidate. The third charge, these sources revealed, relates to having political discussions with former UNP Parliamentarian Lakshman Seneviratne whilst serving as Chief of Defence Staff. Seneviratne has confirmed these discussions and what Gen. (retd.) Fonseka told him when he testified before Maj. Gen. Daya Ratnayake who was recording "summary of evidence."

Gen. Fonseka had been in constant touch with Seneviratne before he retired as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

On some occasions, Gen. Fonseka had sent his own CDMA telephone to Seneviratne through an intermediary, a journalist in an English Sunday weekly, to continue the dialogue.

It had been at a later stage that Gen. Fonseka had made contact with opposition leaders, a move that paved the way for the opposition coalition that backed him at the January Presidential elections.

Both Johnston Fernando and Lakshman Seneviratne are expected to testify at the General Court Martial.

Both the second and third charges in Charge Sheet 1, relate to Section 102 (1) of the Army Act. Titled "neglect to obey garrison or other orders," this section says: "Every person subject to military law who neglects to obey any general or garrison or other order shall be guilty of a military offence and shall, on conviction by a court martial, be liable, if he is an officer, to be cashiered or to suffer any less severe punishment in the scale set out in section 133 and, if he is a soldier, to suffer simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years."

CHARGE SHEET – TWO

CHARGE SHEET 2 - The two charges in Charge Sheet 2 deal with transactions the Sri Lanka Army has involved itself with Hicorp (Pvt.) Ltd., where Gen. (retd.) Fonseka's son-in-law, Danuna Tillekeratne is involved. It is alleged that Gen. Fonseka committed "fraudulent acts."

The first deal relates to the procurement of fifty 5 KVA power generators from the Australian based firm British Borneo Defence through Hicorp (Pvt.) Ltd. As Chairman of the Tender Board, General Fonseka awarded the tender to this company though he was aware that his son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne had an interest or concern.

Despite knowledge of his son-in-law's involvement, he had not dissociated himself from chairing the Tender Board in contravention of procurement guidelines. General Fonseka had allegedly concealed the relationship until he retired in November last year.

The second deal involves the awarding of a tender to Hicorp (Pvt.) Ltd. to supply Sri Lanka Army with three VHF Direction Finders. It had been made through British Borneo Defence in Australia.

Though General Fonseka had full knowledge that the local company was linked to his son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne, he had chaired the Tender Board that had awarded the tender to the local company. He had concealed this relationship until he retired in November last year.

The Army says that Gen. Fonseka's actions in these two deals contravene Section 109 (e) of the Army Act, which deals with "Disgraceful Conduct." It says "Every person subject to military law who….. (e) commits any other fraudulent act herein before not particularly specified, or any act of a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind……. shall be guilty of a military offence and shall, on conviction by a court martial, be liable to suffer simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or any less severe punishment in the scale set out in section 133."

Section 133 deals with Scale of Punishment by a Court Martial. In a descending order of severity, it lays down what may be inflicted on officers convicted by a court martial. They include death, rigorous imprisonment, simple imprisonment, cashiering, dismissal from the Army, forfeiture in the prescribed manner, of seniority of rank……, severe reprimand, reprimand, or such penal deductions from pay as are authorised by the Army Act.

It is not immediately clear whether the General Court Martial sittings on Tuesday and Wednesday, inquiring into two different Charge Sheets, will conclude their sittings on the same day. A legal source said yesterday "it all depends on how much evidence they are able to lead. If it is not possible to finish on the same day, it could continue for days," the source added.

A team of lawyers are to appear before the General Court Martial on Tuesday and Wednesday. The retired General's backers have retained the services of President's Counsel Daya Perera. Until last year, he was Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Canada. The task for Gen. Fonseka's legal counsel on Tuesday and Wednesday would be to raise objections on the grounds that his arrest is and the constitution of the court are both illegal. It is on the same grounds that General Fonseka has refused to take part in the proceedings.

If found guilty on the charges levelled against him, the first consequence General Fonseka faces is cashiering. That means he will no longer be entitled to use the decorations of RWP (Rana Wickrema Padakkama), RSP (Rana Soora Padakkama), and VSV (Vishista Seva Vibushanaya). He will also not be able to use the terms rcds (Royal College of Defence Studies) and psc (Passed Staff College).

It was barely a year ago that General Fonseka was hailed as a war hero. Within weeks he will not be even a common man but a convict if charges against him are proved. That is the fate of a man who was once hailed as the best Army Commander in the world.

(COMPILED FRON NEWSPAPER REPORTS AND ARTICLES IN THE “SUNDAY TIMES”)

No funds to meet needs of nearly 200,000 Northern IDPs due to govt refusal to endorse 2010 action plan

By Namini Wijedasa

With nearly 200,000 people still displaced in the North — some living in temporary camps while others squat with host families — international agencies are running out of money to meet urgent needs like water supply and resettlement grants, according to a report released last week.

The funding crisis follows the government’s refusal to endorse the 2010 Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP), authoritative sources said. Produced annually through a collaboration of all major humanitarian assistance groups in the country (including UN agencies), the CHAP is a document listing out priority areas for donor funding along with estimates. This is usually released to the international donor community by way of consolidated or flash appeal and offers information about sectors that require injections of aid.

In Sri Lanka, the CHAP is developed under the leadership of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The last appeal should have been sent to Geneva in January - or earlier - but has not been endorsed by the government which feels the mechanism is useless. Consequently, there is still no consolidated appeal for humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka this year.

LAKBIMAnEWS learns that the OCHA was in negotiations with the government until last week to have the document released after approval. But on Friday, a letter was issued to the OCHA by the presidential task force headed by Basil Rajapaksa saying the CHAP was no longer necessary. The government’s contention is that humanitarian and other assistance for the North and East should be channelled through the task force and line ministries rather than via the OCHA.

Authoritative sources said that the government was keen to put its stamp on development and other work carried out in the North, particularly during election time. “The government feels it would not be politically helpful for the population to think a lot of work is being carried out by non governmental agencies,” one UN source pointed out.

Against this backdrop, the Joint Humanitarian Update produced by the UN, other leading agencies and NGOs for the fortnight of 13 to 26 February indicates in understated language that a lack of funds may cause “gaps” to emerge in child protection and psychosocial counselling as well as prevention of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence. It adds that a closure or scaling down of projects across sectors — particularly education, health, food and nutrition — may have a detrimental impact on the overall protection environment.

Shortage

The report also discloses that, even as IDPs leave Menik Farm, a shortage of teachers continues to affect education services for children remaining at the camp. While a pool of volunteer teachers will be trained to fill this requirement, “decreasing funds will limit the scale of remuneration that can be offered to the group”.

Funding shortages are affecting the continued provision of water, sanitation and health services at Menik Farm, it states. The bowser fleet capacity had decreased by 50 percent at the end of February. Consequently, the supply standard of 10 litres per person is no longer being achieved.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board have also suspended its bowsers due to lack of funds. Aid agencies warn that the maintenance and decommissioning of water, sanitation and health facilities at Menik Farm, water bowsering and waste management are threatened by a lack of funding after March and April. As of 1 March, only three agencies are engaged in shelter maintenance at Menik Farm with the absence of funds compelling other shelter agencies to stop their activities.

The Joint Humanitarian Update states that 99,066 people are still accommodated in temporary camps at Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna. Menik Farm houses a majority of them, numbering 93,926.

While 183,755 people have been released and returned in Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, only 83,720 of them have been resettled in their places of origin. A staggering 98,843 are still living with host families. This would mean that nearly 200,000 people remain displaced.

Zone 5 in Menik Farm is now being used as a collection centre for IDPs during return movements, allowing them access to water and sanitation while they await transport to their districts of origin. The provision of cooked meals for IDPs at this centre may cease due to lack of funds.

Exceeded capacities

The report states that, although a number of NGOs have received approval to implement projects in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu, “capacity” remains limited. “With increasing IDP returns to these areas, the need for shelter and water, sanitation and health facilities has exceeded capacities available on the ground,” it says.

Asked to clarify the couched terminology of the report, an authoritative UN official admitted on condition of anonymity that the resources of many humanitarian agencies dealing with IDPs are depleted.

“We are running into funding difficulties in some areas including activities we have been supporting at Menik Farm and in resettlement areas,” she said. “In resettlement areas, a critical gap is related to the cash grant for shelters. There are also gaps in assistance towards agriculture. We have received about five times the amount of requests that we have funding for.”

The official said some agencies were “on their last weeks of funding” and that it would then be the government’s responsibility to continue the services these organisations had been providing. “The government has indicated in our negotiations that it is willing and capable of doing that,” she noted. “It has already put substantial resources into Menik Farm and resettlement areas but the UN and non governmental organisations have also contributed substantially.”

At present, some agencies were drawing on leftover funds while others were spending monies directly contributed by donors bypassing the CHAP mechanism. The OCHA has also briefed donors to “try and cover the most urgent gaps” until an understanding is reached with the government about the way forward.

IDPs reeling -- no money - donors notified

Supply of water, sanitation and health facilities may grind to a halt for IDPs.
The UN and other humanitarian agencies are running out of resources to meet the urgent needs of internally displaced persons in the North.

Among the services hit by depleted funds are the supply of water to the nearly 100,000 IDPs remaining at Menik Farm in Vauniya.

Aid agencies warn that the maintenance and distribution of water, sanitation and health facilities at Menik Farm, water bowser facilities and waste management etc., are threatened by a lack of funds. As of 1 March, only three agencies are engaged in shelter maintenance at Menik Farm with the absence of funds compelling other relief agencies to stop their activities.

The fortnightly Joint Humanitarian Update released by the Inter Agency Standing Committee also stated that a closure or scaling down of projects across sectors — particularly education, health, food and nutrition — may have a detrimental impact on the overall relief environment.

The 2010 Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP) is produced annually through a collaboration of all major humanitarian assistance groups in the country (including UN agencies). The CHAP is a document listing out priority areas for donor funding along with estimates. This is usually released to the international donor community by way of consolidated or flash appeal, and offers information about sectors that require injections of aid.

In Sri Lanka, the CHAP is developed under the leadership of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The last appeal should have been sent to Geneva in January, or earlier - but has not been endorsed by the authorities who feel the mechanism is useless. Consequently, there is still no consolidated appeal for humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka this year.

LAKBIMAnEWS learns that the OCHA was in negotiations with the authorities until last week to have the CHAP document released after approval. The contention of the authorities is that humanitarian and other assistance for the North and East should be channelled through the task force and line ministries rather than via the OCHA.

In its report last week the IASC also warns that a lack of funds may cause “gaps” to emerge in child protection and psychosocial counselling, as well as prevention of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence. Funding shortages are affecting the continued provision of water, sanitation and health services at Menik Farm, it states. The bowser fleet capacity had decreased by 50 percent at the end of February. Consequently, the supply standard of 10 litres per person is no longer being achieved. ~ courtesy: The Lakbima News ~

How student "Mithuro" from Kollupitiya met their counterpart "Mithirar" in Kalmunai

by Capt. Elmo Jayawardena

There are three huge hundred year old ancient nuga trees growing in a sandy patch by the Wesley School in Kalmunai. The space is seraphic and is shaded by the giant tree trio standing like sentinels. It is a kind of "all purpose" ground where children gather to play. The nuga custodians symbolises a very important lesson to all of us. One has a palm tree shooting up to the clear blue sky right from its belly, maybe some bird dropped a seed and the palm grew without an objection for intruding.

The other has a well spread tamarind tree entwined branch to branch with the old Nuga companion, sharing the same space and shading the same good earth.

The third has all kinds of small and big stumps and stalks sprouting from all over, ferns and vines, strangers as they grow in complete harmony on the Nuga foster parent.

It is only us, the so called "very intelligent human beings" who flew to the moon, transplanted human hearts and strut in Saville Row civilization who find it difficult to appreciate the simplicity of congruence.

CandleAid started the project; ‘Uniting Children" under the adage "Peace begins with me" by opening 28 libraries from Jaffna to Kalmunai via Trincomalee.

The soul of the effort being to link children in peace, and Methodist College, Colombo, was invited to carry the first olive branch and dove their way to Kalmunai to meet their counterparts.

On a clear February morning they drove from Colombo to the east, the "Metho Mithuro" looking for their "Wesley School Koottalikal". The Colombo girls in jade green ties were led by Nishika, an "A" level student and were accompanied by two teachers. They had two girls who spoke Tamil, great way to start friendships.

The entire project from its infancy was totally supported by the sterling leadership of the Methodist College Principal who believed in positive possibilities and worked with CandleAid people. She and her teachers and students gifted a sincere meaning to the belief "Peace begins with me."

On the eastern side, Wesley School from Kalmunai came to play host to the friends from Colombo. Here again it was the Head of the school and the staff who committed themselves wholeheartedly to set the tone for the links of friendship to begin.

That’s the platform, now let me tell you the story

At a time when politics take center stage with promises galore on initiating progress and everyone cashing on the war victory, we should also ask the question. When the battle dust settles, is it peace?

Do we have equality?

Are we really two people, the ones that love the country and the ones that don’t?

The answer is not simple.

Too many bullets have been fired and too many graves have been filled by the young and the innocent. The battle scars have created gigantic gashes amongst the races that will take decades to heal. Circumstantial hatreds do not evaporate easily, unless we as individuals stand up and say "Peace begins with me."

Real peace is not ushered by the end of a battle. We all need to do intensive soul searching and come up with answers that would pave the way for reconciliation. If and when Wijayanayaka gets back to his friendship with Somasundaram and visits Velvettiturai, like old times and loafs around in his friend’s old Austin Cambridge that would be peace. Or a Balendran flies Mig jets for the Air Force and Gunendran is an officer cadet in the army that would be peace; as long as both Balendran and Gunendran do not come from Royal College but from Jaffna Central. Maybe a Kalamathy from Thalaimannar arrives in Colombo to study medicine sans a shred of fear; that would be a better definition of peace, the sincerely sought and the lasting kind.

The battles were fought to end a thirty year old conflict that had almost burnt this beautiful country and divided its people. The war is over, that we all know. Yes, we hope for peace, pray for peace and seek peace, but the main question is; are we doing enough to find more meaningful and lasting ways to co-exist?

It is the interaction that we lack now. The fundamental need among all Sri Lankans from all races is to strip ourselves of the fragments of disunity and pick up the pieces for real peace. And that can mainly be done by the people and not by "powers that be" policy which at a grassroots level does become at most times irrelevant and meaningless.

We hate some people because we do not know them, and we will not know them, because we hate them; this applies fair and square to both parties.

They met in the school premises, Mithuro from Methodist College and the Koottalikal from Wesley High School. The conversation was sprinkled with Akka, Malli, Nangi and Thangachchi. The smiles came easy and winsome and reached eyes that sparkled in friendship. The teachers were there too, along with the team from CandleAid, all joining in a new found soft and gentle step for peace sans the pomp and the pageantry. A day’s program had been laid and it was totally geared to cement the friendships of the students of these two schools.

A fresh beginning, a new page and a new and simple concept to tell the rest of the country that it is possible to say "Peace begins with me."

The girls from Colombo brought books to supplement the CandleAid Library that was opened at Wesley School. The two teams worked together and made paper flowers and arranged them in two pots, one to be kept in Kollupitiya and the other in Kalmunai.

This was primarily to signify the memory of a journey by children across three decades of terror and turmoil. They dug the ground together and planted four mango trees, or "trees of peace" they called it. One day the mangoes will come, fruits of labour and someone might remember the friends who came from Colombo to clasp fingers and talk peace.

The students drew pictures together, depicting a theme of unity and pinned badges on each other which had a dove with an olive branch and the message in clear letters which said "Peace Begins with me." The teachers were absolutely wonderful, filling the blanks and adding words of encouragement.

There are no words to quantify such beauty among people. There can only be hope that others will follow. Thirty envelopes were given to the Kalmunai School, each carrying a name and an address of a Metho student that a Wesley girl will write to and become friends with. They then will visit Colombo in April, to take part in an art exhibition and will meet their new found friends. More events will follow, linking the students of these two schools, paving the way for uniting them as children of a land that needs the future to be blessed with harmony.

Maybe the three ancient Nuga trees watched the children in friendly chatter, wearing badges that said "peace begins with me." They would have seen the laughter and the camaraderie and the once separated strangers of different races coming together in their little attempt to change the sad and sardonic ethnic equation.

Maybe they heard too the girls when they said in their youthful clear voices "we took a small step towards a giant leap which we hope others will follow"

Many little people in many little places do many little things that can change the world. I am sure the ancient nuga trees would have been thrilled that this happened in their shadow.

Kalmunai was one library, four more were opened in the next two days, Natpittymunai, Mylampaveli, Mich Nagar and Morokoddanchenai. So much more could be done, so much more will be done. It is all a matter of believing "Peace begins with me."

Time for Sri Lanka to stop search for external enemies and turn the searchlight inwards

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The Sri Lankan discourse on war crimes, violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in general, divide into two camps, both of which demonise the other. One holds that the entire matter is a campaign by imperialism and its agents; human rights is itself a suspicious Western usage if not a concept invented millennia ago by us Asians (perhaps even the Sinhala Buddhists) which we need no lectures on— and the only response we need give is to "just say no", which we can with a little help from our (Asian or Third World) friends.

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[United Nations Human Rights Council special session on Sri Lanka, in Geneva on May 26, 2009.-pic: Getty images]

The opposing school of thought is that Sri Lanka is a human rights hellhole and either became so during whichever the administration the critic is not in sympathy with at this moment, or has been so for most of its existence— and can be redeemed only with more than a little help from our (Western) friends.

What, however, are the facts? Given the nature of the Tigers and the repeated experience of successive Sri Lankan administrations, there was no negotiated solution possible or desirable at any stage of the final conflict. Any such attempt would have provided an exit for the Tigers.

Given that the Tigers were an army or armed militia with a small navy and a fledgling air-force, the state had to fight a full-on war to its logical conclusion, with the aim of the military destruction of the enemy. While political multi-polarity is healthy, military bipolarity is not permissible within a state; certainly on a small island-state.

Given that the Tigers had fielded more suicide bombers than any and all other terrorist groups put together, and that the stated Tiger strategy involved (what ‘Taraki’ called) ‘asymmetric deterrence’, i.e. deep, destructive terror strikes into the ‘Sinhala heartland’, it was necessary to uproot and eliminate the LTTE suicide cells and extensive clandestine network.

No war takes place in a vacuum. The assertion that with the Tigers encircled, it would have been possible to have a less bloody outcome, and therefore the endgame that actually took place needs be investigated as a war crime or violation of international humanitarian law, is sheer nonsense, for three reasons:

Firstly, the lesson of twentieth century history is that a ‘textbook fascist’ force as The Economist (London) admits the Tigers were, has to be utterly decimated.

Secondly, the Sri Lankan forces had to operate according to a tightening time table not of their own choosing, as regional and sub-regional politics as well as mounting international pressure, gave the State a narrowing window of opportunity. It was a neck-and-neck race between the historic chance of finishing off the Tigers and concerted international pressure interrupting the offensive as once before, or retarding its momentum. If not for these external factors acting as accelerants, the war could/would probably have taken another month to finish, with greater circumspection.

Thirdly, at no time were civilians wittingly targeted as a matter of policy, nor were civilians boxed in and deprived of an exit by the state, as was not the case in a war that took place around the same time and is being rightly investigated by a probe initiated by the self-same UN Human Rights Council which gave Sri Lanka a 29-12 majority vote. It is the Tiger terrorists who were keeping the civilians hostage while the Sri Lankan military was trying to help them escape.

This having been said, it is also necessary to draw attention to the fact that in no civilised democracy is the allegation of war crimes or human rights violations made by an ex-military officer or even a serving one, treated as treason and cause for prosecution! After the recent Gaza war, several serving members of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) told the press that a certain Rabbi had been giving them ‘spiritual instructions’ that it was ok to kill Palestinian civilians. Others testified that certain orders were given which were at best, ambiguous, in relation to civilians and could have led to incidents of killings.

Years before, a group of helicopter pilots of the Israeli Air Force signed a public petition refusing to engage in ground attack operations in built up civilian areas. In none of these incidents were any of the servicemen prosecuted for revealing military secrets. When there was an outcry over the massacres at Sabra and Shatila in the aftermath of Israel’s Lebanon War of 1982, Israel held a much publicised inquiry in which General Ariel Sharon, war hero, was named as one of those responsible.

In the United States, servicemen have confessed about civilian killings even on prime time TV. Far from being locked up, they have been questioned, those allegedly responsible investigated, taken into custody and prosecuted (though the allegation is that sentences have been light and there is a virtual revolving back door). Some incidents involving civilian deaths, such as the infamous killings during Baghdad traffic jam by Blackwater ‘security contractors’ (i.e. mercenaries) have led to hearings before the US legislature.

Therefore, today’s Sri Lanka has a grotesque uniqueness in its response to Ret General Fonseka’s sporadic statements about war crimes. Those statements are as ironic as they are reprehensible —ironic because he was responsible for the toughest policies and practices during the war and would permit no softening – there is no reason to behave like a lynch mob and call for his burning at the stake.

This official response only marks us out as having failed to be aware of and catch up with modern norms of conduct on matters of accountability, and damages our image in the eyes of the world. As I had warned earlier, it is not so much Gen Fonseka’s allegations but the deafeningly loud trumpeting of those allegations as a betrayal of national military secrets, followed by prosecution on the same grounds, that has escalated the international push on the issue (this time at the level of the UN Sec Gen).

The issues of accountability will be dealt with by each society at its own pace, and in accordance with its own imperatives. The UK has still to conclude its second inquiry into the killing of unarmed civilians in broad daylight, on Bloody Sunday 1972! Many societies find organic ways of catharsis and conciliation.

In order to get the war crimes/human rights pressure off Sri Lanka, it is imperative to realise that such pressures are a symptom and by-product of something having gone wrong in our external relations and our ability to communicate with the world. There is a growing deficit of Sri Lanka’s ‘soft power’ and conspicuous failure in the realm of ‘the New Public Diplomacy’ (both phrases of Harvard’s Prof Joseph Nye).

Learning from our experience in Geneva, I propose a third position, which consists of five propositions and proposals as solution.

1. There must be a substantive difference between our wartime and post war policies, though two factors must remain, namely, no polarising rake-up of the past and no intrusion into national sovereignty.

2. It is not necessary however, to stonewall, as we did and had to, during the war. There has to be an authentic, manifest, unilateral liberalisation in our attitudes and policies on human rights.

3. Just saying ‘No’, and giving not merely the West but the UN the finger, is not a solution. Many of our friends and allies will not want to get into a squabble with the UN and its Secy Gen on our behalf. Those who fought alongside us diplomatically during the war may not do so during peacetime, especially if that peace drags on without reconciliation and normalcy. Furthermore, as Sudan realised, sometimes even one’s friends do not wish to get into a punch up with the West on one’s behalf if they have bigger fish to fry.

4. The only real antidote against external pressures on accountability and human rights is to have strong, credible national institutions and mechanisms. Sri Lanka does not have a national human rights body which fits this description, though arguably there was once an approximation. The country needs a strong, independent Commission on Human Rights, Equality and Elimination of Discrimination headed by a person with international credentials and of acknowledged international stature, or the appointment of such a personage as a powerful National Ombudsman on Human Rights.

5. Cooperate with the Asian region and the global South on matters of human rights. It is not enough to countervail Western pressure; it is necessary to adhere to evolving consensual norms in Asia and the global South. ASEAN already has a human rights charter, and the African Union has a mechanism which was one of the examples for the Universal Periodic Review adopted by the UN Human Rights Council. Build up South-South linkages and learn "best practices" from the democracies of the global South such as Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Philippines etc.

Those ‘nationalists’ who propose a ‘national’ solution for everything, have failed to call for the strengthening of the national human rights institutions, and mechanisms; a strengthening that is possible only by the appointment of an independent body with ‘teeth’, consisting of distinguished nationals who have brought honour to their country of origin by performance and recognition in the global arena.

What stands between Sri Lanka and the full reintegration as a normal and successful member of the international system, is not only the prejudice of the West but the perniciousness of our own dominant ideology; our own mindset. John Stockwell, a dissenting former CIA employee, blew the whistle on America’s tacit support for apartheid South Africa in Angola, in a book he entitled ‘In Search of Enemies’. He was referring to the mindset in the White House.

It is time to for Sri Lanka to stop the search for enemies and ‘turn the searchlight inwards’. I believe what ails us is already best defined in a comparative analysis (which makes no reference to Sri Lanka) by Professor Fred Halliday, renowned radical scholar of international relations at the LSE, writing in Open Democracy on ‘The Miscalculations of Small Nations’. He describes the phenomenon as ‘the puff of ideology... self-inflating’ and a ‘delusion’, arguing that:

‘...the responsibility devolves onto the self-inflating nationalist ideology ...with its heady mix of vanity, presumption and miscalculation...If the supreme responsibility of democratic leaders is indeed to protect their own peoples, then the briefest of comparative overview can show just how pernicious the impact of the kind of nationalist delusion...The chief agent of destruction is not to be found in "culture" (in the guise of religion or some other vague source of identity) but in the arrogance, recklessness and ignorance born of nationalist excess - which, to be sure, often uses religion and associated "cultural" offerings as part of its packaging.........

True, such miscalculations about the capabilities of one’s own forces and the reactions of others are not confined to small nations. Most major nations have many and larger blunders to their name...The difference is that except in the most extreme of cases - notably Nazi Germany - these large states have been able to recuperate their losses and in large measure continue to inhabit their illusions of grandeur. Smaller peoples pay a higher price... [Sakaashvili’s] entrapment in nationalist delusion was always going to backfire.’

Human Rights are not a Western invention or booby-trap, to be decried and shunned like the devil. Though there is a constant attempt to use human rights as an instrument to undermine national sovereignty, the answer is not to shun human rights or to pretend that these are intrinsically inscribed in our culture and therefore automatically observed, but to protect them ourselves and to maintain verifiably high standards of human rights observance nationally.

While it is true that the West uses human rights in a duplicitous manner, the answer is not merely to content ourselves with exposing and denouncing that duplicity as we must (and I did, in my turn) but to observe and protect those rights in a manner that is other than duplicitous and hypocritical.

The answer to duplicity and hypocrisy is not counter-duplicity but sincerity and truth. The great African liberation fighter Amilcar Cabral said that ‘tell no lies, claim no easy victories — the best propaganda is the truth’. He had a resonance which catalysed a revolution in the colonial country, Portugal, which was oppressing his own.

The vital lesson is to hold the moral high ground. During the war Sri Lanka held that ground, not because of some innate moral virtue deriving from intrinsic cultural superiority but because of the demonstrably fascist character of our enemy, the Tigers.

Today that moral high ground must be recaptured and can be done so only by our own positive efforts, not by reference to the negative attributes of a defeated enemy, nor attributing the same qualities to whoever comes along to criticise us. Human rights are not the preserve of West or East, North or South; they are universal and derive from the universality of the human condition.

Human beings are possessed of certain inalienable rights. What is most important is not that we are ‘Sri Lankan’ (a ‘karmic’ circumstance, surely) but that we are human, and even more basically, sentient beings.

[The writer was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Geneva during the Special Session of May 2009, and was a Vice President of the UN Human Rights Council].

Purported Arrest and Continued Detention of Sarath Fonseka is entirely Contrary to Law and Justice

By Sarath Nanda Silva

Every living being by nature cherishes liberty, security and freedom of movement. Law evolved as an instrument of regulation of human conduct and recognized from the earliest times that certain rights pertain by nature to all members of the human family. This body of rights that stem from Natural Law is appropriately designated Human Rights.

The United Nations being the foremost international organization, established in the aftermath of the holocaust – the 2nd World War, as its first official act in December 1948 adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its Preamble specifically states that the Declaration is a “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family (and) is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the World”.

The Preamble further states that the “disregard and contempt for Human Rights resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”, alluding thereby to the repressive fascist regimes being the cause of the War and that, “it is essential if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that Human Rights should be protected by the Rule of Law”.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration states that everyone has a right to life, liberty and security of person and Article 9 provides that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

The Human Rights stated in broad terms in the Universal Declaration were legally defined in two Covenants adopted by the United Nations in December 1966. Sri Lanka being an original State party to the Universal Declaration acceded to the two Covenants in June 1980. The Covenant relevant to the issues addressed in this article is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Article 9 of the ICCPR provides that;

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person and no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention and the deprivation of liberty shall be only on grounds and that in accordance with the procedure established by law;

2. Anyone arrested shall be informed at the time of arrest the reasons for his arrest and promptly informed of any charges against him and be brought before a judge or an officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power who will decide on the question of release or continued detention of such person.

Human Rights which assure liberty and freedom from arbitrary and illegal arrest stem from the Magna Carta (Ch 39) decreed in England in the year 1215; Declaration of the Rights of Man (paragraph VII) made by the National Assembly of France in 1792 in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Fifth (1791) and the Fourteenth (1868) Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America.

Our Constitution of 1978 has substantially incorporated the content of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration and the ICCPR and guaranteed by Article 13 the freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. It is pertinent to note here that Sri Lanka having acceded to the ICCPR in 1980 is obliged in terms of Article 40 to report on the measures taken to give effect to the rights recognized in the Covenant.

Since there were complaints of non compliance, the ICCPR Act No 56 of 2007 was enacted by Parliament to give effect to certain Articles of the ICCPR. Thereafter, an opinion was sought by the President from the Supreme Court as to compliance by Sri Lanka and the positive opinion given by the bench of 5 Judges presided by me was submitted to the European Union to avert a suspension of the GSP+ facility in 2008. It appears that this position has now reversed and the GSP+ facility is being suspended by the EU. Be that as it may the Fundamental Rights as contained in Article 13(1) and (2) of our Constitution which guarantee freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention read as follows;

1. “No person shall be arrested except according to procedure established by law. Any person arrested shall be informed of the reason for his arrest.”

2. “Every person held in custody, detained or otherwise deprived of personal liberty shall be brought before the judge of the nearest competent court according to procedure established by law, and shall not be further held in custody, detained or deprived of personal liberty except upon and in terms of the order of such judge made in accordance with procedure established by law.”

The procedure established by our law for the arrest and detention of a person reasonably suspected of having committed any offence is contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure Code Act No 15 of 1979. The very clear sequence of provisions in Section 109 of the Code lay down the procedure for the investigation of an offence leading to the arrest of the suspected offender. Section 32 states the manner of making an arrest and Section 37 provides that any person arrested and held in custody shall be produced before a Magistrate within 24 hours.

The purported arrest and detention of General Sarath Fonseka, the unsuccessful candidate at the Presidential Election, who has challenged in Court the validity of the result of the elections and the manner in which the counting of votes was done, within a period of 12 days of the Election, has been done manifestly contrary to the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 13(1) and 13(2) of the Constitution and the Human Rights recognized and agreed to by the Government of Sri Lanka as contained in Article 9 of the Universal Declaration and the ICCPR.

The procedure followed in the purported arrest and continued detention is contrary to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act. The person who purported to make the arrest is not an officer authorized to do so under the Code and the General has now been continuously held in custody for a period of over one month without being produced before a Judge or a competent Court as required by Article 13(2) of the Constitution, Article 9(3) of the ICCPR and Section 37 of the Code.

It is claimed that the arrest of the retired 4 star General was done and he is detained in terms of the Army Act (Cap. 625). The Army Act was enacted by Parliament in 1949 soon after gaining independence for the purpose of raising and maintaining an Army for Ceylon as the country was then known.

The only explicit provision in the Army Act which authorizes an arrest is contained in Section 150 which relates to deserters and absentees without leave. A police officer or in the absence of a police officer, an officer or soldier of the Army is authorized to arrest a deserter or absentee without leave and to forthwith produce such person before a Magistrates Court.

Then there is provision for the hearing of evidence by the Magistrates Court and further orders being made. It is clear that the retired 4 star General has not had the benefit of procedural safeguards applicable in relation to a deserter or absentee without leave.

A broad provision as to persons liable to be taken to military custody is contained in Section 35 of the Army Act which provides that “a person subject to Military Law who commits any military or civil offence may be taken into military custody”. Section 57 extends the application of Section 35 to a period even after the person ceases to be subject to military law but in respect of offences committed whilst he was subject to military law.

Hence the principal issue to be considered before one gets into the realm of offences, charges and so on, is whether General Sarath Fonseka was ‘ a person subject to military law’ when he functioned as the Commander of the Army and later as the Chief of Defense Staff.

There is no complexity in deciding this issue since Part VII of the Act is itself titled “Persons subject to Military Law”. Section 34 of this Part states that for the purposes of the Act, ‘a person subject to military law’ means a person who belongs to any of the following classes of persons:

(a) “All officers and soldiers of the Regular Force”;

(b) “All such officers and soldiers of the Regular Reserve, Volunteer Force….”

The term ‘officer’ is defined in Section 162 to mean ‘an officer commissioned as an officer of the army”

Part II of the Act is titled “Officers” and contains provisions commencing from Section 9 which deals with the commissioning officers to Section 12 as to the promotion and transfer of officers.

Part III of the Act is titled “Soldiers” and has provisions regarding their enlistment.

It is manifestly clear that the Commander of the Army is neither a commissioned officer nor an enlisted soldier. The appointment of the Commander is provided for in Part I of the Act titled “Organisation of the Army”. Section 8 of Part I of the Act provides that the President shall appoint “a fit and proper person to command the army” and when so appointed that person shall be designated Commander of the Army.

Hence one need not even be a commissioned officer to be appointed to command the army. Even after appointment the Act does not describe him as an officer. But, specifically states that the person appointed shall be designated Commander of the Army. Hence the Commander of the Army is not a person subject to military law in terms of the Army Act.

Military offences are set out in Part XII of the Act. Every offence defined in Section 95 to 130 is specifically worded to state that it applies only to a ‘person subject to military law’. Therefore none of these offences apply to the Commander of the Army.

There are three types of Courts Martial provided for in the Act viz. a general court martial; a field general court martial and a district court martial. It is specifically stated in Sections 46 (2), 49 (1) and 51 (1) that any of these Courts Martial may try only a ‘person subject to military law’. Hence there would be no question of the Commander of the Army being brought up before any of the Courts Martial for trial of any military offence.

Even the two sections referred to above that authorize the taking into custody of any person viz. Section 35 (whist in service) and Section 57 (1) (after ceasing to be in service) specifically state that they apply to situations in which a person subject to military law commits an offence.

General Sarath Fonseka relinquished the position of the Commander of the Army in July 2009 and was appointed Chief of Defense Staff in terms of Act No 35 of 2009. Section 2 (3) of the Act provides that when the Commander of any force relinquishes his position to assume the post of CDS during the period he holds such post he shall deemed to continue as a member of the regular force to which he belongs.

