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June 30, 2010

No reason for Sri Lanka anger at UN war panel -Ban

* Colombo should ensure accountability, U.N. chief says
* Ban urges Sri Lanka to show commitment to human rights
* U.N. concerned about Sri Lankan minister's remarks

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, June 30, There is no reason for the Sri Lankan government's angry reaction to the formation of a U.N. advisory panel on possible war crimes at the end of Sri Lanka's war against rebels, the U.N. chief said on Wednesday.

Last week U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named a three-member panel chaired by Indonesia's former attorney general, Marzuki Darusman, to advise him whether war crimes were committed in the final months of Sri Lanka's war against the separatists Tamil Tigers, which it won in May 2009.

But Sri Lanka's government has rejected Ban's panel and said it would not issue visas to its three members.

"There is no reason why (the) Sri Lankan government (is) reacting negatively to my proposal," Ban told Reuters in an interview in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is celebrating 50 years of independence.

He said Sri Lanka "should take all the measures to make it accountable for all these perpetrators who have committed and violated international human rights and humanitarian law."

The government had urged Ban not to appoint the advisory panel, saying it had its own commission to investigate possible human rights violations at the end of its quarter century war with the Tamil Tigers.

Ban said now it was the right time for Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa "to demonstrate his commitment to the values of human rights."

Ban's panel has received the support of the United States, Britain and other countries.

In New York, reporters asked U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq on Wednesday about remarks a Sri Lankan minister made to the local media, where he was quoted as saying that employees of the U.N. office in Sri Lanka should be held hostage until Ban makes a decision to dissolve the panel.

Haq said the government had assured the United Nations that the remarks represented an individual opinion and not official policy. (Writing and additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; editing by Mohammad Zargham) ~ courtesy: Reuters Alertnet ~

Bollywood star Salman Khan films in Sri Lanka after awards row

Bollywood superstar Salman Khan has begun shooting his latest film Ready in Sri Lanka, weeks after the Indian ocean island hosted the annual Bollywood awards that drew protests from South Indian film artists.

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Bollywood actress Asin Thottumkal gestures during a press briefing on her film "Ready" in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, June 30, 2010-pic: courtesy: AP

The film, directed by Anees Bazmee, also stars South Indian actress Asin Thottumkal and Paresh Rawal.
The story is woven around Prem (Khan), who falls for Sanjanna (Thottumkal) and tries to stop her two uncles from stealing her fortune.

Khan told reporters on Wednesday that he was delighted to film in Sri Lanka because the country is close to India and its landscape is suitable for Indian productions.

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Bollywood actors Asin Thottumkal (L) stands next to Salman Khan gesturing during a news conference ~ courtesy: Reuters pic

The film will be shot for about a month in locations in the capital, Colombo, and its outskirts. It is to released in July 2011 and will be premiered in Sri Lanka as well.

In early June, Sri Lanka hosted the International Indian Film Awards which attracted many Bollywood celebrities, although some top actors did not attend over the island's civil war history.

Some actors and directors from India's southern state of Tamil Nadu asked them to boycott the ceremony, accusing Sri Lankan forces of killing ethnic Tamil civilians in the final stages of the civil war that ended last year.

Sri Lanka's military defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, ending their decades-long armed struggle for a separate homeland for minority Tamils, who have family and cultural links with the people of Tamil Nadu in India.

Those who did not show up in Colombo included Bollywood heavyweights Amitabh Bachchan, his actor son Abhishek, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Bachchan's actress daughter-in-law, former Miss World Aishwarya Rai. They all said they had prior commitments. - courtesy: Daily Telegraph -

As Sri Lanka Threatens UN Staff, Ban's UN Makes Excuses, Calls It Gandhian

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- As Sri Lanka's minister of housing called for UN staff to be held hostage until any war crimes inquiry is stopped, the UN in New York made excuses for the threat.

Inner City Press asked about Minister Wimal Weerawansa's call for “to surround the UN office in Sri Lanka and trap the staff inside until a decision is taken by the UN Secretary General to dissolve the panel he appointed on Sri Lanka.”

Rather than condemn this call, as it would in Sudan or elsewhere, UN Associate Spokesman Farhan Haq first told the Press that perhaps the minister had not been “quoted correctly.”

Next, Mr. Haq said that the Rajapaksa administration had assured that Weerawansa's call was an “individual position.” Inner City Press asked how the UN distinguished between the position of the Sri Lankan government, which has already said it will deny visas to the panel, and that of a government minister.

The UN House, Haq said, has not reported any mobilization. Who received the assurance? The UN resident coordinator. But isn't he, Neil Buhne, the one who stayed quiet while two UN system staff members were imprisoned and tortured, they said, by the government last year?

Later on Wednesday, Inner City Press asked a very senior UN official about Sri Lanka's threat. This justification was more telling: according to the UN official, Weerawansa's call was really for GANDHIAN civil disobedience, not violence. So the Sri Lankan government is to be praised, then.

Inner City Press asked Haq if the terms of reference of the panel, the preparation of which was offered as an excuse for the 90 day delay between announcing and forming the panel, will be released to the public. No, Haq said, it is an advisory body, not a body outside its advisory function.

In a new development Haq said that perhaps the panel will not even conclude with a written report. Some terms of reference. Some defense of UN staff. -courtesy: Inner City Press -

About: Inner City Press

Govt must assure the public of the independent status of the Attorney General

By The Friday Forum

The Friday Forum is an informal gathering of public spirited persons wishing to contribute to the future development of Sri Lanka within a framework of democracy, social justice and pluralism.

The Forum brings together a diversity of expertise and viewpoints reflecting its membership consisting of academics, various professionals, retired diplomats and civil servants, educationists, leaders of civil society organizations and leading personalities from the private sector. Furthermore, our membership reflects the diverse ethnic and religious composition of Sri Lankan society. The forum meets regularly to discuss issues of public concern and to make interventions in the public interest.

One of the key areas of concern of the Friday Forum is the preservation of the integrity of independent institutions. It is clear that the proper functioning of those institutions, such as the independent commissions recognized by the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, is essential for democratic governance and to preserve a democratic way of life for the people.

We have noted with concern the current status of the Attorney-General’s Department (AG’s Department) consequent to the Gazette Extraordinary No.1651/20 of April 30, 2010 on the allocation of subjects to various ministries. The AG’s Department, which has traditionally come under the Ministry of Justice, finds no mention in the Gazette notification either under that ministry or elsewhere. The necessary implication under Article 44 (2) of the Constitution is that as an unallocated subject or function the department automatically comes under the purview of the President. So far, the government has neither confirmed that the AG’s Department has come within the purview of the President nor officially disclosed the reasons for changing the long standing convention affiliating the Department with the Ministry of Justice.

That in a democracy, the Attorney-General should not only function but must be seen to function in an independent manner cannot be emphasised more. The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka has, in no uncertain terms, recognized and affirmed the independent role of the AG (Land Reform Commission v. Grand Central Ltd. [1981] Sri LR 147).

The AG is the custodian of the Rule of Law and of the public interest in a democracy. The functions of the AG must always be informed by no other factor or consideration than the upholding of the public interest and the Rule of Law. Even in countries where the Attorney-General is a political appointee, there is an expectation that the holder of that office must act independently of the Executive, especially in prosecutorial functions, because to do so otherwise would negate the preservation of the Rule of Law and the public interest.

If the Attorney-General, in discharging the functions of office, provides legal advice to the government or engages in the prosecutorial function in a non-independent manner, moved more by political and partisan considerations, the Rule of Law is defeated and the public interest stands desecrated.

The AG is also the head of the Bar—not only of the Official Bar as one would think, but of the entire Bar. At ceremonial sittings of the court, the AG sits representing the entire Bar. As such, it is the AG’s duty to protect the integrity of the legal profession. It also follows then that the AG has to ensure the protection of judicial independence which is indispensable to the proper functioning of the Bar. If the office of the AG itself is not independent then those objectives cannot be achieved.

The appointment and removal processes of the AG under the current law confirm the independence of the office of the AG in Sri Lanka . The appointment of the AG falls within the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. The President has to obtain the approval of the Constitutional Council to appoint the preferred nominee. The removal of the AG has to be done under terms of the Removal of Officers (Procedure) Act, No. 5 of 2002. Accordingly, the AG holds office during good behaviour (as opposed to at pleasure) and can be removed only by Parliament on specific grounds after inquiry.

Over the past decades, the politicization of the Office of the Attorney-General has been observed with alarm. We have watched successive Attorneys-General go before international forums and defend the position of the government of the day, even when doing so defeated the rights of the people. We have watched charges against political dissidents expedited and charges against the powerful dropped or delayed.

In this post-war era, where public expectations of the State’s commitment to the Rule of Law are very high, and where the restoration of law and order is viewed as an indispensable element of the development process, it is imperative that the public has confidence in the office of the Attorney-General.

Therefore, we urge the government to assure the public of the independent status of the Attorney-General. At a minimum, we urge that the Department be affiliated with the Ministry of Justice as was the norm. Ideally, now that constitutional reform is again on the political agenda, we propose that the AG’s Department be brought under Article 52 (2) of the Constitution so that it is treated on par with the Departments of the Auditor General and the Elections Commissioner, Offices of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsperson), the Secretary-General of Parliament and the Secretary to the Cabinet of Ministers, which means that it is no longer treated as a department of government.

We urge the incumbent Attorney-General to heed public concerns and take every possible measure to demonstrate to the public that he is guided only by the Rule of Law and the public interest.

We make this earnest appeal in a spirit of constructive engagement having as our sole objective the interests of the country.

Signed,

Bishop Duleep Chickera,
Jayantha Dhanapala,
Prof. Arjuna Aluvihare,
Prof. Gananath Obeysekere,
Harin Malwatte,
Dr. Anura Ekanayake,
Prof. Savithri Goonesekere,
Chandra Jayaratne,
Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne,
Dr. Nimal Sanderatne,
Dr. Devanesan Nesiah,
Dr. A.C. Visvalingam,
Ranjit Fernando,
Dr. Selvy Thiruchandran,
Manouri Muttetuwegama,
Sithie Tiruchelvam,
Lanka Nesiah,
Dr. Ranjini Obeysekere,
Jezima Ismail,
Shanthi Dias,
Dr. Stewart Motha,
Damaris Wickremesekera,
J.C. Weliamune,
Ahilan Kadirgamar,
Dr. Camena Gunaratne,
Prashan de Visser,
Dr. Deepika Udagama

India Loses to China in Africa-to-Kazakhstan-to-Venezuela Oil

By Rakteem Katakey and John Duce

Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora traveled to Nigeria, Angola, Uganda, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela this year, leading a record number of delegations to gain oil for the world’s third-fastest-growing major economy.

The flurry of visits is part of a new drive to find oil for India’s 1.2 billion people after losing out to China in at least $12.5 billion of contracts in the past year. India proposed a sovereign wealth fund to bid for reserves, told state-controlled Oil & Natural Gas Corp. and Oil India Ltd. to make a major acquisition each this year, and raised the amount they can spend without government approval to 50 billion rupees ($1.1 billion).

“There is a new push,” said N.M. Borah, chairman of state-owned exploration company Oil India. “Going abroad is part of the government’s policy -- diplomatic support is very, very crucial as we search for assets overseas.”

India’s energy use may more than double by 2030 to the equivalent of 833 million metric tons of oil from 2007, while China’s demand may rise 87 percent to 2.4 billion tons, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said.

India faces an uneven contest to close the gap with China, which is dipping into $2.4 trillion of foreign currency reserves to buy stakes in oil and natural gas fields from Iraq to Uganda, compared with India’s $250 billion in foreign exchange reserves. State-run Chinese companies spent a record $32 billion last year acquiring energy and resources assets overseas versus India’s single $2.1 billion investment by ONGC. China’s June 19 decision to allow the yuan to appreciate will further strengthen the hand of Chinese companies buying overseas.

India’s oil import bill climbed six-fold in the past decade to $85.47 billion for the year ended March, equivalent to about 7 percent of gross domestic product.

‘Political Game’

“India’s search for energy has to become a more intense political game, rather than one based entirely on economics,” said Abheek Barua, an economist at the Mumbai-based HDFC Bank Ltd. “China has virtually already taken over Africa.”

China has promised billions of dollars in aid, investment and loans to Africa, producer of one-eighth of the world’s crude oil, in exchange for energy supplies.

“We buy assets based on commercial decisions even though there is a mandate for securing energy for the country,” R.S. Sharma, chairman and managing director of ONGC said in April. “The Chinese are different with their big cash. We can’t invest just for the sake of it.”

Stronger Yuan

China National Petroleum Corp. beat India by agreeing to pay $4.18 billion in August 2005 for PetroKazakhstan Inc., then China’s biggest overseas oil deal. At that time, oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said India’s bid for PetroKazakhstan was thwarted as the “goalposts were changed after the game began.” A month later China National Petroleum again outbid ONGC in buying assets of EnCana Corp. in Ecuador for $1.42 billion.

A stronger yuan would also make purchases cheaper for the Chinese. The People’s Bank of China said on June 19 it may allow the yuan to move higher, abandoning the 6.83 yuan peg to the dollar adopted during the global financial crisis to shield exporters. The yuan climbed 0.4 percent to 6.7976 per dollar in the first trading day after the announcement.