This deeming provision does not go so far as to state that during such period this person would be subject to the Army Act or be subject to military law. The Commander of the Army who was not subject to military law when he held office cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered as being so liable after he relinquished such office.

The conclusion to be drawn that the Commander of the Army is not a person subject to military and as such cannot be taken into custody, detained or tried by a Court Martial under the Army Act is consistent with the scheme of the Act itself. Sections 35 and 57 referred to above state that a person subject to military law who commits any offence may be taken into military custody. However, these sections do not provide for the procedure by which such person may be taken into custody. Such procedure is laid down in Section 36 (1) which states that “a senior officer may order into military custody a junior officer”.

The only instance where a junior officer may order into custody a senior officer is where such officer is engaged in a quarrel, affray or disorder. The Commander is the highest ranking officer and as such there would be no officer senior to him who could order that the Commander be taken into custody. Similarly after a person subject to military law is taken into custody in terms of Section 40 only the ‘commanding officer of that person’ is empowered to investigate the charge against him and to take steps for a trial by Court Martial. There is no officer who could be “commanding”, the Commander himself.

As such it is inconceivable and, inconsistent with scheme of the Act to assume that the Commander of the Army is a person subject to military law as defined in the Act who may be taken into military custody, detained, charged, tried and sentenced at a Court Martial. It would be preposterous to suggest that the Commander who is thus not liable whist in service becomes a person subject to military law and thereby becomes liable to be taken into military custody, detained, tried and sentenced by a Court Martial after he relinquished office.

In any event the present Commander has never been a senior officer to the General and as such he cannot in terms of Section 36 (1) “order into military custody” the General considering the latter as a ‘junior officer’. Furthermore the present Commander has never been the ‘commanding officer’ of the General, as such he is not empowered in terms of Section 40(1) of the Act to cause an investigation against the General or to ‘take steps for the trial of that person (the General) by a Court Martial’ as provided in Section 40 (1) (b) (i) of the Act.

The position under the CDS Act No 35 of 2009 is no different. As noted before although the Act deems the General to be a member of the regular force of the Army whilst serving as CDS, he is not deemed to be ‘a person subject to military law’ under the Army Act. In any event the present Commander cannot be considered a ‘senior officer’ or the ‘commanding officer’ of Sarath Fonseka in the period the latter functioned as CDS since in terms of Section 2

(4) of the Act whilst serving as CDS he held the rank of General.

Viewed from a different perspective, the Army Act was existing law when the present Constitution was promulgated in 1978. It continued in force in terms of Article 168 (1) of the Constitution. However such continuation in force is subject to any express provision in the Constitution. In brief, it is a basic principle of interpretation that the Constitution being the superior law should prevail over ordinary laws.

Therefore the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 13 (based on the Universal Declaration and the ICCPR as noted above) which relate to arrest, detention trial and punishment, will prevail over the Army Act. These Fundamental Rights may be restricted in thier operation to the members of the Armed Force only in the manner provided by Article 15 (8) of the Constitution which reads as follows;

15 (8). “ The exercise and operation of the fundamental rights declared and recognized by Article 12 (1), 13 and 14 shall, in their application to the members of the Armed Forces, Police Force and other Forces charged with the maintenance of public order, be subject to such restrictions as may be prescribed by law in the interest of the proper discharge of their duties and the maintenance of discipline among them.”

It is clear from this provision that if General Sarath Fonseka’s Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 13 of the Constitution assuring him the freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, punishment, etc. is to be restricted upon any purported exercise of power under the Army Act, at the time of such ‘arrest’ he should have been;

1. A member of the Army

2. He should have been charged with the maintenance of public order;

3. The arrest should have been necessary to assure the proper discharge of his duties as a member of the Army and

4. Necessary to maintain discipline in the Army.

I do not wish to labour the point but none of the conditions as laid down in Article 15 (8) to warrant a restriction of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 13 are met in relation to the purported arrest and detention of General Sarath Fonseka.

In conclusion I wish to state that from whatever perspective one may look at the matter – the Constitution; the Universal Declaration; the ICCPR; the Code of Criminal Procedure Act; the Army Act or the CDS Act; the purported arrest and continued detention of General Sarath Fonseka who is now a candidate nominated for the Parliamentary Elections is entirely contrary to law and justice.

I do not state so in derogation of the lawful authority of any person or institution empowered to decide on the matter, but only to kindle the compassionate reflection of right thinking people on an issue of humanitarian concern.

(Sarath Nanda Silva is a former Attorney-General and retired Chief Justice of Sri Lanka)

True democracy means much more than holding free and fair elections at periodic intervals

by Carlo Fonseka

Socrates (469 – 399 BC) taught that the most important thing for us to learn in life is how to live in harmony with others. To live in harmony with others we have to do things that are helpful to others and avoid doing things that are harmful to them.

Who judges whether or not the way we live is helpful or harmful to others? "Others, of course", is the obvious answer. The problem is that what we do and don’t do may not make us popular with all others even in our own society, let alone in the wide world. For example, smoking and drinking may not make me popular with all others living in our society, because the majority in our society don’t smoke and drink. So in general smoking and drinking will make me unpopular in our society. Does this mean that in order to live harmoniously with others I must not smoke and drink even if I happen to enjoy them? Are smoking and drinking wrong? If they are wrong, are they bad? Some will say yes and others will say no.

Morals, Laws, Ethics

The question is: how do we decide what is right and what is wrong ; what is good and what is bad; what is legal and what is illegal? What is illegal is easy to decide. Whether what is illegal is necessarily socially wrong and morally bad is not so easy to determine. For example, after the National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol Act No.27 of 2006 became law on December 1, 2006, it became illegal for us to smoke in "enclosed public places". But smoking itself is not illegal. Nor is smoking illegal in an open public place. Thus in our society , smoking itself is not considered morally bad, and smoking in an open public place is not considered socially wrong ,but smoking in an enclosed public place is illegal. It has been made illegal because there is strong evidence that "your cigarette is killing me" by second- hand smoke. Perhaps the most telling example of this kind of problem has to do with the subject of abortion.

Sir Douglas Black, a past president of the Royal College of Physicians of London once said more in sorrow than in anger, that in the UK "abortion changed overnight from being a crime to being something entirely legal". From this fact he concluded that "medical ethics are relative and not absolute". Here we have an example of something that many people considered to be intrinsically bad morally and socially wrong and had therefore been made illegal, becoming legal overnight. The question arises whether after abortion became legal in the UK, it became morally and socially "right". Ethics is concerned with understanding the nature of such problems, if not with solving them conclusively.

Uncertainty

Needless to say, ethics is not a science like physics which is regarded as the most accurate and objective branch of science. But even in physics, in the realm of quantum theory, there is a lot of mystery. As Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize- wining physicist startlingly said, "If you think you understand quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory". Most people learn the right way to live with others in their particular society from the religion into which they are born. All religions are concerned with morals and ethics. In secular life the subject matter of morals and ethics is studied in the branch of philosophy called moral philosophy. The aim of moral philosophy is to establish general principles from which rules concerning the way all human beings ought to live with others can be deduced.

Moral sense

Anthropologists have found that in every group of human beings living in communities there are acts which are considered right and acceptable and acts which are considered wrong and unacceptable. Even a gang of robbers or a crew of a pirate ship has rules about what they should do and shouldn’t do. This implies that just as human beings have a sense of hunger and thirst and sex they have a sense of right and wrong deeply rooted in their biological make up. We may call this our moral sense. Even like our sense of hunger, thirst and sex our moral sense promotes the survival and the wellbeing of our communities on earth.

Therefore there is a reason to believe that our moral sense predates the formal religions of humankind. Indeed, it looks as if the religions of humankind were derived from the moral sense of humankind. Thus, to the question which came first, ``morals or religion?’’ the answer must be "morals". So it is legitimate to infer that people can have morals without religion.

Ethical Propositions

To explore the nature of ethics further let us consider some examples of ethical propositions.

May all our Tamil brethren be well and happy!

Would that elections in our country were freer and fairer!

Would that doctors treated patients with greater compassion!

Would that husbands never battered their wives!

It is easy to see that these ethical propositions are really nothing more than expressions of feelings, desires and aversions. There is no way of proving or disproving them in the way we can verify or falsify a scientific hypothesis. All you can do with ethical prepositions is to agree with them or disagree with them. Does this mean that all ethical judgments are nothing but expressions of personal taste? For instance, is all that is wrong with a drunk battering his wife, that we don’t like it? Let us see.

Consensus

Suppose you say that ripe "durian" fruit has a lovely smell and a delicious taste and I say that its smell is nasty and its taste horrible, no one will doubt that the difference between us is a matter of personal taste. On the other hand, if you say that enemy soldiers coming with white flags should not be shot, and I say that they should be shot, because they can never be trusted, is the difference between us merely a matter of personal taste ?To take a more glaring example, suppose I say that even innocent infants of enemies should be killed because they are likely to grow up to become enemies, and you say that infants should never be killed because they are innocent, no one will admit that the difference between you and me on this question is simply a matter of personal taste. That cruelty to innocent children is wrong and bad and unethical and unacceptable is almost universally accepted. This suggests that even if our ethical judgments are entirely subjective, yet it is possible to arrive at a consensus. Is there a way, then, of objectifying our subjective feelings on ethical matters?

Science

An analogy with the practice of science may help to clarify the issue. We agree that science is based on perceptions built on information acquired through our five senses. Our senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch) generate our perceptions about the external world. However, our senses are notoriously subjectively and deceptive. We are subject to sensory errors, illusions and hallucinations. In fact the deepest pitfall in scientific research arises from the subjectivity of our observations. Despite the subjectivity of our perceptions, however, an impressive and reliable body of scientific knowledge about our external world has been built up by science. This has been possible because it has been verified that the perceptions of the vast majority on a given phenomenon are similar .Thus, science is based on a consensus of verifiable perceptions.

Politics

In like manner when the feelings of the vast majority of a society on a given ethical matter are in harmony, it should be possible to devise a code of ethics based on a harmony of feelings. The moment we embark on trying to ascertain the feelings of the members of a community on a given matter, we have entered the realm of politics. Thus, in the last analysis, ethics inevitably leads to politics. The historical record leaves no reasonable doubt that the only sanction known to ethics in a given society is the assent of the majority. That is probably why Aristotle regarded ethics as a branch of politics and not as a branch of metaphysics. So it comes about that when the adult people of a given society have elected their rulers at a free and fair election, the rulers tend to assume that whatever they do thereafter is good, right, legal, ethical and acceptable. Many people, among whom I count myself, do not think that this is just, but the hard fact is that in the real world as presently constituted, justice translates itself into the interest of those who have been elected by the people. The bigger the majority by which they have been elected the more righteous they feel. This is defended on the basis of "democracy".

True Democracy

But true democracy means much more than holding free and fair elections based on adult suffrage, at periodic intervals. The basis of democracy should be social justice for all in society. Democracy demands an unvarying respect for human rights of all .It requires independence of the judiciary. Without an honest acceptance of the concept of the rule of law, democracy degenerates into something like the law of the jungle. The public behaviour of the elected rulers must be transparent. They are finally accountable to the people who entrusted power to them to use it for the welfare of the whole society. Let us remember these things in the run up to the parliamentary elections

Exit the "old" western masters: Enter the "new" eastern mandarins

by Dushy Ranetunge in London

An article published last week by Gomin Dayasri commences with the three following paragraphs, which represent a populist view of apologists of the present regime. The three paragraphs are a misrepresentation of facts and need to be addressed in order to understand the hostility of the West, the UN and some NGO’s not to Sri Lanka, but the present Sri Lankan regime.

"The spectre of war crimes will haunt Sri Lanka until the triumvirate consisting of the Diaspora, anti-Sri Lanka NGO’s and the Western Powers abandon their relentless struggle to punish Sri Lanka for defeating terrorism which still continues to torment those countries which did not desire the LTTE to be vanquished.

These countries continue to be plagued by terrorism with which they have been grappling for years but yet has failed to comprehensively defeat notwithstanding the superior fire power possessed, sophisticated equipment at their disposal and the economic strength to combat terrorism.

They never expected Sri Lanka with its limited resources to defeat the LTTE of which they were supportive, because of its "master-sir" approach to the West and Sri Lanka’s geo-strategic placement in the Indian Ocean."

To accuse the West and the UN for trying to punish Sri Lanka for defeating terrorism is a gross misrepresentation of the facts, misleading the citizens of Sri Lanka in taking the focus away from the real issues.

It was the United States which first listed the LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

Western governments have consistently armed and trained our security forces against the LTTE. Our most effective military commanders including Generals Janaka Perera and Sarath Fonseka received training abroad including in the United Kingdom where they graduated from the Royal College of Defence` Studies (RCDS) and even The Royal Military

Academy Sandhurst in the case of Perera. There have been considerable intelligence sharing and the prosecution and incarceration of LTTE operatives in the West. LTTE fund raising has been curtailed and front organizations such as the TRO de-listed. Even during the present regime our military officials travelled to the United States for training.

The United States and the European powers consistently assisted in the enhancement of Sri Lanka’s military capability in training and identifying areas for improvement. The Sri Lankan military performed poorly during the early phases of the conflict and it was foreign training which enhanced Sri Lanka’s military capability to a point where it was able the defeat the LTTE. South African, Israeli and Pakistani military assistance was indirectly sanctioned by the United States from the very early days.

Therefore the Western powers, the UN and some NGO’s are not trying to punish Sri Lanka for defeating terrorism, but demand accountability, particularly for war crimes committed by a few individuals who have betrayed the Sri Lankan republic in abusing their powers.

There has been a long tradition in our republic to investigate war crimes and to bring about accountability for the actions of those in power.

The Manamperi case during the Sirima Bandaranaike regime prosecuted those who blatantly abused power during the military crackdown against the first JVP terrorism. There was the very public investigation into the Chemmani mass grave allegations with the participation of organizations such as Amnesty International which diffused that incident.

All the Western powers and the UN are demanding is consistency on our part in investigating war crimes allegations as we have done in the past.

The present regime has so far deviated from our past traditions and democratic norms for political reasons.
These are short sighted manoeuvrings by the Rajapakse regime because it is inevitable that at some point down the road, it will have to bite the bullet. The World has moved on from the old days of complacency. International legal and accountability standards have changeIs Obama d to make it more difficult for tyrants to get away with it in the 21st century.

Chandrika

The Chandrika Kumaratunge regime with the able guidance of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar realized that to delay or cover up the Chemmani incident would be damaging to Sri Lanka and initiated an investigation with the participation of foreign NGO’s such as Amnesty International. This exercise addressed the outstanding issues and defused it.

By delaying a war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka, the Rajapakse regime is causing grave damage to the Sri Lankan republic, locally and internationally.

Locally, the war in Sri Lanka was not against a foreign power, but our own citizens. Our republic has since independence mobilized our military capabilities exclusively against our own citizens. We need to move on, heal wounds, reconcile and build our nation. Aid and soft loans funded construction of concrete roads, bridges, airports, ports and power plants without addressing the political issues, is like pasting wallpaper over serious structural cracks.Aid alone cannot build Sri Lanka.

The second and third of the three paragraphs relates to another simplistic Sinhala nationalist fallacy that terrorism was defeated in Sri Lanka, but not in the West.

The slogan of "defeating terrorism" in Sri Lanka is a political slogan of the Rajapakse regime to garner votes. Reality is that we have been continuously defeating terrorism since independence.

Since independence in 1948, our army, navy and air force have been used exclusively against our own citizens with the demise of approximately 100,000 Sinhalese citizens labelled JVP and approximately 100,000 Tamil citizens labelled LTTE and other militant groups.

So we defeated terrorism in 1971, in 1989 and in 2009 and going by the past record there is every possibility we will defeat terrorism again and someone else will take credit for it and want your votes for "gratitude".

When your own citizens are involved, the method of defeating terrorism is somewhat different in the West, where they appreciate a peace that is durable and could be sustained. That’s why the quest for peace is one of such great patience and tolerance in Northern Ireland and in the Basque region.

The "master Sir" approach of Sri Lanka has been consistent to those who dole out aid to Sri Lanka. As we traded the Dutch for the Portuguese and the British for the Dutch, we are today trading China for the United States and Pakistan for India?

"Master Sir" is still very much around, but the Rajapakse regime has directed our attention only at the old "master sir" in the West in order to mislead us from noticing the new Chinese galleons quietly parking in our harbours.

Hybrid Histories of South India and Sri Lanka

by Rajan Philips

(A modified version of a Review Article originally published in the Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, University of Peradeniya)

Having lived my life in equal parts in Sri Lanka and Canada, I have often modified the remark by a former Canadian Prime Minister, McKenzie King, that Canada “has too much geography and too little history”, to describe Sri Lanka’s never ending predicament: too much history, too little geography.

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Rajarajesvaram, Thanjavur: The oldest granite edifice now in its millennium year-Pic courtesy of The Hindu

Much of this old history has been abused as political instruments over the last seventy years to essentialize and perpetuate the ethnic divisions in the country. A concerted counter to tendentious historicizing began with the 1979 seminar on the “Nationality Problems in Sri Lanka” organized by the Social Scientists’Association. Since then several scholars and commentators have joined the debate to provide well substantiated alternative accounts of our past and challenge the mythopoeic creations and essentialist renderings that have for so long poisoned our politics.

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Ruwanweliseya (2nd century BCE), Anuradhapura: The oldest brick stupa in the world-pic: dailynews.lk

K. Indrapala’s book (The Evolution of An Ethnic Identity: The Tamils in Sri Lanka C. 300 BCE to C. 1200 CE) is set in the same critical and positively revisionistic genre and, while primarily tracing the evolution of the Tamil ethnic identity in Sri Lanka, it provides a comprehensive account of the pre-modern phases in the evolution of Sri Lanka’s modern ethnic coexistences. The book captures “the complex interplay of cultures, languages and religions” over 1500 years based on a comprehensive and critical review of all available sources in archaeology, epigraphy, chronicles and literary texts.

The two-part book on Buddhism among Tamils (Buddhism Among Tamils in Pre-Colonial Tamilakam and Ilam) edited by Peter Schalk and A. Velupillai, with contributions from Sri Lankan and South Indian scholars (R. Nagaswamy, S. Pathmanathan, D. Dayalan), is a mixed bag of painstaking scholarship, exegetic interpretations and idiosyncratic commentaries.

While Indrapala attempts to extricate our ancient past from the quagmires of the present, Schalk’s commentaries unabashedly link the two in a seamless wrap that is also more polemical than analytical or reflective. The book labours the question why Buddhism historically has been nothing more than a minor religion or a minority religion in Tamil societies. Inexplicably and regrettably, the book takes an exclusively longitudinal approach, mixing past and present, rather than taking a more cross-sectional and comparative approach and asking the complementary question, why did Buddhism fail to flourish in almost all Indian societies? The more pertinent questions to my purpose are: how did Sri Lanka become the most abiding home for Buddhism throughout its history, and why did not Buddhism become Sri Lanka’s only religion in the pre-colonial era? These questions are not the main focus of Indrapala’s pursuit but they are important parts of the evolutionary history that he ends up weaving.
Neither the Sinhalese nor the Tamils arrived in their current habitats “pre-mixed, pre-cooked and pre-packaged”, as Indrapala reminds us drawing on British historian Norman Davies’s dismissal of similar renderings of the arrival of the English people in 5th century Britain. Those who now speak Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and those who speak Tamil in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu have been drawn from different ethnic stocks throughout their histories. Also contributing to these population pools were the ancestors of the present Keralas, Kannadas and Telugus of South India. Malay, Arabic and European elements would be added later.

There is nothing new about ethnicity, but as Indarapala emphasizes at the outset of the book, one has to differentiate between archaic ethnicity and modern ethnicity. One has to equally differentiate between ethnic consciousness and identity in the ancient world and what we encounter in our time. There is no connection at all between them, especially in regard to politics, and whatever connection that is claimed is claimed from the present to the past and not bequeathed from the past to the present.

The common SISL stock

Indrapala sets the geographical context for Sri Lanka’s evolution in what he calls the South India-Sri Lanka (SISL) cultural region comprising Sri Lanka, the present states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the southern parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. It is in this setting that the explanatory variables of population, language and religion began the evolutionary process that would eventually bring Sri Lanka to its current configuration. The material base that sustained this process was itself an evolving predicator, and one that was intimately shared by the emerging societies of the entire SISL region. The main stages in the development of this base are well established – beginning with the middle stone age (Mesolithic), through the Early Iron Age (EIA) and culminating in what has been called the hydraulic civilization.

Indrapala reiterates like others before him, including Senarat Paranavitana, that the main population source of the island was its original, Mesolithic inhabitants and not any massive population movement from elsewhere. He suggests that there is evidence of the Mesolithic peoples using different languages in the early phases. He notes the generally agreed beginning of the Tamil language before the Common (or Christian) Era (BCE) based on classical Tamil literature and contemporary inscriptions. The Sinhala language would emerge later in the Common Era, not from an immigrant population of Sinhala speakers but through a process of ‘language replacement’ involving transformation of one of the indigenous languages (presumably Elu) following its exposure to North Indian languages, Prakrit and Pali, as well as Tamil and even Munda, the Austroasiatic language from the Southeast Asian region. The emergence of the Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu languages in the SISL region went through a similar process.

Trade provided the primary avenue of contact between the SISL region and the outside world – northern India, Southeast Asia, West Asia and parts of old Europe. It was trade that brought in the Prakrit-speaking traders from the western and eastern costs of northern India and set in motion the process of language replacement. Prakrit was the first “lingua franca of South Asian trade”, just as Tamil would become a key mode of communication for trade involving the SISL region in later centuries, during the Pallava and Cola periods. There were also copious contributions from the religious and the learned languages of the times, Pali and Sanskrit. The evolution of languages in the early stages would appear to have been a syncretic process rather than a competitive one, and there was no rivalry between speakers of different languages on the basis of what they spoke. Indrapala recalls the earlier observation made by Leslie Gunawardana that it would have taken a long time before all speakers of a language were subjectively and objectively considered to belong to a group. This was no different from the evolution of linguistic identities in other societies. The use of language as a tool of divisive and violent nationalisms is a product of modernity.

Religion, and not language, proved to be the more potent agent of social organization, mobilization as well as differentiation. The evolution of religious societies in the SISL region went through several phases. There were pre-Vedic cults and rituals prevailing among the people. Commentators on classical Tamil literature have alluded to the secular nature of the Sangam poems, but this was followed by what Indrapala describes as the “silent penetration of the Vedic religion” from North India for about seven to eight centuries. Schalk opines that the bardic culture of the Sangam period that gave rise to Tamil heroic poetry composed in praise of martial chieftains blended well with the Vedic religious practices but was not amenable to the counter-ethos of Buddhism.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Saivam in Tamil Nadu

The most powerful impetus for a new religion was royal conversion. As with Asoka’s conversion to Buddhism before the Common Era and the conversion of Constantine to Christianity centuries later, the spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and that of Saivism in South India started off with respective royal conversions. In the third century BCE, Emperor Asoka sent his son Mahinda on a mission of conversion to Sri Lanka, who found his prize catch in Devanampiya Tissa the king of Anuradhapura. Tissa was the son of Muta Siva whose name, suggests Indrapala, implies the prevalence of Siva worship at that time. Velupillai asserts that the Mahinda’s mission was to include not only Sri Lanka but also Tamil Nadu, although there were no royal conversions to Buddhism in Tamil Nadu but to Jainism in the later Pandya and Pallava kingdoms. These kings were reconverted to Saivism in the sixth century CE that marked the beginning of the bhakti movement and the populist revival of Saivism in Tamil Nadu with spill over into Sri Lanka. The bhakti movement (6th-8th centuries CE) effectively ended the possibility of Buddhism and Jainism surviving as strong religions in Tamil Nadu.

While royal patronage might have been a necessary condition for a successful beginning or revival of a religion, it was not enough to ensure its continuing survival and growth. The social bases for Buddhism and Saivism in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu were provided by the agrarian economy and the hydraulic civilization that sustained it. What has been described by P. Ragupathy as ‘hydraulic Buddhism’ in relation to the Sinhalese society could be extended as ‘hydraulic Saivism’ to Tamil Nadu. Indrapala cites two notable commentators in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, Sudarshan Seneviratne and R. Champakalakshmi, respectively, who describe essentially the same ingredients of socio-religious organization in both contexts.

Even though Buddhism did not become a major religion or a majority religion in Tamil Nadu, Tamil Buddhism enjoyed a status of some prominence in the overall Buddhist world including Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. The specific social bases for Buddhism in Tamil Nadu during the pre-Pallava, Pallava periods, and later under the Cola rule even after the bhakti movement were mostly among urban elites and mercantile communities. Ragupathy has described this phenomenon as ‘mercantile Buddhism’ among the Tamils. Tamil Nadu was also home to some well known Buddhist monasteries and scholar monks who were prominently associated with both the Theravada and Mahayana schools. The monasteries and the mercantile community provided the resources and the conduits for Buddhist missions emanating from South India and reaching not only the Tamil speaking parts of Sri Lanka but also Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Vietnam.

The urban social base and the mercantile classes by themselves would appear to have been inadequate to sustain Buddhism as a socially viable religion in South India. The monastic structure of Buddhism made it difficult for it to compete against a socially established religion like Hinduism not just in Tamil Nadu but everywhere else in India. Peter Schalk suggests that the apparent insistence by Buddhist monks on the use of Pali rather than Tamil as the medium of religious rites was a factor inhibiting the acceptance of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu. Even so, Seethalai Sathanar’s Manimekalai, one of the five great Tamil epics assigned to the 2nd century CE, espousing Buddhist doctrines and teachings, is evidence that Buddhist thought had found resonance in Tamil literature at the highest level long before the bhakti movement. According to Velupillai, the influence of Buddhist teachings is also evident in the copious hymns sung by the Nayanars (Saiva Saints) of the bhakti movement, notwithstanding their acrimonious disputations against the Buddhist religion.

What neither book suggests outright but provides enough grounds for others to postulate is that the competitive interests of the Brahman forces vis-à-vis the Buddhist monastic establishments would have been a formidable impetus for the bhakti movement and Saiva revivalism. The establishment of brahmadeyas, or Brahmana settlements, was an integral feature of hydraulic Saivism. Indrapala points out that “gifts of land by kings and their officers to temples and Brahmans” had become a common practice in all of South Asia after the 6th century. While this practice had been in vogue among local Tamil chieftains, the Pallavas raised it to a higher level as part of royal Sanskritization aimed at achieving dynastic validation among the subjects.

Indrapala uses the sociological concept of Sanskritization, developed by M.N. Srinivas in relation to social mobility involving lower castes who adopt Sanskritic names and rituals to claim a higher social status usually following political or economic advancements, to describe “the process by which north Indian influences spread in South India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia”. He justifies it as a neutral term indicating linguistic and cultural influences in preference to the more commonly used terms such as Aryanaization, Indianization and Hinduization with their corresponding racial, colonial and religious overtones. The various ‘origin legends’ (for e.g., the Agastya and the Vijaya legends) among the Tamils and Sinhalese are also presented as part of the Sanskritization process.

The Pandyas and Colas emulated these practices, with the latter extending it to Sri Lanka in the 11th century. The practice was also common among the Sinhalese rulers in the island. My point is that the Brahman forces in Tamil Nadu would have been threatened by the spread of Buddhism and the competition for patronage and land by Buddhist monasteries and that could have been among the more worldly factors behind the bhakti movement. At least, this is a more plausible line to pursue than the rather simplistic assertion by Schalk that Buddhism ran into suspicion in Tamil Nadu because it was associated with the enemy kingdom in Sri Lanka.

The circumstances in Sri Lanka were contingently different and clearly conducive for Buddhism to socially sink roots and flourish. The royal conversion facilitated the blending of Buddhism with pre-existing rituals and practices. The growth of a new religion and the emergence of a new language might have reinforced one another. More importantly, Buddhism became an integral part of the Sinhalese agrarian society that has appropriately been symbolized by the ‘robe and the plough’. Like Hinduism in India, Buddhism in Sri Lanka developed a syncretic ethos that allowed its followers to modify, adapt, and continue with pre-existing Hindu rituals and practices at the popular level, while developing its own reputation for orthodoxy and learning centred on the Theravada school. The Buddhist monastic establishment was also well positioned in Sri Lanka to thwart any competition for royal patronage and land from Brahman forces. As it turned out, no such competition materialized and although Buddhism had its difficult moments in Sri Lanka they were mostly the result of political changes and sectarian doctrinal disputes and not the result of proselytization threats from Saivism.

The evolution of identities

In Indrapala’s assessment, by the end of the 12th century the geographical and cultural platforms were by and large set for the emergence of the modern Sinhala Buddhist and Tamil Saiva identities. The once flourishing north-central parts of the island were depopulated and two distinct population settlements began to emerge with Sinhalese mostly in the south-western and Tamils in the north-eastern parts of the country. The main reason for the emergence of this particular configuration rather than any other configuration was the Cola rule over the northern half of the island for over fifty years in the eleventh century.

Inasmuch as the Colas could not extend their domination over the entire island they could not significantly alter the course of evolution of the Sinhalese Buddhist society. Buddhism in Sri Lanka was able to withstand the cultural pressures of Saivism just as the latter had been able to stem the tide of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu. The mutuality of influence between the two religions in the SISL region has been notably acknowledged. What the Cola rule may have prevented was the consolidation of Buddhism as the sole religion in Sri Lanka. In fact, it ensured the endurance of Tamil Saivism in the north-eastern parts of the country. The cultural sustenance of Saivism was reinforced by the arrival of Brahmans, soldiers, traders, artisans and other workers from South India. Although the influx of these social groups has been a common occurrence in the past, their arrivals during the Cola period left a more permanent imprint on the island’s population structure. The system of village administration introduced by the Colas as part of their governance structure remained in place long after the Cola rule had ended.

The point that Indrapala stresses in the end is that the eventual defeat of the Colas by King Vijayabahu was just that – a victory for Vijayabahu and defeat for the Cola ruling house, and nothing more. It was not a confrontation between Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Saivites, or between Sri Lanka and South India, as interpreted by Peter Schalk and many others. The armies of both sides were mixed with Sinhalese and Tamil speakers. Even after the expulsion of the Colas, Vijayabahu continued to patronize the Brahmans and Saiva temples just as the Colas had patronized Buddhism during their rule. The Tamil Buddhist and Saiva settlements that had emerged during the Cola rule continued under Vijayabahu and later.

The monarchical confrontations in the pre-modern SISL region were fights involving the ruling houses of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. There were more confrontations between the chieftains of Tamil Nadu than between Sri Lankan and Tamil Nadu chieftains. Indeed, there was collaboration between Sri Lankan ruling houses and the South Indian Pallava and Pandya ruling houses in opposition to the Colas. I am not aware if there was ever an instance when all the South Indian kings ganged up on Sri Lanka. The ruling houses in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka were part of an endogamous group as exemplified by the numerous marital alliances struck between them. More importantly, the social and political organizations at that time were not predicated on an identity of interests between the ruling houses and their subjects. The powerful mercantile communities come across as independent and footloose rather than tied down to a territorial identity. In a remarkable observation, Indrapala notes that South Asian overseas traders were independent of their monarchic states whereas Chinese trade was state controlled.

He cites Leslie Gunawardana’s thesis that the term Sinhala, not unlike similar terms likes Moriya, Gupta, Pallava and Cola, initially applied only to the dynasty and the extended families belonging to the dynasty. It excluded the people who did not belong to the dynasty regardless of whether or not they spoke the same language or belonged to the same religion.

In this perspective, the oldest and the most debated monarchical confrontation in Sri Lankan history, between Dutthagamani and Elara, must be seen as nothing more than a monarchical confrontation despite the tendentious interpretations that it has received in modern times. The principal source for these interpretations is the 5th century chronicle Mahavamsa compiled by a monk named Mahanama, but as Indrapala points out extremists on both used have used and abused Mahanama by projecting onto his work present-day political controversies and ignoring the tradition, the context and the purpose behind his unique contribution to Sri Lanka’s historical sources. Indrapala argues that the Mahavamsa rendering of the Dutthagamani-Elara confrontation is a later day interpolation given the extent of its deviation “in style and content” from the rest of the chronicle. Even if one rejects this argument for other historical reasons, there is no excuse for using the chronicle as a contemporary political football.

Indrapala raises the interesting question based on epigraphic and literary evidence whether and how the Sinhalese or Tamils called themselves as a group, as opposed to how they were identified by others as constituting a group. Put another way, the self-expression of consciousness as an ethnic group that has become commonplace after modernity was hard to come by in the pre-modern period. One way of explaining this difference is to recognize the difference between archaic ethnicity and modern ethnicity and their corresponding attributes.

The available sources for determining the evolution of consciousness appear to be limited and it is not clear if Indrapala could have pursued this line more vigorously based on these sources. Such an investigation should go beyond the records of the ruling houses, and although Indrapala deals extensively with inscriptions relating to the mercantile communities, there is much unfilled void in regard to the evolution of the pre-modern social organization. There is hardly any description of the village organization including village assemblies even though, as Indrapala notes, records relating to them along with royal and religious accounts constitute the bulk of the epigraphic records in the SISL region. More significantly and rather inexplicably, the book is silent on the institution of caste. It would be impossible to get a complete picture of the evolution of ethnicity in the SISL region without bringing caste into the frame.

Indrapala draws his evolutionary story to a close at the end of the 12th century. By then, as noted earlier, the platform had been set for the Sinhalese and Tamils to arrive at where they are now. There were also other arrivals – apart from the continuing arrivals from South India who assimilated into the by-now indigenous Sinhalese and Tamil communities, a third community known as the Muslims of Sri Lanka began to evolve with the arrival of Muslim traders. The arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century led to the emergence of Burghers, and Malays came from the Indonesian islands during the Dutch rule. Finally, in the 19th and 20th centuries the British colonial rulers brought in a significant number of Indian Tamils to work the coffee and tea plantations. They are now called the Upcountry Tamils.

These recent arrivals have added to the historically entrenched hybrid nature of the Sri Lankan society. Sri Lanka’s hybridity needs to be celebrated and not questioned or denied. Celebrating hybridity means eschewing essentialism, the notion that the Sinhalese, the Tamils and the Muslims have been present in Sri Lanka from pre-modern times as “pre-mixed, pre-cooked and packaged” groups. Indrapala’s account of the evolution of the ethnic identity of the Tamils, provide evidence to the contrary. Notably, their group evolution occurred not in isolation but in interaction with the evolution of other groups. The interaction between these groups was informed by different circumstances and group characters at different times. It would be wrong to project on our past the controversies of the present. On the contrary, alternative accounts of the past challenging its more established versions, may provide more positive perspectives for dealing with our current predicaments.