India has had some success. ONGC agreed in 2005 to spend as much as $6 billion on roads, ports, railway lines and power plants in Nigeria in exchange for 600,000 barrels a day of oil for 25 years. In April, Reliance Industries Ltd., operator of the country’s largest gas field, agreed to buy a $1.7 billion stake in natural-gas properties from Atlas Energy Inc. On June 24 it announced a $1.3 billion acquisition of shale gas assets in the U.S. from Pioneer Natural Resources Co.

More Freedom

ONGC, Indian Oil and Oil India were part of a group in March that agreed to develop reserves in Venezuela’s Carabobo blocks during a visit by Deora. In February, the minister persuaded Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, to almost double crude shipments to India, to about 800,000 barrels a day, according to the ministry. State-run Saudi Aramco ships about 1 million barrels a day to China, more than to the U.S., Chief Executive Officer Khalid al-Falih said Jan 28.

India increased the amount ONGC and some other state-run companies can spend to acquire assets and set up joint ventures, allowing them greater freedom to expand and become globally competitive, the government said in December.

“One of the advantages the big Chinese oil companies have is government support, it’s an open secret,” said Gideon Lo, an energy analyst at DBS Vickers Hong Kong Ltd. “The government establishes high-level contacts with oil-producing countries. Once this is done, the oil companies can come in and negotiate.”

Oil Opportunities

PetroChina Co., which vies with Exxon Mobil Corp. as the world’s biggest company by market value, wants half its oil to come from overseas by 2020, Chairman Jiang Jiemin said in March. Less than a tenth comes from abroad now.

“We will take advantage of opportunities in developing oil, gas and energy sources in all areas of the world,” Jiang said in an interview in March.

Cnooc Ltd., the listed arm of China’s biggest offshore oil producer, is in discussions to buy a one-third stake in three blocks in Uganda’s Lake Albert region from Tullow Oil Plc. ONGC had jointly bid with Indian Oil Corp. and Oil India for the stake and lost out to the higher Chinese bid, a person familiar with the negotiations said, declining to be identified because the talks were private.

China has spent at least $21 billion on overseas resources in the past year, including state-controlled China Petrochemical Corp.’s $4.65 billion purchase in April of a stake in an oil- sands project in Canada. ONGC was interested in the asset and didn’t bid, a person familiar with ONGC’s plans said, declining to be identified since the plans were not public.

‘Financial Firepower’

ONGC plans to borrow $10 billion over the next decade for purchasing assets overseas. In September, China National Petroleum Corp., PetroChina’s state-owned parent, received a $30 billion loan from China Development Bank at a discounted interest rate to buy energy resources, according to a Sept. 9 statement from parent China National Petroleum Corp.

“The financial firepower that the Chinese companies have is a factor,” Tom Deegan, Hong Kong-based head of energy and infrastructure at lawyers Simmons & Simmons, said. “They have access to capital and finance through Chinese banks which have the liquidity, which perhaps Indian companies don’t.” Deegan has been advising on M&A deals in Asia for 13 years.

Adding India to the competition may push prices higher for hydrocarbon assets, boosting drilling costs that are already facing an increase in the U.S. after an explosion in April at a BP Plc-leased drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico released oil that polluted about 140 miles (225 kilometers) of coastline.

Chinese Premium

“Chinese companies always have to pay a slight premium to win oil and gas deals overseas to fend off the competition,” said Gordon Kwan, analyst at Mirae Asset Securities in Hong Kong. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. With talk of the yuan appreciating this will increase China’s purchasing power.”

China Petrochemical, known as Sinopec Group, agreed to buy a 9 percent stake in Syncrude Canada Ltd. for $4.65 billion, or $650 million more than the high end of an estimate by Macquarie Securities.

“There’s a market consensus that perhaps Sinopec overpaid for its stake in oil sands project in Canada, but this is made on the assumption that oil prices” were around $80 a barrel at the time, DBS Vickers’s Lo said. “The company may be assuming that oil prices will rise to over $100 a barrel and this purchase may turn out to be a bargain.”

Replace Reserves

Oil in New York has risen 0.3 percent in the past year to $75.62 a barrel. Prices may average $84.50 a barrel in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the median estimate of 30 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Oil has tripled in the past 10 years.

Sinopec bought Addax Petroleum Corp. last year for C$8.3 billion ($7.9 billion), gaining licenses in Nigeria, Gabon and Cameroon. Chinese oil companies also have African assets in Kenya, Niger, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan and Chad.

Oil companies aim to at least replace used reserves each year by finding new fields. Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s shares fell 1.3 percent after the company announced last year that its reserve replacement ration dropped to 95 percent from 124 percent a year earlier.

“Chinese and Indian companies are getting into a competitive field and that is driving up asset prices,” Neil Beveridge, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd. in Hong Kong, who rates PetroChina and Cnooc Ltd. “outperform” and ONGC and Reliance “market perform”. “That is why a lot of the companies try and do government-to-government deals. We saw that in the Indian companies getting a deal in Venezuela this year.” - courtesy: Bloomberg News -

June 29, 2010

Colombo props up "KP" led ex-LTTE outfit to defeat New Delhi backed TNA in Northern polls

by Upul Joseph Fernando

Though some are waiting in expectation for the release of KP alias Kumar Pathmanathan, it was a long time since he had been released. The fact that he was freed came to light officially when he recently toured the North East along with the leaders of the Tamil Diaspora.

This tour was wholly organized by KP. He made the entire arrangement as the unofficial Chairman of the of the Tamil Rehabilitation Centre. Although he was not officially appointed as the Chairman, yet, he did act unofficially as the Chairman of the TRC. To eradicate a tree in the forest, it is another tree in the thick of the jungle that must be used, is an old adage. Like how Prabhakaran’s armed wing leader Karuna was used by the government to annihilate the armed might of Prabhakaran, the government. is now using KP who built up Prabhakaran’s International network, to destroy that same international chain – a splendid effort indeed by the government!

KP has been the official leader of the Tamil Tiger Organization after the death of Prabhakaran. Although there was a divergence in opinion among the Tamil Diaspora over his becoming leader, following his appointment no one challenged his leadership. Likewise , after KP was arrested, no one was elected as leader. It is therefore discernible that the Sri Lankan government projecting and propelling KP as the current Tamil Tiger leader is utilizing him to destroy the Tamil Tiger Diaspora.

It is learnt that the first move of KP after his release was the invitation extended to the Chief of the Tamil Tiger transnational Govt. leader Rudrakumaran too to participate in the tour of the North and East organized for the Tamil Tiger Diaspora leaders. But, Rudrakumaran had rejected this invitation stemming from his conviction that the Sri Lankan government is trying to use KP to destroy the Tamil Tiger Diaspora, despite the fact that there exists close and cordial relations between KP and Rudrakumaran. Initially, the Sri Lankan government exploiting the ties between KP and Rudrakumaran sought to sow the seeds of dissension between Rudrakumaran and the Tamil Tiger Diaspora hardliners. KP urged the Sri Lankan government on several occasions earlier to discuss with Rudrakumaran , with this objective in view. But, because the Sri Lankan government did not evince much interest in this direction, it did not materialize. However, after America intensified its pressure on the government to initiate discussions with Rudrakumaran, the government became apprehensive, and became reluctant to give him an official welcome.

KP while helping the government to destroy the Tamil Tiger Diaspora is trying to portray himself as an independent individual. But, the government is aware that if he is to be used, he must be released and such release must be vindicated. It is on this account, the government is making the announcement that KP is going to be a future witness for the government in the Courts against the Tamil Tigers. By this, what the government is trying to demonstrate is that during the final phase of the war , the truth about the ‘white flag’ episode among the surviving leaders of the Tamil Tigers is known only to KP. He can therefore be made use of as a witness to lead evidence in support of the government.

Some sources say, KP may come before the Truth Commission appointed by the government and lead evidence in its favour. Nevertheless, there are reports that KP is averse to engaging in such an action, for it will trigger resentment among the Tamil Diaspora, and may provoke them to cry foul that he betrayed them. Consequently, he would not be able to do whatever service he wishes to do for the Sri Lankan government he had pointed out.

In India too, there are speculations that the Sri Lankan government is to appoint KP as its candidate for the post of Chief Minister at the Provincial Council (PC) elections in the North . Though it is beyond comprehension that KP will enter politics, yet the Sri Lankan government must be seeking to use him and win the North PC elections. It is reported that KP is a very popular figure among the Tamil Tigers in the camps. By meeting them he is making efforts to banish their despair and change their mindset. Hence, the government is thinking of winning over the pro Tamil Tiger sympathizers at the North elections by employing him.

It is perceptible that India with a view to implementing the 13th Amendment of the constitution in Sri Lanka wishes that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) captures power at the North Provincial Council elections. India and TNA are closely working together towards this objective. The Sri Lankan government may be aiming at using him in its campaign and defeat the TNA, even if KP does not contest the elections. What measures and strategies the TNA is going to adopt to meet the situation is yet obscure.

In case KP takes the initiative to defeat the TNA, that will constitute more a defeat to India than the TNA. India with a view to establishing democracy in the North and East has chosen the TNA to secure a political solution for the Tamil population, because the TNA which is not linked to the Tamil Tiger armed campaign however are sympathizers of the Tamil Tigers.

The Sri Lankan government has on the other hand chosen to defeat the TNA by using the Tamil Tiger militant leaders of the Tamil Tiger armed campaign, Karuna, KP and former Tamil militant leader Devananda.

Who will win in this competition is unpredictable. - courtesy: Daily Mirror -

UN sets up limited inquiry into human rights in Sri Lanka

By K. Ratnayake

The Sri Lankan government has reacted angrily to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s June 22 appointment of an expert panel to advise him on human rights violations in the final stage of the island’s civil war. Thousands of civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan military’s bombardments in the months leading up to the defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009.

The UN panel is headed by former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, who is a member of Golkar—the ruling party during the Suharto military dictatorship. The other members are Yasmin Sooka, a former member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Steven Ratner, an American law professor. UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky underlined the limited scope of the move, noting the “advisory panel [is] limited to advising the secretary general… It is not a fact-finding or investigative body.”

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse rejected that UN panel at a cabinet meeting the following day. External affairs minister G.L. Peiris declared: “We feel the panel is an unnecessary interference. The government should be given a free space to make its own findings.” The government has announced that it will not cooperate with the UN panel, nor give its members visas to enter the country.

On the same day that the UN panel was announced, the European Union (EU) issued an ultimatum to the Colombo government, declaring that it would not extend GSP+ tariff concessions to Sri Lanka after August 15 without a written assurance on protecting human rights. An EU statement proposed an extension for “a limited additional period, subject to a clear and written commitment” to undertake a number of human rights-related actions within a six-month time frame beginning in July. The withdrawal of EU concessions would impact on Sri Lankan exports, particularly of garments, to Europe.

The EU identified 15 areas, including the implementation of the Sri Lankan constitution’s 17th Amendment, the repeal of emergency regulations allowing detention without trial, cooperation with UN human rights bodies, the release of the names of former LTTE combatants and other persons being detained, and an end to the harassment of journalists.

The government flatly rejected the conditions. Peiris declared: “We cannot surrender decision making powers, very sensitive and crucial matters to any foreign government.” In particular, he insisted: “The implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution is an internal matter.”

The 17th Amendment covers the formation of a Constitutional Council, which has broad powers to oversee government appointments and appoint other commissions to supervise key government institutions, including the police, elections and the public service. The Rajapakse government has ignored the constitutional requirement, which would cut across its crony network, and intends to remove it from the constitution.

Economic development minister Basil Rajapakse, the president’s brother, told last weekend’s Sunday Times: “This is more dictatorial than how the colonial rulers of the past treated us. We cannot be bullied into submission. We can stand on our own and resist these conditions.” His comments are in line with the ruling coalition’s previous posturing about an “international conspiracy” against the country.

The government, which is directly responsible for the military’s war crimes, is desperate to block any international scrutiny of its actions, no matter how limited. In an attempt to deflect criticism, President Rajapakse has established a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Like previous commissions and investigations, it will whitewash the government’s record.

The UN has estimated that at least 7,000 civilians died in the final months of the war, between January 20 and May 14. An International Crisis Group report last month put the figure far higher, at between 30,000 and 75,000 deaths, and accused the Sri Lankan military of deliberately targetting hospitals and civilians inside LTTE-held territory. The US-based Human Rights Watch and Britain’s Channel Four have produced pictures showing the torture of Tamils, which experts have said are authentic. The Colombo government has repeatedly branded all such evidence as “fabricated” and claimed that the army killed no civilians.

Following the LTTE’s collapse, the army herded more than 250,000 civilians—men, women and children—into huge, military-run detention centres in blatant violation of their basic rights under the country’s constitution. Young people in particular were interrogated. Thousands accused of being “terrorist suspects” were dragged off to re-education centres in unknown locations. The country’s emergency laws, which remain in force a year after fighting ended, provide for indefinite detention without trial.

The Rajapakse government has been attempting to block the establishment of the UN panel. During a trip to the US earlier this months, Peiris met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who backed Colombo’s bogus Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. At the same time, the Obama administration urged the Sri Lankan government to work with the UN, and last week welcomed the formation of the UN panel.

The US and EU, which backed Rajapakse’s war, have both used the human rights issue as a means of undermining China’s growing influence in Colombo. During the war, Rajapakse relied increasingly on Beijing for diplomatic, financial and military support. In return for its backing, China was granted significant economic concessions.