On ‘The End Justifies the Means’ and other damaging beliefs

By Dr. S. Narapalasingam

Having read the comments on my previous article, – ‘Whither the new Sri Lanka proclaimed by the triumphant Head of State?’ – posted by transCurrents on 26 February 2010, the need has arisen to clear the misconceptions and misunderstandings of some Sri Lankans, which reinforce the concern for the future of the island nation. In this regard, the vital points made earlier are reiterated in order to pinpoint the fundamental issues that need addressing. Before discussing in detail the immoral view ‘the end justifies the means’, let me quote Kural 656.

“Do not do what the wise men condemn even to save your mother from starvation”.

The background

The past blunders mainly because of parochial interests of narrow-minded political leaders and their excessive thirst for power to fulfil their own desires had denied peace, progress and prosperity to the country. Sadly, these still continue to influence politics with more intense vigour, disregarding the past negative developments in many fields.

The continuation of damaging party politics denied a joint approach to the resolution of the national problems created by self-seeking politicians. Opportunities for achieving their narrow aims were eagerly grabbed ignoring national interests. Basically, there was no shared concept of nation and the related national interest.
The noble task of building unity in diversity was completely ignored. Unity was either just a presumption or a wishful thinking. The diverse demographic and regional features of the island were deliberately ignored by the Sinhala chauvinists who considered the entire island solely native to the ethnic Sinhalese. The successive governments made no effort to change their perception which is unreal and obstructs the building of an integrated nation.

Politically advantageous decisions were made without considering the consequences to the unity and territorial integrity of the country. Even after causing deep divisions and destruction, there was no political will to rectify the past blunders. The seeds of separation were sown by the acts of commission and omission of governments anxious to secure and safeguard the support of the ethnic Sinhalese, the majority race in all provinces, except the North and East. This diversity was an irritant to the Sinhala patriots as it marred their notion of exclusive Sinhala nation in the island. It is these unreal beliefs and the countrywide system of Sinhala majority rule that gave rise to the demand for federalism and later to a separate Tamil state in the Tamil majority North-East.
Even after enduring many tribulations, the peace concept in the minds of some majoritarians is not grounded on justice and equality. Currently, the contradiction between official statements and deeds and the neglect of the promises given at opportune times is bothering the UN and some foreign governments. Earlier, the disappointed lot was only the Tamil speaking Sri Lankans.

Terrorism

No sensible person would want terrorism as a means to a political goal. State terror is equally abhorrent as the many repercussions damage all aspects of the life of the nation. The history of ‘Tiger terrorism’ is short but undoubtedly terrible. It violated religious principles, moral standards and humanitarian laws. No sensible person can justify it under any circumstance.

In Sri Lanka’s case the exact circumstances that induced disillusioned Tamil youth to engage in violent protests were the excessive violence directed against Tamil civilians. Instead of addressing the legitimate grievances and concerns of the Tamil speaking people, the past governments opted to ignore them. The Tamil people lost faith in the one-sided political system with no constitutional safeguards to prevent discrimination against the ethnic minorities.

The July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom which reinforced the demand for a separate Tamil state in the island is the climax of the cycle of intimidating violence that started in 1958. The violent assailants and assassins had the support of Sinhalese politicians and in some cases government patronage. No effort was made to bring the culprits to justice. The all powerful first Executive President soon after the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom said that the spate of destruction of Tamil lives and their property was the response to the ambush of an army convoy by the Tamil Tigers in Jaffna on 23 July 1983. Earlier on 18 May 1983, following an ambush on an army convoy in Jaffna soldiers went on the rampage in key residential and commercial centres there. Had the cycle of violence been stopped via suitable constitutional reform, reactive violence or terrorism as it was widely considered would have vanished long time ago.

The point here is when both sides in an internal conflict use violence as the sole means to achieve their objectives the damage is extensive and enormous. It is not only the loss of lives and property but also the cultural damage is enormous. When one party to the conflict is the government, such damage blemishes strikingly the character of the State. Its future as a stable, serene, democratic and respectable nation also becomes unpromising. Sadly this is the prospect when the system, as many know, undermines democracy, norms of good governance and the rule of law.

An apt parallel is the typical family in our traditional society. If an elder, specially the head of the family (father or mother) habitually acts irresponsibly ignoring moral principles, how can one expect the children to become decent members of the society with noble character and humane feelings for others? No responsible father or mother will tell the children to copy or cheat and pass the exam. This is not the way to succeed. The society itself will sooner or later become weak, lacking the virtues of advanced honourable societies if the means of achieving personal or collective aims are reckless. The elected governments have a moral duty to promote and safeguard the character of the nation. The recent undesirable developments violating even moral principles let alone democratic rights and freedoms raise concern about the future of Sri Lanka.

The abduction and detention of media personnel considered to be politically harmful persons have not ceased completely after the war. The fact that the recent victims are Sinhala journalists shows the underlying reason is not the ethnic issue but political related to the consolidation of autocratic power. Obedience is sought by infusing the sense of fear among those challenging this system that has been politically useful to the powers that be in the past few years. In a recent interview (You Tube), the veteran journalist and Sunday Island editor Manik De Silva stressed the relevance of media freedom to democracy and good governance. If dissenting views are not permitted it is not difficult to surmise the consequences. Investigative journalism helps to expose corruption and waste in the public sector. This is indispensable in a functioning democracy.

In the light of continuing repressive measures, Kishali Pinto Jayawardene in her weekly column ‘Focus on Rights’ in The Sunday Times 7 March has questioned: “are we now unquestioningly accepted the 'normalisation' of state terror?” The columnist Kishali, who is also an attorney, has stated that there is a “severe rule of law contradictions” currently in Sri Lanka. Contradictions are not confined solely to ‘rule of law’. The pseudo democracy functioning in Sri Lanka has many contradictions. Paradoxically, it has become a convenient tool for consolidating power for undemocratic rule.

There was no justification for retaining the harsh war-time special laws, regulations and arrangements when the war had ended conclusively. Given the long-standing prejudices and apprehension among the Sinhala masses, it is not difficult to give imaginary reasons for retaining these rules. The possible resurrection of LTTE is being touted to convince the people of the need to be vigilant. The crafty view of some optimists is that the political problem has also vanished with the annihilation of the LTTE May last year. Furthermore, the demand for equal rights for the Tamil speaking people is construed by some as demanding more rights than held by the Sinhalese. It will not be difficult to give scary warnings as long as the ethnic problem remains unresolved. Perhaps there is the perception divide and rule is more convenient than ruling a truly democratic multi-ethnic nation!

The general feeling among realists is the government wanted these controls for its own political need. The keenness to achieve the undisclosed political aims of the victor, while the glory as the annihilator of Tiger terrorism lasts backs this view. The irony is that this grand opportunity is not being used to resolve the ethnic problem. The President’s standing in the rural areas as a redeemer also helps him to lead the political reconciliation process. It remains to be seen whether there will be a determined effort to settle this problem after April 8 parliamentary election. The means of seeking reconciliation is important if unity and peace are to last long.

Upsurge in corruption

Udara Soysa, a commentator on Comparative Politics, International Relations and Economics who currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, United States has commented recently on the crisis of corruption in Sri Lanka. He has said: “Currently, corruption had infiltrated into every branch of Sri Lankan society and unfortunately, corruption and manipulation of the system had become a norm. If analyzed retrospectively, many of the present day ills can be linked back to corruption”. Apparently, the definition of corruption is not just confined to unacceptable methods of grabbing funds but encompasses all immoral or dishonest acts. Even the conduct of the police and some politicians during the dark days of 1983 is regarded as corrupt.

How the system itself promotes corruption is seen in the following comment: “The corruption in Sri Lanka is multi-layered. The institutionalized politicization of law enforcement agencies also contributed for the perpetuation of the corruption menace in Sri Lanka. The ruling executive regime has the clear control of the police force thus any independent investigations become unfeasible. With the non-existent law enforcement system of checks and balances of ruling regime, higher level corruption thrive perpetuating and nourishing a grand circle of corruption in the country”. Those keen on sustaining the corrupt practices would not want to change the system introduced mainly from a narrow political perspective. This can be pointedly stated as establishing a one-party rule within a multi-party democratic system, which appears contradictory but in Sri Lankan politics this is not so. Despite all the changes made in 1978, including the process of electing members to the Legislature and the establishment of the most powerful Executive Presidency similar to a ruling monarch, the system failed to produce the intended result of the schemers.

One may wonder whether the next constitution currently contemplated will be designed mainly to remove this weakness! In this confused setting, it is not surprising some scholars and editorialists have opined that no party should win too many seats in the forthcoming general election that gives two-thirds majority in the new parliament. There is now great awareness that the quality of the persons in the political arena is very low compared with those in the early years of independence.

Speaking at the opening of a maritime archaeological museum in Galle on March 4, President Mahinda Rajapaksa asked the public to ensure that only the good people entered politics. The editorial in ‘The Island’ March 6 opined - “the President has sought to lay the blame for the heavy presence of misfits in politics at Citizen Perera's doorstep”. This is a complex issue that requires separate analysis since there are many reasons for this shameful situation. The chief culprit is undoubtedly the thoughtless ways the country was governed mainly from a narrow and short-term political perspective. The system itself was designed to serve the selfish few who have the skill to deceive the masses. The people were kept ignorant of true facts and the value of equality, tolerance and unity in diversity. Education was not directed at all to impart knowledge on ethics and the ways history was taught promoted chauvinism, intolerance and mistrust. Religious studies too focused unduly on miracles. Principles of equality, justice, compassion and selflessness were ignored.

The following editorial comment (The Island March 6) is very fitting. “The scum of the earth cannot enter politics without the blessings of political leaders. They cannot contest elections unless they secure nominations from recognised political parties. Only a handful of them come forward as independent candidates but it is rarely that they succeed at elections. Therefore, political parties and their leaders including President Rajapaksa cannot absolve themselves of the blame for promoting undesirables in politics and nominating them for elections”. It is very true the honourable citizens truly committed to unity, peace, human rights, civil liberties and welfare of all citizens have no chance of becoming the main members of the profitable House that attracts those seeking power and wealth for themselves.

Downfall of honourable culture

Many analysts have focused on the transformed political culture, particularly after the power struggle intensified to the level where the contestants were not concerned about the means of winning the contest. It is quite clear from the recent past, particularly after the 1977 general election that the main governing political party has the advantage because of the availability of the means to exploit state resources and influence for denying ‘free and fair’ elections. Politicization of the public service also facilitated this unfair change. Recently there have been allegations that even education is politicised. Democracy lost its real meaning in many other ways too. Several attempts to establish independent commissions to oversee public service, judiciary, police and all elections at national, provincial and village levels failed for the simple reason that the government was not keen on losing its hold on them. The opposition parties want the proposed independent commissions because they are powerless now. The astonishing feature of the confrontational politics is the very party that clamours for change towards real democracy while in the opposition, opts to cling on to the flawed system, when it becomes the main ruling party!

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A vigil for journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda, who disappeared on January 24, 2010, in Colombo-Reuters pic

Another crucial factor that led to the collapse of the rule of law and equal justice for all citizens is the culture of impunity that evolved along with the abuse of power. Even in 1983 no presidential inquiry was held into the mangling and murder of Tamil political prisoners at the maximum security gaol in Welikade prison in Colombo. Recent disclosures indicate the use of military personnel in abductions and assassinations of journalists. This practice too harms the traditional culture of the society. There are also many other acts that undermine moral and cultural values.

On March 8 the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concerns about “the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons and the setting up of an accountability process in Sri Lanka since the United Nations signed a joint statement with the Government last year in the wake of the end of the civil war with separatist Tamil rebels”. Earlier on March 4 in a telephone conversation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa he conveyed his intent “to move forward on a group of experts which will advise (him) on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka.” The proposed accountability “concerns possible breaches of international humanitarian law or abuses of human rights carried out during the conflict”. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi ( Navaneetham) Pillay has also voiced concern about the situation in Sri Lanka.

The government has strongly objected to the above proposal of the UN Secretary-General to go ahead with an independent investigation into alleged war crimes during Sri Lanka’s successful war against the LTTE, saying it is “unwarranted and uncalled for”. Apparently, the Government thinks that there has been “unjustifiable pressure brought on the world body by pro-LTTE INGOs and the British government” to harass them in the run-up to the April 8 general election. In short, the Sri Lankan Government wants the UN and foreign governments to focus on the elimination of the ruthless Tamil terrorists and not on the means. At the risk of repeating again, the fact is there are political and moral issues here which the SL Government had promised to consider. Promises have been given to foreign leaders in the same way as during the times of electioneering in Sri Lanka.

Although the ferocious Tamil Tigers have gone, their pattern of behaviour has not. The following note from the editors of Sri Lanka Guardian (March 8, 2010) makes this clear. “Brutality had been a curse for Sri Lanka for the last many years. Despicable acts of revenge were common phenomena among Tamil Tiger groups against dissident Tamil groups for many years. Revenge, arrogance and fascist were definitely the names of Tiger game. Currently, Sri Lankan Government, taking the same arrogant fascist path of LTTE taking steps to get revenge from political dissenters. Journalists have been killed and abducted while opposition figures have been arrested”.

Surprisingly this game is revealing the hidden abhorrent practices and their likely sources. The recent side investigations following the forcible arrest of retired Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka by the military police on February 8 have produced some preliminary results. Two Courts Martial have been appointed to try him separately on March 16 and 17 on two sets of charges, namely,

(1) participation in political work while in active service and

(2) contravention of laid down procedures, related to military procurement.

Concluding remarks

In any civilized society the means of gaining anything be it wealth or power by the members influence its character. When they, particularly the leaders behave selfishly in violation of recognised social rules which in a civilised society are based on moral values and religious principles besides obedience to the common law of the land, the entire community regresses to a chaotic state with uncertain future. By extension this applies to a collective nation of several communities.

Both actions and reactions in the political field since political and ethnic divisions deepened inflicted enormous damage to Sri Lanka’s repute as thrice blessed serene island. Buddhism did not influence politics. On the contrary it was exploited by many Sinhala politicians for their political advantage.

Article 9 in Chapter II of the present Constitution states, “the Republic of Sri Lanka shall give to Buddhism the foremost place and accordingly it shall be the duty of the State to protect and foster the Buddha Sasana …” In the preamble it is stated that the freely elected representatives of the people of Sri Lanka “remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain and preserve their rights and privileges so that the Dignity and Freedom of the Individual may be assured, Just, Social, Economic and Cultural Order attained, the Unity of the Country restored and Concord established with other Nations” have adopted and enacted the Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. There is no need here to tell the readers the anomalies between the then stated intents and principles and the subsequent ways of governing.

In short Sri Lanka cannot be regarded as a moral state, despite the importance given to Buddhism in the Constitution. The very belief ‘end justifies the means’ is contrary to Buddhist philosophy. It is not just religion that determines the character of States. In this regard Prof. Ishtiaq Ahmed’s comments on the recent articles for and against making Pakistan a secular state published in the Daily Times are interesting and useful. He has said the modern secular state is a moral state because it upholds the rule of law while accepting limits to its power and authority by law. The rule of law recognizes the rights of individuals to certain inalienable freedoms, including the freedom to conscience and religion. In such a state equal treatment of men and women, protection of the rights of minorities to their culture and religion, and sincere commitment to promote the welfare of all citizens are assured.

The modern secular state prescribes a very advanced morality — that its citizens have the right to be liberated from want and hunger, illiteracy and disempowerment. Moreover, the modern secular-democratic state must ensure that all individuals as well as majorities and minorities enjoy the freedom of religion and conscience and the political right to choose their government. There are of course many other rights that are now part of the UN conventions and national constitutions. The whole purpose is that the government cannot arbitrarily repeal the human and civil rights of citizens. (Sri Lanka Guardian March 10, 2010)

Another relevant study on reforming the Sri Lankan State by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka also reveals the important changes needed to make Sri Lanka a truly moral and harmonious state. On secularism he has said: “The relevance of secularism is that it is symbolic of the state’s/central government’s neutrality or non-alignment in relation to the constituent communities/collectivities of that society, irrespective of the sizes of those communities and ratios between them. Thus the state stands above the communities, able to reconcile them. The Soulbury Constitution would have put us closest to model 1 (i.e. that of Singapore). If the existing Sri Lankan Constitution inclusive of the results of the Indo-Lanka accord, i.e. 13th amendment were fully implemented, the Sri Lankan state would arguably be a variant of model 3 i.e. non-secular, not a level playing field, but with an offsetting provincial autonomy”. The patriots want only home-grown products. Soulbury Constitution and the 13th Amendment do not meet this requirement.

Acknowledging Sri Lankan society is heterogeneous, he has very fittingly stated: “In a homogenous society, devolution is not an imperative. In a heterogeneous society, strong centralism devoid of devolution is fine if accompanied by meritocratic multiculturalism and secularism, i.e. a neutral state. Conversely, a secular meritocracy – a neutral state — is not necessary, and the dice can be loaded in favour of the majority perceived as historically underprivileged, provided there is a compensatory counterweight at the periphery in the form of federalism or regional/provincial autonomy (Malaysia). Singapore fits well as a moral state because of meritocracy, multiculturalism, several official languages (English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil), a level playing field and a managed market economy.

Singapore’s success is also due to the relatively high quality of the elected political leaders and legislators, which is lacking in Sri Lanka. As stated earlier, education is not structured to produce the right kind of persons useful for serving the people and the country and in general raise the moral standards of the society. The primary and secondary school curricula should include lessons in ethics. Media also has a vital role in promoting national unity, multiculturalism, trust between ethnic communities, social justice and respect for the legitimate rights and freedoms of others. From the above analysis it is clear a holistic approach is needed to rebuild the battered Sri Lanka with pleasant features that will give solace and hope to future generations.

[The writer is Former Additional Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Sri Lanka and UN Advisor, Development Economics/Planning]

CNN: Sri Lanka war survivor: The future holds 'nothing'

Raveendran Jenatha doesn't exude the kind of excitement and wonder young adults often do when it comes to figuring out their future. She is 21 years old and confident about what her future holds.

"Nothing," she said softly.

Raveendran Jenatha is sure she has no future because of her past and what it has done to her.

"Now I can't do anything. That is the only problem," she said.

Then her sweet smile and confident tone broke, and she burst out in a moaning sob. Through her tears, she sputtered: "I need help for everything."

Raveendran Jenatha is one of an estimated 280,000 people who were trapped last year in the middle of the final battles of the war in Sri Lanka -- a decades-long conflict that pitted government forces against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers), who were seeking an independent homeland in the country's north. She escaped, but not before losing her legs and one of her eyes.

"We got into a bunker, and a shell fell inside the bunker where we were taking shelter. My cousin died. Me? I lost my two legs," she said, forgetting about her damaged eye, as she went on telling what happened.

Minutes later, she added: "I don't have an eye either."

Raveendran Jenatha and her family live in a northern Sri Lanka neighborhood where their story is the norm. The other families that surround them also have epic war stories and battered bodies. They lived through months of terror running from one bunker to another to avoid death.

The world's attention turned to the tear-shaped island off the tip of southern India as the war flared. In the last few months of the war in 2009 -- during some of the fiercest fighting -- allegations of war crimes and a humanitarian crisis made headlines across the globe.

Allegations surfaced against both sides.

The Tamil Tigers were accused of using civilians as human shields, keeping them from leaving the increasingly dangerous battle zones -- allegations they denied.

The Sri Lankan military was accused of bombing and shelling areas in the safe zone including hospitals, an allegation its commanders denied.

At the height of the separatist war in April to May 2009, the government began barring independent journalists from covering the battle zones -- creating even more questions about what was going on and leaving untold the stories of civilians caught in the fighting.

Months after the conflict ended those war survivors are emerging from the battle zones and government camps they had to live in. The government has opened most of the camps to allow those with somewhere to go out, such as Raveendran Jenatha.

She has never known a life without war. Her story, like the others, gushes out in a flood of tears or anger or a state of resignation as she tries to explain what happened to her and those she loved, and how to cope with a new reality.

"Now that the problems which we face do not exist I feel happy," she said as she carefully concealed her amputated legs. "But yet after going through so much, after the fighting for so many years, and after destroying so many things, what use was it? What was it all for? We are back to square one."

March 12, 2010

Ship-bound Tamil refugees need help

By Joe Fiorito

What happens there happens here: a small wooden boat is sitting at anchor off the coast of Indonesia. It has been there for five months. On board are some 240 people who cannot come ashore for fear of arrest and deportation.

They are Tamils.

Five months on a boat meant for 50. You can imagine. No, you can’t.

Some of them are from camps in Malaysia. All of them fled the recent war. The Indonesian government is doing nothing to help.

Why should that matter to us?

Nearly half of the people on that ship have relatives in Canada. Here’s another reason.

A woman from Toronto went to see the boat recently. Jessica Chandrashekar is a PhD student at York University. She is 26 years old, and she is a member of a small non-governmental organization, Canadian HART. The acronym is short for the Humanitarian Appeal for the Relief of Tamils.

Jessica told her story at a small, almost impromptu meeting recently. She said, “We didn’t get to see the boat for very long. We were there for five minutes. The police detained us. They interrogated us for 11 hours the first day. They took our passports. The second day they interrogated us for seven hours. They asked us who we were, and who sent us, and they asked if we have family on the boat.”

I could have told them who she is.

She is a student at York.

“The third day, they took us to the airport and deported us.” Was she afraid? “I was concerned. We could have been arrested. After hearing the stories of the people on the boat ...”

Wait a minute.

If she was detained, and if the men and women on the boat can’t come ashore, how was she able to hear their stories?

“They have a laptop and a camera, and they have Skype. They send pictures.” I love the Internet.

“There are 31 children on board. The youngest is 1 year old, and learned to walk on the ship.”

That child was born in a bunker in Sri Lanka, during the shelling; somehow, the mother made her way with her infant to a camp in Malaysia.

There is another woman on board who was due to give birth last week. What would we do if that ship were anchored off Ward’s Island?

Yes, I know — the boat is not here. But it is, in a way, here by proxy: if your nephew was about to be born on board, and so on.

Jessica said, “We’re afraid of what might happen if they try to come off the boat. They will be beaten, detained — Indonesia hasn’t signed on to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”

What now?

Jessica said, “We’re trying to negotiate guarantees ... for freedom of movement, for medical care.”

What about those who say the people on board are terrorists? Jessica said, “There are UNHCR procedures ... these people are refugees, they are fleeing persecution ... we have to honour their evidence.”

Present at the meeting were representatives of a couple of groups that help refugees; there was information passed around for the benefit of those who might have family on board, and further information about refugee sponsorship.

I asked Jessica again if she hadn’t been afraid. She said, “When I look back, maybe I’ll think, ‘Oh, my God.’ But really, I was only at risk of being deported back to Canada, where I live comfortably, I eat well, I go to school; if the people on board were deported, it would be different.”

If there were more like her, it would be different, and better. [courtesy: Toronto Star]

'Is this justice just': A poem by Paaventhar Bharathithaasan

Paaventhar Bharathithaasan’s poetic works dealt with socio-political issues that are true and relevant to this day.

Many of his works have been featured in Tamil movies as well. His song “Siththira Solaikale” was included in the film “Naan ean piranthen” – Why was I born?, starring Makkal Thilakam M.G. Ramachandran.

Universal Hero Kamal Hasaan stated in an event that Puradchi Thalaivar MGR insisted on including this song in "Naan ean piranthen?" against the wishes of the producer of the movie.

Bharathithaasan was born on April 29, 1891 in Pondicherry, French India and passed away on April 21, 1964 in Chennai (Madras), India. His original name was Subburathinam. In 1909, he was introduced to Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar, and his interactions with the Mahakavi had a major impact on him.

Bharathithaasan was greatly influenced by Periyar and his writings were encouraged by political leaders C.N. Annadurai and M.G. Ramachandran. And his works stand true to contemporary issues, as a true poet’s 'poetic justice' comes to life at all junctures in history.

The poem “Siththira Solaikale" parallels nature, labor and machines that are bettering life on earth for humanity wherein beneath it lies numerous sacrifices. This poem, a tribute to the hard working labor is compiled in the following video with paintings from another time.

This video features paintings by Shan Sundaram of Pennsylvania, USA. Many of his paintings are featured in www.free-tamil.com

Together with Bharathithaasan’s poem, the paintings bring a message to the Tamil diaspora - recalling of sacrifices and the plight while calling now to set course in charity to help those in dire need. It reminds against becoming forgetful along with complacency that sets in as time goes on.

Translation of "Siththira Solaikale"

Picturesque groves
Nurture you on this earth – how many
Comrades shredded
Blood on your roots!

Lotus blooming ponds
In those days you set in - Of our
Holiest comrades buried extinct
Shall I recite of it in this world!

Machine clusters that mill
Your first and finale - shall I recite
Laboring our villager’s toil
Didn’t it give rise to truth?

World that's witnessing labors' toil
Purging hunger plunders life - telling
Wealthy you are
Is this justice just? Paaventhar Bharathithaasan's poem, Translated by K.T. Kumaran

courtesy: http://sundaramartgallery.blogspot.com/

A River for Jaffna

by Thiru Arumugam
Sydney, Australia

In the article on Eppawala phosphate deposit in The Island on Sunday 07 March 2010, the felicitation to Jayantha Dhanapala on his election as President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs for a five year term 2007 – 2012 was mentioned.

At a Workshop in his honour in November 2007, on Learning from Ancient Hydraulic Civilizations to Combat Climate Change a presentation on the River for Jaffna Project was made by Engineer Thiru Arumugam. At the conclusion of the Workshop a resolution proposed by Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, and seconded by Engineer D L O Mendis was passed unanimously, and submitted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa who ordered immediate implementation of the scheme:

This Pugwash Workshop resolves to recommend to the Government of Sri Lanka that the project known as A River for Jaffna that was started some fifty years ago, and almost completed, but is now in a state of disuse and abandonment, should be restored without delay, as a most important step towards including Sri Lankans of the Jaffna peninsula in the development and enjoyment of the natural resources of the country, thereby contributing to early achievement of a durable peace.

In the submissions to the President a brief historical note on the origins of the project was included:

1. The earliest known proposal for improving the fresh water in the peninsula was made nearly 350 years ago by the Dutch Captain Hendrile van Reede, who said: "A dike to contain the sea at Condemanaer (Thondamannaru) and Navacolli, (Navatkuli - Ariyalai) with sluices to claim the rain water and a canal to the salt pans at Nieweli would create more useful arable land."

Van Reede was remarkably perceptive to realize this on a casual visit to Jaffna. Only a Dutchman with their long history of land reclamation would have thought of this scheme, because the Jaffna Peninsula has no rivers and is totally dependent on annual rainfall of about 1270 mm, (about 87% from October to December) to recharge underground aquifers.

2. Water used to be drawn by well sweeps, in about 100,000 wells in the Peninsula, but from the 1950’s pumps were used. Over pumping the fresh water in the limestone aquifer permits sea water percolation through the fractured limestone as no part of Jaffna is more than about 15 km from the sea. Now about 30% of the wells are saline.

3. Within the Jaffna peninsula, Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons have surface areas of about 77 and 26 square km respectively, about 10% of the peninsula’s approximately 1000 square km. These salt water lagoons receive north-east monsoon rain water from their catchments of about 50% of the Peninsula.

4. Paddy cultivation is essentially rain-fed. Cash crops and market garden crops are, however, irrigated using well water. British Colonial Secretary, Sir James Emerson Tennant in 1859 described market gardening in Jaffna as follows, and his description remains basically unchanged except that pumps have largely replaced well sweeps:

"In the immediate vicinity of Point Pedro (and the description applies equally well to the vicinity of Jaffna and the western division of the peninsula in general), the perfection of the village cultivation is truly remarkable; it is horticulture rather than agriculture, and reminds one of the market gardens of Fulham and Chelsea more forcibly than anything I have seen out of England. Almost every cottage has a garden attached to it, wherein are grown fruit-trees and flowers, the latter being grown in great quantities for decoration and offering in the temples. Each is situated in a well-secured enclosure, with one or more wells. From these night and day, but chiefly during the night, labourers are employed for raising water by means of vessels (frequently woven of palm leaves) attached to horizontal levers; something like the sakkias used by the peasants on the Nile for a similar purpose…..

The value of these wells is extreme in a country where rivers and even the smallest stream are unknown, and where cultivators are entirely dependent on rains of two monsoons. But such has been the indefatigable industry of the people, that they may be said to have virtually added a third harvest to the year, by the extent to which they have multiplied the means of irrigation around their principal towns and villages."

5. In 1879, Government Agent, Twyneham, proposed that dams would prevent salt water from entering the lagoons, but a severe cyclone and flooding, possibly a tsunami caused by the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in Indonesia caused severe flooding in Jaffna in 1883. Twyneham withdrew his proposals because had the dams been there, flooding would have been much worse.

6. In 1916 Government Agent, Horsberg, suggested that as an experiment the upper reaches of Vadamarachchi lagoon be made a freshwater lagoon by blocking some culverts. This was done in 1920 and the scheme operated successfully for four years, but was not made permanent, possibly due to the great depression.

7. In the 1940s Divisional Irrigation Engineer, Webb, produced detailed plans for barrages at Thondamannaru and Ariyalai, a scheme supported by Balasingham, a Member of the State Council. The scheme was later modified in the 1950s. Key points of the scheme and details of the work done at that time are as follows:

* Close the openings in the road and rail bridges in Elephant Pass causeway at the western end of Elephant Pass lagoon to prevent fresh water going to the sea. This work was completed.

* Build a bund at the eastern end of Elephant Pass lagoon at Chundikulam to prevent fresh water going to the sea at that end and a spillway to discharge excess flood water to the sea. This work was completed and Elephant Pass lagoon became a fresh water lagoon for a few years but unfortunately the bund was breached by subsequent heavy floods, thus allowing sea water access since then.

* Excavate a 12 metre wide, 4 km long channel, called the Mulliyan Link Channel, from the northern side of the Elephant Pass lagoon to convey fresh water from the Elephant Pass lagoon to the southern end of the Vadamarachchi lagoon, including regulatory gates to control the flow. Unfortunately only about 80% of this was completed when funds ran out.

* Refurbish the existing Thondamanaru Barrage (where the northern end of Vadamarachchi lagoon joins the sea) and improve the discharge gates to allow for discharge of flood water. This will make Vadamarachchi a fresh water lagoon. The existing barrage was no longer watertight and allows sea water to enter the lagoon.

* Provide a spillway and gates at the southern end of Upparu Lagoon where it connects to the sea, near Ariyalai to make Upparu a fresh water lagoon. Provide a link channel between Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons so that fresh water from Elephant Pass lagoon can be supplied to Upparu lagoon. The spillway and gates were constructed, but the gates are no longer watertight and sea water enters Upparu lagoon.

* Construction work on Thondamannaru Barrage commenced after the war, was completed in 1953, and the Ariyalai Barrage in 1955. However they were no longer functional when the wooden gates and stop logs perished with the passage of time.

8. To increase availability of fresh water in the Jaffna peninsula alternative sources to local rain were needed. The relatively shallow Elephant Pass seawater lagoon has a surface area of about 77 square km. and a catchment area of about 940 square km in the mainland Vanni, mainly the Kanakarayan Aru and three smaller streams. North-east monsoon surplus rain water from the Vanni discharges into Elephant Pass lagoon. During the 1960’s a scheme was proposed to utilise this water running to waste from the Elephant Pass lagoon, for the benefit of the Jaffna peninsula.

9. The scheme was only partially completed in the 1960’s and the key Mulliyan link channel from Elephant Pass lagoon to Vadamarachchi lagoon was never completed. In the brief period that Vadamarachchi and Upparu were fresh water lagoons the benefits to the peninsula were noticeable and many saline wells became potable water wells. The present situation is that the barrages at Thondamanaru and Ariyalai are no longer watertight and sea water enters these lagoons freely.

Project benefits

The benefits of completing this project include the following:

* About 13,000 hectares of land can be cultivated with paddy in the Jaffna peninsula. The area presently cultivated is about 8000 hectares due to soil salinity and other reasons. This cultivation is entirely rain fed unlike paddy cultivation on the mainland which is under irrigation. As it is rain fed, the yield per acre in Jaffna is very poor and is only about one-third of the average yield per acre on the mainland. If the Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons become fresh water lakes, the water table and water quality in the wells will improve, and using lift irrigation it will be possible to irrigate these paddy fields without depending purely on the rain, and the paddy land now lying fallow can also be cultivated. The potential for improvement in yield and rice production is staggering.

* About 4400 hectares of land bordering the Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons are uncultivable at present as they are saline. When these become fresh water lagoons, after the salt is leached out of the soil, it will be possible to cultivate this land with cash crops and paddy.

* There will be a dramatic improvement in the water quality of the 30% of the Jaffna wells which are now saline. In many cases the water will become suitable for domestic and agricultural use, increasing the acreage under agricultural cultivation.

* In existing wells it will be possible to increase the amount of daily pumping without the water going saline, thus increasing agricultural cultivation and livestock production.

* Fresh water prawn farming can commence on the banks of the lagoons, with potential for export earnings.

* Converting Elephant Pass lagoon into a 77 sq km fresh water lagoon will provide fresh agricultural possibilities on both sides of the lagoon i.e. the Jaffna peninsula side on the north, as well as the Vanni side on the south, once the salinity has been leached out of the soil.

Work needed to be complete the scheme

K Shanmugarajah, Chief Engineer of this project in the 1970’s had written a comprehensive book on the history of the project, which contains detailed designs, details of the work carried out and work remaining to be done. Detailed cost estimates were also included. If funds for the full project are not immediately available, it was mentioned that phased implementation could be considered in the following steps:

Step 1: Recondition Thondamanaru Barrage

Replace and repair perished wooden gates and lifting devices etc. If this barrage is made watertight Vadamarachchi lagoon will become a fresh water lagoon fed with rain water from its 300 sq km catchment area. This work was completed on the orders of President Rajapaksa as mentioned above. Vadamarachchi lagoon has again become a permanent fresh water lagoon, a major step forward in improving the fresh water reserves of the Jaffna Peninsula underground aquifer that is the source for all the agro-wells. In the recent maha season, more than 3000 acres had been cultivated after a lapse of about thirty years.