Just last week the Sri Lankan government signed a $250 million agreement with China to develop the second stage of a modern new port in the southern town of Hambantota. Earlier in the month, a deal was reached to fund and construct an international airport near Hambantota. For China, it is part of a broader strategy of securing key sea routes from the Middle East and Africa, which provide crucial supplies of energy and other resources.

Sri Lanka is seeking diplomatic support to scuttle the UN panel, which was established by Secretary General Ban without reference to the Security Council or General Assembly. The Russian foreign ministry has hinted at opposition, stating: “What also makes us cautious is the fact that this decision was taken without regard to the position of a sovereign state and a member of the UN—Sri Lanka.” The Sri Lankan foreign ministry claims China and the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) have expressed reservations. In March, the NAM issued a statement opposing the panel, but has made no comment since its establishment.

Within Sri Lanka, the major opposition parties, which supported the war, have fallen into line with the government. The United National Party has not made a formal statement but individual MPs have expressed opposition to the UN panel, saying that it was impossible to defend human rights during the war. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) general secretary Tilwin Silva made a similar statement. During the war, the JVP vociferously defended the military’s attacks on civilians, the scores of “disappearances” at the hands of pro-government death squads and the repeated attacks on the media.

The lack of any opposition underscores the lack of any constituency in the Colombo political establishment for the defence of basic democratic rights. Nor will the UN panel bring any justice to the victims of the military’s war crimes. The panel, whose scope has been limited from the outset, is simply a plaything of the major powers, which are all jockeying for position in Colombo. - courtesy: WSWS -

North - Eastern people of Sri Lanka will go against South Indian Film Industry very soon

by Vidya Abhayagunawardena

The ongoing debate on Sri Lanka in the Indian film world in general and the South Indian Film Industry (SIFI) in particular is intriguing and thought provoking. The just recently IIFA award festival was devoid of participation of leading film stars from India presumably on account of the pressure mounted by the South Indian Film Industry on Bollywood film stars to stay away.

Interestingly, we have not seen any statement on the IIFA from either the representatives of the Tamil Nadu Government or major political parties. It is not clear if the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Opposition Leader in the state J. Jayalalitha are supportive of the campaign for boycott of IIFA and shooting of Indian films in various locations of Sri Lanka.

In contrast to the high pitched campaign against the IIFA, we have not seen any of the South Indian Film Industry people seeking similar treatment vis-a-vis cricket. The Indian Cricket team represents entire India including the South India. The moot question is why the South Indian Film Industry is looking at this issue as very much narrow minded perspective?

As far as we know Indian films and cricket are part and parcel of the life of many of Indians. Both fields cut across ethnic barriers and are above ordinary politics. Then what is the rationale for the IIFA boycott b), the South Indian Film Industry? Do they look at Sri Lanka as their enemy?

The time has come for the South Indian film industry to rise above narrow considerations. They should realize that their campaign against Sri Lanka would only adversely impact the poor marginalized Tamil people in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

The South Indian Film Industry can play a big role in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is now experiencing post war reconstruction and rehabilitation and this is going to be a more painful process than conducting a war. We have IDPs in the camps to be resettled very soon, people need shelters, education, health, food and water, sanitation, de-mining and many more.

If South Indian Film Industry looks at these burning issues in a critical way we can think and say we all are on board to support them. No body wants to be left out when we support this community. If they go against Sri Lanka, at the end of the day the North and East people will go against South Indian Film Industry very soon.

The Government of India has been in the forefront of the effort of the Sri Lankan Government in rebuilding the lives of the war affected and the credit will go to the Congress party and the Manmohan Singh government.

The big brother and close neighbour India has always been a family member of Sri Lanka. Both countries have a long history of shared culture and bonds. Buddhism came from India. As we all know it is not a Sri Lankan born religion. This tells us how close the people of Sri Lanka are religiously and culturally for centuries.

As we all experienced that three decade of war started with politically motivated issues and gradually it has transformed to guerrilla moment to terrorist out fit. Both India and Sri Lanka have had experienced the bitterness of that conflict, India lost its former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lanka lost its head of the state R. Premedasa. We don't want to again that bloody conflict on Sri Lanka.

The time has to come for the healing process. We all should look at the big picture with an open mind and seek answers on where we went wrong and how we can make a new beginning. We should look at a new way of Social Integration for all the communities to live in harmony. We have a long way to go.

International community is tilting against the Sri Lankan state in a bid to forestall Sinhala domination over the Tamil people/areas

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Sri Lanka’s once shattered and broken territory – the boundary of the state — has been fused, but the nation remains fissured. How is it to be unified? This is all the more urgent because the visible absence of an ongoing post-war political process of ethnic reconciliation is either partial motivation or excuse for much of the current external intrusion.

A manifestation of this new intrusiveness is the UNSG’s appointment of an advisory troika on Sri Lanka. One of them, Prof Steven R. Ratner, who commenced his career attached to the US State Dept, has written critically of the ‘talisman of sovereignty’, the G 77 which he describes as states which "attach great — almost exaggerated — importance to the concept of sovereignty" and of China.

Significantly he is an authority on ‘Ethnic Conflict and Territorial Claims’ and ‘New Borders’ and his work has featured in anthologies and colloquia on international law as pertains to ethnic conflict, self determination, the breakup of states and the emergence of new ones.

The international community which tilted against Tamil separatist terrorism during the war is now showing signs of tilting against the Sri Lankan state in a seeming bid to forestall Sinhala domination over the Tamil people/areas. The recent international moves appear to be, at least in part, a bid to contain ‘triumphalist Sinhala hegemonism’ micromanaging the post-war order. These moves will escalate, proliferate and ramify. Thus it would be strategically prudent for the Sri Lankan state to nationally fast-track a mechanism and process for post-conflict political reconciliation of the ethnic communities.

It is a truism that a house divided against itself cannot stand, but how to unify a divided house—by coercion, or consensus based on conciliation, concession and cooptation? National unity cannot be created by shrill propaganda and internal suppression, but only by reaching out, convincing, and broadening the state’s support base by making all communities stakeholders.

In this regard, to the fashionable formula of ‘home grown’ which is taken as a panacea, I would add two others, that of ‘form and content’ and ‘best practices’. In the science of politics as in any other science, the form must be local, but the content must be that which is universally valid and proved to be so through experiment and verification. As Thomas Hobbes wrote "The skill of making and maintaining Commonwealths...consisteth in certain rules, as doth Arithmetique and Geometry".

It would be useful to seek out these ‘certain rules’ and best practices from all over the world, regarding the problems that we face in Sri Lanka – those of nation building, post conflict reconciliation and ethnic/majority-minority relations. These best practices should of course be creatively adopted and adapted in accordance with the country’s history, geography, culture and society.

When the borders of a state correspond to that of an ethnic or linguistic group, it is unproblematic to call it a nation-state. When the borders of a state do not correspond to the ethnic or linguistic distribution of the social formation, it is a ‘nation state’ de jure, but not de facto. That problem can be solved in three ways.

One model is that the diverse ethnic communities combine into or consider themselves a single nation, almost always on the basis of equality or – a very rare variant—on the acceptance of inequality.

The second solution is that of a trade-off in which the majority pretty much controls the state and the minority nationalities are accorded political space in their ancestral areas or ‘areas of historic habitation’.

The third and worst solution is that two or more ethnically or ethno linguistically or ethno religiously homogenous nation states grow out of one, with each community splitting off to join their counterparts in a nearby country (irredentism) or simply seceding to form their independent nation states.

Now why doesn’t everybody exercise the first option? This is because it isn’t that easy, though it has been done with great success in many places, such as the world’s sole superpower, the USA. This solution requires equality of citizenship. It requires that no marker of any of the constituent communities be given Constitutional privilege over any other. It requires that the state be a neutral umpire as between the beliefs of communities.

It is not that Sri Lanka never got close to this model. It did under the Soulbury Constitution, though a closer fit to the model would have required incorporating a cardinal demand of the Left at the time: equality of status for Sinhala and Tamil languages. It is arguably the kind of policy of a meritocratic, multicultural Sri Lanka that would have issued from Ceylon National Congress, with a correctives pushed by the Left on citizenship and language, had DS Senanayake not broken away.

Indeed it would have been the kind of Sri Lanka that would have resulted from an SWRD Bandaranaike administration supported by the Left instead of the MEP, BJB, EPB etc (the Sinhala equivalent of the Hindu fundamentalist ‘Sangh parivar’). It might have been the Ceylon that resulted if in 1957, the Left had supported the Banda –Chelva pact and entered the government at that point.

This model of nation building failed in Sri Lanka because an influential section – perhaps a majority – of the Sinhala Buddhists had such a perception of threat as a minority in relation to the Tamils of South India and felt so disadvantaged by the colonial experience, that equality (or ‘parity’ as it was called in the 1950s) seemed unfair. They demanded and got a preferential status for the distinctive cultural markers that conferred on them uniqueness as a community: Sinhala language and Buddhism.

While the Sinhala majority perceived this as affirmative action, it was perceived or experienced by the Tamil minority as discrimination. Then as now the Tamils, with their five thousand year old language (just defined as ‘classical’ by the Government of India) and large numbers of co-ethnics — many with high levels of achievement and elite integration overseas – were unwilling to accept assimilation or integration into a single Sri Lankan nation on the basis of surrender or subordination to the Sinhalese (manifested at the time in the official language policy of Sinhala Only, reinforced with mandatory ‘proficiency examinations’).

Tamil separatism as a politico-ideological project did not start out as a result of the policies of successive Sri Lankan administrations, but its acceptance by the Tamil people was. As AJ Wilson’s biography of his father in law, SJV Chelvanayagam, the father of Tamil Nationalism, proudly reveals, the latter had raised the idea of an independent country for the Tamils as far back as 1948, and a Tamil university in 1950, long before anyone had asked for a Sinhala university.

As Prof Nira Wickremasingha points out in her book on modern Sri Lankan history and contested identities, this confirms that Tamil nationalism was not purely reactive or defensive but pre-emptive and strategic. I would venture to inquire as to whether Sinhala nationalism was, to some extent, a reaction to this precocious and premature Tamil nationalism. It is no less pertinent however, that the Tamil voters dismissed the platform of separatism as late as 1970 and embraced it only in 1977 and that Chelvanayagam himself had set it aside in favour of federalism, and something lesser, as contained in the Bandaranaike- Chelvanayagam Pact of 1957.

Armed Tamil separatism was utterly defeated in the last war and any kind of Tamil separatism is bound to be resisted by the state. If someday, it is propelled and sought to be imposed from without, there will be a protracted popular resistance which makes its sustainability untenable and unattractive.

With the options of integration on the basis of equality, assimilation on the basis of inequality, and separation, all ruled out as undesirable or unfeasible or both, what is the state left with but a model in which the minority has political space at the periphery? Here again, there are two broad variants, federal and non-federal. The federal model subdivides yet again between one in which certain regional units contain an ethnic majority belonging to the countrywide minority (ethno-federalism) and one in which the units are not constituted so as to provide an ethnic or linguistic majority. Federalism could vary still further as between a full or classically liberal federalism (Canada) and a quasi federalism with a strong centre (India).

First World societies generally find federalism more comfortable than do Third World societies. However, even in the former, there are many (the UK being paradigmatic) which steadfastly refuse to convert to federalism. In Sri Lanka, the proximity of Tamil Nadu fuels apprehensions that an ethnic federal unit would graduate to a separate Tamil country or federate with the larger South Indian landmass. This collective and abiding apprehension has reduced support for a federal option to such an insignificant level that it will not enter any serious political deliberation.

This leaves non-federal options of power-sharing or autonomy. There are two variants, the first being systems that are silent or agnostic on the definition, such as South Africa’s Constitution which makes for considerable regional autonomy but refuses to commit itself explicitly to federalism. The second variant is the explicitly unitary model which also has power sharing, which some societies term ‘the devolution of power’ and others ‘regional autonomy/provincial autonomy’. In these, the strength of the centre acts as a prophylactic on the possibility of internal administrative boundaries hardening into outer ones or internal units breaking free to form independent ones. These are, in actual fact, models of semi-autonomy. The Sri Lankan Constitution as it currently stands provides precisely for such an arrangement.

Sovereignty is fundamental, foundational and non-negotiable. The trite legalese that pits "citizens’ sovereignty" against "state sovereignty" forgets that the very category of a "citizen" exists precisely because of the state; he/she is a citizen of a state. The external encroachment on Sri Lanka’s sovereignty can ultimately be withstood and defeated only by internal solidity and solidarity.

Sovereignty cannot be successfully defended by a state acting as a mono-ethnic straitjacket on the country’s stubbornly diverse, irreducible and colliding collective identities. It is best defended by a Sri Lankan state which represents all its peoples, acts as neutral umpire providing and guaranteeing adequate space for all ethnicities on the island. Sovereignty is secured by a Sri Lankan identity which accommodates all the country’s communities, paving the way for a broadly shared sense of a multiethnic yet single Sri Lankan nationhood.

Sri Lanka denies deal with 'rump Tamil Tigers'

By Charles Haviland, BBC News, Colombo

Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has denied reports that the government is forming an "alliance" with the "rump" of the Tamil Tigers.

The rebels, known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), were defeated by the army last year after more than two decades of war.

Mr Rajapaksa told the BBC that he had recently met a group of "pro-LTTE" diaspora Tamils in Sri Lanka.

He said that the talks had passed off successfully.

Mr Rajapaksa said that a detained senior LTTE leader had helped to arrange the visit.

A diaspora representative has confirmed that the group suddenly got an opportunity to visit Sri Lanka and discuss issues of humanitarian concern.

Mr Rajapaksa said the visitors were a group who realised there was no purpose in continuing to confront the Colombo government and that they now preferred to work with it for the benefit of the Tamil people.

"We want to work with as many groups as possible," he said.

The visitors had gone to the former LTTE strongholds of Jaffna and Kilinochchi and held discussions on "all the improvements, the good and bad things", he said.

Mr Rajapaksa said that detained LTTE leader Selvarasa Pathmanathan - also known as KP - co-operated with officials to contact the diaspora delegation.

He said diaspora members were also active in initiating the trip.

He said they met Mr Pathmanathan but denied that Mr Pathmanathan accompanied them on their visit to northern Sri Lanka.

There have been some claims that Mr Pathmanathan is even being groomed for government office or is no longer in detention.

Last week a government spokesman said the authorities were considering using him as a pro-government witness in case charges of war crimes were levelled against them.

But Mr Rajapaksa has denied he is moving about freely.

Yet one of the diaspora visitors, Charles Antonidas of the Tamil Health Organisation, told the BBC Sinhala service that Mr Pathmanathan was playing a leading role in helping with the "reconciliation process" after the end of the war.

The biggest Tamil party in Sri Lanka, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which is traditionally pro-LTTE, has sharply criticised recent developments.

One of its MPs, Suresh Premachandran, said it was "a shame" that a government which had described Mr Pathmanathan as a "wanted terrorist" now sought to have him defend its own actions.

But Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the visit showed that some of the diaspora wanted to invest in rebuilding and continuing a dialogue. - courtesy: BBC News -

Fonseka 'ready to talk' with UN panel

BBC Sandeshaya

The detained former military commander in Sri Lanka says he is prepared to meet the special panel appointed to advice the UN chief on alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

Gen Sarath Fonseka told BBC Sandeshaya that even President Mahinda Rajapaksa has agreed with the UN to investigate alleged human rights violations during the last phase of the war.

The UN secretary general has set up a panel to look into alleged human rights abuses during the final stages of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009.

Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the three-man panel would advise on how to deal with alleged perpetrators.

Rights groups accuse both sides of war crimes - a claim which has been denied.

"I think this committee is a result of that agreement with President Rajapaksa," Gen Fonseka told BBCSinhala.com.

He stressed that any country should take steps to resolve issues with the international community if there are any question marks over the conduct of the said country.

Rejecting the appointment of the panel, the government said the panel members will not be allowed to visit the country.

In an interview with Times of India newspaper, President Rajapaksa has dismissed the panel.

"We should not try to get involved in a conflict with the UN," Gen Fonseka said.

"As a citizen of Sri Lanka, if I get an opportunity to support such an inquiry, I think we shouldn't hesitate to do that."

The former military commander who is facing two military trials says that the conditions imposed by the European Union to extend the GSP+ facility are fair.

"I don't think it is an intervention in internal affairs," he said.

"The EU has demanded the release of political prisoners which includes me," Gen Fonseka added. - courtesy: BBC Sandeshaya -

June 28, 2010

India's hands are tainted with the blood of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka

By V Suryanarayan

During President Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi, the problems and prospects of India-Sri Lanka relations came under close scrutiny. The joint statement spelt out the directions in which bilateral relations are likely to proceed ahead.

Understandably there was a lot of euphoria in Sri Lanka, but discerning Indian observers did not share this sense of optimism. New Delhi is not happy with Colombo’s lukewarm response on the issue of finding a speedy solution to the ethnic issue. More disconcerting, important provisions of the 13th Amendment are being jettisoned.

A year after the decimation of the Tamil Tigers, normalcy is yet to return to the Northern Province. During April-May 2009, the war against the Tigers degenerated into an inhuman war against Tamil civilians. Due to savage aerial attacks and unhindered use of artillery, several innocent people died, residential areas were devastated, and hospitals, schools and places of worship were razed to the ground. Estimates of the dead during these gruesome days vary from 7,000 to 30,000, without taking into consideration those who died due to lack of medical facilities and deprivation of essential food items. Over 3,00,000 persons were displaced, of whom around 63,000 are still in ‘relief centres’, a euphemism for refugee camps.

The Tamil leader Anandasangari has recently drawn attention to the tragic plight of Tamil children, conscripted by the LTTE. After the war, these children were detained by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The armed forces went to the relief centres and asked the children to report to the authorities. Assurance was given to the parents that these children would be quickly released. The promise has not been kept. Many children are still incarcerated. The tragedy is that several hardcore elements of the LTTE, who conscripted these children into the ‘baby brigade’, escaped from the Manik Farm after bribing Sri Lankan authorities.

A parliamentary delegation of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which visited Vanni recently, has highlighted that 80 to 90 per cent of the houses are either destroyed or badly damaged. The arrangements made by the government are ‘woefully inadequate’. The recent announcement that the government of India proposes to construct 50,000 houses for the displaced has been heartily welcomed. It may also be mentioned that New Delhi had provided 4,00,000 cement bags for the use of the returnees. If agricultural operations are to be resumed it is necessary to repair the small and medium tanks. Fishing has come to a virtual standstill, the fishermen should be provided with fishing gear. Places of worship are yet to be restored. The schools are in very bad shape, they must be repaired soon, so that when the new academic session starts, children can go back to school.

One facet of the internally displaced has not attracted much attention in India. A good number of the IDPs in Vavuniya district are people of Indian origin. There was endemic poverty in the plantation areas in the 1960’s and 1970’s. This was an offshoot of the bankrupt economic policies of the SLFP government. The government banned the import of essential food items and also put restrictions on the movement of food articles to the plantation areas. In order to escape the grinding poverty, the Indian Tamils migrated to the north, where new land was being brought under the plough. Most of them became wage labourers of absentee Sri Lankan Tamil landlords. Compounding their distress were the ethnic riots of 1977, 1981 and 1983. Coupled with the sense of insecurity was their legal status of statelessness and growing unemployment. The trickle gradually became an exodus. When the ethnic conflict escalated the Indian Tamils were caught between the two warring groups and became displaced. They have no permanent houses to which they can return, they have lost all contact with the hill country. Many do not have citizenship papers or identity cards. The government of India should immediately bring the plight of these people to the attention of the Sri Lankan government and ensure that they are provided with legal documents, proper employment and a secure life.

I came across a small group of Sri Lankan refugees when I visited Rameswaram and Mandapam in March-April last year. They had come from Mullaitivu and after undergoing several trials and tribulations reached the shores of India. A few of them died on the perilous journey because they did not have food and drinking water. These hapless people told me that given an opportunity all Tamils living in the war zone would have loved to come to Tamil Nadu as refugees. However, the Sri Lankan Navy had extended complete control over the Sri Lankan side of the Palk Bay. What is more, the Indian Coast Guard was exercising strict vigil to prevent the movement of refugees into India.

It may be worthwhile to compare the policies of the government of India on two occasions; the first during the riots of 1958 and second during the last stages of the Fourth Eelam War. When the communal riots took place in 1958 in Colombo and the Tamils were massacred by the lumpen sections of Sinhalese population, some Indian property was badly damaged. Y D Gundevia, then Indian high commissioner, called on governor general Oliver Goonetilleke and a hot exchange of words ensued. Goonetilleke was determined to restore law and order and a state of emergency was proclaimed. More relevant, with international assistance ships were arranged so that Tamils, who felt insecure, could move to the safety of the Jaffna peninsula. There were 2,000 Sinhalese who were living in Jaffna at that time and they were brought to Colombo. When the Tamils were facing their worst humanitarian crisis during the last stages of the Fourth Eelam War, New Delhi should have tried to evolve a mechanism by which the innocent Tamil civilians trapped in the war zones could have been moved to safe and secure areas. Not only did New Delhi not make any efforts, India unfortunately provided complete impunity to the Sri Lankan government by never condemning the flagrant human rights violations.

On a few occasions India defended Sri Lanka as in the United Nations and in multilateral forums. We were in the exalted company of China and Russia on these occasions! And the self-proclaimed champions of the Overseas Tamils in Tamil Nadu preferred to fall in line with the Centre. A Sri Lankan academic told me that the Sinhalese will be eternally grateful to New Delhi for checkmating the government of Tamil Nadu at that time. Our hands are tainted with the blood of innocent Tamils; and all the perfumes of Arabia, as Lady Macbeth said, will not sweeten this little hand.

Dr. V. Suryanarayan is Senior Professor (Retd), Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras.

Sri Lankan military encroaches into civilian economy after end of war

by Mel Gunasekara

MANKULAM, Sri Lanka (AFP) –

In a wooden shelter in north Sri Lanka a soldier has swapped his gun for a pair of scissors, trimming hair and beards of civilians who now travel through what was a war zone until last year.

Business is brisk at the army-run salon, which also offers scalp and foot massages by battle-hardened soldiers.

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Business is brisk at the army-run salon, which also offers scalp and foot massages by battle-hardened soldiers~pic: courtesy: AFP~click on pic for larger image

Next door is the "Military Cafe", where veterans of the government's long civil war against the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels now serve up tea and snacks to passing domestic tourists.

"The food is fresh. It's made in the nearby army camp. Prices same as elsewhere," said Corporal Nimal Karunaratne at the cafe in Mankulam, 190 miles (300 kilometres) north of Colombo as uniformed soldiers wipe plastic tables.

The small businesses are just two signs of how the end of the war last May has affected life in Sri Lanka.

Situated on the main A9 highway that links the northern Jaffna peninsular to the island's south, Mankulam was a stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels who controlled one-third of Sri Lanka as recently as 2006.

After a massive military offensive that attracted international concern about civilian deaths, the Tigers were eventually crushed in May last year.

But the northeast of Sri Lanka, scene of much of the fighting, has been left a scarred and deserted landscape as former residents are unable or unwilling to return to many of the villages destroyed by the war.

The area is still littered with landmines and other unexploded ordnance. With little or no civilian life, the military has set up shops along the highway selling groceries, top-up phone cards and food.

A few miles up the road, Malaysian mobile phone operator Dialog has erected advertising over a military hut selling snacks to local tourists. Many pose for pictures near the burnt-out shell of a bulldozer used as a makeshift tank by the rebels.

Back in the capital Colombo, a former naval troop carrier is being used as a venue for cocktail parties.

A sound system plays hits by Swedish pop-group ABBA as guests sip drinks and watch the sunset from the decks of the Jetliner.

As the vessel leaves port on its short evening voyage, dozens of navy women release colourful streamers and balloons. A naval tug blares horns and a sailor points out passing landmarks to guests.

"This is the new image that the Sri Lanka government wants to project," navy chief Thisara Samarasinghe told AFP as he mingled with guests aboard the ship, including diplomats, leisure industry executives and socialites.

During the final years of war, the Jetliner ferried 3,000 men and military supplies to the battlefields up and down the northeast coast.

It came under attack many times but was never hit, Samarasinghe explained to his guests as they took pictures of Colombo's shoreline.

The Jetliner began its new life in January as a floating banquet hall and a venue for corporate events, weddings and seminars.

Now operated as a commercial venture by the navy, the bill is 18,000 dollars for a five-hour cruise with a navy band and meals cooked by staff from a Colombo five-star hotel for 350 guests.

"We are not losing money, we are not making a lot of money, but let's say our order book is nearly full until Christmas," Samarasinghe said, declining to say when the vessel will be returned to its Indonesian owners.

In another example of military marketing, at Palaly airbase in the north of the island, airforce helicopters are on hire to businessmen.

Prices for an hour range from 950 dollars for a four-seater Bell 206 to 3,000 dollars for ride in a Russian-built Mi-17 transporter, airforce spokesman Janaka Nanayakkara said.

Despite the end of the civil war, the government recently proposed maintaining defence spending at about 1.8 billion dollars a year.

And the army size will remain at 200,000 men and women to ensure that the Tigers are unable to stage a comeback.

Critics say the military presence in all areas of Sri Lankan life is dampening entrepreneurial spirit and holding back post-war development.

"Without downsizing the military after the war, or returning leased equipment, the military is encroaching into the civilian economy," complained Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, a consultant economist to foreign donors.

Sarvananthan, who conducts surveys on the northern and eastern economy, said the military must be cut back to allow Sri Lanka to grow a stable peacetime economy.

"It is a waste of public resources to pay specially trained people to do mundane things like pour tea and cook food for passing travellers. If there is no work, the military should be downsized to save money," he said.

The antiquity of Thamizh: An Epigraphic perspective

Tamil-Brahmi inscripted 200 BCE Pottery Found in Tissamaharama by German Archaeologists

By Iravatham Mahadevan

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FIGURE 1:Memorial Stone. Pulimankombai. 1st century BCE.

The legend that Sanskrit and Tamil emerged from the two sides of the damaru (drum) of Shiva says it all — the immemorial antiquity and the equal divine status accorded in our tradition to the two languages recognised as Classical.

And yet, Western scholarship in the colonial period concentrated almost wholly on Sanskrit studies. It is only from the mid-20 {+t} {+h} century, when Burrow and Emeneau published the Dravidian Etymological Dictionary, that interest in the Dravidian languages, especially Tamil, gained momentum.