Step 2 : Recondition Ariyalai Barrage

Repair and replace perished planked bays and replace with screw operated gates. Repair breaches in separation bund between Upparu lagoon and Ariyalai saltern. Repair separation bund between Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons as required. This will make Upparu lagoon a fresh water lagoon fed with rain water from its 220 sq km catchment area. This work is under construction.

Step 3 : Complete Mulliyan Link Channel

Complete excavation of Mulliyan Link Channel, form bund and roadway, causeway, and provide control regulator. Provide link channel between Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons. When this work is completed there is a possibility that the water in the Elephant Pass lagoon at the height of the north east monsoon may be sufficiently low in saline content, even before the Spill cum Causeway at Chundikulam is completed, to enable it to be diverted to Vadamarchchi and Upparu lagoons as required.

Step 4 : Complete Spill cum Causeway at Chundikulam

At the eastern end of Elephant Pass lagoon at Chundikulam, complete the spill cum Chundikulam causeway, zoned embankment, and flanked embankment with gravel road. The spill plus causeway will be 2100 metres long and the bund 1400 metres long. Estimated cost of this work at 1991 rates was Rs 93 million plus administration and facilities costs. When this work is completed Elephant Pass lagoon will become a fresh water lagoon. Finally, repair and improve 8 km long access road from Paranthan-Mullaitivu road to Chundikulam causeway.

Recent Developments

1. An important issue regarding an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study for the River for Jaffna Project, and the conversion of the three lagoons at Vadamarachchi, Upparu and Elephant Pass into fresh water lagoons has been raised.

It must be remembered that these three lagoons have always been fresh water lagoons for three to four months of the year during the north-east monsoon and then gradually became saline during the rest of the year. In the 1950s and 1960s when this project was partially commissioned by the Irrigation department, the three lagoons became fresh water lagoons for twelve months of the year for many years, and there was no noticeable adverse environmental impact.

2. However, a new proposal called the Jaffna Water Supply and Sanitation project has been mooted by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board. What is of great concern is the proposed source of water for the scheme which is to be partially funded by an ADB loan of US$ 80 million. The source of raw water proposed is the Iranamadu Tank and water will be pumped about 60 km to Jaffna through pipelines from Paranthan. This will draw down the water in Iranamadu Tank thus further reducing the acreage of land that can be cultivated in the Yala season, which is presently said to be only about 30% of the available acreage.

On the other hand, the River for Jaffna project, at a fraction of the cost, utilizes only the overflow water from Iranamadu, downstream rainfall, and other rivers flowing into Elephant pass lagoon, and takes it by gravity to Jaffna peninsula, without any pumping. If restoration of the River for Jaffna project is completed as planned, all this pumping and pipelines will not be required as the Jaffna Peninsula underground aquifer will be adequately replenished to provide the raw water required for the Jaffna Water Supply and Sanitation Scheme, thus saving many millions of dollars in capital costs and annual running costs.

Apart from the conflict over water at the source, Iranamadu reservoir, there is a potential for conflict over water supply and sanitation at the delivery end as between the Jaffna peninsula and the outlying islands in the proposed scheme.

Full Text: General Election 2010 Manifesto, Tamil National Alliance (TNA)

Source: Tamil National Alliance

A TAMIL NATION IN THE ISLAND OF CEYLON

Prior to the arrival of the western powers in the 16th century, there were three kingdoms in the island of Ceylon, one of which in the North belonged to the Tamils. The Kandyan kingdom in the central hills was the last to fall to the British in 1815. In 1833 the British unified the three nations for administrative convenience and from then Ceylon became one territory. At the time of independence from colonial rule in 1948, the colonial government enacted a unitary type constitution with simple majoritarian rule which had a prohibition on the passage of legislation making persons of any community or religion liable to any disabilities or restrictions to which persons of other communities or religions were not made liable or from conferring on persons of any community or religion any privilege or advantage which was not conferred on persons of other communities or religions - S 29 (2) of the Constitution granting Independence.

THE CALL FOR A FEDERAL CONSTITUTION

In 1949 a sizeable number of Tamils of recent Indian Origin were disenfranchised and in 1956 Sinhala was made the only official language of the country, although such was what the prohibition in Section 29(2) sought to avoid. This was also contrary to the policy that prevailed prior to Independence. During this time the State also aggressively pursued a policy of State-sponsored colonization of the Eastern Province in particular, with the members of the majority community, so as to radically change the demographic composition of preponderantly Tamil Speaking territory. In this background in April 1951 the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi(ITAK) articulated its claim that the Tamil People in Ceylon were a distinct nation from that of the Sinhalese by every test of nationhood and were therefore entitled to the right to self-determination. As a necessary corollary to the exercise of this right, we demanded a federal arrangement in the North and the East, where the Tamil Speaking Peoples are a predominant majority. Various peaceful agitations were organized between this time and the late 1960s by the ITAK to win back the right to self determination that was lost first through foreign conquests and later due to a system government not accepted by the Tamil People that reinforced majoritarian hegemony.

THE BANDA-CHELVA PACT

After the passage of the Official Language Act, an Agreement was entered into between the then Prime Minister of Ceylon, S W R D Bandaranaike and S J V Chelvanayagam, the leader of the Tamil People in 1957. This Agreement envisaged the creation of regional councils by which governmental power was to be devolved with exclusive power over State land. This however was not implemented by Bandaranaike, ostensibly for the reason that there was opposition to it from the majority community.

THE DUDLEY-CHELVA PACT

Later in 1965 another similar Agreement for autonomy, including provisions ensuring that the policies relating to the alienation of State land would not alter the existing demographic compositions of the North and the East, was signed between S J V Chelvanayagam, the Tamil leader and Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake. The ITAK joined the government in 1965 upon the faith of this agreement but three years later resigned due to the fact that no progress was shown in the implementation of the agreement pertaining to the grant of autonomy.

COLONIZATION

The systematic state-sponsored colonization carried out since independence in 1948 with a view to changing the demographic pattern of the North and the East gravely agitated our People, who consider this as their ‘traditional homeland’ with the right to exercise self-determination.

Colonization schemes in the Eastern Province between 1940 and 1980 along with State Land alienation policies changed the composition of the Sinhala population from 9% in the Eastern Province at the time of independence to 25% in 1981, which is the last available census for the North and East.

Between 1947 and 1981, while the national increase in the Sinhala population was 238%, the Sinhala population in the Eastern Province increased by 883%. This agenda of changing the demography of the North and the East has continued with full vigour upto date. And apart from the irrigation schemes for cultivation, which largely benefited the new colonists who were not Tamil Speaking People, no other significant developmental work was undertaken in the North and East for the last 60 years and our People and our Land were totally neglected by successive Sinhala governments in the post-independence era.

TAMIL PEOPLE’S NON-PARTICIPATION IN REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION MAKING

In 1970 a Constituent Assembly was formed to enact an autochthonous constitution. ITAK also participated in this exercise and asked for certain principles to be agreed upon. That proposal was defeated by a majority vote and the Members of the ITAK left the Constituent Assembly. Similarly we did not grant our consent to the enactment of the 1978 Constitution.

The first and second republican constitutions entrenched a Unitary State and continued with Sinhala as the only official language and gave Buddhism the foremost place. They also left out the Section 29(2) prohibition found in the Soulbury Constitution. 1972 and 1978 constitution were enacted without the consent of the Tamil people.

STANDARDIZATION

A standardization scheme for University admissions was introduced, resulting in Sinhala students with much lesser marks entering Universities, while Tamil students with higher marks were being left out, effectively ending the hopes of higher education for the Tamils and served to exacerbate the frustration of Tamil youth. In the 1970s over 40 Tamil youth who participated in peaceful protests were arrested and detained for some years without trial using the emergency powers.

ORGANISED VIOLENCE AGAINST THE TAMIL PEOPLE

In addition to the acts of discrimination, organized violence was periodically unleashed against the Tamil People in all parts of the country in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1977, 1981 and 1983. No protection was provided by the State to the Tamil victims.On these occasions, affected Tamil People from other parts of the country were transported by the State to the North and East thereby recognizing these two provinces to be our ‘traditional homeland’. Consequent to the above Tamil youth took up arms against State sponsored terrorism and to win back the lost sovereignty of the Tamil People.

THE CALL TO RESTORE THE LOST SOVEREIGNTY

The ITAK and the other Tamil parties came together under a banner called Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), and in 1976 passed a resolution calling for a restoration of our lost sovereignty in the background of the continued denial of the right of the Tamil People to self determination by ignoring their democratic verdict at every election since 1956. Even the Agreements that were signed by the Sinhala Governments with the Tamil Leaders were not honoured.

Oppression and discrimination of the Tamil People continued unabated. The TULF asked the Tamil People for a mandate to work towards regaining the lost sovereignty at the General Elections held in July 1977 and we won in all but one of the predominant Tamil constituencies in the North and East.

POWER SHARING ARRANGMENTS

Soon after the anti-Tamil violence in 1983, several attempts were made to solve the ethnic conflict, by means of an alternate political arrangement in which greater autonomy would be granted to the Tamil Speaking Peoples.

An arrangement was introduced in 1987 consequent to the Indo-Lanka Accord, which also merged the North and East into one province. These changes paved the way for the setting up of Provincial Councils with minimal powers. But the nature of the State was still described as ‘unitary’ and provisions in the 13th Amendment have been used to re-take powers back to the Centre. This did not in any way bring about a meaningful arrangement for the sharing of power.

ABANDONING THE UNITARY MODEL – SHARED SOVEREIGNTY

In August 1995 the Government of Sri Lanka put forward a set of proposals for constitutional reforms that recognized Sri Lanka as ‘a plural society within a united and sovereign republic’ and the draft constitution that followed in January 1996 described the nature of the State as ‘an indissoluble Union of Regions’. The 2000 Bill presented to Parliament abjured the unitary structure of government and introduced arrangements with a shared sovereignty in regard to powers of governance.

NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE LTTE

While no progress was being made on the political front to solve this burning national issue, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) continued its armed struggle. Though initially there were several military outfits, since 1987 the LTTE emerged as the sole military outfit that fought for a separate homeland for the Tamils. Successive governments entered into negotiations with the LTTE and in 2002 the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka signed a Ceasefire Agreement and later agreed on a set of principles called the Oslo Communiqué, which is as follows:

“[T]o explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking Peoples, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka.”

MILITARY ONSLAUGHT AND ITS AFTERMATH

However, the ceasefire did not last and hostilities broke out between the government forces and the LTTE with the military confrontation coming to an end on 19th May 2009. The 30 year old hostilities and war has ravaged the Tamil homeland and left our people destitute. Around 1 Million Tamil Peole have fled to other countries for safety and another half a million Tamil People have been displaced within the country. Over One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Tamil People have been killed over the years of conflict and it is estimated that over 30,000 civilians have been killed in the last stages of the military onslaught. Many more have been maimed and grievously injured and suffer from traumatic disorders. In addition in the Vanni, over 300,000 Tamil people were rendered homeless and were later interned in detention camps against all civilized and international norms. A large part of them are still languishing in those camps. An equal number of People were displaced in the East consequent to military action. Over 11,000 persons have been detained for alleged involvement with the LTTE. Others who were ‘released’ have been abondoned to fend for themselves, without any relief measures or any kind of livelihood. They don’t even have a shelter, no house to go to. The planned resettlement and rehabilitation of these people and the reconstruction of our homeland has become the very urgent and prime need of the hour. Several places of worship, both Hindu and Christian, of the Tamil People have also been defiled and destroyed.

Complaints made to Government at the highest levels have not resulted in appropriate action.

OUR LANDS AND OUR PEOPLE EXPLOITED

Vast extent of lands, particularly in the Jaffna peninsula and Muttur East including Sampur, have been under military control for several years and are being called “High Security Zones”, denying the historic Tamil inhabitants of those areas the right to live in their own private homes, cultivate their own lands and engage in fishing and other economic activities. Rapid moves are taking place under the guise of industrial, tourist and other development in the North and East, for the express purpose of colonizing the Tamil areas with others and changing the demographic composition of these areas. Fishing rights along the coast are restricted, severely affecting the livelihood of the Tamil Speaking Peoples. People who rely on the Palmyrah tree for their existence are badly exploited by the Palmyrah Development Board being controlled by the State to the exclusion of the actual stake holders. The right of free movement of the Tamil People is still restricted and their right to equality in many areas is continuing to be violated.

Several persons who were arrested years ago on suspicion continue to be detained without any charges. The day to day living conditions of the large majority of our People remain pathetic.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 2010

At the January Presidential Election, we explained to our people the indifferent attitude of the government over the plight of our people and the lack of will in addressing our political issues. Although an All Party Representative Committee was set up, the TNA, which had 22 out of 23 Tamil Members of Parliament from the North and East was not invited to attend the APRC Even the recommendations made to the APRC by the majority of an expert panel appointed by the President were not acted upon. Meanwhile the Government was aggressively inplementing its hidden agenda of changing the demographic composition in the North and East.

For these and other reasons we urged our people to reject the call for a fresh mandate for a second term for President Rajapakse. The Tamil Speaking Peoples have clearly and unambiguously spoken at that election.

By voting overwhelmingly against President Rajapakse’s call for a fresh mandate they have made known their displeasure at the way the Rajapakse regime had ruled during their first term in office. More importantly, they have again in unison articulated their aspiration for genuine autonomy. This is the democratic verdict in every distict in the North and East and reflects overwhelming Tamil Speaking view.

OUR STAND ON THE POLITICAL SOLUTION

The principles and specific constitutional provisions that the TNA considers to be paramount to the resolution of the question of the Tamil speaking Peoples in Sri Lanka relate mainly to the sharing of the powers of governance through a shared sovereignty amongst the Peoples who inhabit this island. The following salient features of power sharing are fundamental to achieving lasting peace and development for all the Peoples of Sri Lanka:

• The Tamil People are a distinct nationality and have inhabited the island of Sri Lanka together with the Sinhalese People and others

• The contiguous preponderantly Tamil Speaking Northern and Eastern provinces is the historical habitation of the Tamil Speaking Peoples

• The Tamil People are entitled to the right of self determination

• Power sharing arrangements must be established in a unit of merged Northern and Eastern Provinces based on a Federal structure, in a manner also accptable to the Tamil Speaking Muslim people.

• Devolution of powers should be over land, law and order, socioeconomic development including health and education, resources and fiscal powers

• Direct foreign investment in the North and East will be facilitated resulting in new industries and other employment opportunities being created for our youth

• Avenues for tertiary education will also be set up so that those who cannot enter the Universities can pursue higher education in relevant fields MATTERS OF IMMEDIATE CONCERN FOR OUR PEOPLE In addition to continuing to pursue a just and lasting peace for our people, we will actively engage in addressing the immediate and current concerns of our People and will strive to achive the following:

• There must be meaningful de-militarization resulting in the return to the pre- war situation as it existed in 1983 by the removal of armed forces, military apparatuses and High Security Zones from the Northern and Eastern Provinces

• Tamil People who have been displaced in the North and East due to the conflict must be speedily resettled in their original places; housing provided, their livelihoods restored and their dignity respected

• Compensation must also be paid for the loss of lives, to those who have been maimed and to those who have suffered losses as a result of the military campaign

• Persons who are detained without charges must be released promptly and a general amnesty should be granted to the others, as an initial step towards national reconciliation

• Tamils who fled the country over the last 30 years also must be permitted to return to their homes and conducive atmosphere for same created for their return.

• A comprehensive programme for the resettlement of the Tamil People and their rehabilitation and development of the North and East including the creation of employment opportunity for the youth will be undertaken with the active participation of the Tamil Diaspora and the International Community.

• There ought to be no displaced persons. But until we achieve that we will take steps to increase the relief granted to the IDPS in order to meet the growing cost of living.

• We will emphasise the need to establish a special commission to uplift the socially and economically disadvantaged sections of our society, in order to increase their livelihoods and dignity and make them equal citizens.

• We will take necessary steps to raise the standard of living of fishing communities by providing them access to modern technologies and an atmosphere in which they can engage in their vocation with freedom.

• The salaries of government servants and private sector employees need to be raised and the living standards of daily employed and those at the very bottom of the social scale needs to be raised.

• The equal status of our women must be ensured and women, elders and children affected by the war need special attention in order to secure their livelihoods and protection from future exploitation.

• We will do everything in our power to secure employment opportunities to unemployed graduates and others.

CRUCIAL ISSUES AT THE GENERAL ELECTIONS 2010

Successive governments in Sri Lanka have continued to ignore the legitimate and inalienable right of the Tamil Speaking Peoples to charter their own destiny in the areas historically inhabited by them within a united country. Their sovereign expressions at every Election since 1956 have been either ignored or unjustifiably discarded Peaceful agitations for over 30 years after independence were met with brute force leading the way for an inevitable armed struggle. The next 30 years witnessed some of the most horrible violations of our People’s fundamental human rights in the name of crushing an armed rebellion.

Innocent civilians were bombed from the air; populated areas were consistently shelled; people were driven away from their homes; large numbers were killed and maimed; valuable assets destroyed and several youth were incarcerated, tortured and otherwise violated. The efforts of a commission of inquiry set up at the insistence of the international community to inquire into grave violations of human rights was emasculated and came to naught. The Sri Lankan government has brazenly violated the Indo-Lanka Accord and allges that the North and East has been de-merged. The Sri Lankan government is not entitled to resile from this Treaty obligation under the Vienna Convention.

Several experiences have compelled the Tamil People to conclude that they cannot accept even the judicial arm of government as impartial arbiters. The policies of the executive are aimed at depopulating this island of the Tamil People and large numbers of Tamil People continue to regularly flee the country.

The system of government that is in place is so designed as to enable the central legislature to only entrench majoritarian hegemony. This clearly is a genocidal programme, but no one has been able to halt it. The Sri Lankan government has ignored the concerns raised by India and the international community over the years, and has now emboldened itself to openly declare that it will not be guided by the views of the international community of civilized nations. If this trend continues, the planned genocide will succeed and this island would have rid itself of a People called Tamils!

The TNA will implement an action programme soon after this General Election, first to make the government respect the democratic verdict of our People and to enter into a dialogue with us on restructuring the system of governance of this country that will recognize the sovereign rights of the Tamil People. If the government continues to ignore the democratic verdict of our People as in the past, we will directly take these concerns to India and the International Community urging them to take due cognizance of the genocidal programme against the Tamil People and to take appropriate effective action.

If the Sri Lankan State continues its present style of governance without due regard to the rights of the Tamil Speaking Peoples, the TNA will launch a peaceful, non-violent, Satyagraha campaign of civil disobedience on the Gandhian model to win back the legitimate rights of the Tamil Speaking Peoples. The continued denial of the right to self determination of the Tamil People and the consequent deprivation of access to governance in political, economic, social and cultural issues of grave and immediate concern collectively to the Tamil Speaking Peoples would inexorably lead to a situation where the international community will be called upon to consider what further action needs to be taken to recognize the right of the Tamil People to self determination.

The TNA is the only group that did not split or have even one member defect in the last Parliament, although it is made up of four different registered political parties. However, enormous efforts have been made since then to weaken the collective political influence of the Tamil Speaking Peoples, by arraigning a plethora of groups to contest against the TNA in the North and the East. The need of the hour is to preserve and demonstrate our unity. That is the first step in stopping the steamroller that is slowly inching its way hoping to decimate our People and our Land. We cannot afford to display any disunity at this time. We emphasise that unity among the Tamil People is paramount to satisfactorily resolve the issues of immediate concern and also achieve our political goals.

This is also true with regard to Tamil-Muslim unity more than at any other time. In recent times the Tamil Speaking Peoples, the Tamils and Muslims, have increasingly realized the imperative need for such unity and the leadership of the Tamil and the Muslim People have constructively worked together to further this objective. We are committed to further consolidating and strengthening this unity. We are also committed to the early and planned resettlement in the North of all the Muslim people who are displaced.

The lives of our People must be rebuilt while maintaining our distinct identity as a People. We must also regain our political rights as a People.

We therefore appeal to the Tamil Speaking Peoples to courageously stand up and demonstrate our unity at this General Election by voting for the Tamil National Alliance contesting under the name of Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi and its ‘House’ symbol.

March 11, 2010

US State dept. Full Report: Sri Lanka Human Righst 2009

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

March 11, 2010

Sri Lanka is a constitutional, multiparty republic with a population estimated at 21 million. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, elected in 2005, and the parliament, elected in 2004, both for six-year terms, share constitutional power. The government is dominated by the president's family; two of his brothers hold key executive branch posts, defense secretary and senior advisor to the president. International observers generally characterized the 2005 national elections as free and fair; however, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) enforced a boycott of the presidential polls by ethnic Tamils in the north and east, and many observers believed that this affected the electoral outcome in favor of the current president. The government declared victory over the LTTE on May 18 after more than 25 years of armed conflict. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, observers linked the government closely to paramilitary groups believed responsible for serious human rights violations

The government's respect for human rights declined as armed conflict reached its conclusion. Outside of the conflict zone, the overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations, such as extrajudicial killings and disappearances, were young male Tamils, while Tamils were estimated to be only 16 percent of the overall population. Credible reports cited unlawful killings by paramilitaries and others believed to be working with the awareness and assistance of the government, assassinations by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings, and disappearances. The government was credibly accused of arbitrary arrests and detentions, poor prison conditions, denial of fair public trial, government corruption and lack of transparency, infringement of freedom of movement, harassment of journalists and lawyers critical of the government, and discrimination against minorities. Human rights observers alleged that progovernment paramilitary groups and security forces participated in armed attacks against civilians and practiced torture, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and extortion with impunity. During the year there were no indications or public reports that civilian or military courts convicted any military, police, or paramilitary members for human rights abuses. In some cases the military turned over military members to the civilian judicial system for processing. The executive failed to appoint the Constitutional Council, which is required under the constitution, thus obstructing the appointment of independent representatives to important institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, Bribery Commission, Police Commission, and Judicial Service Commission.

In May the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) defeated the LTTE when the SLA captured all remaining LTTE-controlled territory and killed its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. During the final months of the war, the LTTE engaged in torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention; denied fair public trials; arbitrarily interfered with privacy; and denied freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The LTTE prevented civilians under its control from crossing over to government-held territory by shooting and killing those attempting to escape. As the conflict intensified, the LTTE forcibly recruited both adults and children for combat and reportedly located mortars and other heavy weapons near or in civilian encampments, drawing government military fire in the process. Until its defeat in May, the LTTE continued to organize bomb attacks in areas that it did not control, particularly in the south, targeting military, political, and civilian persons and property.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, but reliable statistics on such killings by the government, its paramilitary allies, and the LTTE were difficult to obtain because past complainants were killed and families feared reprisals if they filed complaints (see section 1.g.).

Police or other security forces killed several detained suspects. For example, on August 13, police arrested M.B. Dinesh Tharanga Fernando and Dhanushka Udayanga Aponsu in Angulana. No formal charges were filed and the men's relatives were not allowed to see them. Their bodies were found the following morning with fatal gunshot wounds. The Mount Lavinia district magistrate ordered an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division, and the government took nine members of the Angulana police force into custody as suspects.

According to official accounts, other deaths occurred when security forces took the suspects to the scenes of their alleged crimes, and shot and killed them while they allegedly were trying to escape. On March 13, six persons were arrested in connection with the killing of a schoolgirl in the Trincomalee area. Police reported that two of the six were killed in the jungle near Kanniya by LTTE forces; the police shot and killed one person who tried to escape as he was being transferred to court; and a fourth suspect died in police custody.

During the year unknown actors suspected of association with paramilitary groups reportedly assisting government military forces committed numerous killings and assaults of civilians. These included the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), led by breakaway‑LTTE eastern commanders Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, alias "Karuna," and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, alias "Pillaiyan," in the east as well as the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, in Jaffna. Other progovernment paramilitaries increasingly were active in Mannar and Vavuniya. The TMVP increasingly became a political organization but with armed and allegedly criminal elements.

There were no developments in the November 2008 case of the killing of Pillaiyan's private secretary, Kumaraswamy Nandagopan, which was allegedly carried out by supporters of rival TMVP leader Karuna.

In June the Commission of Inquiry (COI), set up under retired Supreme Court justice Udalagama to investigate high profile killings and disappearances, ceased operation. The COI did not issue a public report and reportedly investigated only seven of the 17 cases it was asked to review. One of the cases the COI did complete involved the 2006 killing of 17 local staff of the French NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF), but COI's methods raised serious concerns about its fairness. The COI reportedly determined that ACF was to blame for the deaths for having allowed their employees to work in an area where violence was likely to occur. The COI also exonerated all government security forces by saying the LTTE had killed the workers, contrary to many independent analyses of available evidence that pointed toward involvement in the killings by police, Muslim Home Guard, and Special Task Force members. Security forces visited the victims' families and asked them to sign letters blaming ACF for the deaths and calling for a foreign government to provide further compensation. It was unclear how many families had agreed to sign the letters.

A separate commission set up under retired Supreme Court justice Tillekeratne to investigate abductions, disappearances, killings, and unidentified bodies completed its mandate on December 31 with a final report to the president due in early 2010. In November the commission told the press that in many cases relatives of disappeared persons had not filed reports with the local police, hampering investigations. Other observers commented that this was likely due to mistrust of local security forces and a belief that, at best, the local police were unlikely to be of any assistance.

There was no progress on several high profile killings; for example, the January 8 killing of the chief editor of the Sunday Leader and Morning Leader newspapers, Lasantha Wickrematunga, by four assailants.

There was no investigation into the killing of a young man at a polling station in a Colombo suburb on April 25, the day of Western Provincial Council elections. Leading United Peoples Freedom Alliance candidate Duminda de Silva was involved in an altercation at a polling site in the Mount Lavinia neighborhood. De Silva's security personnel pushed him into his vehicle after he pulled out a gun, but then a shot was fired from inside the vehicle as it departed the scene, killing a young man in the crowd. The case was dropped shortly after, and no further investigation occurred.

Prior to its defeat in May, human rights groups implicated the LTTE in a number of attacks on political opponents and civilians. For example, on February 9, an LTTE female suicide bomber killed 28 persons and injured 64 others at an internally displaced persons (IDP) rescue center. Civilians accounted for 25 of those killed and 40 of those injured. On February 20, two LTTE airplanes launched a suicide attack on Colombo. One of the planes struck the Inland Revenue building, exploding on impact and killing two civilians. On March 10, a LTTE suicide bomber attacked a local mosque's parade in Akuress, Matara District, killing 15 persons and injured dozens of others, including several government ministers and local officials.

b. Disappearance

Disappearances continued to be a significant problem, but declined from previous years, in particular after the end of the war. Reliable statistics on the number of disappearances were difficult to obtain, but estimates from some sources ranged from 300 to 400, with the majority occurring in the north and east. Government reports on disappearances often claimed that most cases actually involved persons who had left the country for foreign employment and had not informed family members; however, civil society organizations disputed this interpretation.

During the year the government did not publish any investigations into past disappearances aside from releasing some statistics, nor did it indict or convict anyone of involvement in disappearance-related cases. There were several high profile disappearances during the year. On May 7, four persons in a white van and wearing SLA uniforms abducted Stephen Sunthararaj, project manager at the Center for Human Rights and Development. Sunthararaj had been held by police with no charges since February and had just been released by the courts, which had ruled that there was no evidence upon which to charge him with a crime. Sunthararaj's wife received ransom demands in the weeks after his abduction, but she was not able to win his release and received no further word about her husband.

In the east credible sources linked the TMVP to the October 29 abduction of Sankarapillai Shantha Kumar, a member of the nongovernment organization (NGO) consortium in Akkaraipattu, Ampara District. Although family members filed a complaint with police, at year's end he remained missing and there was no progress on the investigation.

There were reports of disappearances during the year in connection with the conflict and resulting IDP camps (see section 1.g.).

Witnesses and victims who were released after their abductions often identified the perpetrators as Tamil-speaking armed men using white vans without license plates. The government generally failed to investigate these incidents.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law makes torture a punishable offense and mandates a sentence of not less than seven years' imprisonment. Human rights groups alleged that some security forces believed torture to be allowed under specific circumstances. Following a 2007 visit, UN Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on Torture Manfred Nowak concluded that "torture is widely practiced in Sri Lanka." No accurate, publicly released statistics on reported torture cases were available.

Civil society groups and former prisoners reported on several torture cases. For example, former detainees of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) at Boosa Prison in Galle confirmed earlier reports of torture methods used there. These included beatings, often with cricket bats, iron bars, or rubber hoses filled with sand; electric shock; suspending individuals by the wrists or feet in contorted positions, abrading knees across rough cement; burning with metal objects and cigarettes; genital abuse; blows to the ears; asphyxiation with plastic bags containing chili pepper mixed with gasoline; and near‑drowning. Detainees reported broken bones and other serious injuries as a result of their mistreatment.

In the east and conflict-affected north, military intelligence and other security personnel, sometimes working with armed paramilitaries, carried out documented and undocumented detentions of civilians suspected of LTTE connections. The detentions reportedly were followed by interrogations that frequently included torture. There were cases reported of detainees being released with a warning not to reveal information about their arrests and threatened with rearrest or death if they divulged information about their detention. There were also reports of secret government facilities where suspected LTTE sympathizers were taken, tortured, and often killed.

Human rights groups estimated that approximately 2,400 LTTE suspects were in regular detention centers. An unknown additional number of unidentified detainees were thought to be held in police stations, the CID , the TID, army or paramilitary camps, or other informal detention facilities, with some organizations estimating this group to number as high as 1,200. Approximately 11,700 former LTTE combatants also were held by the government since the end of the conflict in detention centers near Vavuniya. Because of limited access to these detainees, few details were available about their treatment and whether such treatment met international standards. There were concerns that LTTE detainees could be abused in a manner similar to suspected LTTE sympathizers.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions did not meet international standards due to acute overcrowding and lack of sanitary facilities. According to prison official and civil society sources, prisons designed for approximately 10,000 inmates held an estimated 26,000 prisoners. Approximately 1,400 of these were women. Some 12,000 of these total prisoners were convicted, while the remaining 14,000 were in detention, either awaiting or undergoing trial. In some cases juveniles were not held separately from adults. Pretrial detainees were often not held separately from those convicted. In many cases prisoners were reported to be sleeping on concrete floors and often without natural light and sufficient ventilation. Female prisoners were held separately from male prisoners and in generally better conditions, but some human rights groups alleged that isolated incidents of degrading treatment, including corporal punishment, overcrowding, maltreatment, or abuse of female prisoners occurred. According to the assessment by UNSR Nowak, "the combination of severe overcrowding and antiquated infrastructure of certain prison facilities places unbearable strains on services and resources, which for detainees in certain prisons, such as the Colombo Remand Prison, amounts to degrading treatment." Nowak also noted the absence of an independent institution responsible for monitoring conditions in detention facilities, holding private interviews, and conducting medical evaluations of detainees.

The government permitted visits to regular and remand prisons by independent human rights observers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The government ended ICRC access to detention camps near Vavuniya for former LTTE combatants in July and withdrew permission for the ICRC to work in the Eastern Province. The government requested the ICRC to negotiate a new, postwar mandate covering their operations throughout the country before continuing such work. The government did not provide access to any detention facilities operated by military intelligence, stating that none existed. The ICRC was not allowed to visit suspected illegal detention facilities operated by paramilitaries.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention; in practice such incidents occurred. Under the arrest and detention standards imposed by the emergency regulations, the law does not clearly define what constitutes an arbitrary arrest. Data concerning arrests made during the year under the emergency regulations were fragmentary and unreliable. In addition to several hundred thousand IDPs who were unable to leave the IDP camps, an unknown number of individuals were detained at least temporarily by the government. Observers said although many were released within two days if no official detention order was produced, others were known to be detained for much longer.

Some arrests appeared arbitrary. In June police detained Chandrasiri Bandara, an astrologer, for one week without charges for negative forecasts concerning the president.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The inspector general of police (IGP) is responsible for the 80,000-member Sri Lanka Police Service (SLPS). The SLPS conducted civilian police functions such as enforcing criminal and traffic laws, enhancing public safety, and maintaining order. The IGP reported to the minister of defense, public security and law and order (in a separate chain of command from that of the armed forces and other military units). The 5,850-member paramilitary Special Task Force (STF) is within the structure of the SLPS, although joint operations with military units in the recent defeat of the LTTE led to questions among observers over who actually was directing the STF. There was no independent authority to investigate complaints. Senior officials in the police force handled complaints against the police. Of the police officers serving in Tamil majority areas, few were Tamil and most did not speak Tamil or English. There were 791 ethnic Tamils on the police force and 971 Muslim Tamil speakers. The government hired 50 new Tamil-speaking police in Jaffna including two women, however, there was concern by some observers that many of these were members of Tamil paramilitary groups. Impunity, particularly for cases of alleged police torture and the disappearances of civilians within High Security Zones (HSZs), was a serious problem, as was corruption. A 2007 Asian Human Rights Commission assessment cited the government's tolerance of pervasive corruption as a major reason for the police force's incapacity to investigate and prosecute cases effectively.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Under the law authorities are required to inform an arrested person of the reason for arrest and bring that person before a magistrate within 24 hours, but in practice it often took several days and sometimes weeks or months before detained persons appeared before a magistrate. A magistrate could authorize bail or continued pretrial detention for up to three months or longer. Police do not need an arrest warrant for certain offenses, such as murder, theft, robbery, and rape. In the case of murder, the magistrate is required to remand the suspect, and only the High Court could grant bail. In all cases suspects have the right to legal representation. Counsel is provided for indigent defendants in criminal cases before the High Court and the Courts of Appeal, but not in other cases.

A number of observers complained about the slow pace of the judicial process. One observer stated that approximately 55 percent of all persons in prison were either undergoing pretrial or trial detention.

Under the emergency regulations, the armed forces have the legal authority to arrest persons, but they are required to turn suspects over to the police within 24 hours. Police could detain a person for a period of not more than one year under detention orders issued by a deputy inspector general of police or by the secretary of defense. The defense secretary extended some detentions beyond one year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Numerous NGOs and individuals complained that the armed forces and their paramilitary allies arrested suspected LTTE sympathizers and did not turn them over to the police, blurring the line between arrests and abductions. Credible reports alleged that security forces and paramilitaries often tortured and killed those arrested rather than follow legal safeguards.

In cases when security force personnel were alleged to have committed human rights abuses, the government generally did not seek to identify those responsible or bring them to justice. Case law generally failed to uphold the doctrine of command responsibility for human rights abuses. Human rights organizations noted that some judges appeared hesitant to convict on cases of torture because of a seven‑year minimum mandatory sentence with no room for issues of severity or duress.