According to Thomas Trautman ( The Aryan Debate, 2005), the three “fundamental discoveries” in Indological studies are the discovery of the Indo-European language family (1786); the discovery of the Dravidian language family (1816), and the discovery of the Indus civilisation (1924). It is significant that two of the three “fundamental discoveries” relate to the Dravidian, though the latest one is still being “debated” for want of an acceptable decipherment of the Indus script.

Part of the problem in the delayed recognition accorded to Tamil in Indological studies was the non-availability of really old literary texts and archaeological evidence for the existence of Tamil civilisation in ancient times. The critical editions of the earliest Tamil literary works of the Sangam Age, especially by U.V. Swaminathaiyar from 1887, have led to a radical reassessment of the antiquity and historicity of Tamil civilisation.

What Swaminathaiyar did for Tamil literature, K.V. Subrahmanya Aiyer accomplished for Tamil epigraphy. He demonstrated (in 1924) that Tamil (and not Prakrit) was the language of the cave inscriptions of Tamil Nadu, written in a regional and linguistic variant of the Mauryan Brahmi script adapted to Tamil phonetics. His discovery has been amply confirmed by the increasing number of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions on stone, coins, seals, rings and, last but not least, the humble pottery of common people. The following are a few select examples of the more recent discoveries.

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FIGURE 4:Pottery inscription. Sri Lanka. 2nd century BCE.

Stone inscriptions: The most important historical inscriptions include those of Nedunchezhiyan at Mangulam near Madurai, the Cheral Irumporai dynasty at Pugalur near Karur and Athiyan Neduman Anji at Jambai near Tirukkoyilur, all assigned to the period from the 2 {+n} {+d} century BCE to 3 {+r} {+d} century CE, coinciding with the Sangam Age described in the earliest Tamil anthologies.

Equally important are very recent (2006) discoveries of a clutch of menhirs (memorial stones) found in megalithic urn-burial fields in the Upper Vaigai valley. They are in Tamil and inscribed in Tamil-Brahmi. They date from about the 2 {+n} {+d} century and first century BCE and are among the earliest herostone inscriptions found in India ( See Figure 1).

Coins: Among the most notable discoveries are the copper coins of Peruvazhudi, a Pandya king of the Sangam Age (2 {+n} {+d} century BCE) and the Cheral Irumporai-s of Karur (1 {+s} {+t} century CE), and the silver portrait coins of the Chera dynasty from the 3 {+r} {+d} century CE (See Figure 2). Interestingly, the Satavahanas from Andhra issued a series of silver portrait coins (1 {+s} {+t} century to 3 {+r} {+d} century CE) with bi-lingual legends, Prakrit in Southern Brahmi script on the obverse and Tamil in the Tamil-Brahmi script on the reverse . This indicates that only Prakrit and Tamil were the official languages of the regions where the coins circulated.

Pottery: Excavations undertaken at sites such as Uraiyur, Azhagankulam and Kodumanal, and surface explorations of many more sites, have yielded a growing number of pottery inscriptions in Tamil written in the Tamil-Brahmi script (dated between 2 {+n} {+d} century BCE and 3 {+r} {+d} century CE). It is significant that inscribed pottery is much more abundant in Tamil Nadu than elsewhere in India. The pottery inscriptions are also secular in content. The main reasons for such widespread and early literacy in Tamil Nadu are political independence and the use Tamil in administration and other spheres of public life.

Those scholars who were initially reluctant to admit that there could be early and widespread literacy in ancient Tamil society now accept the reality in the light of the sheer numbers and archaeologically established antiquity of Tamil-Brahmi pottery inscriptions from Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. The pottery is fragile, but the evidence is firm.

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FIGURE 3:Pottery inscription. Andipatti. 3rd century CE.

Tamil Nadu: A Tamil-Brahmi pottery inscription of about the 3 {+r} {+d} century CE from Andipatti in Vellore district reads naakan uRal ‘Nakan's [pot with] toddy-sap' (See Figure 3). He has apparently inscribed his kalayam so that it is not taken away by other toddy-tappers. Here is a case of a toddy-tapper living in the countryside who is literate enough to write down his name and the purpose for which the pot is used. Surely he did not hire the services of a professional scribe. This illustrates the state of literacy in early Tamil society.

Sri Lanka: Tamils have been living in the northern and eastern parts of the island from time immemorial. Several small fragments of pottery with a few Tamil-Brahmi letters scratched on them have been found from the Jaffna region. However, a much more sensational discovery is a pottery inscription from an excavation conducted at Tissamaharama on the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka. A fragment of a high-quality black and red-ware flat dish inscribed in Tamil in the Tamil-Brahmi script was found in the earliest layer. It was provisionally dated to around 200 BCE by German scholars who undertook the excavation. The inscription reads tiraLi muRi, which means “written agreement of the assembly” (See Figure 4). The inscription bears testimony to the presence in southern Sri Lanka of a local Tamil mercantile community organised in a guild to conduct inland and maritime trade as early as at the close of the 3 {+r} {+d} century BCE.

Berenike, Egypt: The excavations of a Ptolemaic-Roman settlement at this ancient port on the Red Sea coast have yielded an inscribed amphora fragment. The inscription is in Tamil and written in the Tamil-Brahmi script, precisely dated by stratigraphy to 60-70 CE. The reading is ko(R)Ra-pumaan, the name of a chieftain . The pottery inscription bears evidence to the Western trade of the Tamils in the Sangam Age.

TBS2TC628.jpg

FIGURE 2:Kattuvan Kothai. Silver coin. 3rd century CE.

Thailand: A Thai-French team of archaeologists discovered a sherd of inscribed pottery during excavations at Phu Khao Thong in Thailand. The pottery inscription is in Tamil written in the Tamil-Brahmi script of about the 2 {+n} {+d} century CE. The fragmentary inscription reads tu Ra o…, part of the Tamil word meaning ‘monk' . This is the earliest Tamil inscription found so far from South-East Asia and attests to the maritime contacts of the Tamils.

(The author, an epigraphist and Tamil scholar, is an authority on the Indus and Brahmi scripts.This article appeared in "The Hindu" of June 24th 2010)

.....and I say ‘Cheese’

By Ranjan Abayasekara

The four-wheel drive vehicle has stopped at the market –
Where my mother sits on a mat - wearing her green saree;
Ash-plantain, capsicum, vambotu laid out in front of her
Beans, onions, bitter-gourd, arrayed around.
She hides her right hand – with its burn-marks and whitened skin -
Keeping it tucked under the fold, until it is time
To take payment for whatever she has sold.

The family who alight from the vehicle are well dressed –
The lady is smiling and has a kind face.
They’re all in western clothes -
As if from a world far away;
But they are from our own small tear drop shaped island -
They’ve never been to the North before, they say.

I see the lady look at the vegetables and exclaim
“See how nice these capsicums are -
Wonder why we can’t grow them to look so fresh,
Maybe our soil needs fertilizing”;
Her words make my eyes well up, as I think
Of the soil in these parts…..enriched for over two decades
By rivers of blood, and tears, and the scattered remains
Of a generation lost to war.

My mother smiles and waves a hand over the produce;
A look serene – but only I know the sorrows that lie beneath -
Like the saree draped to cover her left leg, amputated above the knee.
The lady’s son looks bored – he must be about 11,
The same age my brother would be, if he was alive.
It was the same shell that took off his head and my mother’s leg
As he lay asleep in the dugout that terrible night.

The gentleman is large in girth – and gives orders to his driver;
Seeing him brings a chilling memory to my mind –
Of bloated bodies floating in the lagoon,
And the sight of drowned children.
He buys a mango for his daughter, and holds her hand.
I wonder where my father is – he disappeared seven years ago,
Will I recognise him if he is found?
Or will he be like our neighbour who babbles and laughs,
Ever since his wife and daughters died in a multi-barrel rocket attack.

These people must have a nice home – like those shown on TV,
What would they think of our half-burnt dwelling, I wonder.
The lady looks in her handbag and takes out a camera;
She is interested in the vendors, carefully framing her photographs.
Unexpectedly she turns in my direction –
Her kindly face smiles at me – “Say Cheese”
…..and I say ‘Cheese’.

Ranjan Abayasekara - 16/06/10

Karunanidhi announces road map for promotion of Thamizh as Classical Conference concludes

laments over lack of political solution for Sri Lankan Tamils

by T.Ramakrishnan, K.V.Prasad

The first World Classical Tamil Conference here came to an end on Sunday with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi announcing a plan of action for Tamil promotion and development.

Delivering the valedictory address of the five-day conference, Mr. Karunanidhi said a Rs.100-crore fund would be established for Tamil development. This would be a follow-up to the “good work” done at the meet.

The Chief Minister said efforts would be taken for translating well-known Tamil works into other Indian, Asian and European languages. Significant works of other languages would also be translated to Tamil. The government would create “genetic heritage gardens” in five distinct zones of the State as spelt out in the Sangam poetry.

Noting the presence of Union Ministers for Finance and Home Affairs Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram on the occasion, the Chief Minister appealed to the Centre to extend financial assistance for a number of initiatives announced by him.

The proposed Tholkappiyar Classical Tamil Sangam at Madurai would take efforts for conducting the World Classical Tamil Conference periodically. Referring to the 15-year long gap in holding a mega Tamil meet, he assured people that this would not recur. On the Sri Lankan Tamils question, Mr. Karunanidhi said no political solution had been found so far. “This is a matter of pain and deep concern to lakhs and lakhs of world Tamils who have gathered at this World Classical Tamil Conference.”

He called for a detailed plan to carry out marine archaeological research on the mythical Kumari continent and Poompuhar. He reiterated his request made earlier to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for locating the proposed Indian National Institute of Epigraphy in Chennai.

Presiding over the function, Mr. Mukherjee expressed the hope that lessons from the conference would inspire many more accomplishments in future.

Describing the Chief Minister as a man of perfection, he commended him and the State government for the successful conduct of the Conference. Referring to the popular response to three exhibitions held as part of the WCTC, he said this was evident in the fact that the duration of the exhibitions was extended by a week.

Mr. Chidambaram wanted Tamil books to be published in different disciplines such as science, law, economics and geology. He suggested that at least 100 titles be published in such disciplines, for which a sum of Rs. 10 lakh would be required by authors and publishers for each title. Totally, Rs. 10 crore would be needed and this was not a big amount for the State government.

The Union Minister requested the Chief Minister to ensure that the amount was set apart. Mr Karunanidhi, in his address, responded to his suggestion positively.

COURTESY:THE HINDU

The "Glass House gang of four" behind the Moon move to appoint A UN Panel on Sri Lanka

By Ranmali Fernando

Ban Ki Moon has appointed his panel to invesitgate the last stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka or the end of terrorism as many Sri Lankans would put it.

But, to the Western word and the UN it is an end of war. Some western news agencies describe it as the panel to invesitgate war crimes committed by the government. The Indonesian panelist who already has put his foot in the mouth says it is also to invesitgate the LTTE. But, where is the LTTE today? They are headless and they have no leaders in Sri Lanka except in the dispora living comfortable lives.

Panel was annouced, it reached wide media publicity though not much the rejection of the panel by the Government of Sri Lanka. But, reports emanating from UN sources say Navi Pillay and a South Asian diplomat working with the United Nations Secretary General are the brains behind the UN Panel on Sri Lanka. Pillai has been pushing for a panel and a war crime investigation against Sri Lanka to satisfy her appetite for a considerable period of time and now she has got the opportunity courtesy of Ban KI Moon and the South Asian diplomat named after a famous South Indian film star of yesteryear.

It is reported that the panel will operate from Pillay’s office in New York and her staff will be assisting the panel under her direct supervision. All the support services and the desk officers will be provided by Pillay. UN sources in Colombo say that Pillay will have a control of the staff though the staff will work with the panel since they are paid from her budget. It is also said that each member of the panel will be paid 750 US $ per day for their work. Hefty and princely sum for a UN operation against Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan official questioned if the money was coming from the LTTE coffers or the UN budget. This amount is said to be princely even in UN terms and this not forgetting other perks like dining and lunching in the best of resturants.

UN sources in Colombo and the South Asian capitals say that Pillay worked closely with the Top South Asian diplomat in Moons office since the official wanted to prove his diplomatic skills for an extended term both for the betterment of his university going children and to secure his position as a special representative to an Asian country. He has continued to lobby various governments both in New York and in Geneva and also tried to create wedge between Sri Lanka and its friendly countries.

Sri Lankan officials also questioned as to why the UN was in a mighty hurry to appoint the panel. They also wanted to know the link between another top UN official of South African origin attached to Ban Ki Moon and a journalist who follows the Agenda of the American right wing. There are conspiracy theories and other mysteries. Russia has already issued a strong statement from Moscow whilst the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice issued a statment from New York which many say on the instance of the under fire UN Secretary General Moon. There is also a question as to the silence on India on the appointment of the panel.

It is also surprising as to why the darling of the NGOs Navi Pillay has maintained a stony silence on the appointment of the panel on Sri Lanka. A senior UN diplomat from a western country who did not wish to be identified said “Why should she make any statements when she has been castigated over and over. Though she failed in Geneva, the important thing is she had her way finally in New York. She is also behind the appointment of the South African panelist to the Sri Lankan panel. Navi may be of Tamil origin. But, she is now a South African”

Prabhakaran must be singing in his grave and Pillay must be dancing near the Geneva Lake.

June 27, 2010

'Why should I worry about others? If India and neighbours are good with me, that is enough for me' - President Mahinda Rajapakse

President Mahinda Rajapakse speaks to K Venkataraman of The Times of India:

Excerpts from the Interview:

Your popularity in the country is at its height. But aren't you worried about the international image of the country and your own personal image abroad?

Why should I worry about others? If India and neighbours are good with me, that is enough for me.

The UN has made adverse remarks about the human rights situation and many have called for an international investigation into war crimes in the last phase of the war.

They should understand the country's situation. Earlier, they said Prabhakaran was the world's most ruthless terrorist. But now, suddenly, when I defeated him, they are talking differently. I wonder if they would say the same if bin Laden were to be defeated. They can advise us, but they can't force us. No one can force us to do this and that.

The international community, including EU, even India, frequently asks you to speed up the process of finding a political solution. Where do you stand on that?

We will take our own time and the solution, you can't ask for an instant solution like instant noodles. Constitutions are not for one or two days. It is not a magazine which is published weekly or monthly. We can't change the Constitution frequently. We will have to take our own time. We will certainly change all this. My commitment remains.

The European Union has threatened to suspend GSP Plus tariff concessions for Sri Lanka.

I am not bothered. These concessions were offered soon after the tsunami. Now the tsunami (rehabilitation) is over, it helped us at that time. Now we must find new markets. Our people must know this: when I called the elections, they (EU) immediately called for suspension of tariff concessions. It was a politically motivated decision. If the EU doesn't want to give it (concessions), let them keep it. I don't want it. We have gone and explained what we have done. Now we have appointed it (an inquiry commission), not because someone wanted me to, but because I am committed to that.

The commission is about the lessons learnt and what should be done for national reconciliation. You must have your own view on this. What will you say are the lessons learnt from this conflict and what are your suggestions for national reconciliation?

The people must trust each other. We have to build that trust. In Colombo, about 30 years ago, Sinhalese were the majority. Today, they are a minority, about 27%. There are more Tamils and Muslims now. But I don't see this as a problem. I believe in mixed population. Earlier, there was and they had no problem like this. Only politicians make althese issues for their own ends.

There are fears of complete Sinhalisation of the north and east. Will the Sinhalese people be settled in those areas in large numbers?

They were there, you know. They were chased by Prabhakaran, so, if anybody wants to go there, yes, they can. What if somebody were to say that in Colombo, the Tamils have come in large numbers?

Is it true there are 25,000 Chinese workers in Sri Lanka?

How can it be 25,000? Must be the Chinese who work here as dental technicians. They have been here for such a long time. I remember during the time of the Sirimavo Bandaranaike regime, the opposition started a campaign saying Bandaranaike had sold this country to China. And they came out with photos of these dental technicians. They took their photos and were publishing it saying China, China. I feel it is the same cry of China, China now. Others are saying India, India. Now they are saying we are selling this country to India. The JVP has declared we are selling this country to India.

Between all these developments, where do you see your relations with China?

We are a non-aligned country. Our neighbours are Indians. I always say, Indians are our relations. From the time of Emperor Asoka, we have had that culture. The whole culture, irrigation, architecture has been built up over the last 2,500 years. You can't break that. But that doesn't mean we won't get commercial benefits from others. From China, or Japan, or whoever. They will come here, they will build, they will go back. India comes here, they will build and they will stay. This is the difference. In simple terms, whenever our relationship is stronger and we get close to India, this campaign begins. They start to say India has started to rule, and they know India is very sensitive about Pakistan or China. So they will use these factors to upset the Indian public. Well, I think even the LTTE used this point.

How do you see your recent visit to India and the joint statement that spoke of cooperation in various fields?

I think it was a very successful visit. The agreements that we signed, in fact most of them, are concerned with development work, especially in the north, infrastructure development, railways, housing projects (50,000 houses in the north and east), power plant project in Sampur. All those things are necessary for development of this country.

Some of these ideas have been around for 2-3 years. However, not much progress has been made. Do you think work will speed up now?

I very much hope so. We need to have targets. Earlier, we could say the delay was due to the terrorist problem or something. Now we cannot say all those things. We agreed that all projects will be started by 2010.

How do you foresee Indo-Sri Lankan relations over the next five years?

It will be very strong. We had certain things in the past, but now it is very good, we understand them, they understand us. This is the best time we have had at all levels. Even the people-to-people contacts, business, politicians.

Do you think India has something to contribute to resolution of ethnic and political issues in Lanka?

I think a solution must come from among ourselves. It must be a homegrown solution. You can't bring something from outside and implement here. We must know what it is and people must accept it. If the majority rejects it, we can't ignore that. So, any solution must be acceptable to all communities. And 13th amendment (to devolve power), India's proposal, with that we introduced provincial councils (in the north and east). From there, of course, we have to develop it.

So the 13th amendment plus (for more decentralisation) is a reality.

That plus is mine (Laughs). Yes, it is a reality. I want to go and discuss first with the Tamil parties. We want to see that the provinces are able to share the powers at the Centre. This is very important.

That's where the idea of the Upper House (Senate with members nominated by provincial councils) comes?

Yes

Do you think the situation is more conducive for a solution, with the consent of the Tamil National Alliance?

Yes, but they must also realize our difficulties, and the concerns of the majority. We have a saying in Sinhala: "Someone burnt by fire, will be scared of even fireflies."

You mean fears of the majority?

I mean the fears of all. They also must realize all this. Without the majority, you can't implement it. This is what happened to the 13th amendment. It is only the diaspora who want to keep these issues, the conflict, alive. The younger generation has moved on. Now, there are younger Tamil leaders emerging.

What is your total vision for the Tamil people who had suffered during the war?

If the south gets gold, you can't give iron to the north and the east; I want to give them gold too. This is the simple answer. For the last 30 years, they didn't get all this. They must feel that there is no discrimination.

What about the rehabilitation process? Is there an overall architecture for the entire process of resettlement and rehabilitation to include economic activities and livelihood opportunities?

Yes, we have a programme, we have a plan. I have appointed a Presidential Task Force which undertook the entire planning process with government agencies to implement. We are slowly implementing it. The first stage is demining and the second stage is to send the people there. When you are resettling them, they must have roads, hospitals, schools, the village headman's office, divisional secretary's office, in short the basic infrastructure. We have all the officials in place. Now, we have to resettle nearly 47,000 displaced people. Of these, some 19,000 are with their relatives. Even the people who are in camps who have no houses will soon be resettled.

In this process, do you think it would be better to have locally elected representatives? Is there a plan to hold the Northern Province elections?

Yes. They need pradesiya sabhas (local councils). The next step is holding the provincial council elections. But we need some time, as we have had enough elections.

There are complaints that the Eastern Province CM does not have any power and that implementation is centralized.

He has all the powers. Now he (Eastern Province chief minister Pillaiyan) has gone abroad. He has taken 27 members or so abroad. They have gone on a study tour! I thought that money could have been used to build some roads. These are not controlled by us.

In the last parliamentary election, Tamil and Muslim parties that contested as part of the UPFA did not use their own party names or symbols. Do you want them to be seen as only a part of national parties, or should they have their own independent parties?

It depends. The main political parties will also put up their own candidates. I would like to see that all these people do not stick only to those areas. When you have political parties which stick to only to those areas, they could get communal. It is much better that they join the national parties. They should join the majority, the whole country. Whether they are Tamil, Sinhala or Muslim, they are citizens of the country. They are not separate citizens.

Do you plan to change the powers of the president?

There are some ideas. I want to go to the parliament. I do go to meet people and for functions. I miss parliament.

Is it merely about attending Parliament, or about making the office accountable to Parliament?

Now, under the proposed Constitution, the president should attend Parliament once in three months. There are proposals that there should be an executive PM and a ceremonial president. These are ideas of those who want to destabilize the whole country. They don't want a strong leader.

What is your vision for the country, covering the political and development questions and all the challenges faced by your presidency?

Without development, there is no peace, and without peace, there is no development. If peace is there, development will come. The development should be people-centric. You can't remain isolated in the world. You have to win over all these people: neighbours, Asians, European Union or the US. As a non-aligned country, I believe in being closer to all the countries. But we must do this in our independent ways. Unfortunately in the past, our foreign policy was wrong. We antagonized neighbours. I will never do that. I know the consequences.

What about the future of Sarath Fonseka, who remains in custody?

I am not interested to know. There is a case. If he is freed also, I am not concerned. The matter is with the judiciary. I will not interfere with the case. After the victory, he wanted to raise another 200,000 soldiers. When I asked him why, he said he wanted small army camps everywhere. I said he couldn't do that as it was the job of the police to maintain law and order. And he said there was an external threat also. I wanted to know from where and he said, from India! I told him I will handle that. That was his mentality. He wanted to fight the whole world.

He has made statements that war crimes were committed.

When he is in Parliament, he goes there very early and stays there throughout the day until the staff tell him that they have to go home. He gets all the freedom there and speaks to people.

Will you get a third term? There are rumours that you are going to amend the Constitution to remove the two-term restriction for anyone to hold the president's office.

For that you have to wait and see. It is only after six years. I prefer to be in Parliament, but after six years I might also decide to retire. So, what I always say is, it is a democratic right of a person or citizen to contest. Let the people decide. By the Constitution, you can't restrict it. It is the people's right to elect their leaders. The losing candidate has no restriction, and can keep contesting, but the winner is not allowed to contest more than two times. - courtesy: The Times of India -

Benefits could accrue if Sri Lanka responds positively to EU demands instead of rejecting them

National Peace Council

The Sri Lankan government has said it is rejecting the 15 conditions set out by the European Union in relation to extending the benefits of the GSP Plus tariff concession since such demands constitute a violation of our national sovereignty.

The government has also announced that it will deny visas to the three members of the panel of experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to advise him on human rights issues pertaining to Sri Lanka's recently concluded civil war. The Sri Lankan government's position is that both the EU and UN Secretary General are interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state and that this is unacceptable.

As a democratic country which has subscribed to the UN Declarations on Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions, Sri Lanka is obliged to comply with their obligations. Similarly the requirements of the EU are in accordance with our Constitution which we are all morally obliged to uphold. Safeguarding our national sovereignty also needs to go hand in hand with upholding human rights and Humanitarian Laws.

There are sections of the international community that believe Sri Lanka violated them in recent years and during the last phase of the war. The government will have to make all efforts to convince the world that we did not do so. It was due to the violation of the laws of war during the Second World War as shown in such incidents as the carpet bombing of Dresden and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that there was an outcry against such violations that the UN was set up after the war and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up by a team that included eminent men drawn from all major religions with Buddhism being represented by U Thant.

We believe that the government has taken the right step in setting up the Commission on the Lessons of the Conflict. Unfortunately and based on earlier experiences the composition of the Commission and the Terms of Reference appear not to have convinced the UN that its rightful concerns will be fully addressed. Under the circumstances, the NPC believes the Government can engage itself with the UN and seek to broaden the mandate of our own Commission in return for not appointing a separate UN Commission.

As for the 15 conditions being put forward by the EU they are aimed at addressing some of the general problems of internal governance and human rights within Sri Lanka in accordance with international covenants that Sri Lanka has already signed. In addition, the issues raised by the EU have also been raised by the democratic opposition and civil society groups within Sri Lanka itself.

The National Peace Council believes that instead of outright rejection of the EU's conditions, the Sri Lankan government ought to respond to them in a positive manner. The response made by Sri Lanka's Ministry of External Affairs, pointing out the inapplicability of some of the EU requirements, could provide a model for a continuing dialogue with the EU on the need to modify its requirements.

If there are some conditions that the government feels it cannot accede to for good reasons that are in the country's national interests, these could be explained and the EU will need to be open minded in seeing the Sri Lankan government's point of view.

There are two benefits that could accrue to Sri Lanka by responding positively to the EU. This can be done in a phased manner and according to a road map that is reasonable following discussions and agreement with the EU. First it can retain the GSP Plus concession which is of major importance to the Sri Lankan economy and to its working people.

Second, and as important if not more important, it can send a message to the larger international community that the Sri Lankan government is genuinely responsive to concerns about good governance and human rights as it affects its own people, and also is prepared to live up to its international commitments.

If the EU requirements are met after further negotiations by a responsive Sri Lankan government, this would help to address the issues raised by the UN Secretary General and rally greater support from the larger international community to the Sri Lankan government's own concerns. The net result will be an upliftment of the political, economic and social status of all Sri Lankans.

Tamil diaspora must contribute towards rehabilitating ex-LTTE combatants appeals TDD

By Franklin R.Satyapalan

Members of Tamil Diaspora for Dialogue (TDD ) yesterday, made a fervent appeal to members of the Tamil community especially those members of the Tamil Diaspora to contribute whatever they could towards rehabilitating the remaining 8083 ex-combatants in government custody so that they could enter civil society without delay.

Coordinator of the Tamil Diaspora for Dialogue Dr. Noel Nadesan said That many affluent persons who claim to be Tamils should be ashamed for being silent onlookers whilst philanthropist a good Sinhalese Buddhist the CEO of Tri-Star Apparels Kumar Devapura came forward voluntarily to train ex-combatants and provide 550 with employment our Tamil teachers from Jaffna demand Rs 320 per hour to give tuition to 300 ex- combatants who are sitting for their O levels.

Dr Noel Nadesan said yesterday that he had the opportunity of meeting with the Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Dew Gunasekera and the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Brig Sudantha Ranasinghe and having a lengthy discussion on the Rehabilitation process of ex-combatants by the government.