According to human rights organizations, obtaining medical evidence of torture was difficult, since there were fewer than 25 forensic specialists, equipment was lacking, and medical practitioners untrained in the field of torture assessment examined most torture victims. In some cases police intimidated doctors responsible for collecting evidence, and any potential victim receiving a medical examination usually was accompanied by his or her detainer, often the person who had allegedly committed the torture. At year's end there was no functioning witness protection program.

Persons convicted and undergoing appeal did not receive credit towards their original sentence for time served in prison while the appeal was ongoing. Appeals often took several years to resolve.

Amnesty

The president granted amnesty to a number of military deserters on several occasions throughout the year, including more than 500 in June and more than 1,900 in July. Approximately 13 women over the age of 60 were granted amnesty to commemorate International Women's Day, including the wife of a government minister, who was serving a life term for murder.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, but in practice the judiciary at lower levels remained reliant on the executive. The president appoints judges to the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the Courts of Appeal. A judicial service commission, composed of the chief justice and two Supreme Court judges, appoints and transfers lower court judges. The Supreme Court demonstrated significant independence from the government in several decisions with regard to detentions and various actions of the executive that it found to be arbitrary. However, since 2005 the government has failed to appoint the Constitutional Council, whose function was to ensure the independence of constitutional bodies such as the Judicial Service Commission. As a result a series of important checks on executive power were absent. Judges may be removed for misbehavior or incapacity but only after an investigation followed by joint action of the president and the parliament.

There was no procedure in place to address the legal status of the approximately 11,700 former LTTE combatants held in detention centers after the end of the war.

Lawyers who defended human rights cases sometimes were under physical and verbal threats. On January 28, police officers made death threats againt Amitha Ariyaratne, a lawyer in past prominent human rights cases, and on January 30, his house was burned.

In July the Defence Ministry's official Web site called five lawyers, who were appearing for editors of The Sunday Leader in a case against the secretary of defense, "traitors." The Bar Association of Sri Lanka protested this as an infringement of lawyers' right and duty to provide representation. Lawyers defending journalist J.S. Tissainayagam reported receiving anonymous threats.

There was no progress in the investigation of a 2008 grenade attack on the home of J.C. Weliamuna, a local human rights lawyer.

Trial Procedures

In criminal cases juries try defendants in public. Defendants are informed of the charges and evidence against them, and they have the right to counsel and the right to appeal. The government provides counsel for indigent persons tried on criminal charges in the High Court and the Courts of Appeal but not in cases before lower courts. Private legal aid organizations assisted some defendants. Juries were not used in cases brought under the PTA, but defendants in such cases had the right to appeal.

Defendants are presumed innocent. Confessions obtained by coercive means, including torture, are inadmissible in criminal courts, except in PTA cases. Defendants bear the burden of proof, however, to show that their confessions were obtained by coercion. Defendants have the right to question prosecution witnesses during their trials, and are allowed access to the prosecution's evidence. Subject to judicial review, in certain cases defendants may spend up to 18 months in prison on administrative order waiting for their cases to be heard. Once their cases came to trial, decisions usually were made relatively quickly.

The law requires court proceedings and other legislation to be available in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. In practice most courts outside of Jaffna and the northern parts of the country conducted business in English or Sinhala. A shortage of court‑appointed interpreters restricted the ability of Tamil‑speaking defendants to receive a fair hearing in many locations, but trials and hearings in the north were in Tamil and English. Few legal textbooks existed in Tamil.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of persons being formally held as political prisoners or detainees. Some cases, however, such as one brought against journalist J.S. Tissainayagam under the PTA, appeared to be politically motivated.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Citizens were allowed to file fundamental rights cases to seek redress of human rights violations. The judiciary exhibited some independence and impartiality in adjudicating these types of cases, and plaintiffs were awarded damages in a number of instances. Observers cited bureaucratic inefficiencies in this system, leading to delays in the resolution of many cases, and cases filed by persons suspected of having ties to the LTTE appeared to be subject to delays much more frequently. Where damages were awarded, there were relatively few problems in enforcing the court orders.

Property Restitution

Seizure of private lands by various actors remained a problem across the country and particular in the north and east. Significant amounts of land were seized during the war by the military to create security buffer zones around military bases and other high-value targets which the government called HSZ. The declaration of HSZs resulted in a number of displaced persons, particularly in the Jaffna Peninsula, and rendered inactive approximately 40 square kilometers of agricultural lands. While the government discussed reducing the size of these HSZs towards the end of the year, there was no action taken by year's end.

Paramilitary actors were often cited as being responsible for other land seizures. While a legal process exists for private landowners to contest such seizures, in practice it proved very slow, and many victims did not take advantage of it for fear of violent reprisals by those who had seized the property in question.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The law provides for the right to privacy; however, the government infringed on these rights, particularly when conducting cordon and search operations in Tamil neighborhoods. The emergency regulations allowed security forces to conduct searches of property, engage in wiretapping and surveillance of private citizens with little judicial oversight. The government limited the ability of IDPs to correspond with or communicate with persons outside of the IDP camps.

When it controlled territory, the LTTE routinely interfered with the privacy of citizens by maintaining a network of informants.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Other Abuses in Internal Conflicts

Government security forces, progovernment paramilitary groups, and the LTTE used excessive force and committed abuses against civilians. During the SLA offensive against the LTTE, several hundred thousand ethnic Tamil civilians were trapped in LTTE-held land. As the conflict reached its final months, the government declared two no-fire zones, areas into which it would not fire weapons. As the conflict progressed, the LTTE and civilians under its control were confined to an increasingly small area.

The government and the LTTE did not allow any independent observers, media, or international staff of humanitarian organizations to work in the conflict zone. Eyewitness accounts of the end of the conflict were difficult to obtain because most of the involved civilians remained confined in large IDP camps with little access to independent observers.

Killings

Artillery shelling, mortar fire, and aerial bombing reportedly killed many civilians during the final five months of conflict. While only the Sri Lankan Air Force used aerial bombs, it was difficult to attribute artillery and mortar fire to one side or the other. There were frequent reports of the LTTE positioning artillery and mortar positions close to and among civilian encampments, hospitals, and churches, drawing return fire from the government. Some reports estimated that fighting in the last week of the conflict may have killed 1,000 civilians per day.

Government and other observers reported numerous occasions when the LTTE fired on civilians who attempted to flee, reportedly killing and wounding many individuals. Trapped Tamil civilians reported being afraid to cross over to the government side for fear of being subjected to killings, disappearances, and abuse by the SLA.

Progovernment paramilitary groups allegedly were used to identify, abduct, and kill suspected LTTE sympathizers or operatives immediately after the conflict and in the IDP camps.

Abductions

There were reports that persons among the IDP population had disappeared on their way to an initial military checkpoint at Omanthai.

NGOs and international sources reported that paramilitaries abducted civilians from the IDP camps. Verification of such incidents was complicated by reports that large numbers of persons paid bribes to officials and others to escape the camps. Estimates on the number of persons who escaped the camps in this manner varied widely, but most observers suggested it was at least 10,000. There was no practical way to verify how many had left the camps this way, and no way to determine whether some of these numbers were not disappearance cases.

Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture

The SLA held approximately 11,700 alleged former LTTE combatants mainly in detention centers near Vavuniya. There were several detention centers, with one set aside for women. Before the government halted access to the detainees in July, while ICRC renegotiated its operating mandate with the government, the ICRC had registered 9,500 of these detainees.

Prior to the end of the war, the LTTE and the TMVP continued to interfere with the work of international NGOs. The LTTE prevented refugees from leaving areas under its control in the north and sought to influence aid organizations in areas under its control.

Child Soldiers

From January to May the LTTE dramatically increased its forced recruitment of child soldiers. Reports from the conflict zone during these months stated that both boys and girls as young as 12 were forced to join the fighting. The numbers of children killed in fighting were unknown, but the government reported 527 former LTTE child soldiers in its custody several months after the end of the war. These children were being held in government-run detention centers but were undergoing rehabilitation in accordance with international standards at year's end.

The government made significant progress towards its goal of eliminating the child soldier problem among the TMVP. By December 31, the UN Children's Fund reported that the number of child soldiers still involved in the TMVP was down to five. TMVP officials claimed they did not know where these five individuals were located, and the government was actively working to find them.

Other Conflict-related Abuses

The government consistently underestimated the number of civilians trapped behind LTTE lines, leading to a severe shortage of food and medicine shipped into the no-fire zones over the final months of fighting. Many international observers disputed the government's population estimates at the time, and some accused the government of deliberately lowering their estimates in an effort to starve the civilians out from behind LTTE lines to cause more difficulties for the LTTE soldiers. The government often prevented medicine, including all anesthetics, from being delivered to trapped civilians by ICRC, stating that it would instead be used by LTTE forces to treat wounded soldiers. It was not possible to determine how many civilians may have died as a result of this shortage of food and medicine.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press but in practice this was not always supported. The government owned the country's largest newspaper chain, two major television stations, and a radio station. However, private owners operated a variety of independent newspapers, journals, and radio and television stations. The government imposed no political restrictions on the establishment of new media enterprises. While foreign media outlets operated in the country, some foreign journalists had their visas revoked or were asked to leave the country when they reported on sensitive issues in a manner that the government disliked.

Media freedom deteriorated in the Colombo area, as well as in the conflict-affected north and east. Most journalists practiced self-censorship. National and international media freedom organizations and journalists' associations expressed concern over media freedom and were sharply critical of the Defense Ministry's role in harassing and intimidating journalists and their lawyers.

Senior government officials repeatedly accused critical journalists of treason and often pressured editors and publishers to run stories that portrayed the government in a positive light. Lawyers who defended journalists were also threatened and pressured by defense and government officials.

In addition to high-profile killings, such as the death of the newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga, media personnel were often subject to threats and harassment during the year. Statements by government and military officials contributed to an environment in which journalists who published articles critical of the government felt under threat.

On January 2, men in an unregistered white van burned the broadcasting station of MTV/MBC in Pannipitiya. The police failed to respond to requests for additional security, and four days later armed men, arriving in unregistered vans, destroyed the studio with guns, clubs, grenades, and a claymore mine. Five suspects were arrested two weeks later, but the magistrate granted them bail and alleged misconduct in the police investigation of the attack. No progress had been made in the case at year's end.

On February 27, three men in civilian clothes and three men in police uniforms in a van abducted Nadesapillai Vithyatharan, editor of the Sudar Oli, a leading Tamil-language newspaper. After telephone calls by foreign diplomats to senior authorities, police announced that he had been arrested. Authorities held Vithyatharan until April 25, and then released him without charges.

On June 1, the head of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association Poddala Jayantha was abducted and severely beaten near Colombo. The attack seemed to have been encouraged by the government, which had aired photos of journalists--including a close-up of Jayantha--during comments by the Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickramaratne, who called journalists traitors who would be dealt with.

On August 30, a court convicted and sentenced journalist J.S. Tissainayagam to 20 years in prison with hard labor. A number of witnesses testified that his articles did not incite intercommunal tension, the primary charge against him, and there were doubts about the source of changes made to his written confession. His conviction represented the first time that a journalist had been convicted under the PTA for their writings. As international criticism of Tissainayagam's conviction mounted, government officials made new accusations against him but offered no new evidence and filed no additional formal charges.

On several occasions during the year, copies of the Economist newsmagazine were confiscated by government authorities at the international airport, preventing their release to the magazine′s local distributor. This occurred when articles in the issue were critical of the government.

On July 9, the government officially reactivated the Press Council Act of 1973. This act, which includes power to fine and/or impose punitive measures including lengthy prison terms, proscribed the publishing of articles that discussed internal communications of the government and decisions of the cabinet, matters relating to the military that could affect national security, and details of economic policy that could lead to artificial shortages or speculative price increases. Several demonstrations by journalists took place throughout the latter part of the year against the resurrection of this council.

Internet Freedom

There appeared to be some limited government restrictions on access to the Internet, including suspicions that the government was behind the blocking of Internet access to several Tamil news Web sites, including the pro-LTTE TamilNet.

High-speed Internet was available in major cities and towns, with more widespread use among younger populations. Cell phone use, including text-messaging, was high across a broad spectrum of society. The government did not restrict short message service (SMS) or cell phone usage.

According to International Telecommunication Union statistics for 2008, approximately 5.8 percent of the country's inhabitants used the Internet.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, some restrictions existed. For example, the 2005 emergency regulations gave the president the power to restrict meetings, assemblies, and processions. The law states that rallies and demonstrations of a political nature could not be held when a referendum was scheduled, but the government generally granted permits for demonstrations, including those by opposition parties and minority groups.

Freedom of Association

The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, some restrictions existed, such as those under the emergency regulations. The government often used informants to target individuals for arrests and interrogation based on their association.

Before the end of the conflict, the LTTE did not allow freedom of association in the areas it controlled.

c. Freedom of Religion

Although there was no state religion, the law accords Buddhism a foremost position. It also provides for the right of members of other faiths to practice their religions freely, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The majority of citizens were followers of Buddhism. The Ministry of Religious Education and Moral Uplift Islamic section monitored the doctrinal content of Islamic teachings at mosques in an effort to prevent "extremist" viewpoints from gaining traction among Muslim congregations. The ministry also administered an Islamic charity funded by new mosque registrations. The Buddhist section did not regulate the content of Buddhist religious observances. All new religious buildings are required to register with the government.

Foreign clergy could work in the country, but the government sought to limit the number of foreign religious workers given temporary work permits. Permission usually was restricted to denominations registered with the government.

While the courts generally upheld the right of Christian groups to worship and to construct facilities to house their congregations, local authorities manipulated rules to prevent registration of new Christian denominations or construction or expansion of worship facilities. The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that although the constitution supported the right of individuals to practice any religion, it did not support the right to proselytize.

Societal Abuse and Discrimination

In July two persons were killed and 12 injured when a disagreement between two Muslim congregations over methods of ritual sacrifice erupted into violence. Persons attached to a mosque in Galle set a mosque in Beruwela on fire. Police arrested a number of persons involved, and a court case was ongoing at year's end.

On July 5, an estimated 100 persons and 50 Buddhist monks forcibly entered the Assemblies of God church in Dickwella, Matara District to try to halt their activities.

In July the Vineyard Community Church in Makandura, Kurunegala District, was attacked on several occasions. This included a single individual attacking two persons and a subsequent attack on July 12 by several others. The building was vandalized and fliers against the church were distributed. Several complaints were filed with the police, and a court case was in progress at the end of the year.

There were reports that smaller, less-established Christian churches faced building code restrictions when attempting to build new places of worship, requiring such things as a petition signed by a majority of neighbors allowing such a building.

The Jewish population remained very small, and there were no reported cases of anti-Semitism.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law grants every citizen "freedom of movement and of choosing his residence" and "freedom to return to the country." In practice, however, the government severely restricted this right on multiple occasions. The additional checks on travelers from the north and the east and on movement to and in Colombo remained in effect. Colombo police refused to register Tamils from the north and the east, as required by Emergency Regulation 23, sometimes forcing them to return to their homes in areas affected by the conflict.

The government required Tamils who wished to move within the country, especially those Tamils living in Jaffna, to obtain special passes issued by security forces. Ethnic Tamils' national identification cards were the only cards printed in both Sinhala and Tamil. For most of the year, citizens of Jaffna were required to obtain permission from the army's civil affairs unit, or in some cases from the EPDP, to leave Jaffna, but the requirement was lifted in December. Curfews imposed by the army also restricted the movement of Jaffna's citizens, although this curfew was reduced after the end of the war.

Security forces at army checkpoints in Colombo frequently harassed Tamils. After the government assumed effective control of the east, both the government and the TMVP operated checkpoints that impeded the free movement of residents, especially Tamils.

The government maintained a partial closure of the A-9 highway leading to Jaffna for most of the year, requiring special authorization from security forces for any vehicles traveling the road north of Vavuniya. These restrictions were largely lifted in December, although there were still restrictions in place at the end of the year on private vehicles traveling on the A-9 at night. The government continued security checks on movements in all directions north of a key junction near Medawachiya, although they were less stringent by the end of the year than existed during and immediately following the war.

Limited access continued near military bases and the HSZ where civilians could not enter. The HSZs extended in an approximately 2.5-mile radius from the fences of most military camps. Some observers claimed the HSZs were excessive and unfairly affected Tamil agricultural lands, particularly in Jaffna. There were allegations after the war ended that the government was allowing non-Tamil businesses to locate inside HSZs, taking over valuable land before local citizens were allowed to return.

The government did not expel citizens from one part of the country to another, nor did it forcibly exile any citizens abroad. However, over a dozen journalists were in self-exile due to safety fears with many having received physical threats.

In July the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reaffirmed his recommendation that Tamils from and in the north be eligible for asylum status given the human rights situation in the country. As of October the number of Tamil refugees from the country living in South India included approximately 76,000 in refugee camps, and an additional 100,000 living outside of camps among the Indian population. Some Tamil refugees returned to Sri Lanka over the course of the year. Tamil refugees were also present in significant numbers in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and other countries.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

The country had a significant population of IDPs which was caused both by past and recent conflicts. Almost all IDPs were ethnically Tamil although approximately 80,000 were Tamil-speaking Muslims who had been displaced from Jaffna by the LTTE. Large-scale returns of IDPs began in the final three months of the year, in particular of the approximately 280,000 more recently displaced persons who had been held in IDP camps since the end of the war in May. Of that group, approximately 155,000 had been returned to their home districts by the end of the year. Many of these were not able to return to their actual homes due to significant damage from the war or uncleared land mines. An additional 108,000 remained mostly in the government-run Manik Farm IDP camps near Vavuniya by year's end. The Manik Farm camps had originally held approximately 250,000 IDPs, without freedom of movement, from the end of the war in May until late October. IDPs remaining in Manik Farm were not given freedom of movement until December, when a system of temporary exit passes was implemented for those who had not yet been returned to their districts of origin and remained in Manik Farm. Some observers said this exit pass system still did not qualify as freedom of movement.

In addition to this group of newer IDPs, there were an estimated 200,000 previously displaced Tamils. Most of these IDPs were displaced prior to the last big offensive in 2008, and were living either with relatives or friends. It was unclear at the end of the year how or when they might be returned to their places of origin, or if any would prefer to stay where they currently were after being displaced for many years.

The government-run Manik Farm IDP camp provided basic assistance for IDPs, along with a number of other much smaller camps scattered throughout the north and east of the country. The government did not allow open access to Manik Farm, although access for UN agencies and some NGOs improved as the year progressed. During the months of detention at Manik Farm and other smaller camps, international observers and local legal experts questioned the legality of this long-term detaining of IDPs under the law, including the emergency regulations and the PTA. These laws require that any detainee be specifically named and detained pending further investigations, and informed of the reason for the detention.

The government accepted assistance from NGOs and international actors for the IDP camps but management of the camps and control of assistance was under the military rather than civilian authorities. Food, water, and medical care were all insufficient in the first several weeks after the end of the war, but by July the situation had stabilized and observers reported that basic needs were being met.

In June the military withdrew from inside the camps but continued to provide security around the barbed wire-enclosed perimeter. There were allegations of crimes and sexual assaults inside the camps, both by outside persons and by other IDPs, but access was not allowed to independent observers to evaluate these reports or to determine if there was significant variance in the number of such crimes over the level expected for a non-refugee population of similar size.

The government released IDPs arbitrarily and did not effectively coordinate with local or international aid agencies who were asked to provide assistance on short notice. The government failed to coordinate with military personnel in the IDPs' home locations. In September several small groups of IDPs were released from Manik Farm but were detained for several weeks in closed "transit" camps until the local military officials had rescreened them.

Among the long-term displaced were tens of thousands of Muslims evicted from Jaffna in 1990 by the LTTE, many of whom remained in camps in Puttalam. During the year the government announced these Muslims would be allowed to return to Jaffna. A small number had reportedly moved back by the end of the year, but many others were either unaware yet of the change in policy, or had younger family members who felt more at home in Puttalam. The government had not permitted other IDPs, primarily Tamils, to return home because their places of origins were declared HSZs, despite announcements during the year that these HSZs would soon be reduced or eliminated.

The government cooperated with the UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting IDPs, however, it ended access for ICRC's protection work in IDP camps in July, requesting that a new, postwar operating mandate be negotiated before such work could be resumed. By year's end this negotiation was not yet complete, leaving the ICRC unable to provide protection support in the IDP camps.

Protection of Refugees

The country is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 protocol, the laws do not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government had not established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Stateless Persons

The 2003 Grant of Citizenship to Persons of Indian Origin Act recognized the Sri Lankan nationality of previously stateless persons, particularly Hill Tamils. The government made limited progress towards naturalizing and providing citizenship documentation to stateless persons. By December approximately 30,000 Hill Tamils, versus 70,000 at the beginning of 2008, lacked identity cards and citizenship documents. Those lacking identity cards remained at higher risk for arbitrary arrest and detention. Reliable sources estimated that approximately 70 such persons were arrested under Emergency Regulations by October. It was not known how many of those persons remained detained at year's end.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The law provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

The president, elected in 2005 for a six‑year term, holds executive power, while the 225‑member parliament, elected in 2004, exercises legislative power.

The EU Election Observation Mission described the 2005 presidential election as generally satisfactory. The LTTE enforced a boycott of the polls and conducted seven grenade attacks in the north and east. As a result, less than 1 percent of voters in the north were able to exercise their right to vote. Persistent allegations of a preelection agreement and bribe between the Rajpaksa campaign and the LTTE to suppress Tamil votes remained. A parliamentary investigation of these allegations was opened in 2007, but Soori Yarachchi, the member of parliament who was placed in charge of the investigation, was killed in a car accident in 2008, and the investigation did not advance any further.

On August 8, the government held municipal council elections in Jaffna. While there were few reports of election-related violence or overt fraud, ethnic Tamil-based parties not aligned with the government faced severe restrictions on traveling to Jaffna to campaign prior to the election. EPDP candidates ran under the governing coalition's party symbol and enjoyed frequent campaign visits from top government officials, who announced major infrastructure projects and the reduction of security restrictions while speaking at campaign events.

During provincial council elections held in Uwa Province on August 8, and the Southern Province on October 10, there were widespread allegations that government officials used state resources, including vehicles, offices, and state employees in their personal and party campaigns. For a number of months, several opposition parties were prevented by security forces from visiting the large Manik Farm IDP camps, while figures from government allied parties were under no such restrictions.

There were 13 women in the 225‑member parliament, five female ministers, and two women out of 11 justices on the Supreme Court. There were 34 Tamils and 25 Muslims in the parliament. There was no provision for or allocation of a set number or percentage of political party positions for women or minorities.

Section 4 Official Corruption and Government Transparency

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials in all three branches of the government frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.

The tendering and procurement process for government contracts was not transparent, leading to allegations of corruption by the losing bidders. Senior officials served as corporate officers of several quasi-public corporations, including Lanka Logistics and Technologies, which the government established in 2007 and designated as the sole procurement agency for all military equipment. Critics alleged that large kickbacks were paid during the awarding of certain defense contracts. In 2007 the government used state pension funds to set up a new budget airline, Mihin Air, with many of the same officials serving as corporate officers. On May 1, Mihin Air went bankrupt, but the current budget allocated several million dollars to restart operations.

In 2008 the Supreme Court found then treasury secretary P.B. Jayasundera, guilty of a violation of procedure in the awarding of a large contract for the expansion of the Port of Colombo. The court barred him from holding the treasury position. In June after President Rajapaksa named a new Supreme Court chief justice, the Supreme Court allowed Jayasundera to proceed with a fundamental rights case protesting the original decision. The Supreme Court then overturned the previous decision and allowed Jayasundera to be reinstated as secretary of the treasury.

The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption received 3,224 complaints, of which 1,035 were under investigation at year's end.

There was no law providing for public access to government information.

Section 5 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of domestic and international human rights groups continued to investigate and publish their findings on human rights cases despite increasing government restrictions and physical threats to their work. The government often criticized local NGOs critical of government actions, failed to respond to requests for assistance, and put pressure on those who sought such assistance. For example, the government failed to investigate a death threat in August against one prominent civil society leader and instead opened an investigation of those who signed a public petition calling for an investigation.

During the conflict the government and the LTTE allowed only limited operations by NGOs within the conflict zone, mainly to bring food and medical shipments to civilians and to evacuate the wounded and sick to safety. During the last few weeks of the conflict, neither side ceased hostilities long enough to allow the assistance to enter or the wounded to leave the conflict zone.

After the conflict the government sought to limit the role of the ICRC and requested it to withdraw from the Eastern Province. At year's end the ICRC continued in discussions with the government over its mandate.

The government continued to refuse the request by the UNHCR for an expanded mission and an independent presence in the country. The Ministry of Defense, other government officials, and diplomatic missions abroad regularly accused human rights NGOs and UN bodies of bias against the government.

International personnel of NGOs often had trouble getting visa renewals to continue working in the country. The government canceled the visas of two employees of UN agencies after they made public remarks perceived to be critical of the government.

By statute the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC) had wide powers and resources and could not be called as a witness in any court of law or be sued for matters relating to its official duties. However, in practice the SLHRC rarely used its powers. The SLHRC did not have enough staff or resources to process its caseload of pending complaints, and it did not enjoy the full cooperation of the government. From January to September, 116 cases were reported to the SLHRC Jaffna Branch. While all the cases underwent an initial investigation, by October only 11 cases were resolved, and the remaining 105 were pending. The SLHRC had a tribunal‑like approach to investigations and declined to undertake preliminary inquires in the manner of a criminal investigator. In 2007 the International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions downgraded the SLHRC to observer status, citing government interference in the work of the SLHRC.

Section 6 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

The law provides for equal rights for all citizens, and the government generally respected these rights in practice; however, there were instances where gender and ethnic-based discrimination occurred.

Women

The law prohibits rape and domestic violence but it was not effectively enforced. Sexual assault, rape, and spousal abuse were pervasive societal problems. The law specifically addresses sexual abuse and exploitation, and it contains provisions in rape cases for an equitable burden of proof and stringent punishments. Marital rape is considered an offense only in cases of spouses living under judicial separation. While the law could ease some of the problems faced by victims of sexual assault, many women's organizations believed that greater sensitization of police and the judiciary was necessary. The Bureau for the Protection of Children and Women (BPCW) within the police conducted awareness programs in schools and at the grassroots level, prompting women to file complaints. The BPWC received 714 complaints of grave violent crimes and 2,391 minor crimes against women during the year.

There were reports that individual cases of gender-based violence perpetrated by members of the security forces occurred more frequently during the conflict, but others stated that military officials were responsive to reports of such incidents and showed a willingness to prosecute the offenders. However, the government did not release any details about prosecutions or punishments for offenses during the conflict. Statistics on numbers of such cases were unavailable because few victims reported such incidents. Human rights groups in northern districts alleged that the wives of men who had been killed as a result of the conflict often fell victim to prostitution because of their economic vulnerability.

According to the BPWC, 175 reported incidents of rape occurred through August, but reported incidences of rape were unreliable indicators of the degree of this problem, as most victims were unwilling to file reports. Services to assist victims of rape and domestic violence, such as crisis centers, legal aid, and counseling, were generally scarce due to a lack of funding.

Prostitution, although illegal, was prevalent. Trafficking in women for prostitution and forced labor also occurred.

Sexual harassment was a criminal offense carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison; enforcement of this law, however, was not widespread.

Couples and individuals were generally free to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. An estimated 40 percent of the population used modern contraceptives, and skilled attendance during childbirth was estimated at approximately 97 percent. Women appeared to be equally diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The UN and World Health Organization estimated approximately 4,000 persons were infected with HIV in 2007.

The law provided for equal employment opportunity in the public sector. In practice women had no legal protection against discrimination in the private sector, where they sometimes were paid less than men for equal work and experienced difficulty in rising to supervisory positions. Although women constituted approximately half of the formal workforce, according to the Asian Development Bank, the quality of employment available to women was less than that available to men. The demand for female labor was mainly for casual and low‑paid, low‑skill jobs. Women's participation in politics was approximately 5 percent in the parliament and the provincial councils.

Women had equal rights under national, civil, and criminal law. However, adjudication according to the customary law of each ethnic or religious group of questions related to family law, including divorce, child custody, and inheritance, resulted in de facto discrimination.

Children

Citizenship was obtained by birth within the territory of the country and from a child's parents if born to citizen parents overseas. The law required children between the ages of five and 14 to attend school. The government provided extensive systems of public education and medical care. Education was free through the university level. Health care, including immunization, was also free and available equally to boys and girls.

Under the law the definition of child abuse includes all acts of sexual violence against, trafficking in, and cruelty to children. The law also prohibits the use of children in exploitative labor or illegal activities or in any act contrary to compulsory education regulations. It also defines child abuse to include the involvement of children in war.

NGOs attributed the problem of exploitation of children to the lack of enforcement, rather than to inadequate legislation. The conflict with the LTTE both before and after the end of the war had priority in the allocation of law enforcement resources. However, the police's BPCW conducted investigations into crimes against children and women. The National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) included representatives from the education, medical, police, and legal professions and reported directly to the president. During the year the BPWC received 1,974 complaints of grave violent crimes and 986 of minor crimes against children.

The government advocated greater international cooperation to bring those guilty of sexual exploitation of children to justice. Although the government did not keep records of particular types of violations, the law prohibits sexual violations against children, defined as persons less than 18 years of age, particularly in regard to child pornography, child prostitution, and the trafficking of children. Penalties for violations related to pornography and prostitution range from two to five years of imprisonment. The penalties for sexual assault of children range from five to 20 years' imprisonment and an unspecified fine. By the end of the year the government opened 1,575 files, of which 497 resulted in indictments for sexual assault and exploitation of children, including kidnapping, cruelty to children, rape and statutory rape; 299 cases were dismissed, and 303 cases were referred to the police for further investigation. The remaining were pending at year's end.

Commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a problem in coastal resort areas. Private groups estimated that approximately 6,000 children were exploited for commercial sex in the country, and that local citizens were responsible for much of the exploitation. Other groups believed foreign tourists were more frequently the exploiters of thousands of children, especially boys, for commercial sex, most of whom were reportedly forced into prostitution by traffickers. There was little solid data to elucidate these reports. The Department of Probation and Child Care Services provided protection to child victims of abuse and sexual exploitation and worked with local NGOs that provided shelter. The tourist bureau halted programs to raise awareness for at‑risk children in resort regions prone to sex tourism due to a lack in funding.

Children in the large, postwar IDP camps were exposed to the same difficult conditions as other IDPs in the same camps. School facilities were set up by the government early on, but were rudimentary and lacked many basic supplies. Medical care in the camps was limited, but improved over time as the government was better able to organize its resources and allowed increased assistance from outside organizations.

Trafficking in Persons

The law prohibits trafficking in persons. Legal penalties for trafficking include imprisonment for two to 20 years and a fine. For trafficking in children, the law allows imprisonment of three to 20 years and a fine.

The country was both a point of origin and destination for trafficked persons. Sri Lankan men and women migrated legally to the Middle East, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and South Korea primarily to work in construction, factories, and as domestics. A small percentage of those who went abroad found themselves in situations of involuntary servitude, facing restrictions on movement, threats, and physical or sexual abuse. Illegal recruitment agencies charged large predeparture fees that forced some migrants into debt bondage.

The Bureau of Foreign Employment (BFE) had responsibility to protect and assist workers who went abroad for work. The BFE estimated that approximately 1.8 million citizens were working abroad during the year. The BFE licensed recruitment agencies and had three offices to protect migrant workers abroad: a police detachment that raided and arrested bogus recruitment agencies, an office that mediated with foreign employers and recruiting agencies to resolve workers' complaints, and a prosecutorial department that tried cases against unlicensed recruiting agencies. The BFE conducted a publicity campaign to warn of the dangers of going abroad illegally and of using illegitimate recruitment agencies. Lack of effective enforcement against violators and the infrequency of punishment for abuses provided little incentive for operators to refrain from illegal but lucrative practices. In 2008 the BFE received 9,664 complaints. Some 17 percent of these were for nonpayment of wages.

Women and children were reportedly trafficked internally for domestic and sexual servitude. No statistics were available on the extent of this problem. A number of Thai, Chinese, and Russian women, and women from the former Soviet Union were also trafficked into the country for commercial sexual exploitation.

The NCPA had primary responsibility for prevention of trafficking in children. It had a Special Police Investigations Unit, with arrest authority, that focused on combating the trafficking of children for commercial and sexual exploitation. The NCPA had several cases pending against child traffickers, but no trials were completed by the end of the year. Trials were slow, taking as long as 10 years. The NCPA operated centers for children vulnerable to trafficking in Anuradhapura, Kalmunai, Puttalam, and Trincomalee, targeting populations affected by the war, the 2004 tsunami, and economic challenges.

The government continued its programs to monitor the movements of suspected traffickers or sex tourists, including a cyberwatch project to monitor suspicious Internet chatrooms.

The Department of State's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The law forbids discrimination against any person on the grounds of disability; however, in practice discrimination occurred in employment, education, and provision of state services. The Department of Social Services operated eight vocational training schools for persons with physical and mental disabilities and sponsored a program of job training and placement for graduates. The government provided financial support to NGOs that assisted persons with disabilities including subsidizing prosthetic devices, making purchases from suppliers with disabilities, and registering 74 NGO‑run schools and training institutions for persons with disabilities. The Department of Social Services reportedly discontinued a program that had allowed job placement officers to help the estimated 200,000 work-eligible persons with disabilities find jobs, due to a lack of funding. This program had assisted 147 disabled persons in finding jobs in 2008. Persons with disabilities faced difficulties due to negative attitudes and societal discrimination.

On October 14, the Supreme Court directed that steps be taken to provide easy access for persons with disabilities to public buildings. There were regulations on accessibility, but in practice accommodation for access to buildings for persons with disabilities was rare. The Department of Social Services provided housing grants, self‑employment grants, and medical assistance to persons with disabilities. During the year the department provided a monthly allowance grant of approximately 3,200 rupees ($30) to approximately 2,100 families of disabled persons.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Both local and Indian origin Tamils maintained that they suffered longstanding systematic discrimination in university education, government employment, and in other matters controlled by the government. According to the SLHRC, Tamils also experienced discrimination in housing. Landlords were required to register any Tamil tenants and report their presence to the police.

Tamils throughout the country, but especially in the conflict-affected north and east, reported frequent harassment of young and middle-aged Tamil men by security forces and paramilitary groups.

A small ethnic group known as Kaffari or Kaffirs existed in very small numbers, mostly in the coastal areas of Negombo, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. They were thought to be the descendants of African slaves originally brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese sometime in the 16th century. They numbered approximately 1,000, and had dwindled in number largely due to many years of intermarriage. They did not appear to suffer from any overt discrimination, but because of their small number struggled to maintain any distinct cultural identity.

Indigenous People

The country's indigenous people, known as Veddas, by some estimates numbered fewer than 1,000. Some preferred to maintain their traditional way of life and are nominally protected by the law. There were no legal restrictions on their participation in political or economic life. However, lack of legal documents was a problem for many. Vedda communities complained that they were pushed off their lands by the creation of protected forest areas, which deprived them of traditional livelihoods.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The law criminalizes homosexual activity, but this was not officially enforced. Some NGOs working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues did not register with the government. In recent years human rights organizations reported that while not actively arresting and prosecuting LGBT activity, police harassed, extorted money, or sexual favors from, and assaulted gays and lesbians in Colombo and other areas. This led to many incidents of crimes against members of the LGBT community going unreported. There were LGBT organizations, and several events were held throughout the year. In addition to pressure, harassment, and assaults by police, there remained significant societal pressure against members and organizations of the LGBT community. There were no legal safeguards to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Other Societal violence or Discrimination

There was no official discrimination against those who provided HIV prevention services or against high‑risk groups likely to spread HIV/AIDS, although there was societal discrimination against these groups.

Section 7 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The law allowed workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization with the exception of members of the armed forces and police officers, who are not entitled to unionize. Seven workers could form a union, adopt a charter, elect leaders, and publicize their views. To compel an employer to recognize a union required forty percent of the staff. In practice such rights were resisted by the management of individual factories and administrative delays by the government in registering unions. Approximately 20 percent of the seven million-person workforce nationwide and more than 70 percent of the plantation workforce was unionized. In total there were more than one million union members. Approximately 11 percent of the nonagricultural workforce in the private sector was unionized. Unions represented most workers in large private firms, but workers in small‑scale agriculture and small businesses usually did not belong to unions. Public sector employees were unionized at very high rates.

Under the law workers in the 12 Export Processing Zones (EPZs) had the same rights to join unions as other workers. Although some unions were able to organize EPZ workers, forming trade unions was more difficult in the zones, as some employers tried to undermine the formation of unions there. As a consequence the unionization rate within the EPZs was under 10 percent of the workforce. As of December, 11 trade unions were active in EPZs. According to the Board of Investment (BOI), in September 2007, unions were operating in 31 out of 259 factories in the EPZs.

Most large unions were affiliated with political parties and played a prominent role in the political process, although some major unions in the public sector were politically independent. The Ministry of Labor Relations and Manpower was authorized by law to cancel the registration of any union that did not submit an annual report, the only grounds for the cancellation of registration.

By law all workers, other than police, armed forces, prison service, and those in essential services, had the right to strike, but the government did not enforce this law uniformly. Workers may lodge complaints with the commissioner of labor, a labor tribunal, or the Supreme Court to protect their rights. Strikes were forbidden in areas that were determined by the president to be "any service which is of public utility or is essential for national security or for the preservation of public order or to the life of the community and includes any Department of the Government or branch thereof." On November 15, in the face of threatened strikes, the petroleum corporation, the water board, the Ceylon Electricity Board and the port facilities were all declared to be essential services.

The law prohibited retribution against strikers in nonessential sectors; in practice, however, employees were sometimes fired for striking. Those employees affected under the November 15 essential services ruling returned to work without any major incidents.

During the year the Supreme Court did not intervene to stop public sector trade unions from striking. The law allows unions to conduct their activities without interference, but the government enforced the law unevenly. By law public sector unions are not allowed to form federations, but the law was not generally enforced. In prior years the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported that union officials and organizers were harassed and intimidated with impunity, including arrests, libel, and death threats, but no report was obtained for the current year. Employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation were harassed and assaulted by unidentified assailants.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The law provides for the right to collective bargaining; however, the government did not enforce it. All collective agreements are required to be registered at the Department of Labor. Collective agreements normally were for three years, five were registered during the year, and 18 were registered in 2008.

The Employer's Federation of Ceylon (EFC) employed an estimated 15 percent of the country's three million private sector workforce, primarily in the tourism, finance, plantations, manufacturing, and services sectors. The EFC did not have members from the large informal sector or foreign or government employees. About half of EFC's 520-company membership had a unionized workforce, and approximately 135 companies in the EFC had collective agreements with workers.

Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination were required to reinstate workers fired for union activities but could transfer them to different locations. Antiunion discrimination was a punishable offense liable for a fine of 20,000 rupees ($177). During the year the Department of Labor filed action against one company for unfair labor practices under section 32A of the Industrial Disputes Act, reportedly the first time this has occurred since at least 1999. Some violations were previously prosecuted under various other labor laws, such as the Wages Board Act, Employees Provident Fund Act, Termination Act, or other sections of the Industrial Disputes Act, and several employers were under investigation. In practice employers often delayed recognition of unions for collective bargaining indefinitely. The ITUC reported that employers used these delays to identify, victimize, terminate, and sometimes assault or threaten union activists.

In most EPZ enterprises, worker councils, composed of elected representatives of employees, engaged in labor and management negotiations. In accordance with BOI guidelines, they participated in labor-management negotiations. As of December worker councils were active in 156 factories. The International Labor Organization approved the right of worker councils to engage in collective bargaining, provided worker councils were not used to undermine the position of unions. NGOs and unions reported that undermining did occur.

Labor representatives alleged that the BOI and the Department of Labor discouraged union activity within EPZ factories and favored worker councils. Restricted access to the EPZs for union and NGO organizers made it difficult to organize. Labor representatives alleged that the labor commissioner, under BOI pressure, failed to prosecute employers who refused to recognize or enter into collective bargaining with trade unions. The government countered that employees preferred to work within a company to resolve disputes rather than via large unions spanning many companies.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibited forced or bonded labor; however, there were reports that such practices occurred, particularly in the informal employment sector such as agriculture, mining, and ropemaking.

d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The minimum age for employment was 14, although the law permitted the employment of younger children by their parents or guardians in limited family agriculture work or to engage in technical training. Persons under age 18 could not be employed in any public enterprise that was considered dangerous.

There were no reports of children employed in the EPZs, the garment industry, or any other export industry. Children sometimes were employed in the plantation sectors and in nonplantation agriculture during harvest periods. Sources indicated that many thousands of children (between 14 years and 18 years of age) were employed in domestic service in urban households, although this situation was not regulated or documented. Some child domestics reportedly were subjected to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Employment of children commonly occurred in family enterprises such as family farms, crafts, small trade establishments, restaurants, and repair shops. There were cases of underage children recruited to serve as domestics abroad, primarily in the Middle East.

The National Child Protection Authority was the central agency for coordinating and monitoring action on the protection of children. The Department of Labor, the Department of Probation and Child Care Services, and the police were responsible for the enforcement of child labor laws. Approximately 220 complaints of child employment were received from January through November by the police Children's and Women's Desk, compared to 257 complaints the previous year. Information on litigation during the year was not available. Penalties for employing minors were 10,000 rupees ($89) or 12 months' imprisonment.

The government identified a list of 49 occupations considered to be hazardous. Of these occupations, 40 were unconditionally prohibited for children under 18 years of age, with limited exceptions for the remaining nine occupations. However, by year's end the government had not passed implementing legislation.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

While there was no national minimum wage, 43 wage boards established by the Ministry of Labor Relations and Manpower set minimum wages and working conditions by sector and industry in consultation with unions and employers. The minimum wage in sectors covered by wage boards was increased to 5,750 rupees ($51) in 2008. In addition to the minimum wage, employees covered by the wage boards received an allowance of 1,000 rupees per month ($9) in 2005 that effectively brought the total minimum wage to 6,750 rupees per month ($60). The minimum wages set by some wage boards was higher than the government stipulated minimum wage. These minimum wages, however, did not always provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. The minimum wage in the public sector was higher than that governed by the wage boards. Workers in sectors not covered by wage boards, including informal sector workers, were not covered by any minimum wage.

The law prohibited most full‑time workers from regularly working more than 45 hours per week (a five-and-a-half-day workweek). In addition the law stipulates a rest period of one hour per day. Regulations limit the maximum overtime hours to 15 per week. Overtime pay is 1.5 times the wage, and is paid for work done on either Sundays or holidays. Several laws protect the safety and health of industrial workers, but the Ministry of Labor Relations and Manpower's efforts were inadequate to enforce compliance. Health and safety regulations do not meet international standards. Workers have the statutory right to remove themselves from dangerous situations, but many workers were unaware or indifferent to such rights and feared they would lose their jobs if they removed themselves from the work situation. The government had approximately 680 labor inspectors. The ITUC reported that labor inspection was inadequate in the EPZs, as labor inspectors cannot make unannounced visits.
Migrant labor also faced abuse. There were cases when recruitment agencies promised one type of job to a migrant but changed the job, employer, or salary after the employee arrived.

Source: US Dept. of State

March 10, 2010

AI & HRW jointly appeal Sri Lanka Government: 'End campaign to discredit civil society'

End Witch Hunt Against the Media and NGOs

Full text of Joint Press Release by AI & HRW

The Sri Lankan government should end its harassment of journalists and activists and take steps against those making threats, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement today.

Since the January 2010 presidential election, the government has engaged in a campaign to silence and discredit journalists and nongovernmental organizations. A recently leaked document, which appears to be a government surveillance list of more than 30 journalists and activists, significantly raises concerns about the safety of the people on the list, the organizations said.

"The Sri Lankan government is conducting a carefully coordinated witch hunt aimed at discrediting critics of the government," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This is extremely dangerous and irresponsible in a country where journalists and activists have often been threatened and killed."

On March 4, the directors of two highly respected Sri Lankan organizations, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) and Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), wrote a joint letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressing their grave concern about a press report of the government's apparent surveillance list. The list places the directors of the CPA and TISL among several people in the top category, presumably meaning that they are under particularly close surveillance.

News about the government surveillance list emerged amidst a government campaign in the media to discredit nongovernmental organizations. In several statements since February 20, government officials have made vague and unproven accusations against various groups, claiming that they have attempted to "destabilize democracy" in Sri Lanka.

Concerns about the safety of individuals on the alleged government surveillance list are heightened because of previous death threats and attacks, the organizations said. In September 2008 unknown persons threw two grenades at the TISL director's house. In August 2009 the director of the CPA received an anonymous death threat by mail. The authorities have failed to hold anyone accountable for either of the incidents.

Both the CPA and TISL played a crucial role in monitoring the January presidential election, reporting on electoral violations and the government's misuse of state resources to campaign in favor of the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

"This smacks of retaliation for reporting on violations during the presidential election," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific director. "Despite the elections and the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers, the government seems to have a hard time getting rid of the habit of repression."

Video & Pictures: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presents award to Jansila Majeed of Puttalam, Sri Lanka

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the Women of Courage award to Sri Lanka’s Jansila Majeed at a ceremony held at the US State Department in Washington, Wednesday, March 10. Majeed was among 10 recipients of the 2010 award.

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First lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton present the 2010 International Women of Courage Award to Jansila Majeed of Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 10, 2010, at the State Department in Washington ~ AP pic.

Women Of Courage Awards

Award goes to women who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights and women’s equality:

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U.S first lady Michelle Obama (L) is pictured on stage with the 2010 International Women of Courage Awards recipients at the State Department in Washington, March 10, 2010. With Obama are (2nd L-R) Afghanistan's Shukria Asil and Shafiqa Quraishi, Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic, Kenya's Ann Njogu, Korea's Lee Ae-Run, Sri Lanka's Jansila Majeed, Syria's Sister Marie Claude Naddaf and Zimbabwe's Jestina Mukoko-Reuters pic

Jansila Majeed, Sri Lanka, Profile by US State Department

March 1, 2010

2010 International Women of Courage Award Winner

Date: 03/01/2010 Description: 2010 International Women of Courage Award Winner: Jansila Majeed, Sri Lanka:

Ms. Majeed is the Managing Trustee of Community Trust Fund in Puttalam province. The Trust oversees a number of programs on minority and women’s issues, including women’s rights, peace building, relief work, working with young people, and mine-risk education in the North and East. Ms. Majeed’s own particular focus is on uniting the Muslim and Tamil communities in her province.

Having lived as an internally displaced person (IDP) for almost 20 years, Ms. Majeed has become an energetic activist for services for displaced Muslim and Tamil civilians, focusing particularly on grassroots programs on life skills, health, and women's empowerment. Her activism began in 1992 with a working group of five people. She overcame both the general neglect of the problem of IDPs in the Muslim minority as well as her own community’s strictures against women activists to build a broad-based organization that works on minority and women’s issues in a highly sensitive and politicized environment.

Remarks at the International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all. Thank you so much. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you. Thank you so much and this is an extraordinary day here at the State Department, a day that we look forward to when we present to you some of the women who personify the courage that really is required in so many places still to stand up for women’s rights and human rights, to make a difference, to protect those who are vulnerable and to advance the circle of opportunity and prosperity to more people.

Now, we are lucky today that we have some very special American women with us, some of whom are in this audience, and I welcome them. And I saw out of the corner of my eye Senator Mary Landrieu – (applause) – and I wanted to acknowledge her. (Applause.) But I am particularly delighted to welcome back to the State Department our First Lady, Michelle Obama. (Applause.) This is the second time that Michelle Obama and I have celebrated the International Women of Courage Awards together. It’s a tradition I really like because she is doing so much for women and girls not only in our own country, but around the world. She inspires them. She challenges them. She exemplifies for them the kind of strength, warmth, and grace that so many of us see in her and aspire to for our own daughters. She has made the health and empowerment of young people, particularly young women, a centerpiece of her leadership. And she and I agree on many things, but one that we particularly agree on is that every child should have the chance to fulfill his or her God-given potential. And I just have to thank her for the mentoring programs that she created at the White House, for the special project that she is doing now to tackle childhood obesity, and to really setting the standard for what we want to see in our own country and around the world as well.

And I want to thank and recognize – I want to also recognize Melanne Verveer. (Applause.) Melanne is our country’s first Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, and it’s no accident that that would happen in the Obama Administration, where we would have someone of her experience and expertise promoting the political, economic, and social empowerment of women. As Melanne often reminds us, the world is full of remarkable women whose work goes unnoticed or undervalued. And today, we celebrate some particular women, but they really stand in for millions of other women who are serving their communities and making our world a better and safer place for all.

And I want to recognize finally, our partners from Avon – Andrea Jung, the chairwoman and CEO of Avon – (applause) – and Reese Witherspoon, Avon’s global ambassador. Avon is our partner here at the State Department in focusing on and trying to end, once and for all, the global epidemic of violence against women. It happens in the homes, it happens in the streets, it happens all over the world. And we have to call it for what it is – a crime – and we have to mobilize to combat it. And Avon has agreed to be our partner in working with the State Department in doing so. And I thank you both for taking on this challenge with us. (Applause.)

Now, we have so many more people coming in the door – if everybody could take like a half a step back in that direction, we can get everybody else in. Thank you.

Now today once again, we are honoring women from around the world who have endured isolation and intimidation, violence and imprisonment. Many have even risked their lives to advance justice, freedom, and equal rights for everyone. Their stories remind us of how much work there is left to do before the rights and dignity of all people – no matter who you are or where you live – are respected and protected by the world’s governments. But these women prove that change is possible. They are brave and they are making a difference, and they are up against powerful interests determined to bring them down. By honoring them today, the United States and the Obama Administration sends a very clear message that though they may work in lonely circumstances, they are not alone. We are standing with you. (Applause.)

For example, our two honorees from Afghanistan. Shukria Asil is a member of the council in her province of Baghlan. She’s pushing for educational opportunities for girls, professional opportunities for women, and stronger rights and recognition for the mentally disabled. Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi is leading a national effort to recruit thousands of women into the Afghan National Police and to train police officers to better protect women and girls.

Ann Njogu has relentlessly spoken out against government corruption and violence against women in Kenya at great risk to herself. She has documented the upsurge in sexual and gender-based violence that followed the contested election of 2008. Jestina Mukoko monitors human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. After she was abducted and beaten by the police, she took her abusers all the way to the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe, which ruled in her favor. (Applause.)

Sister Marie Claude Naddaf opened the first shelter in Syria for women escaping domestic violence and human trafficking. Androula Henriques has built a comprehensive network to stop human trafficking in Cyprus and has opened her home to women preparing to testify against their captors. Although she could not join us today, we celebrate her achievements and pledge our support to end the scourge of human trafficking. (Applause.)

And we also have Shadi Sadr, who has represented women in the Iranian courts and led a campaign to stop the stoning of women. (Applause.) After multiple arrests, she was forced to flee Iran and now fights for the women of Iran from her home in Germany. She is also not here today, but we honor her courage and that of all the woman activists in Iran, many of whom have been persecuted and imprisoned because of their work.

And in countries where entire communities are disenfranchised, it is often the women who work to pull down legal, economic, and cultural barriers, women like Sonia Pierre, who fights discrimination against Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Or Dr. Lee Ae-Ran, who’s helping North Koreans build new lives in South Korea. Or Jansila Majeed, an advocate for (inaudible) displaced people, both Muslim and Tamil, in Sri Lanka.

Every day, these women and many others are taking on the world’s most entrenched problems. And we here at the State Department and throughout this Administration are trying to be good partners to them, because even though they’re working one person at a time, one court case at a time, one rally or one rescue at a time, we want to bring their work to a greater audience and try to amplify it and to make clear that human rights provide the foundation for the work that we do here in the United States.

So on this day, in this week where we celebrate International Women’s Day, we honor some whose stories are rarely told but who deserve to be heard. And we ask that as we applaud each of them, we recognize all those who will never have a chance to be recognized in any forum for all that they do as well.

And let me close with this message to our honorees. We look forward to building relationships with you. We will be watching your progress, listening for news of your successes, struggles, and above all, your safety. We send a message to all governments that might not be thrilled that you’re here that we’ll be watching them as well. And we thank you for everything you are doing and will do.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce two of our special guests, Andrea Jung and Reese Witherspoon, who are here to make an announcement about a partnership with our new Global Women’s Leadership Fund, a public-private partnership here at the State Department that makes grants to NGOs that work to meet the critical needs of the world’s women and girls.

Andrea and Reese?

MS. JUNG: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Mrs. Obama, Ambassador Verveer, Women of Courage honorees, what an honor it is to be here with all of you today. Secretary Clinton, thank you for the wonderful introduction. All of us are supporting you every single step of the way as you are charting a course for America in the world, putting development on par with defense and diplomacy, strengthening communities and institutions, and leading with a steady hand and listening. We’re very proud to have you represent us. It’s wonderful to see the progress you are making, and it’s a tremendous privilege to partner with the State Department in promoting the cause of women around the world.

At Avon, our commitment to empowering women is grounded in our heritage. Avon was founded almost 125 years ago in 1886 on the simple, simple, simple belief that women had the right to earn money and be economically independent. This was truly a revolutionary idea at a time when women virtually had no role outside the home and would not win the right to vote for another 34 years. But there was no stopping a good idea. Today, with nearly six million representatives serving 300 million women in more than 100 countries, Avon is the company for women. And we have known first hand that improving women’s lives is by empowering them, and that empowering women can make all the difference for their families, for communities, and for countries. And that is why, in addition to helping women achieve financial independence through the business model, Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women have, since 1955, awarded more than $725 million in over 50 countries to help women overcome other barriers to independence. (Applause.)

So independence, health, safety, these are critical women’s issues that we’ve supported. Earlier today, we announced our partnership with Vital Voices to launch the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women, including a $1.2 million grant to support this effort.

And now this afternoon, I am so proud – (applause). Thank you. This afternoon, I am so proud to announce another very important partnership with the U.S. State Department. Madam Secretary, the Avon Foundation is very proud to contribute half a million dollars to the Secretary of State’s Fund for Global Women’s Leadership. (Applause.) And this $500,000 grant will provide funds for NGOs that work on domestic and gender violence issues around the world, to help you support the most innovative and successful models being developed, some of which will hopefully emerge from our partnership summit this week. It’s our hope and belief that this gift will accelerate the global effort to end violence among women.

Since launching our Speak Out Against Domestic Violence campaign a few short years ago, Avon has committed more than $16 million to the fight against gender-based violence. In the end, though, we know that it is not about the dollars that makes a difference. It’s also advocacy, solidarity, and the willingness to truly shine a light on an issue that is too often hidden in the dark. In the end, it’s about refusing to accept things as they are, and doing what we can do with what we have to ensure a better tomorrow. So I have no doubt that together, we can and we will end violence against women. We’re so proud of this partnership this afternoon. We see first hand what can happen when, together, we empower women. We see the opportunity, we see the progress, and we see and believe in the hope. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MS. WITHERSPOON: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much, Andrea, Mrs. Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Ambassador Verveer. It is truly an honor to be here today.

As an actress, I’ve always sought out roles that portrayed women as strong and powerful, such as Elle Woods, who was in the Legally Blonde movies – (laughter) – who happened to be the biggest fashionista who ever came to Washington – until Michelle Obama. (Laughter.) Thanks a lot. (Laughter.)

That’s why I was thrilled when Avon approached me to become their global ambassador and the honorary chair of the Avon Foundation for Women. Avon is truly a company that is dedicated to changing women’s lives all over the world through economic opportunities and through their incredible philanthropic efforts. Avon is also a company with a conscience and the courage to take on very difficult issues.

I came to Avon having worked with a number of children’s charities, and what struck me then was the most important thing that you can do in a child’s life is help their mother. That’s when I began to realize the importance of women’s – (applause). Thank you, it’s true. That’s when I began to realize the importance of women’s empowerment. It isn’t only about the girls and the women who are barred from realizing their potential. It’s also about their children, their families, and their communities.

That’s why it’s so important that we make investments like the one that Andrea and Secretary Clinton have announced today. And that’s why we also need to support the passage of the International Violence Against Women Act. (Applause and cheers.) In too many communities, spousal abuse, rape, and honor killings remain day-to-day realities for many women and girls. This act creates a comprehensive approach to combat violence, from holding perpetrators accountable to supporting survivors and to promoting economic opportunities for them. These are initiatives that all of you are already making possible, and by passing the act we can ensure that they are written into law.

As I look around this room today, I see policy makers, activists, and community leaders, people who have dedicated themselves to making a difference. But I also see mothers and fathers, sisters and daughters, who know the impact that they can make in their own families and communities. And that’s what gives me such hope that we can change things in our time for women everywhere. You understand the impact of speaking up and speaking out in order to create this imperative change in the world.

I am lucky enough to have a little daughter of my own, and I feel so very inspired to be here today surrounded by people who work tirelessly to change the way women are treated all over the world. Because of your hard work, your support, and your endless faith in the potential of women, I know you will make this world a better place for my daughter and for all of yours as well.

Thank you so much. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Andrea and Reese, and thanks to everyone at Avon for joining the fight for women’s lives. Now it is my great pleasure and my honor to introduce a women who has become a global symbol of strength and service, who represents our nation to the world with grace, warmth, and style – (laughter) – that transcends borders and barriers, the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. (Applause and cheers.)

(The First Lady gives remarks.)

(Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thank you so very much. That was absolutely wonderful. And having the young women who are part of the White House mentoring project here just added extra exclamation points to Mrs. Obama’s message. And thank you so much for once again sharing this special occasion with us.

What we’re going to do now is actually present the honorees. I will read the awards citations and then Mrs. Obama and I will present them with their International Women of Courage Award. I’d like to note that we’re going to start with two women from Afghanistan, so let me start with Shukria Asil – (applause) – as one of four female members of the Baghlan Provincial Council. Ms. Asil has been instrumental in promoting government responsiveness to the needs of Afghan women. She is being honored for pioneering efforts to promote opportunity, justice, and education for women and girls; serving as a voice for diverse members of Afghan society; and at great personal risk, increasing the accountability and responsiveness of the government to the needs of women and girls in Afghanistan. Thank you so much, Ms. Asil. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I woke up to the voice of this next honoree because she was interviewed on public radio, NPR, this morning. And Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi of Afghanistan is the Director of Gender, Human, and Child rights within the Ministry of the Interior. She began her career in the Afghan National Police. She has been at the forefront of integrating women into the government and police force. And she is being honored for her visionary leadership in breaking down barriers to the professional advancement of Afghan women, promoting unity and gender equality, humanitarian activism, and initiating programs to strengthen the Afghan National Police. Congratulations, Colonel. (Applause.)
(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: You heard Mrs. Obama speaking of this next honoree, Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic. She was born on Dominican soil to Haitian parents. She is the founder and leader of the Movement for Dominican Women of Haitian Descent, an NGO dedicated to fighting for the rights of vulnerable communities in her country. She is being honored for advancing the cause of social justice, confronting exploitation and discrimination, defending the dignity of persons of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, and helping marginalized communities develop their own voices for their own future. Congratulations, Sonia. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Ann Njogu of Kenya is the co-convener of the Civil Society Congress – (cheers and applause) – a leader in constitutional reform and head of the Center for Rights, Education, and Awareness. She has been an activist seeking social transformation and working for reform in her native country. She is being honored for progressive leadership in the fight against corruption, the push for gender equality in Kenya, the battle for constitutional reform, and for bravely mobilizing Kenyan civil society to secure the passage of landmark legislation against sexual offenses. (Applause and cheers.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Dr. Lee Ae-ran of South Korea was born in North Korea. She was a witness to tyranny at a very early age. She defected to South Korea and transformed her life, where she has been a force for promoting human rights of the North Korean refugee community. She is being honored for spearheading initiatives to improve the lives and education of the North Korean refugee community in South Korea, elevating the empowerment of women, and raising awareness of the dire human rights situation in North Korea. Congratulations, Dr. Lee. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Jansila Majeed of Sri Lanka is a women who lived as an internally displaced person for almost 20 years. She became one of the few women activists working on behalf of the displaced Muslim and Tamil civilians and is the managing trustee of the Community Trust Fund in Puttalam Province. She’s being honored for her dedicated grassroots activism and minority community leadership on behalf of women and girls, their empowerment, peace building, relief work, the resettlement of internally displaced persons, and a commitment to bringing society together. Congratulations.

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Sister Marie Claude Naddaf is the Mother Superior of the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd. She has been a beacon of hope for women and girls who have nowhere else to turn. She is a pioneer in working for social services for women in Syria. She is being honored for her steadfast dedication to ending the suffering of women and girls who are victims of domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking. She launched Syria’s first shelter and emergency hotline for women. Thank you so much, Sister. (Applause.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: And the final honoree who could be with us today is Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe. Jestina is the Executive Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and a longtime leader in the human rights and activist community in her country. She is being honored for her relentless activism for justice and defense of human rights, for bringing attention to widespread violence against women in Zimbabwe, and for pursuing her case to the supreme court, resulting in a victory that has offered hope to her fellow citizens. Congratulations. (Applause and cheers.)

(The Award was presented.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: And we will, of course, be sure that our honorees from Cyprus and Iran receive their awards.

Now one of our honorees who you’ve just met, Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe, will be speaking on behalf of all of this year’s honorees, and I would like to welcome her to the podium. (Applause.)

MS. MUKOKO: The First Lady Mrs. Michelle Obama, Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton, Ambassador-at-Large Melanne Verveer, fellow awardees, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to be accorded this opportunity that cannot be taken for granted, to speak on behalf of these remarkable women. (Applause.)

They have carved different but inspiring stories in their countries, from being denied growing up in their country of birth, being internally displaced, and suffering brutality at the hands of the police and other agencies. On behalf of the awardees, we accept this prestigious award with humility, knowing fully well that we have been propelled to this stage by other courageous women who have sacrificed a lot, and some even their lives in some cases. (Applause.)

The International Women of Courage Award is a solidarity message that unites women from all over the world, regardless of race, religion, and color. And we have learned that even language has failed to be a barrier to understanding and acknowledging what each one of us is doing. This indeed, Madam Secretary, not only resonates with your strong notion that women’s rights are human rights but is in line with the theme this year of the International Women’s Day, equal rights, equal opportunities, progress for all. (Applause.)

By accepting this award bestowed on the 10 of us, we confirm that women have a place in the fight for equality and justice, as this award we believe actually belongs to the multitude of women we work with and some we honor posthumously today because they are no longer with us, having died fighting the good fight. The award beckons on us to stand tall and refuse to be intimidated and harassed, as these are tactics to remove us from the focus of our objectives. We do not want to be passive bystanders, and it is such recognition that ensures that we do not tire until we reach the finish line and pass the baton to the next generation, the girls who are among us.

The situation of women in conflict situation is sad, as we know that they bear the brunt of violence. But as peace comes on the horizon, women are easily forgotten to take part in the initiatives that could mend their souls. (Applause.)

If only the suffering of women in conflict could be matched with equal participation in initiatives to build peace, we believe the results would be lasting and sustainable. (Applause.) This platform gives the world the rare opportunity to zoom into each part of the world and understand better the trials and tribulations that have characterized the work of women human rights defenders. As women human rights defenders, we know that the work has not been easy, and no one said it was going to be easy. And we are determined to mobilize other women in all parts of the world to demand their space.

In unison, we all say this award rewards our families and friends who lose sleep and are traumatized every time that we experience imprisonment or abuse because without their support, we might have given up. Our children have been there when we have thought we have been stripped of dignity and integrity, and watched in dismay in some cases as gross pictures are shown on television. This emblem, I am sure, gives them a reason to hug us because in some cases they fail to give us the hug because we are behind bars.

As a human rights defender myself at the helm of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, an organization that monitors and documents violations of human rights that are politically motivated, I am inspired by stories of courage as women who have consistently fought for the defense and the protection of human rights for all. I am a survivor of violence at the hands of state security agents when I was abducted, tortured, and kept incommunicado for three weeks without my family and son knowing whether I was still alive or not. Standing before you today gives me the acknowledgement that the experiences that Zimbabwean women and indeed women in Afghanistan, Cypress, Dominican Republic, Iran, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Syria continue to endure, unknown beyond their own borders. And it also gives me the space and platform to amplify their voices. The life and the work of human rights defenders is not for the faint-hearted. (Laughter.) While all we want to do is to contribute to the good of all, it is not uncommon to be labeled otherwise.

Madam Secretary, your quest and commitment to the empowerment of women from an early age is unparalleled, shown by how being refused to go on the astronaut training simply because you were a woman devastated you. (Laughter.) The honor today reinforces the triumph of our different religions, and I believe God had a purpose for all of us. Today the recognition affords us as a collective from all corners of the globe, not only to brush shoulders with the American First Lady but it also gives us an opportunity to interact, share experiences, and learn from each other with the simple objective of making the fight for equality and justice universal. Thank you. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: So, now you know why we look forward to this day, so that we can be inspired and uplifted and challenged and go forth from here as human rights defenders, each and every one of us, and do our part and count our blessings and remember that as we enjoy the reception here today, there are women and men fighting for their lives and fighting for the rights of others. And the United States must stand with them. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

"Greater the authority, greater then was the accountability"

by S. Skandakumar

Hon Minister,past and present Principals of our revered institution, our eminent guests of honour, the Principal of Ladies College and Warden of St Thomas' College, distinguished fellow Royalists and their equally distinguished spouses,

I consider it a great privilege indeed to have been invited this evening, to propose a toast to two outstanding schools rich in shared values, and for whom we Royalists have the greatest respect and admiration .

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Warden Sir, I know that you must be aware of the fierceness of the rivalry that exists between our two institutions, on the playing fields and on cricket grounds in particular. You will have your first experience of it in the coming week. That rivalry, has over the years, given rise to some of the strongest bonds of friendship between Royalists and Thomians; an excellent reflection on the quality of our mutual education.

As for Ladies College, Madam Nirmali, it will be sufficient if I said that successive generations of Royalists have had nothing but love for your wonderful girls. And you too are in that category today.

It would not be inappropriate on an occasion of this nature, for one to reflect briefly on one’s own school career and I would like to share with you, three incidents for their diverse nature.

The first concerns a Teacher, who too was quick to use the cane, no matter how trivial the mischief may have been. He had a curious way of doing it, in that he would get the student to kiss the wall with his nose while raising both arms to the maximum. His theory was obvious; more taut the body, greater the sting!

Once his deed was done he would turn calmly to the black board and write the following line. “A life without pain, is like being on a road that’s going nowhere.”

The second was a much loved senior Teacher, who with the passage of time, found it increasingly difficult to stay awake in the first twenty minutes or so in the period immediately following the lunch interval. So on arrival for a class in applied mathematics, he would instruct us to turn to a page of his choice in Humphreys text book on Dynamics, and attend to the sums on it. He would then take off his spotlessly white coat, place it on the back of his chair and rest his weary head between his arms on top of his desk, to surface 20 minutes later.

On one particular day, he woke up ahead of time and decided to walk round the class. At the back end he found one of the students to whom math was a never ending mystery, deeply engrossed in a magazine depicting ladies of easy virtue, in their natural splendor. In confiscating the magazine he said to the boy, “Young man, you are rotten, even before you are ripe:” The incident went no further. That was Royal.

The third applied to a form master who was a passionate admirer of that great American President Abraham Lincoln. So intense was his admiration that he was even nicknamed Lincoln!! Two things that he quoted remained etched in my mind for the hope and confidence they inspired in me. They were from Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher, when he decided to send the boy to school. ‘Teach him” he wrote, ‘that for every scoundrel, there is a hero……. Teach him also that for every corrupt politician there will be a statesman.’

Fortunately, in the ensuing years, we were also taught the fine art of a waiting game called eternal patience!!

Looking at the erosion of values in the world around us, I have in recent times, asked myself questions which would have crossed your minds as well.

Why did Wall Street, which supposedly had some of the finest brains emerging from the best Universities and Management colleges of the world, collapse as it did?

Why is it that governments in many parts of the world have the painful task of combating, their own citizens, to resolve internal conflicts? And, why is the United Nations looking as if it is heading for a re-classification as the Divided Nations?

I have tried to look for the answers in the time tested values that our three schools have upheld from inception.

On my first day at school I was made to realize that I was a Ceylonese, as an equal citizen of a beautiful and happy nation called Ceylon. While still knee high to our Teachers, we were taught to distinguish between Right and Wrong.

Here I would like to quote an eminent Queens Counsel who hailed from an equally reputed school in the hills , who said ‘In the field of justice and fairplay, right is right, and wrong is wrong. The two can never meet. To compromise the two takes an elastic conscience. Such men should be shunned for they are the bane of society.’ Thereafter we were encouraged to emulate the strong, but reminded to protect the marginalized and the weak.

The next was an important lesson on Leadership directed at Class Monitors, School Prefects, Captains of Games, Heads of the Cadet Corps and Literary Associations, Interact Clubs etc. who were made to realize that every right implied a responsibility.