The Minister told me that from among the 11,698 ex- combatants who had surrendered to the members of the Security Forces, 3000 or more had been rehabilitated and released, the majority of them being females.

The minister in briefing me said that action was being taken to file legal action against 1300 hard core Ex- combatants ,the balance 8083 were being counseled ,educated and rehabilitated so that they could enter the mainstream of society but this was some thing that could be shouldered by the government alone.

"We members of the Tamil Diaspora for dialogue are of the strong opinion ,That the noble task of assisting the government in educating and rehabilitating these somewhat misguided Tamil youth who claimed to fight for the rights and well being of the community lay with the Tamil community which has the obligation and responsibility of caring for them " ,said Dr Noel Nadesan.

"I was able to pay a visit to the centers where the ex-combatants were being rehabilitated and see for myself at first hand how they were being cared for and rehabilitated ".

The Commissioner General of Rehabilitation said that there was to be a graduation ceremony where 400 youth rehabilitees were passing out after following a course in vocational skills at Dambadeniya on June 25th Poson Poya day.

I was told for whatever reasons unknown to me 30 ex- combatants were refusing to meet any friends ,relatives or any members from the community.

Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Brig Sudantha Ranasinghe told me during the briefing that all names of all the 8083 who were being rehabilitated were available with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and that parent or relative could visit these ex- combatants and speak to them during the day.

Anyone wishing to be of any assistance to these ex- combatants could make arrangements by contacting Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Brig Sudantha Ranasinghe brig.sudantha.r@Yahoo .com

- courtesy: The Island -

Sri Lankan govt reaches agreement with LTTE faction led by Pathmanathan alias "KP"

By Shamindra Ferdinando

One year after the conclusion of war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government and the LTTE rump have reached an agreement, thereby giving the SLFP-led ruling coalition an unprecedented political advantage.

Well informed sources said this would boost on-going rehabilitation efforts and pave the way for the Tamil Diaspora to invest in Sri Lanka, particularly in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

Responding to a query by The Island, an authoritative military official said that Kumaran Padmanathan alias ‘KP’, who spearheaded the LTTE’s overseas procurement network for over two decades had pledged his support to the move. Emphasising the importance of a workable arrangement between the government and the LTTE rump, the official said that this was a major victory for the government.

The official said that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had spearheaded the surprise move. He said that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) could work with the government and the LTTE rump to serve the Tamil speaking people. According to him, both the government and what remained of the LTTE could benefit from reaching an agreement, now that the LTTE had no conventional military capability.

Intelligence sources told The Island that a deal between the government and KP had caused a major rift among the LTTE rump, with an influential section throwing its weight behind ‘KP’.

Had they believed a rapid reorganisation was possible in a post-war era, a marriage between the government and a section of the LTTE rump would deal a severe blow to them, sources said.

Once they had realised that eelam would never be a reality, those who had directed the LTTE military machine from abroad reached out to the government, sources said. The extradition of ‘KP’ from a South East Asian country to Sri Lanka last year had helped Sri Lanka to deal with the LTTE rump from a position of strength.

Sources pointed out that successive governments had accommodated members of Tamil terrorists groups, including the LTTE and facilitated their entry to mainstream politics.

Addressing a meeting chaired by Defence Secretary Rajapaksa recently at the Defence Ministry, ‘KP" told a group of visiting LTTE supporters how he had come to realise the futility of continuing an armed struggle. KP said: "When I was seized abroad and brought to Colombo and then taken to meet the Defence Secretary at his residence, I thought it was the end of the story. But a Buddha statue at the entrance to the bungalow calmed me and I felt that there was still an opportunity to change. Although I was shivering when I was taken there, gradually the situation improved."

KP is widely believed to be responsible for helping Sri Lankan intelligence services to tackle LTTE operatives in two countries and locate LTTE ships once used to smuggle in arms and ammunition to Sri Lanka.

TULF leader V. Anandasangaree yesterday told The Island that a marriage of convenience between the government and the LTTE rump should not be at the expense of Tamil moderates, who backed the government’s war against the LTTE.

An irate political veteran accused the government of conveniently forgetting his role, both here and abroad was and now acting as if he did no longer exist. "It is nothing but a shame that I have been discarded, and the likes of Kumaran Padmanathan, who had caused death and destruction receive special treatment."

Responding to a query, Anandasangaree said that the government media had denied him coverage since the conclusion of war. "I am being isolated and given step motherly treatment by a government, which used me cleverly against the LTTE," Anandasangaree said.

According to him, the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora had changed its approach a few months after the army wiped out the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May last year. He revealed that during a confab in Austria late last year, a proposal was made to give the TNA control of overseas funding for development and rehabilitation efforts in a post-LTTE era. - courtesy: The Island -

Jaffna, where women weep

by Melani Manel Perera

The civil war has widowed tens of thousands of women in Jaffna, their husbands, civilian victims of the conflict. The women have to cope with an unhelpful government and social prejudice in Tamil society. Private groups provide aid so that they can regain their dignity. Our correspondent continues her reports on the aftermath of the war.

Jaffna (AsiaNews) – Tens of thousands of women lost their husbands, innocent victims of the civil war. The government however appears indifferent to their fate, and even Tamil society is keen on marginalising them. The correspondent of AsiaNews continues to cover the aftermath of the long and disastrous civil war.

Anyone who visits Jaffna for pleasure is in for an agreeable time these days. The Jaffna Peninsula is a pretty place, and is slowly modernising, both in the city of Jaffna and along the A9 Roadway. Roads, railway lines and bridges are being fixed. Sites like the Nagadeepa Viharaya Buddhist Temple are increasingly popular. Everything is beautiful.

However, anyone interested in knowing know how people live will find a different story. In Jaffna, the civil war between the Sri Lankan army and Tiger Tamil rebels has left so many women without husbands. The government and public institutions have no plan to help or protect them. Often, these women have four or even five children, to be raises on their own, doing odd jobs. The children sometimes go hungry. Only private groups provide some help in finding jobs for them.

Subajini Thurairajah, coordinator of the Women Cultural Centre (WCC), told AsiaNews that on Jaffna Peninsula there are about 26,300 widows, and that many tens of thousands more can be found in the northern and eastern provinces, especially Tamil and Muslim.

Many widows have had “troubles” with Sri Lankan soldiers, with some people suggesting they “get married,” Thurairajah said. However, soldiers who are temporarily stationed in the area just want “to have fun”. Many locals are upset that, with so many women without a man, the government does not issue orders to Sinhalese soldiers to respect them and refrain from taking advantage of their situation of need.

“These widows are still living the trauma of the cruel events of the war, especially the horrible moment when their husbands died, often before their eyes. Some do not know how to tell the children that their beloved father is no more. It is hard to tell children that their father died hit by a nameless bomb, without rhyme or reason.”

Only women who lost their husbands before 2008 were given a death certificate, which was denied to the others.

Making matters worse is a certain prejudice widows suffer from within Tamil society, for they are seen as bearers of bad luck. Women who lost their husbands are not invited to happy occasions and upper caste Tamils avoid and exclude them.

“We do not like this pattern,” the activist said. Instead, “we want to help these women. We must help them develop a different outlook to life so that they can find a place for themselves in society. We must give them greater dignity as women and mothers.” - courtesy: Asianews.it -

Tamil Classical Conference and self-serving politics of "Kalainjer" Karunanidhi

by M.S.S. Pandian

The World Classical Tamil Conference, which is being held in Coimbatore by the DMK government at the cost of Rs. 400 crore, is born in anti-intellectualism and draws sustenance from the self-serving politics of M. Karunanidhi, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. The Ninth World Tamil Conference which was planned to be organised by the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR), a well-known global body of eminent Tamil scholars, had been gracelessly usurped by Karunanidhi to showcase his supposed love for Tamil and Tamils.

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Murals on display in Coimbatore ~ click to see more ~ A mural depicting the valour of Tamil women such as Velu Nachiyar. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

In 1968, when the first DMK government headed by the late C.N. Annadurai made the Second International Tamil Conference a popular political event with a historical pageant and a cultural exhibition, there was indeed a reason for that. The DMK had just come to power following a highly charged agitation against Hindi as the national language of India — an agitation which was suppressed by the Congress government using the notorious provisions of the Defence of India Rules. The popular participation in the conference was massive. And the academic sessions were exemplary. Thus, the conference was a reaffirmation of the DMK’s commitment to Tamil.

Four decades later, Tamil language is no longer viewed by the Tamils as a beleaguered language in need of political defence. Instead, there is a deep sense of self-confidence which marks both the language and its users. The field of cultural production in Tamil Nadu has been bubbling with new energy during the past two decades. Avant garde magazines, the proliferation of publishing houses, an expanded reading public, globally informed debates, and books which both in their content and design can compete with the best in the world, are all hallmarks of the new self-confident Tamil cultural public. As much as other language writings are translated into Tamil, Tamil literary and other writings are translated into other languages and showcased nationally and internationally.

Along with that, the old perception that Hindi is a threat to Tamil has by and large vanished. Every Tamil knows that Hindi is a lost cause even in the Hindi heartland. Even the prophets of ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’ are vigorously courting Tamil in an effort to gain a foothold in the state.

In this changed context, the DMK’s celebration of the so-called classical status conferred on Tamil by the Union government is somewhat ludicrous. The average Tamilian no longer seeks outside authorisation about his language or its antiquity. It is just taken for granted. In fact, Karunanidhi is belittling the self-confidence of the language by making a show of an inconsequential decision by the Union government.

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Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and President Pratibha Patil sharing a lighter moment during the inaugural function. Photo: PTI

Despite its irrelevance, the Classical Tamil Conference has its uses for Karunanidhi. His constant boast, that he is the leader of world Tamils, is in tatters after his dubious role in not stopping the massacre of the Sri Lankan Tamils last year. The DMK had, after passing three unanimous resolutions in the state assembly seeking the Union government to ensure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, reversed its policy to please the Congress (I). Its decision to stick with the Congress was motivated by its sole desire to cling on to power in the state. Given this politics of rank opportunism, Karunanidhi’s dominant image today among the international Tamil community is one of a self-serving traitor.

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Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi with her brother and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin during the inaugural function of the World Classical Tamil Conference. Photo: PTI

The World Classical Tamil Conference is a desperate attempt by Karunanidhi to reinvent himself once again as the guardian of Tamil and Tamils. His narcissism is writ all over the conference. Self-obsessed as he is, a substantial part of his inaugural speech to the conference was about himself and his so-called love for Tamil from his childhood. The flood of newspaper advertisements on the conference attempts to produce an equivalence between him and the ancient Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar. The academic sessions, which are going to be intellectually enervating, have no less than 20 papers on Karunanidhi and five on his daughter Kanimozhi. If Karunanidhi has claimed that about 5000 scholars from all over India are participating in the conference, he has his own standards of scholarship.

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Chairman of the Academic Committee K.Sivathamby(centre), Kalignar Karunanidhi Classical Award winner Asko Parpola (right) and Member of Academic Programme Advisory Committee George Hart at the inaugural function of the event. Photo:K.Ananthan~ Courtesy: The Hindu ~ Click for more pictures

In choosing the well-known Sri Lankan Tamil scholar Kartigesu Sivathamby, with his open sympathies for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause as the intellectual mascot of the conference, Karunanidhi is making an attempt to mend his battered image among the Tamil diaspora. Importantly, Sivathamby, who came to attend the International Tamil Conference held in Thanajavur in 1995, was deported at the instruction of the then AIADMK government because of his sympathies for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause.

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President Pratibha Patil, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi and other dignitaries watch the float procession during the event. Photo:M.Vedhan

Sivathmby, given his scholarly standing and his politics, may offer a fig leaf of legitimacy to Karunanidhi. But if Karunanidhi hopes that the conference, with all its garishly designed floats which resemble film sets of the past, will produce an image of him as the guardian of international Tamil community, he is mistaken.

The writer is a professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

The vanquished and the victors in the spoils of war

by Pearl Thevanayagam

The recently concluded war with all its human miseries such as loss of lives, widowhood, displaced and maimed civilians, orphans, destruction of properties and denigration of agricultural lands and the disruption to normal life throughout the island was not all that bad as far as a significant part of the populace was concerned.

This war economy earned millions for those who exploited a bad situation to win themselves kudos and made them rich overnight. Arms procurers, funeral directors, guest-house owners in the conflict areas catering to foreign NGOs, foreign correspondents, humanitarian agencies, those who catered to the fleeing civilians, NGOs researching and analysing the conflict for international think-tank organisations, local academics recruited by World Bank and IMF to conduct research on the pattern of IDPs and the demographics and of course our local journalists who were earning a pittance suddenly exported to the four corners of the world to counter LTTE propaganda as dis-information counsellors perhaps never had it so good.

Amidst the exploding shells, air-raids, rocket launchers and suicide bombings there was a heightened euphoria among these to make the most of the situation and strike while the iron was hot.

Add the politicians like the late Mannenai Maheswaran MP who procured kerosene monopoly in the North and East above his concern for the suffering civilians, Minister Douglas Devananda who has a fleet of buses plying between North and East and ships transporting essential items and the breakaway LTTE elements such as Karuna and Pillayan and we have a pretty good idea why these beneficiaries did not want the war to end.

In the nineties, a colleague of mine at Weekend Express who was from Jaffna, was paying Rs50.00 per day for a mat and pillow in one of the guest houses in the city run by Minister Devananda.