We learnt leadership required exemplary conduct and its success was synonymous with a golden word… Accountability. Greater the authority, greater then was the accountability.

Earlier this week, I made a nostalgic visit to our assembly hall, and let the memories of the solemn Friday morning assemblies roll by. My eyes swept the portraits of all our distinguished scholars. You too, Warden Sir, and Madam Principal, have preserved similar halls of fame in your respective schools.

Those outstanding men and women are remembered even today, for two reasons; their intellect and their integrity and, through them we learnt another important lesson for life, the priceless value of honesty. Finally, we were taught to be gracious in defeat and humble in victory.

It is not a mere coincidence then, that our first lesson was one of equality and the last on humility. In our temporary stay on earth we have paid our respects to those who have moved on before us, and heard the familiar line at the funeral services, ‘Death humbles us all because in death we are all equal ’’.

I have therefore asked myself the question, Why then don’t we use our God given intelligence, and prepare ourselves better for that eventuality, by practicing equality and humilty in Life, rather than wait for death to impose it upon us?

Yes Ladies and gentlemen, The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read or write; they will be the educated who simply will not learn.

On the opposite side of humility stands man’s ego. While some degree of it is not only desirable, but even essential, an ego out of control could be as dangerous as the weapons of mass destruction that only the egos of George Bush and Tony Blair were able locate in Iraq.

It was the same ego out of control that led Tiger Woods to believe that his right to improve on his handicap over 18 holes extended beyond the boundaries of a golf course! So, if only our time tested values can find universal application, to be discharged with common sense and one’s conscience, humanity may well see a heaven on earth !

Ladies and Gentlemen, May I ask you please to rise and drink a toast to two outstanding institutions with whom we have shared precious values and traditions.

May they all be upheld inflexibly in the future as well, so that St Thomas' College Mt Lavinia, and Ladies College Colombo can continue to produce for our country, as they have in the past, the men and women who can make the difference.

TO ST THOMAS' AND LADIES COLLEGE….........

Thank You ”

(ROYAL COLLEGE 175th ANNIVERSARY DINNER.-TOAST TO THE SISTER COLLEGES -St.Thomas' College,Ladies College . Proposed by S. Skandakumar ,6th March 2010,Cinnamon Grand Oak Room)

We need to stay with the presidential system that has proved so successful

By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

Amongst the many sticks used to beat me and the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka now is the claim that we have abandoned our commitment to the abolition of the Executive Presidency.

Martin Lee, the Hongkong Lawyer who allowed himself to be used by Basil Fernando, the strange Sri Lankan who in effect runs the Asian Human Rights Commission, talks about the 2005 manifesto of President Rajapaksa, forgetting that, while the Liberal Party felt that that manifesto was infinitely better than any alternative, we ourselves were not committed to it.

He ignores the fact that the latest manifesto, with which we are proud to be associated, makes it clear that the Executive Presidency will continue, though it will be modified.

Interestingly, Rohan Edrisinha, the Centre for Policy Alternatives’ distinguished constitutional expert who left the Liberal Party in 1991, claimed that his reason for supporting Sarath Fonseka’s candidacy was that the main question for Sri Lankans was the abolition of the Executive Presidency. His support however continued even when General Fonseka made it clear that he had no intention of abolishing that position straight away, were he to be elected to it.

Indeed the manner in which former Human Rights activists, from the National Peace Council and CPA for instance, flocked to the Fonseka banner, made it quite clear that morality in their case ran only skin deep. The characteristic Jehan Perera blush, when I asked whether he had been propelled into this ridiculous position by his Western backers, suggested I was not far wrong, though that is not of course evidence.

On the issue of the Executive Presidency, it should be noted that I have consistently argued that the problem is not the Presidency itself, but the concentration of power in a single individual. This is a phenomenon that has developed over the years even under a Westminster system. Bagehot in the 19th century bewailed the fact that the sovereignty of Parliament was under threat from the power of the Cabinet, and in the 20th century all political commentators noted that the Cabinet itself was no longer a body in which the Prime Minister was the first among equals, rather he was now totally dominant.

I have frequently pointed out that the least successful governments we had were those of 1970, under the Westminster model, and of 1977, where the Presidential system was introduced. The reason was the overwhelming power of the government in Parliament, two thirds in both cases. The reason the second was infinitely worse, apart from its grotesque extension, was the entrenchment of that two thirds majority through the prevention of crossovers and bye-elections.

The reason that, on balance, I personally prefer a Presidential system is indicated in ‘Ideas for Constitutional Reform’, from which Martin Lee quotes selectively, with no understanding of my description of the positive features of the American and French constitutions. Westminster allows for concentration of power, because unlike when Montesquieu wrote, it institutionalizes the twinning of the legislative and the executive.

A Presidential system however demands a separation of powers, which President Jayewardene totally rejected, even though he had claimed in his manifesto that that was what he wanted, and though it was a crucial element in the constitutions he claimed were his models.

The failure of A J Wilson to discuss this anomaly, in his woeful apologia for Jayewardene entitled The Gaullist Constitution of Sri Lanka, is what first made me doubt his integrity as well as his academic capacity when it came to political advantage.

Chanaka Amaratunga, whose affection for British practices was deeper than mine, did initially believe in a return to Westminster, but he went the whole hog and suggested someone like a monarch, because he believed that the Head of State should not merely be a rubber stamp for a Prime Minister.

In time however he modified his view because, when he wrote Gamini Dissanayake’s manifesto for the 1994, and advocated the abolition of the Executive Presidency, Mr Dissanayake insisted that there be alternatives instead, to be placed before the people at a referendum. He had told Chanaka that he was welcome to campaign for abolition, but that he himself would work for a modified Executive Presidency and that his views would triumph. I should note that the suggestions Chanaka introduced for limiting the powers of the President should be a model for such an institution.

It was on this manifesto that Srima Dissanayake stood, but with the UNP itself under its revitalized traditional leadership rooting for her defeat, Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected, and promptly forgot about the abolition of the Presidency until the time came for extending her tenure in power. Rohan Edrisinha, and Dr Saravanamuttu, who had advocated her cause and hoped to influence her, had their hopes dashed, which did not prevent them rallying round General Fonseka a decade and a half later.

Doubtless they will continue on this track, but the country must move on, and look at political principles, not dogma based on blind opposition to particular politicians. What is generally agreed is that power should not be absolute. However, limitations on power should be based on valid constitutional principles, which means we should look at practices elsewhere.

Obviously we should not blindly follow external practices which may prove unsuitable for this country, but equally we should not pride ourselves on idiosyncrasy for its own sake, as was practiced by President Jayewardene, who boasted of doing things his way, and spawned two violent insurrections, a monstrous electoral system, an obsequious Supreme Court (v. Justice Rodrigo’s judgment on one of the Referendum cases) and repeated government sponsored attacks on minorities.

Careful consideration of practices elsewhere, weighed in terms of our own needs, will allow us to develop a saner electoral system, a better way than the confused and confusing 17th amendment of limiting the absolute authority of the Presidency with regard to crucial appointments, a second chamber that will allow for better consultation without excessive delay, without replicating the arbitrary and unrepresentative nature of the House of Lords, which was the problem with the Senate we had initially.

In the process we need I believe to stay with the Presidential system, that has proved so successful in recent years, and has contributed more to development than Westminster did. However we must also remember that an incompetent Executive President can be a disaster, which is why we should strengthen accountability and justiciability.

Sri Lankan attorney general assures exiled journalists

Sourece: The Committee to Protect Journalists

Colombo, March 10, 2010—In a meeting with a CPJ delegation today, Sri Lankan Attorney General Mohan Peiris said he was prepared to offer protection to any of the nation’s journalists who return to the country from exile.

"Speaking for myself, and I’m fairly sure the government will back me up on this, there is no question that the government needs our journalists,” Peiris told the delegation in his office. “They must come back and work with us and help set up the structures so that we can work together and we can respect each other. We must work with these institutions because we need them. We know if they stay outside and attack the government that is not useful.”

When asked if the government would ensure their safety, Peries said, “Of course, if they come back, there must be assurance on our part that they won’t come to any harm.”

Pereis made the statements to CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney and Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. The meeting came near the end of a series of discussions CPJ had with Sri Lankan journalists in Colombo and Jaffna to assess the situation for reporters following presidential elections in January and before April’s parliamentary voting.

The January voting resulted in a landslide victory for incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Post-election disputes saw the arrest of the chief opposition candidate, former general Sareth Fonseka, who is being held as the government prepares charges against him and many of his supporters.

“The attorney general’s appeal to journalists to return from exile is just a first step,” said Mahoney. “The government must go further by taking concrete action to address the climate of impunity and intimidation that prompted them to flee in the first place.”

Sri Lankan journalists told CPJ about growing harassment from the government. Sri Lankan journalism is noted for its high degree of partisanship, and most media sided clearly with either Rajapaksa or Fonseka. State media heavily favored the incumbent, and staff at some state-owned media protested the violation of neutrality. Independent media chose to back one candidate, with few remaining neutral.

“Many journalists with whom we met in Colombo are very open about their fears of retribution from the government after the presidential elections, and they worry about what will come after the parliamentary elections in April,” Dietz said. “Attacks, threats, and disappearances have led many of them to consider leaving the country, and many others already have. Attorney General Peiris should extend a promise of protection to those who are still in the country as well as those who are in exile.”

The January 24 disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda, a political reporter for Lanka eNews, an opposition, pro-Fonseka Web site, remains unresolved. Ekneligoda’s wife, Sandhya, has repeatedly written to authorities, including President Rajapaksa, pleading for news of her husband’s whereabouts. The Sinhala-language opposition weekly Lanka’s editor, Chandana Sirimalwatte, was arrested on January 29, held for 19 days, and released with no charges brought against him. Earlier this week, Sandurwan Senadeera, Lanka eNews’ owner and editor, left the country after repeated threats on his life. CPJ estimates there are more than 15 Sri Lankan journalists who are now in exile, having fled to country in fear of their safety.

Sri Lanka ranks fourth, behind Iraq, Somalia, and Sierra Leone, on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index, a ranking of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and the killers go free. The country ranks 13th on CPJ’s database of journalists killed. A 2009 CPJ report, “Failure to Investigate,” reported on the history of attacks on journalists and the government’s failure to bring any prosecutions or convictions in any of the cases.

Sri Lanka asylum seekers in limbo

For more than five months a group of nearly 240 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have been stranded in an Indonesian port.

The stand-off began when their boat was intercepted by the Indonesian navy following a tip-off from Australia.

The boat people, who are virtually cut off from outsiders, say they want to be resettled in Australia or overseas.

But Australia argues that the boat was intercepted in Indonesian waters so the people are Indonesia's problem.

Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen reports.

March 09, 2010

Heritance Kandalama: The dreamscape destination to enter marital bliss

Heritance Kandalama: To get married in style

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”~ Mignin McLaughlin, June 6, 1913 – December 20, 1983, American Journalist and Authour

KW13TC.JPG

Heritance Kandalama Hotel is a five star luxury hotel, which is covered by lush foliage and rocky mountains. Heritance Kandalama Hotel attracts more foreign tourists for its natural dreamscape. The hotel environment invites birds, butterflies, dragonflies and animals. [click here to see & read more ~ humanityAshore.com]

"Pathways of dissent": An unabashedly Jaffna-centric volume that ignores Muslims

Sivamohan Sumathy writes as a "dissenting reader"

A review of Pathways of Dissent:
Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka
edited by R Cheran. Sage, 2009

On May 19th, 2009, with the violent deaths of the top rung of the LTTE leadership, including that of its leader V. Prabakaran, the 30 year old civil war came to an abrupt halt. While the conclusion was a traumatic event to many in the country, not necessarily because of the destruction of the LTTE, but because of the huge loss of life and immense suffering of roughly 300, 000 people and the sheer scale of the destruction of social cohesion, it also ushered in an era of possibilities, particularly in rethinking the pathways of nationalism. With these ideas uppermost in my mind, I began to read Pathways of Dissent edited by R. Cheran.

rctc39.jpgWhat would one expect from a volume on Tamil nationalism at this critical juncture?

My reading of Pathways of Dissent is an engaged act of trying to tease out a relevance for our work today in the social and political arena. Given my sense of acute involvement in the project, having written and worked on this subject for many years, I found wading through the many chapters a painful and frustrating act.

Frustrating, because it provides no direction to any of the burning questions posed for the academic and the activist, situated in the cusp of the post-war political scenario. . Today, we are trying to seek answers to the questions that became very pressing in the context of the disastrous conclusion to the war.

At the conclusion to the war 300, 000 people were trapped in a few square miles for almost a month, trapped in by the LTTE in order to save the lives of the elite while the rest of the ‘nation’ looked on helplessly.

Again, the Tamil diaspora, paying scant attention to the lives of these people, turned out in hundreds of thousands in the capitals of Europe and Canada to demand the release of Prabakaran, the leader of the LTTE. What was so wrong with Tamil nationalism, that it became consonant with the actions and imperatives of LTTE and Prabakaran?

The essays of the volume were written not so long ago, but they had not been able to touch upon what should have been apparent as the destructive path Tamil nationalism was taking right along and particularly in the post-90s and in the new millennium. Going through the volume was also a painful act because I had to read the rather uninteresting essays in the volume carefully in order to do my own argument justice.

Let me get back to how I read the volume. The title provides a lot of food for thought. The academic allure of the term ‘dissent’ in the title provides me with an analytical entry point into the volume and the entire project: Tamil nationalism.

For me, dissent has a political salience that is useful and productive, particularly at this juncture of charting new directions for those of us who work with and within the idea of a Tamil nation. I will use the idea of dissent and myself as a dissenting reader in my own reading of the volume.

The first dissonant chord for me is struck in the sweeping hegemony of Jaffna centrism so very evident in the volume. It in a fundamental sense contradicts the idea of dissent.

The volume is unabashedly Jaffna centric and makes no apology for this dominance. Its Jaffna centrism is not an accident. If the chapters, barring just one, take Jaffna as their focus, they do so, not in the spirit of dissent, not to scrutinize its dominant place in the narrative of nationalism, but to, through academic sleight of hand, reinforce its dominance. How is this dominance borne out in the theoretical and political thrusts of the essays in the volume?

Let me begin with Cheran’s introduction to the volume which provides the framework for the chapters. Interestingly and perhaps inevitably, given the very linear narrative of the history he charts, Cheran’s trajectory of Tamil nationalism collapses itself into the imperatives and dominance of the LTTE within the Tamil nationalist scenario. This is so, not because the introduction is uncritical of the LTTE, but because it follows the familiar nationalist path of recounting the linear and dominant text book version of history of the Tamils.

Though certain class and caste implications of nationalism are signaled in the manner of political correctness, the approach itself does not plug the dissonances of caste and class as a theoretical device of inquiry. In the concluding section of the introduction, the critical tool of gender is brought in to prise open LTTE’s ‘ideology’ of totalitarianism. But unfortunately, given its narrow focus on the LTTE, the criticism is confined to the LTTE. Overall, the analysis stays within the confines of the militant struggle, leaving almost untouched Tamil nationalism.

One might ask what is so wrong with this? For me, it is the familiar path that many scholars have taken up till now and which in my view has neglected to account for the dynamism and the dissonances within the Tamil polities that we need to pay attention to in evaluating the import of nationalism to us today.

While Cheran’s introduction lays the foundation for such a reading, the chapters of the book, fall neatly into a linear historicist paradigm. Sitrampalam and Nithiyanandan approach the issue from the ‘root causes’ angle or from the perspective of causality.

How did Tamil nationalism emerge? Loosely reactive, focusing on the formation of the Sinhala state, the chapters by Sitrampalam and Nithiyanandam, on the historical and the archaeological and on the economic angle of the rise of the Tamil nation respectively, chart little that would speak to the varying forces that sit in unease within the so called Tamil nation.

Nithiyanandam attempts to trace the historical formation of the economy of the Jaffna as a separate socio political entity; he gives little sense of the political economy of the entire region as a historical force that nourished and pushed the emergence of Tamil nationalism in multiple ways. Once again, it is a Jaffna centric monolithism that prevails.

On the political front, the chapters on militancy are disappointing. Ravi Vaitheespara’s ‘Towards understanding militant Tamil nationalism in Sri Lanka’ is contradictory and unanalytical. Its attack on the authors of the Broken Palmyrah and the UTHR is partisan. Disguising its nationalist rhetoric in a thinly veiled populist brand of left wing discourse, it relies on the ‘ignorance’ of its readership in making its case. For an informed reader, the polemics of the chapter are too partisan and of course nationalist.

Maunaguru’s essay, "Brides as Bridges?’ is anthropological and focuses on evolving filial patterns in transnationality. It is, once again, quietist on the political front. While it provides a kind of insight into movements of people that go beyond the boundaries of territoriality, one does not quite understand what the writer envisions as its impact on the construct of the Tamil ‘nation’.

Similarly, Rajesh Venugopal’s chapter on the neo-liberal economy brings up certain interesting questions regarding the anxieties of a statist nationalism, the structural framework of the LTTE during the peace process of 2002-06, but stops short of pushing this analysis through to its logical conclusion, the unviability of the the nation-state as envisioned by the LTTE and separatist Tamil nationalists. Its clinical approach and its narrow focus on the textual rather than on textuality makes it politically and theoretically narrow in scope and texture.

Daniel Bass’s essay on the Malaiyaha community, ‘Making sense of the Census’ is perhaps the only chapter that strikes a discordant chord, questioning the monlithism of the Tamil nation in its entirety. While, one could not call it dissenting in the way I mapped out earlier, his chapter on the marginalized and minority Tamil community of plantation workers does move away from Jaffna centrism in a critical fashion. Academiclly speaking, he moves from tracing the genealogy of nation making through enumeration, initiated by the colonial government, to notions of citizenship and belonging to Sri Lanka as expressed by the community at present.

His essay does not connect itself all too clearly to the project of nationalism until the very end when he concludes with ‘the rise of a distinct up-country Tamil ethnic identity has thus undermined the supposedly pan-Tamil appeal of Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism, while providing a counterpoint to dominant discourses of Tamil identity.’

The chapters on literature and art and the artist raise interesting issues and then ultimately disappoint us. The chapter on the literatures of the nation by Chelva Kanaganayakam is selective and wittingly and unwittingly makes a case for the homogeneity of the nation. Also, the commentary is too text based and analytically distanced from the context of production.

On the contrary, Shanaathanan’s ‘Painting the Artist’s Self’ reveals an engaged reading of the emergence of the artist as Tamil. His historiography of the artist is interesting and useful in an informative kind of way. But when it comes to the theoretically marked commentary one feels a sense of loss and disappointment. The strength of the essay lies in the fact it begs many questions, questions which need to be asked of the entire project. The fragment and the collage which Shanaathanan says has come to dominate the scene in the ‘90s are understood in purely formal terms, historically situated. He repeats the clichés of ‘theory’: ‘In post-traditional (sic) societies individualization of the artist is also associated with commercialization and commodification of art work.

In post-colonial societies it also directly or indirectly is connected with emerging nationalist sentiments.’ Of course one could ignore this as marginalia and look for something more substantial and theoretically sustained in the crux of his essay. But once again, we are confronted with another cliché of theory, the postmodern and the fragment, sitting this time, uneasily with the dominant thread of Tamil nationalism.

I read the essay not with the kind of anger that I felt on reading those on historiography, economics and militancy, but with a sense of disappointment, feeling entrapped by the inevitability of the nationalist discourse in any narrative of the Tamil.

Nimanthi Rajasingam and Radhika Coomarasamy’s chapter, ‘Being Tamil in a different way’ on the ramifications of gender in colonial and postcolonial times and importantly during militancy, is at one level a survey of history and its gendered dimensions and at another, a survey of literature. Yet, it does bring up the dissonances more pronouncedly and is perhaps the only chapter that does talk about dissent as resistance within the Tamil community. But it lacks a cogent and incisive critical analysis of gender as a dynamic acting within society.

I am not too happy with what I consider as its over emphasis of and singular focus on Arumuga Navalar for the earlier period and on the LTTE for the latter. Its historicity too becomes hegemonic in that sense. It does not seek to critically formulate a platform for the subaltern voices that the authors say should be recovered. Strangely, the authors bring in a totally unrelated and unengaged writer, Sumanasiri Liyanage, at the end, as the authoritative voice on subalternity.

One the whole, one would have asked for a greater intimacy with the material and a more engaging critical positioning. Nevertheless, the essay does present an inquiry into dominance and dissent through the subversive category of gender which is lacking in the rest of the volume.

One of the central absences of the volume is any work on the Muslims. A glaring omission, it is also an admission of the overarching politics of dominance of the volume. Why are the Muslims so important?

Politically, Muslims posed a challenge to the hegemony of Tamil nationalism, from within and without. Laying claim to the north and east as their homeland, the Muslim polities provided an alternative reading of Tamil nationalism and its framings that could have been productively exploited by the essayists of the volume and by the undertakers of the volume itself.

The resounding silence on Muslims has an intricate connection with the Jaffna centrism of the volume. The volume’s nationalistic platform, which refuses to take even the east as a full fledged category for inquiry is an additional aspect of this.

The east provides a counterpoint to the hegemony of the Tamil nationalism. Overtly and politically, much more multi ethnic than Jaffna, a serious and sustained engagement with the happenings in the east today would have opened up faultlines that would have been productive and illuminating. Tamil nationalism in the east has had a chequered career and has posed great challenges to the myth of the cohesiveness of the nation. In deciding to focus almost exclusively on the north, particularly Jaffna, the volume could, conveniently, side step the complexities informing the fraught unity of the nation and the challenges of the Muslim polity.

Yet surely, even the story of a Jaffna centric nationalism cannot easily gloss over the mass eviction of roughly 85000 Muslims from the north?

It is interesting that Kanaganayakam leaves out prominent Muslim literary figures in his chapter on literature, writers who had brought in an inquiring note to the literary quest of nation (un)making. Similarly, caste, as I have mentioned earlier, is another major absence in the volume which is rather revealing of the politics of the project. It is dealt with only cursorily and is ‘suppressed’ even at the point of telling.

The title Pathways of Dissent is both academically wanting, as the volume does not in anyway touch upon the critical tools afforded by dissent and is, politically, hegemonic. We may need another volume to bring that critical thrust into the analysis of Tamil nationalism. Today, there is a need to rethink the terms of our discourse, in a questioning of what I think as the overarching imperatives of the nation.

For me, this includes raising questions nationalism itself, in all of their different manifestations; aggressive, like the Sinhala dominant state of Sri Lanka and its unabashed chauvinist-nationalist platform; the nationalism of victim hood, vulnerability and submission/dominance projected by Tamil nationalism; and other emergences of exclusivity, including the diffused strands of Muslim nationalism that one might encounter today.

Is Ban_Ki-moon influenced by India on Sri Lanka through his son-in-law Siddharth Chatterjee?

by Upul Joseph Fernando

There is a view that the UN Organization General Secretary Ban Ki Moon appointed a panel of experts to investigate the human rights (HR) violations and the war crimes committed during the Sri Lanka (SL) war was in order to get an extension for his term in office as Gen. Secretary. It is evident that when his first term is about to end , he is resorting to various ploys to get it extended.

One such ploy is the panel of experts appointed by him to inquire into Sri Lankan violations. There were widespread and repeated allegations from the Western countries, Foreign NGOs and the International media that Ban Ki Moon took no measures against the Human Rights violations and the war crimes committed in Sri Lanka during the war. Through a prominent member Vijaya Nambiar of the UN Organization , accusations were levelled that Ban Ki Moon was maintaining close and cordial ties with the Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa , and is therefore suppressing the war crime charges against Sri Lanka. There were also allegations that India was using Nambiar towards this end.

When Ban Ki-Moon’s policies pertaining to Sri Lanka came up for questioning by the Foreign media from the UN Ambassador to France, Gerard Aroud , the latter stated , India and China are obstructing Moon from taking drastic measures against Sri Lanka. Now it has become known that Moon’s son in law Siddharth Chatterjee was a former officer of the Indian Army, and during the period of the 1987 Indo Lanka accord , he had served in the Indian peace keeping Force which arrived in Sri Lanka. Presently , Moon’s son in law Chatterjee is holding a post in the UN Organization at D2 level ; charges are current against Moon for giving preferential treatment to his son in law.

BKMVNTC39.jpg

Placard at Tamil Rally in NYC, Sep 22, 2009

Similarly , the International media recently revealed that during the final phase of the Sri Lanka war , a former Chief of the Indian Army , Satish Nambiar, the brother of chief of staff in the UN Organization Vijaya Nambiar , was sent here by Ban Ki- Moon to protect the civilian population . The former chief of the Indian Army proffered advice to Sri Lankan Army regarding the war . The International media however charged that by Vijaya Nambiar acting according to Satish Nambiar’s advice and India’s needs, no efforts were made to save the Tamil Tiger leaders who came forward holding white flags, or the civilian population in the final stages of the war.

In an earlier article of mine I had made mention of how the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa extended support to appoint Ban Ki-Moon as the UN Organization Gen. Secretary,by making Jayantha Dhanapala , the Sri Lankan candidate for the UN Gen. Secretary post to withdraw, in order to facilitate Ban Ki- Moon’s election to the post of Gen. secretary of the UN Organization .Consequent upon this , Ban Ki-Moon became very closely associated with the President and his brother Basil Rajapaksa.

Ban Ki-Moon’s close ties with the Rajapaksa brothers apart, there is another reason which incapacitates Moon from taking drastic measures against Sri Lanka – the support that was given to him by Mahinda Rajapaksa to secure the post of UN Gen. secretary . It is possible that these are the relationships which compelled Ban Ki Moon to ignore the repeated requests made to him to intervene and take action to halt the war at the last stages.

It is not certain whether Ban Ki Moon’s conduct in the final phase of the war was influenced and induced by the support lavished on him to be appointed as the Gen. Secretary by the Rajapaksa govt. or was it due to the pressure brought to bear on him by India via his son in law. ?

If Moon’s son in law Chatterjee had been in Sri Lanka during the 1987 Indo Lanka accord period as an Indian Peace keeping Force (IPKF) officer, he ought to be well conversant with the Sri Lankan war and the Tamil Tiger Organization. He must have experienced very difficult times when the Tamil Tigers waged war against the IPKF . It is not unlikely that he could have made Moon understand that the Tamil Tigers had no desire for peace , and that they should be annihilated.

On the one hand India must have silenced Moon by using his son in law , while on the other, India must have also used the UN Organization chief of staff Vjaya Nambiar who was appointed by Moon, to take steps to safeguard the Sri Lankan civilian population . Indeed , there are charges that Satish Nambiar, a former Indian Army Chief was used to exert influence on his brother Vijaya Nambiar.

It is exceedingly clear that the combined efforts based on the ‘game plan’ of India orchestrated by the Rajapaksa family, the son in law Chatterjee of UN Organization Gen. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon’ s family and the brother of chief of staff Vijaya Nambiar’s family had worked effectively and efficaciously . But Moon who fell prey to this game plan is now , again confronted by odds and obstacles militating against his appointment as the General secretary for a second term.

This is because western countries are questioning his role in this game plan. Moon may have appointed a panel of experts relating to Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka only to please the Western countries which have now turned sour against him.

No matter what amount of effort Moon may put to please the Western countries to fortify his position and keep his post , India however will not relent or relax in its attempts to use the Rajapaksa , Ban-Ki Moon and the Nambiar families which were contributory to the Tamil Tiger devastation to suppress the war crime charges surfacing against Sri Lanka. ~ courtesy: Daily Mirror ~

Anti - Sri Lanka triumvirate of western powers, diaspora and NGOs continue war-crimes allegations

By Gomin Dayasri

The spectre of war crimes will haunt Sri Lanka until the triumvirate consisting of the Diaspora, anti-Sri Lanka NGO’s and the Western Powers abandon their relentless struggle to punish Sri Lanka for defeating terrorism which still continues to torment those countries which did not desire the LTTE to be vanquished.

These countries continue to be plagued by terrorism with which they have been grappling for years but yet has failed to comprehensively defeat notwithstanding the superior fire power possessed, sophisticated equipment at their disposal and the economic strength to combat terrorism.

They never expected Sri Lanka with its limited resources to defeat the LTTE of which they were supportive, because of its “master-sir” approach to the West and Sri Lanka’s geo-strategic placement in the Indian Ocean.

In addition to losing a distant ally in the LTTE there is the desire to discredit the military achievements of Sri Lanka which they are trying to emulate but continues to fail miserably which brings out the worse of the ‘green-eyed monster’ within them.

The anti-Sri Lanka NGO Fronts’ right to survive in Sri Lanka depends on a continuing war to enable them to wave the white flag of peace and the peace drums which brought them great financial support from the West. Now with peace achieved after a successful war effort being productive, the peace activists have lost their cause and with it the monetary dividend.

The Diasporas days of glory ended with the demise of Prabhakaran- to be in business they have to, at the least, discredit Sri Lanka’s war exercises- it is the way to be in money fame and influence.

These three imposters have successfully pressurized UN officials again to re agitate the call to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka. They have found a strange ally in frustrated Sarath Fonseka with his recent utterances much to their comfort.

What is more intriguing is the conduct of Ban ki-Moon and Pillay falling prey to the overtures of the anti Sri Lanka front and wanting to offer a life line, to those who enthused terrorists, while also attempting to punish Sri Lanka for bringing security to a country which lived in agony for 30 years and for having comprehensively defeated brutal terrorism of the LTTE which had spilled into the international realm.

It is just days away from the unmanned drone aircrafts functioning from US bases in Pakistan which missed their targets and killed innocent civilians. The killing of by- standers by US forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan has become a common feature during the war against the Talibans. So is it in Iraq and in the Middle East during the last few weeks where a large number of civilian deaths are reported due to the firepower of the West and Israel.

Why is the UN concerned of Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka but silent on the events in Afghanistan Middle East and Pakistan?

Why does not the French and British Foreign Ministers make visits like they did to Sri Lanka, especially to Afghanistan and Iraq where their forces are stationed and make a plea as they did in Sri Lanka by insisting on access to Prabhakaran to start a dialogue with the terrorists elements?

Is Ban-ki Moon and Pillay wearing tinted glasses that they fail to see only Sri Lanka as the sole violator in South Asia of humanitarian laws?

Did not the UN see or hear of the atrocities in Rwanda and yet choose to look the other way but concentrate on Sri Lanka that did the civilized world a great service proving there is an answer to combat terrorism?

Is the UN that delivered hostile findings on child soldiers to the LTTE, anxious to discredit Sri Lanka for rehabilitating and delivering the captured children to their lawful custodians?

Was there a word of appreciation from the UN for eliminating the existence of child soldier image comprehensively, which has not happened in any other conflict area, but instead Ban Ki- Moon wants to appoint a panel to investigate Sri Lanka to probe war crimes?

Does not UN realize that the people of Sri Lanka are living in peace with security after 25 years and are they keen to give a fillip to those forces of terrorism to revive themselves?

Did not the UN continue to recognize the government of murderous Pol Pot regime of Cambodian while it remained in exile in the jungles of Thailand while a lawful government was functioning in Phom Phen after overthrowing the architects of the killing fields?

Did the UN inquire as to the human rights violations in Uzbekistan after British ambassador Murray reported gross violations in that country which led to his dismissal from the Foreign Service?

What action did the human rights activists in the UN take against the Pinochet regime in Chile or against Suharto administration in Indonesia for the mass murders that took place?

It is obvious that the British Labour government is trying to woo Tamil voters in the forthcoming General Elections in UK and therefore has to placate the Tamil Diaspora living in the UK. Therefore, on their behalf, they are exerting pressure on the UN agencies to investigate Sri Lanka in an attempt to win over the Diaspora vote.

It appears just as much as the UN agencies do not act against US interests on human rights violations; on the contrary UN reacts rapidly when the British government lodges a complaint. Where are the level playing fields?

Are there not discernible differences amounting to discriminatory practices?

During the war there were allegations against the Forces for Human Rights violations in cases like the Mutur murder trial of 17 aid workers, deaths in Shencholai LTTE training camp which were inquired into and the findings of panel were that the Forces were not liable. These were sessions held in the presence of foreign observers and the findings were adverse to the LTTE.

Had the findings being against the Sri Lankan forces, what a price we would have had to pay?

Why then this sudden outburst from the UN Secretary General and Human Rights Commissioner?

It draws strength from a statement made by Sarath Fonseka that he is prepared to disclose facts before an international tribunal on events that took place in Sri Lanka. It would sound sweet to those desiring to find Sri Lankan forces culpable because for the first time in history, a Commander of a Military Force was volunteering to testify against its own Forces. They would have realized whereas there was no evidence forthcoming or the evidence so far presented proved to be unfavorable, a valuable source was emerging from the military to punish Sri Lanka.

Much of the blame that Sri Lanka has to face is due to the impotent Human Rights Commission-a virtual school for the deaf dumb and blind-which does not sufficiently pay attention to Human Rights complaints and has failed act effectively and win confidence.

It is important that there must be strong internal surveillance system, which would be a strong counter to foreign pressures. It is in the absence of an internal machinery to check human rights violations; it has become possible for alien bodies to attempt intervention into domestic affairs. It would be a threat to our national sovereignty if foreign busybodies are permitted to interfere in domestic procedures.

We have the unfortunate experience of watching the role played in Sri Lanka by the Scandinavian monitors when entrusted to monitor violations under the CFA and the IIGEPS in the Special Presidential Commission as observers to inquire into Human Rights violations. Whenever foreigner/inquirers have arrived on the scene as observers/inquirers in another country, they have exceeded their authority conferred, to give effect to their own agenda, which is detrimental to the host country.

It is for this reason India does not tolerate any human rights observers like Philip Alston to enter India and forbid NGO’s the right of access during the tsunami. Sri Lanka made the error of opening our gates that made many of them become willing tools and accessories of the LTTE. Sri Lanka paid dearly for this colossal blunder.

Today all political parties have extremely patriotic forces in their membership and in their silent support bases. Now is the time for these forces to rally around again as during the war and prevent any foreign interventions in the name of humanitarian exercises to enter this country to shame our security forces.

Southern hawks think a Sinhala solution can be imposed on the Tamils

by Dayan Jayatileka

"You never see it comin’ till it’s gone" – Falling & Flyin, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart"
Seeing it comin’:

Will the Tamils silently celebrate and the Sinhalese secretly curse the day that Prabhakaran died? With his secessionist fundamentalism and ghastly terrorism, he was the biggest obstacle to achievable autonomy for Tamils and the best excuse for the Sinhala establishment’s tardiness to devolve power to the Tamil speaking periphery. Now the North is no longer hostage to secessionism and the South is bereft of a human shield against democratic demands for devolution.

There was an old Cold War joke about the thief who broke into the Kremlin and stole, among other things, the complete results of the next election.

Well, one of the most important results of Sri Lanka’s upcoming parliamentary election is already in or rather, is predictable: the predominance of the TNA in the Tamil majority areas of the North and East and the resultant political polarization between North and South.

While Ranil Wickremesinghe arguably has the cosmopolitanism necessary to reintegrate the Tamils into the Sri Lankan polity, that very cosmopolitanism (and his track record of appeasement of the Tigers) mean that he cannot carry the Sinhalese with him on this issue even if he becomes President someday.

By contrast President Rajapakse is indispensable because he can carry the majority of the (Sinhalese) majority with him into a settlement with the Tamils, but does the consciousness of his close allies permit him to do so, on a basis other than that of unilateral imposition and total Tamil capitulation?

The SLFP has reformist nationalists, and UNP, nationalist liberals, who could forge an overarching consensus, but these factions are marginalized to the point that they cannot be factored into any serious current discussion of future prospects.

The incumbent administration seems to think that all problems can be solved through political uni-polarity of a sort that would come with a two thirds majority at or after the parliamentary election (through defections). Serial victories — in the war, in a single diplomatic arena and at the Presidential election—have given rise to a mood and mindset, ideology and project, that we have witnessed before in other more important parts of the world on a much larger scale.

We have seen politically uni-polar moments, with their attendant delusions and tragic denouements. When the USSR lost the Cold War, the US won the first Gulf war and Kosovo conflict, and went onto overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Bush administration and more precisely its two most influential components, the religious fundamentalists and the neoconservatives, were convinced the moment had come for the USA to re-mould the world unopposed and as it saw fit. Parallels were made with the Roman Empire at its height. A favorite dream theme was that of a New Middle East.

It is hardly possible to recall those absurd illusions today, buried up-ended as they have been. Domestically too we have experienced the equivalent of such hubristic delusions: in late 1982, at the moment of JRJ’s triumphant re-election, with a booming economy and a prostrate Opposition.

Today we are experiencing yet another such moment; one in which the Southern hawks, the Sri Lankan equivalent of the neoconservative populists, think that a Sinhala solution can be imposed upon the Tamils; a Southern solution on the North and East; a solution which entails the rollback of the Indo-Lanka accord and the 13th amendment and its substitution by something else amounting to something less.

The argument seems to be that having won the war which was itself an outgrowth and logical culmination of Tamil nationalism, that nationalism can be totally rolled back and we can (re)write our own Sri Lanka as if it were a tabula rasa. For these ideologues, ‘Sri Lanka’ and ‘Sri Lankan’ are, (as it perhaps was in the spirit animating the 1972 Constitution), but a synonym and mask for ‘Sinhala Buddhist’—and not a negotiated or evolved synthesis of the identities of all the island’s citizenry, albeit with a natural ‘core’ status and function for the Sinhala Buddhist civilization.

One may observe parenthetically that the conversion from ‘Ceylon’ to ‘Sri Lanka’ and ‘Ceylonese’ to ‘Sri Lankan’ didn’t stop at ‘Lanka’ and ‘Lankan’, as in the Lanka Sama Samaja Party or the Lanka Guardian.

Thus the political deadlock in the North-South relationship continues while the war, the armed conflict, has been won. The April 2010 parliamentary election takes place in a context that is postwar, post-victory and post-presidential election, but not post-crisis. If one defines the conflict not as a military one but as a political conflict, then we may be living in a moment that is not yet ‘post-conflict’ and is even describable as ‘pre-conflict’. The upcoming election must be viewed as embedded within this situation. Its real consequences go beyond the arithmetical outcome and reside in how the electoral outcome impacts upon the larger context of the long-running crisis.

The commencement of the crisis of Sri Lanka’s political identity was obviously not 1983.The Vadukkodai resolution calling for the establishment of an independent sovereign secular socialist state of Tamil Eelam was in 1976, while JR’s UNP manifesto of 1977 said that "the Tamil people have been driven even to seek a separate state" — and the TULF swept the North on this single issue at the watershed elections of that year.

The TNA has undergone a partial yet welcome reconfiguration; partial because it entails personalities rather than political line and policy platform. Welcome, because the most pro-Tiger elements have been shed and the party looks more like the old TULF, TUF, or Federal party. It is not that the TNA has no radicals or militants in its ranks. Suresh Premachandran is one, but though he was pro-Tiger, he was never a Tiger and is originally from the EPRLF stream of Tamil militancy. The reconfigured TNA is rather like the UPFA would have been without the JHU, but only the NFF.

Premachandran is probably best seen as the TNA’s counterpart of the UPFA’s Ranawake or Weerawansa. Gajan Ponnambalam’s breakaway grouping which seems to have the support of the hard-line elements of the Tamil Diaspora and organs such as the TamilNet, are the JHU equivalent, and they are no longer part of the TNA.

Still, there is a major problem which will contribute to the exacerbation of the situation. One part of the problem is that the TNA has not yet officially and formally abandoned the secessionist Vadukkodai resolution. That platform may have had some historical validity or comprehensibility at that time, and after July 1983, but it has been unjustified and obsolescent since Indian mediation commenced, serious negotiations started and the Indo-Lanka Accord produced a reasonable reform as alternative. It would be a wise and legitimate stance were the TNA were to unilaterally renounce secessionism, formally return to a federalist platform, while settling for autonomy within the unitary state of Sri Lanka.

The other part and no less troubling aspect of the problem is that the Southern establishment is not staunch in its commitment to authentic provincial autonomy within a unitary state; not even the autonomy contained in the country’s Constitution and derivative of a bilateral agreement with our most indispensable international ally.

After the election, the TNA will put forward demands that dominant Sinhala opinion may think excessive but world opinion and many Governments find unexceptionable. If President Rajapakse contents himself simply with not giving in, rather than keeping the TNA engaged but off balance with a counterproposal at least the rest of Asia will think reasonable, the TNA will go the Chelvanayagam route of peaceful agitation. This will be stimulated by competition from Gajan Ponnamabalam’s grouping and pressure from Suresh and such others within the party.

It is unlikely that there will be a Southern consensus, given the basic two party split in Sinhala society. The Rajapakse administration’s response will also be tangentially affected by the Sarath Fonseka factor: a caged, wounded lion in the basement or dungeon does not make for sociopolitical stability and a generous, consensual response to minority issues.

If the state cracks down on, or elements in the South react violently and with impunity to, peaceful and democratic non-secessionist Tamil demands, the global diplomatic reaction in this YouTube age will not be the same as in 1956, 1983 or 2009. The TNA will be armed with democratic legitimacy in the eyes of the world, from West to East.

The Tamil Diaspora and its ex-colonial Western patrons will exploit the gap between MR’s nativist ideological constituency and the globalised world. That’s when the Tamil Diaspora’s serial referenda campaign will have set the stage, and the British connection (not just Labour’s Blair-Brown but the Conservatives’ William Hague) which is a bridge to ‘human rights crusaders’ in Washington DC will kick in.

We won the diplomatic battle in Geneva not only because of our friends but also the nature of our enemy: the Tigers and the Tiger-flag bearing Tamil Diaspora demonstrations. The same strategy and tactics will not work against a democratically elected TNA option, unless the latter remains formally and demonstrably secessionist while we for our part have implemented the 13th Amendment.

Our Eastern friends helped us against armed Tamil separatism but they regard the Tamil community as a respected, productive component of Asia’s citizenry and will not back us in a confrontation with the democratically elected representatives of the Sri Lankan Tamils of the North and East.

India remains our key ‘buffer state’ internationally, and if we think we can unilaterally rollback the accord and 13A without something more extensive in place; i.e. go below the 13A and continue to have Delhi in our corner, we are deluding ourselves. We don’t have to implement the provision to devolve police powers right now.

However, the carefully negotiated arrangements on land cannot be deleted or diluted. The problem arises when our leadership refers to "village level devolution" on an occasion as portentous as the first peacetime Independence Day in decades. It is as if we have learned nothing.

If Mr. Sampanthan is not successfully co-opted with adequate power sharing, Gajan Ponnambalam’s splinter group will grow, ironically as Chelvanayagam’s breakaway Federal party did when Colombo undermined Gajan’s grandfather’s political credibility with the citizenship move on the hill country Tamils.

The issue of Sri Lanka’s collective identities is hardly likely to be resolved by integration through economic development. If economic development alone would do the trick, the UPFA would not have lost the East so badly at the Presidential elections. Indeed this formula puts the cart before the horse.

A viable option for Sri Lanka would be the Asian model of globalization, but the dominant ideology, mindset and policy framework of the incumbent administration is far from the paradigm of the New Asian modernity. The experience of Asia reveals broadly five formulae or models for handling diversity, though one could also envisage a suitable combination of aspects of these models:

1) Meritocratic multiculturalism; a level playing field and a managed market economy (the Singapore model)

2) Secular state, constitutional guarantees of equality, and quasi-federalism (the Indian model; the secularity of the state/central govt. is not contradicted by sporadic outbreaks of ethnic or religious violence at the sub-national, local or civic level).

3) A secular, unitary/non-federal state with suitable regional/provincial autonomy arrangements (China, Indonesia, Philippines)

4) Non secular, federal state (Pakistan)

5) Secular unitary state ( Bangladesh)

The relevance of secularism is that it is symbolic of the state’s/central government’s neutrality or non-alignment in relation to the constituent communities/collectivities of that society, irrespective of the sizes of those communities and ratios between them. Thus the state stands above the communities, able to reconcile them.

The Soulbury Constitution would have put us closest to model 1. If the existing Sri Lankan Constitution inclusive of the results of the Indo-Lanka accord, i.e. 13th amendment were fully implemented, the Sri Lankan state would arguably be a variant of model 3: non-secular, not a level playing field, but with an offsetting provincial autonomy.

However, the 1972 Constitution, the 1978 Constitution without the 1988 amendment, and the ideas of counter-reformation proposed by the ideologues of Sinhala dominance all posit a model which does not fit with any Asian framework. It is/would be the model of a non-secular, linguistically unequal, non-federal polity devoid of even provincial level devolution/autonomy.

In a homogenous society, devolution is not an imperative. In a heterogeneous society, strong centralism devoid of devolution is fine if accompanied by meritocratic multiculturalism and secularism, i.e. a neutral state.

Conversely, a secular meritocracy – a neutral state — is not necessary, and the dice can be loaded in favor of the majority perceived as historically underprivileged, provided there is a compensatory counterweight at the periphery in the form of federalism or regional/provincial autonomy (Malaysia). Sri Lanka does not have a homogenous society. Its minorities are mixed in with the majority in some areas and preponderate in another.

Yet Sri Lanka today neither has a neutral state (secular or meritocratic multiculturalism) nor a federal system nor active devolution within a unitary framework. Thus it does not have the necessary framework for successful globalization along Asian lines and full participation in the Asian economic miracle.

This threefold asymmetry between (A) Southern and Northern political choices; (B) social reality and political structure; and (C) the dominant paradigm and reform imperatives for fulfillment of the country’s potential, constitute the core of the Sri Lankan crisis and the fault-lines which will be exploited by those who do not wish the country well.

Meanwhile, we may well reflect with Jeff Bridges playing ‘Bad Blake’ as he sings:

"Funny how fallin’ feels like flyin’/ For a little while".

Encountering extremism: Biographical tracks and twists

By Prof. Michael Roberts

One’s academic trajectories and journeys are invariably subject to vagaries and contingencies. The events and researches leading to my interest in “communal violence” and “zealotry” in the 1990s, and thereafter to what I have called ‘sacrificial devotion” (embracing the topics of “terrorism,” suicide bombers and Tamil Tigers), were shaped by such contingencies.

Since http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/ will present some short essays on both these topics in the course of this month, let me detail some moments during my research work that resulted in the journeys that produced such outcomes.

In 1986-87 I spent about 14 months in Sri Lanka on research work during my sabbatical year. I was completing my research and writing on the history of Colombo in British times and the associated rise of a Westernized middle class-cum-bourgeoisie – work that resulted in the book People Inbetween (Sarvodaya, 1989).

The island was still under the clouds cast by the attacks on Tamils in the southern parts of the island in July 1983. Following the British colonial lexicon this momentous and tragic set of events was generally described as the “1983 riots.” But such politically-aware scholars as Newton Gunasinghe and Shelton Kodikara were among those who depicted the event as a “pogrom.” This was a sensitizing revision that I accepted.

The lesson crystallised when a chance event, one of those “contingencies” that I spoke of in my opening sentence, cut into the lines of research that had dominated my focus in the 1980s. Neelan Tiruchelvam buttonholed me and asked me to provide a broad overview on the event known as the “1915 riots” (marakkala kolahalaya in Sinhala) for a conference that was being organised in the Maldives by the International Centre of Ethnic Studies, a gathering that encompassed South Asia writ large and included several scholars from the subcontinent.

Apart from the attractions of the enterprise, the Maldives as place of meeting made the offer irresistible to a beachcomber such as me. As matters turned out, the event was held in Kathmandu in February 1987, but that location was no less attractive. In effect my research direction took a U-turn in the sense that my existing field of research now had an additional field alongside it.

This terrain of research was not entirely new. Neelan approached me because he was aware of my earlier articles on the “1915 riots,” one that was initially a Ceylon Studies Seminar paper at Peradeniya in 1972 and then appeared in print in 1981. Both versions were moulded by an approach directed by the British empiricist tradition of historical research, albeit leavened by some sociological threads.

When I took up this particular baton once again, however, both my reflections and my subsequent explorations of additional bodies of source material were leavened by my experiences in teaching and reading social anthropology. One of my presentations at Kathmandu was a summary overview of the 1915 pogrom directed at the Sri Lankan Mohammedans (as the Muslims were called then), with some reflections thereon. This presentation was point-form and never re-written as such. But I also presented a written draft of another paper that eventually saw print under the title “Noise as Cultural Struggle” in a book edited by Veena Das which assembled some of the papers presented at Kathmandu (Mirrors of Violence, Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1990).

With People Inbetween bedded as a book, from 1989/90 my research work was now directed towards a study of communal violence as well as nationalism in the modern world. My intent was to produce a book on the anti-Moor pogrom of 1915, a work that would run alongside research on another book on Sinhalese nationalism in the British period. The latter field was informed by the literature on South Asia , notably “subaltern studies.”

It was also directed by my questioning of some lines of argument within this literature that were influenced by Edward Said’s “Orientalism” --terrain that is usefully summarized by John Rogers in his “Post-Orientalism and the Interpretation of Pre-modern and Modern Political Identities: The Case of Sri Lanka,” Journal of Asian Studies 1994, vol. 53: 10-23).

These lines of interest were not without the impact, emotional and otherwise, of the July 1983 pogrom. During my long sojourn in Lanka in 1986/87 and other visits I had gathered anecdotal data on the 1983 pogrom that deepened my reflective thoughts, and indeed, my anger about that cluster of events.

This material, moreover, had led me to conjecture that in their minds the stirrers and assailants behind the atrocities in 1983 as well as 1915 were moved by a sense of ‘legitimate’ vengeance so that their awful actions were deemed righteous. They were teaching the Moors (1915) and the Tamils (1983) a lesson.

I did not, however, wish to be submerged by the local particularities of empirical detail and my local particularity as a Sri Lankan. Comparative studies of ethnic violence in Europe, USA and India seemed advisable in order to preclude tunnel-vision. Short six-month sojourns at the University of Virginia in 1991, Delhi (1995) and Leiden (1996) rendered feasible by Fellowships secured as well as Australian research grants enabled me to broaden my vision.

These travels included brief visits to the library archives at the Weiner Foundation in London and YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research in New York . The considerable bodies of data from these fields that I collected remain on the shelves -- mostly unanalysed. However, these explorations provided perspectives and raised useful questions.

Furthermore, they yielded photographs, startling photographs at times. I still have in my mind’s-eye an image of Nazi men and women clambering among a mound of Jewish bodies searching for booty – a newsprint photograph of poor quality that I saw at the Weiner Foundation in London . My quest for photographs had been inspired by two of the shocking scenes from the atrocious mayhem at Borella Junction, Colombo , on 24/25th July 1983 that had been reproduced in the Tamil Times.

Culled from the poor-quality reproductions in that periodical these images were reproduced in my literary essay, a personal statement of protest, entitled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of a Pogrom: Southern Lanka , July 1983” when it was reprinted in the anthology entitled Exploring Confrontation: Politics, Culture and History (Reading, Harwood Academic Publishing, 1994).

Both the limits and incisiveness of visual imagery surround the embellishments attached to these pictures. One reveals a mob of jubilant looters and assailants and indicates that ordinary people participated in the pogrom (as indeed confirmed by numerous witnesses -- from Karen Roberts in her July to the research work on the July 1983 pogrom undertaken by Naren Kumarakulasingham for his dissertation). The other is even more shocking, but also highlights how a picture can sometimes mislead.

When I saw this picture I took it as given that (A) the naked man was a Tamil and (B) that he was subsequently killed. Both interpretations were conjectures that amounted to cultural readings, interpretations that, say, a Canadian may not have essayed. Reading the image at face-value I also called the reproduction “Dancing the Killing” (see Roberts, 1994d, page 324).

It was not till my article had reached the bookshelves that Charles Abeysekera gave me the name of the intrepid cameraman who took these flash pictures in extremely dangerous circumstances. This was Chandragupta Amarasinghe, who had then been attached to the Communist Party newspaper, Aththa, whose offices were a stones throw from Borella Junction. This led me to contact Amarasinghe and purchase better copies of the photographs he took that night. I also gathered empirical details from his observations as a witness of the activities that night both at the Kanatte Cemetery initially and then on the streets around.

He confirmed both my principal conjectures. That poor Tamil man had indeed been killed. But he also modified my third assumption. The assailant was not dancing, said Chandragupta. He was swivelling around as he administered a karate kick. So I was mistaken on this detail. The critical aspect, however, was the fact that this killer, together with others around him, was certainly enjoying this horrendous work. Yes, as Chandragupta attested, both adrenaline and ecstasy were coursing thought their veins (see also a photograph from the 1958 mini-pogrom reproduced in Ivan’s Paradise in Tears, Plate 247).

These details, then, reveal a form of zealousness that is not motivated by religious fervour, but by ethnic prejudice, that is by relational subjectivities and sentiments based on ethnic differentiation (distinct in some ways from racial differentiation based on skin colour) and reaching a climax through political processes, rumour-mongering and currents of rhetoric.

It was within this background that I penned an essay, “Understanding Zealotry,” in 1995 for the Newsletter produced by my hosts at Leiden University , namely, the International Institute of Asian Studies. This essay will eventually be inserted within www.thuppahi.wordpress.com/ together with a few photographs from USA and India illustrating the violence emanating from zealotry and extreme forms of nationalist or communalist action directed against an Enemy Other.

A broader selection can also be reviewed by visiting the website http://sacrificialdevotionnetwork. wordpress.com/ and surfing down the right panel and clicking “Photos.” This site in its turn was informed by a suggestion from Dan Nourry after a Workshop I organised at Adelaide University in late 2005 to discuss “Sacrificial Devotion in Comparative Perspective: Tamil Tigers and Beyond.”

The projected book on the 1915 pogrom never eventuated. The reasons are two-fold: in preparing my anthology Exploring Confrontation in the years 1991-94 I distilled my work on the pogrom into two chapters. One, “The Imperialism of Silence” improved and filled out the circumstances that generated religious disputes and thus superseded my previous essay on “Noise as Cultural Struggle.” The other, “Mentalities: Ideologues, Assailants, Historians and the Pogrom against Moors in 1915,” summarised my main findings and arguments.

That done, I did not have the energy for a ball-by-ball coverage of the details clarifying the manner in which a section of the Sinhalese population terrorised most bodies of Mohammedans in their midst. Besides, by 1994/95 I was fully immersed in my work on Sinhalese nationalism. By 1996 I even had several chapters in draft form.

Yet, these have never appeared in print. Twist, turn and contingency interrupted this book-venture. For one I was diverted to the work of editing a new set of articles on Collective Identities Revisited (Colombo, 1997 & 1998 under the Marga imprint). This endeavour in turn flowed into the interventionist project organised by Godfrey Gunatilleke on A History of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka : Recollection, Reinterpretation and Reconciliation that involved several workshops in Sri Lanka between 1999 and 2003. Since all these ventures engaged the political processes and various currents of ideology within modern Sri Lanka , clearly, my research findings for the book remained directly pertinent to whatever I wrote under the ambit of these programmes. Indeed the draft chapters have informed all my articles within the period 1995-2009. Thus, the condensed abstracts that feature within the title “History-Making in Sri Lanka and the Sinhalese” in fact embody some of the findings destined for this unfulfilled book.

There was another reason for the delay in production, a major force in fact. While focusing on the changes arising in the period of British colonial domination, my outline for the book envisaged an initial background chapter that would condense the ideological and political circumstances preceding the advent of British control. The intention was to set up a “baseline” so that one could the better comprehend the changes emanating in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This meant a summary view of what we tend to refer to as the Kingdom of Kandy (though it is more proper to call it the Kingdom of Sinhale ). Well, then, as it turned out, this chapter ballooned out and became a book Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period, 1590s-1818, ( Colombo : Vijitha Yapa Associates, 2004).

This expansion backwards, let me assure you, was an educational experience. One could say it was a tale involving the “re-education of Roberts.” It was a lesson in humility. I discovered that one could be wholly illiterate but nevertheless highly knowledgeable about one’s society and able to transmit this knowledge by chant, poem, story and artistic expression on stone or wall. I had previously derived some experience of the power of oral transmission, and thus of oral sources for history-writing, through my anthropological teaching and research in other societies, notably Africa.

But the active engagement in material on the Kandyan period and my serial conversations with such scholars as Ananda Wakkumbura, Punchi Banda Meegaskumbura, Srinath Ganewatte, Mayadunne, KBA Edmund, Ananda Tissakumara, Sandadas & Sandagomi Coperahewa and JB Disanayake inscribed the message indelibly in my consciousness and methodology.

Sinhala Consciousness is a complex book and far from easy reading. I assert here that the second chapter on the power of oral and visual means of cultural transmission is a central foundation for its findings. It is so central that Radhika Coomaraswamy understood its import and arranged for the ICES to print a re-worked version even before the book appeared in print: see Modernist Theory. Trimming the Printed Word: The Instance of Pre-modern Sinhala Society ( Colombo : International Centre for Ethnic Studies, 2002, 46 pages, ISBN: 955-580-068-7).

As this title indicates, this essay underlines my previous criticisms of Benedict Anderson’s influence in the social science thinking. It is not that his Imagined Communities is erroneous. Print-technology in the era of capitalist market forces did revolutionise modes of transmission and heightened nationalist (and other) currents of thinking. But the alacrity with which scholars embraced this argument, deepened by some post-modernist currents of scholarship immersed in textuality, has led to the underestimation of other modes of transmission that remained forceful in the modern era.

It also meant that such scholars could not grasp the capacity of people who did not possess a written script to develop ideas of political community that embraced large numbers and spread over a wide area. Here, I am thinking of such African peoples as the Nuer, Dinka , Ashanti and Zulu, rather than the Mons , Lao, Burmese, Khmers, Vietnamese, Thai, Bengali and Sinhalese of Asia who had the backing of a written script as well. One did not require “concrete” local networks of kinship and interaction to develop sentiments of oneness with others who were not immediate neighbours. Anderson ’s “imagined” rests on far too sharp a distinction from an unelaborated theoretical category identified as “concrete.” The latter is unelaborated and rests on the flimsy example of the aristocratic classes of early modern Europe characterised by relatively small size, “fixed political bases, and the personalization of political relations implied by sexual intercourse and inheritance” (Anderson 1983: 74).

Here, then, we see that the tracks of scholarship are beset with contingencies and sharp turns. The dribs, drabs and twists in my trajectory did flow into each other though not always in planned manner. Thus, for example, the work that went into the central chapter in People Inbetween, one that is entitled “Pejorative Phrases: The Anti-Colonial Response and Sinhala Perceptions of the Self through Images of the Burghers,” has been of critical significance for my subsequent researches on Sinhalese nationalism. For those with access to this book let me stress that one of the principal arguments in this chapter is distilled within Chart I on page 15 which is entitled “Some Twentieth Century Ethnic Pejoratives in Sinhala and Ceylonese English."

Indeed, I stress here that this deciphering work in “Pejorative Phrases” on the underlying semantic structure of disparaging epithets in the Sinhala language – inscribed as they are by a history of migrant encounters, devastating wars and colonial subjugations in the past – has led directly to my two signature essays, “Why Thuppahi” and “The Sinhala Mind-Set.” Both may arouse distaste in some Sinhalese minds. They are meant to generate reflection and self-examination rather than anger. If anger is aroused, then, I ask readers to pause and think “Why?”

Likewise, it was during my work among historical sources in the early twentieth century, and specifically my reading of Anagarika Dharmapala’s “A Message to the Young Men of Ceylon,” that I literally stumbled upon the ideological current involving the subsuming of whole (Ceylonese) within the part (Sinhalese) in a powerful taken-for-granted manner. This was but one ingredient that entered my analysis in “Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka and Sinhala Perspectives: Barriers to Accommodation.”

This article was drafted in 1976 and appeared in print initially in 1978; but it was influenced strongly by the pessimism that had overtaken me from 1973/74 while at Peradeniya University about the direction which ethnic relations in Sri Lanka were moving at that point of time. It provides no pleasure for me that subsequent events justified my pessimism and went beyond my forecast in the degree of severity envisaged.

(The Bibliography and footnotes for this article can be read at http://thuppahi.wordpress.com)

To shelterless Wanni civilians god will appear in the form of a house

by S. Sivathasan

Among the war devastated to be rehabilitated, the displaced of Wanni are a category apart. Battered by cruel fate, they evoke our sympathy and call for proactive support. War was traumatizing. Embargoes impoverished them. Attempts at rearing their heads met with repeated failure. Today they lead a life of deprivation and penury. For a quarter century, they were driven to an existence of nomadic drift.

They have now to move to settled life and integrate with a society that was peaceably placed. With their spirit remaining unbroken yet, they await the thrust from government to lift them. This hope nourishes their faith. The government is under obligation to sustain their faith by delivering on their prime need - housing. Can there be a more convincing and swifter path to reconciliation?

To be sheltered from the vagaries of weather is fundamental. A place to call one’s home is among the strongest of wants. Above it all is to be secure from the blasts of life, to realize which, housing is basic. For ordered living, economic wellbeing and social cohesion, people strive all their lives. These values remain shattered in the Wanni. To the homeless, a house is the obsession. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa said – " to the starving man God appears in the form of bread".

To the shelterless in the Wanni, God will appear in the form of a house. Afflicted with a toothache, one cannot think of anything else. The devastated in Wanni can think of nothing besides their predicament. Once settled in mind with housing out of their way, economic pursuits can be mapped out by them with their own personal initiatives.

How do we lay the foundation for house construction, which really is an effort at nation building? Sympathy for the deprived, concern for those displaced, restoring their dignity, thoughts of mainstreaming and love for their well being, are worthwhile ideals. They can however loose their trace in the dreary desert sand of inaction. Mao Tse Tung posed a question challengingly – "with platonic love can you bring forth a child?"

To deliver housing, what are the orders of magnitude? Can we lumber along or do we have compulsive timelines? To build is to have money, but do we have the resources? It is estimated that over 100,000 houses have to be constructed. The area comprises four administrative districts. At a unit cost of Rs.400,000 per house, financing is required in a sum of Rs.40 billion. The programme of construction should be three years in order to banish homelessness most speedily.

Housing on such a scale to be undertaken at frenetic speed and with financial outlay of this magnitude are within the competence of the state and state only. Practicable strategies have to be adopted with full appreciation of insuperable constraints. Finances are not available with the government and construction capacity does not exist with the homeless. A prospective donor with a likely inclination to assist has to be identified. Immediately, China comes to mind. As for friendly disposition, she is among the closest to Sri Lanka. Financial resources are aplenty to make her generous. It is worthy of note that China ranks first in the world in reserves of exchange and gold at $ 2.2 trillion. She is second in exports and third in GDP. Aid for Wanni housing is a meager amount for China’s consideration.

If the government of Sri Lanka would zero in on China, then assistance has to be solicited and aid negotiated. As important would be the strategy for delivery. The entire programme of housing in the Wanni needs to be undertaken as a turnkey assignment with construction capacity to be developed by the donor. It is crucial to understand that the situation in the Wanni is unenviable. The displaced are undernourished and therefore physically incapacitated for strenuous work. Decades of marginalization has deprived them of organizational capability.

Construction indispensables like cement, steel and timber have to be imported. Construction equipment and transport vehicles are needed in large numbers. When construction capacity is comprehensively viewed, the intractable limitations would make any effort at construction by the beneficiary impossible. The turnkey approach is therefore not an option but a compulsion. It would encompass planning, financing, mobilization of technical cadres and labour, import of machinery and equipment and the import of materials. All these without the hazzle of time consuming procedures will be the best part of the deal.

An alternative pitted against donor turnkey is the concept of owner driven construction. How does it work? The government solicits aid – multilateral, bilateral or institutional and farms it to certain agencies which participate in the construction process. Aid procurement is piecemeal and the volume grows over time. In the six-year period from 2004 to 2010, a total of 36,000 new houses were delivered. When the target is trebled and the time span halved, an altogether different mode is required. Hence the choice of China, a nation renowned for miraculous performance.

What is the rationale behind owner-driven construction? It is assumed that the stake holder who had lost his house and his livelihood knows his needs best. Therefore however prostrate he may be as of now, will put his heart and soul into the rebuilding process. He will be back on his feet at the earliest since he will build at the speediest. Above all is the mystical satisfaction he will derive from the participatory process. From these theoretic presuppositions flow the mythical concept of owner-driven housing. How tenable is this hypothesis?

The owner with possessions lost, driven to perpetual migration and with all means and hopes dashed looks up for assistance. We preach to him the virtues of robust self-reliant endeavour. A further argument is advanced that the owner joining in house building will have employment income. The Gal Oya project was planned for agricultural incomes.

During dam construction, the suggestion of carrying earth in baskets was put across for providing employment. The American Engineer said, why baskets? carrying in teaspoons will give greater employment! The de-housed cannot be made to wait till doomsday for our debate to finish. With experience to guide, knife in butter decisions have to be taken.

What was the composition of the Wanni population? Agriculturists, livestock farmers, poultry breeders, retail traders, fishermen, transporters, artisans and many others. All of them resuming their earlier avocations is just the beginning point of economic regeneration. For these pursuits, housing is basic.

For the economic life of the North to flow to all parts of the country, transport may be looked at as a case in point. It would highlight the dire straits at present and emphasize the Himalayan scale of investment that is needed. Omnibuses and private coaches in the North were a mere 936 in 2007 as against 41,000 in the country. Goods transport vehicles were 1916 contrasted to 182,000 of the island’s total.

The scope for state facilitation for employment generation in transport may be realized, as for every sector of activity. Coupling employment with house construction and delaying the process of house delivery is disastrous for mainstreaming the North with the rest of the country.

With housing in place, a major indispensable facility becomes available. Education, health services, skills training, economic diversification and industrialization can follow coterminously towards the path of modernization.

The de-housed who earlier were positive assets would again become productive segments of society. With housing undertaken as a matter of the highest importance, they will be prepared by the state, for becoming an integral part of Sri Lankan society.

Big-Talking Beggar Bogollagama is the Shame of Sri Lanka

by Malcolm Ferdinands

UN is pointing the accusing finger at Sri Lanka with NGOs trying to suck the blood out of Sri Lanka . But, the outgoing foreign minister of Sri Lanka Bogollagama who everything is foreign is only committed to bring shame on Sri Lanka with his personal needs and deeds.

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Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama in Nallur, Jan 30, 2010

It is reported in the media that a journalist had even questioned the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon about the infamous letter sent by Bogollagama to high UN official begging for a job at the UN. The journalist has asked Moon, “And also the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, also over the weekend, confirmed that he sought a job for his son with the UN. I wonder if you think that is appropriate, and is such a job going to be given?

When Moon tried to side step the question he had persisted and questioned “Do you think that it’s appropriate for the Foreign Minister of a country with which you are dealing with on possible war crimes to be seeking a job for his son with the UN?”

Ban Ki Moon had responded as follows “First of all, I am not aware of that particular case of job application of the Foreign Minister’s son. As a matter of fact, any recruitment process will have to be dealt with in a most transparent and objective manner by the selection committee members. That is what the United Nations has been [using] as a principle”

What do you make out of it? Here is a man who is displaying huge banners and cutouts using poor taxpayers money saying he ‘won’ the world for Sri Lanka, begging for a job for his son in the UN.

A member of the Foreign Services Association said “This man got no shame. He once sent us a circular asking if any of our family members worked for NGO’s. See what he is doing? We are not surprised if he had sold Sri Lanka to the UN.

Sri Lanka ’s biggest tragedy today is Bogollagama, a retired senior diplomat said.

Shame on you Bogollagama. But, do not shame our country. Even beggars in Lanka wont do what you did.

Excerpts from transcript of the UN press conference, Mar 8, 2010:

Q:Mr. Secretary-General, late last week you spoke with the President of Sri Lanka, and said that you are going to name a panel, to advise yourself, on accountability. Over the weekend, the President said that you had no right to do it and had a very different read-out of the call than we received, at least the way I hear it. Can you explain what the purpose of the Panel is and when you think you're going to name it? And also the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, also over the weekend, confirmed that he sought a job for his son with the UN. I wonder if you think that is appropriate, and is such a job going to be given?

SG: As you said, I had a frank and honest exchange of views with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa, Thursday night, last week, over issues that were of concern to both of us. This included moving forward on political reconciliation, further movement on the condition of internally displaced persons, and the establishment of an accountability process. I am concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement which both I and President Rajapaksa had agreed during my visit last year. I raised this issue and discussed [it]. I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a Group of Experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka. For that purpose, we have agreed that I dispatch [Under-Secretary-General of Political Affairs] Lynn Pascoe in the very near future.

Q: Do you think that it's appropriate for the Foreign Minister of a country with which you are dealing with on possible war crimes to be seeking a job for his son with the UN?

SG: First of all, I am not aware of that particular case of job application of the Foreign Minister's son. As a matter of fact, any recruitment process will have to be dealt with in a most transparent and objective manner by the selection committee members. That is what the United Nations has been [using] as a principle.

Rapid increase of southern tourists to Jaffna has positive and n