Back in Colombo, a booming business was thriving supplying bullet-proof vehicles to politicians and high-ranking officers in the combined armed forces and to a lesser extent those supplying uniforms to the soldiers in the warfront. Then of course we have the army deserters who absconded with weapons much sought after for lucrative contracts in mercenary killings.

The bribes demanded by the police following arrests of mostly innocent civilians from the North and East coming to Colombo to go abroad in search of jobs earned them quite a pretty penny and continues to this very day.

An employee of Weekend Express who was six months pregnant was looking for the passport office situated close to the Old Parliament with her female cousin when she was taken into custody by the Slave Island police. As the news editor, I went to the police station to find her in a police cell. When I asked the man in charge at the desk what her offence was he said, “They came from Batticaloa and we have to check them for LTTE connections”.

I know of at least five from the Tamil diaspora who were abducted for ransom while on holiday in Sri Lanka.

At this point I used my position and said he should either produce her in court or release her. I also reminded him that I would write about this the next day in the newspaper. He promptly discharged them.

Tea, rubber and coconut exports, garment manufacturing and other industries took a back seat amidst this sudden turn-around of the national economy which would send the share prices up or down on whether the war is accelerating or bogged down by pesky peace-talks and mediation through foreign intervention.

Necessity, being the mother of invention, the LTTE discovered a novel method of acquiring fuel for running a motor bicycle in the nineties when the government imposed fuel ban to the North and East. You dip a rag in kerosene to kick-start and then you run it on water!!!. How ingenious is that? Bicycles were fitted with a tarpaulin as people carrier in Jaffna.

Plundered railway tracks had many uses. When I traveled through Omanthai checkpoint in mid-nineties I was checked in at the border control of the LTTE while my luggage was placed on this track-counter. And I also slept on these make-shift tracks doubling as beds while I waited to be vetted and my ‘pass’ processed to proceed to Kilinochchi.

It is quite interesting to note that with the escalation of the ethnic war sprouted many independent TV and radio stations, and newspapers not to mention websites and e-news.

Many aspiring journalists found a niche in these budding media institutions and several have gone on to become stringers for international news agencies and some who worked for NGOs even became editors of national newspapers!!!

June 26, 2010

With Friends like India do we need enemies…?

By Gamini Weerakoon

Even going back to the legendary times of Lanka’s Ravana abducting Sita from India, Sri Lanka had to be friends with the many kingdoms on the sub-continent, for the sake of peace and self preservation. Right through the times the theme has been peace and friendship with ‘India’ — in reality many south Indian kingdoms, if Lanka was to be left in peace.

At the beginning of Lanka’s history, the Bengali brigand Vijaya having seduced Lanka’s queen Kuveni, married her, annexed the kingdom, kicked out Queen Kuveni, and made a royal princess of South India his queen. History records that win or lose, Lanka’s foreign policy was peace with expansionists of the sub-continent to escape military interventions.

Making of India

We stress on different Indian fiefdoms rather than an Indian nation, because such a unified nation did not exist till the British put it together. Winston Churchill once remarked that ‘India is no more united than the equator’ India, however is united today, shaky as it may be and is a rising industrial and regional power. There is no point in going back to pre and post Vijayan times.

JRJ anti-Indian ?

Friendship with India has become a mantra particularly after the 1987 Indian intervention. President J.R. Jayewardene now stands condemned for his anti-Indian, pro American policies by the ‘friendship with India’ lobby, but it has to be pointed out that Indo-Sri Lanka relations were at their best after his 1977 sweeping victory.

Jayewardene and Moraji Desai, the then Indian prime minister who routed the ‘Empress of India’, Indira Gandhi even in her pocket borough, in Rae Barely, were great friends and had much in common. Desai had vowed that he would drive India’s ‘cow and calf’ (Indira and son Sanjay) out of politics and Jayewardene too pledged that he would do the same to ‘Lanka’s cow and calf’ (Sirima Bandaranaike and son Anura).

The two leaders became great buddies, both being pro American and pro capitalist. It was only with the return of Indira that Indo-Lanka relations began to sour. Our so called historians best take another look at Jayewardene’s anti-Indianism.

After the Indian military intervention and return of Indian troops from Lanka, the cry of ‘friendship with India’ by Lanka was renewed with gusto. Sri Lankan leaders hurried to New Delhi at every given instance fearing that Colombo had annoyed Indian Brahmins in the South block. This kowtowing continues even after 23 years.

One way traffic

Recently, President Rajapaksa travelled to New Delhi to meet Indian leaders. It was his first visit to the Indian capital after being elected president for the second term and an Indo-Sri Lanka Declaration ensued. Rajapaksa’s visit was in order as it was a visit of a head of state to a neighbouring friendly state but how many times have an Indian head of state or prime minister visited Lanka in recent times? The last visit of Premier Manmohan Singh, we recall, was for the last SAARC summit held in Colombo but even then he spent only a few hours here!

Musical chairs

What exactly was achieved during President Rajapaksa’s visit to New Delhi? Even regular Indian commentators have said that none of the gritty issues appear to have been examined in detail. For example the Indian Prime Minister had said that ‘a meaningful devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment creates necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement’ while Rajapaksa had evaded the issue of the 13th Amendment and reiterated his ‘determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all minorities that would act as catalyst to create necessary conditions in which all people could live in an atmosphere of peace, justice…’

This is playing a game of musical chairs and we have seen much of it in recent years.
It does appear that both sides are failing to come up with solutions to the nitty-gritty problems that they face. This game ends with Lanka getting the flak for not coming up with a solution to address the grievances of the Tamils while also failing to satisfactorily settle the hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamils. On top of it all comes the appointment of a panel by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on alleged war crimes by security forces during the last phases of the terrorist war.

The most serious charge now being made against Sri Lanka are war crimes alleged to have been committed by our security forces but what is our ‘good’ friend in New Delhi doing about it? When UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon made his first moves to have a panel of experts appointed to investigate alleged war crimes, the Non Aligned countries at the UN had signed a letter against the move but India had refused to sign it. Later without Indian support the move collapsed with the Non Aligned countries agreeing that the Secretary General had powers to appoint such a panel.

Regional power’s role

Whatever role India is now playing on the issue, it is time to ask those advocates of ‘friendship with India’ what exactly is our much valued friend doing to help us? The close and strategic relationship between India and America is well known. For reasons best known to Americans they are pressing very hard to make this country answer to charges of war crimes. Even though India does not play an overt role of ‘big brother’ with Lanka, it is obvious that the United States recognises India as the regional power and let India have its way with Sri Lanka.

Does not our Big Brother ( President Rajapaksa during his Indian visit called India ‘Big Sister’) make moves to rescue Lanka? Let’s not forget that during the peace talks under Ranil Wickremesinghe most leading Western negotiators after negotiating in Sri Lanka, did journey to New Delhi for consultations with our Big Brother. America does not make any move on Sri Lanka without consulting New Delhi. Even in1987, when Lanka was being punished for pro Americanism, America stood aside and acknowledged India’s role as a regional power. Now the fruits of these pro Indian policies are being reaped by America.

The entire war crimes inquiry against Sri Lanka is obviously done in consultation with our Big Brother/Big Sister. America would not dare interfere in India’s backyard today without permission. Thus, what’s the Big Brother/ Big Sister doing while little Lanka is to be caned? Simply let the impudent fellow stew in his own juice? - courtesy: The Sunday Leader -

Complying with EU conditions will actually enhance citizens sovereignty

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene

I do not think that there is a thinking person among us who will deny that international criminal justice targeting egregious human rights violators across national boundaries, is more often arbitrary if not capricious. This is a fact of international realpolitik though international law may blissfully teach us otherwise.

Denying citizens their rights

That being said, does national sovereignty mean that a government can do pretty much as it pleases with its citizens?

In other words, if a government enforces Nazi style laws and treatment for citizens of one race, then should the rest of the world stand by and not intervene? Or, should we take a step sideways and excuse a government indulging in a Cambodia style reinvention of a dangerously subverted workers paradise on this same basis?

Or for that matter, should 'sovereign rulers' be applauded when they gradually dismantle constitutional institutions, confine laws and legal processes to theory and intimidate intellectual or practical dissent?

Where do we stop with this reasoning, premised ostensibly on national sovereignty but conforming more to an obsolete form of state sovereignty that denies citizens their rights? The answer to these questions does not lie in shrill cries of discrimination or selectiveness in international realpolitik.

Arrogant governments cannot wave the fig leaf of national sovereignty to shield itself from international scrutiny at its whim and fancy. To do so would be to thrust themselves into a most unenviable whirlpool of international politics that ill befits nations emerging from internal conflict with the inevitable corollaries of perilously vulnerable economies. Burma is just one country that has been plunged into such a whirlpool at the cost of its citizens; does Sri Lanka wish to be another?

The UNSG's advisory panel

This government has thought fit to employ a convenient weapon of national (or rather, state) sovereignty to meet both the panel appointed by the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) to advise himself on the actions that occurred during the last stages of the conflict as well as the European Commission's GSP Plus privilege. The two situations are however clearly distinct.

Insofar as the first situation is concerned, irrespective of whether such action has been selective or not, it is clearly stated by the Office of the UNSG that this is an advisory panel though some have speculated that it is a precursor to a full fledged international war crimes inquiry and media reports commonly refer to this as a war crimes panel.

The Sri Lanka government may rant and rail against this decision which is however, to its advantage domestically as forming a good rallying point now that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) are no longer available to suit this purpose. Reportedly and predictably, Russia and China have also issued stern statements castigating the appointment of the panel. Current international dynamics mean that it is far from likely that this will be turned into a war crimes inquiry. But, given the obduracy of the government in refusing to acknowledge any accountability and minimizing even existing constitutional safeguards against rights abuse in a Rule of Law context, are we surprised at this action? Can even restorative justice (forget about retributive justice) as parroted by government spokespersons, exist in an environment where the Rule of Law is pushed aside as so much unnecessary baggage?

Examining the EU's 'wish list'

Whatever may be this logic in respect of war crimes inquiries, using state sovereignty in trying to win a concessionary trade privilege for itself, as is the case of the EU GSP Plus, is undeniably ludicrous. Put purely and simply, the 'wish list' of fifteen conditions stipulated by the EU now under frantic attack by the government, relate to rights and freedoms of Sri Lankan citizens. Take the EU out of the equation and these conditions are precisely what local human rights practitioners had been incessantly calling for. Basically we are talking of conformity to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, the replacement of emergency law by ordinary criminal procedure, stopping the harassment of journalists, allowing independent legal advice to a criminal suspect as well as a host of conditions relating to the practical implementation of Sri Lanka's international obligations.

Conformity to international obligations

The last is of core relevance. Under the canny stewardship of the late Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in 1997, Sri Lanka led the way in South Asia in ratifying and signing the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, this wise decision was unfortunately undercut by the 2006 Singarasa decision written by former Chief Justice Sarath Silva declaring that the country's accession to the Protocol was unconstitutional based upon a regrettable intermixing of the authority of municipal law with norms of international law. Much of the furore over Sri Lanka's compatibility with international obligations arose, in fact, due to this judgment. A later advisory opinion by this same Chief Justice certifying our national legal framework as compatible with international law and a later farcical 'ICCPR Act' did little to remedy this situation.

The EU conditions additionally request a right of individual petition to the Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), reduction of the number of derogations to the ICCPR and the repeal or amendment of those emergency provisions that are incompatible with the ICCPR or UNCAT. Interestingly it has also asked for the publishing of the full report of the 2006 Udalagama Commission of Inquiry. Up to now, only extracts of defence counsel had been mischievously planted in some newspapers, claiming these to be extracts from the Commission report. In addition, it is requested that places of detention be independently monitored, a list of those detained under emergency law be made public and they be either released or brought to trial.

The bluff has to stop

How could the satisfaction of these conditions interfere with our national sovereignty? Rather, would they not actually enhance the sovereignty of Sri Lanka's citizens, particularly in this post war stage? Shorn of the outraged rhetoric based on state sovereignty, (as carefully contrived as this) is, is it not time that this government recognizes that the bluff has to stop? - courtesy: The Sunday Times . lk -

National constitution should be a social contract between the people and the state

by Dr. Nihal Jayawickrama

In the past four decades, whenever a political party or alliance secured a substantial majority of seats in parliament, that group of politicians has claimed the right to foist a new constitution on the people of this country. In 1972 and in 1978, the constitutions that were enacted reflected the policies of the two principal political groupings of the south.

Though adopted in the name of the people, the public consultations were both superficial and perfunctory. The voice of the north, expressed so clearly and unequivocally in successive general elections, was neither heard nor recognized. In sharp contrast to governance under the 1946 Constitution, what the politicians drafted and imposed brought authoritarianism, inefficiency, corruption and divisiveness. Neither constitution enjoyed a national consensus; what this country was subjected to under both could not possibly have been what the people desired for themselves and their children.

The recent announcement by the Government that it intends to utilize its parliamentary majority to amend the present constitution reveals that no lessons have yet been learnt from past experience. It once more ignores the fundamental principle that a national constitution should be a social contract between the people and the state. It is through that social contract that the sovereign people agree to submit themselves to the power of the state, and agree to the manner in which that power will be distributed, exercised and limited among the institutions of government. Constitution-making is not the prerogative, or indeed a legitimate function, of a government. To entrust, or surrender, that task to a government is, as Mr S Nadesan Q.C. observed in 1970, comparable to what the outcome might have been if at Runneymede, on the broad fields of Windsor, the Barons of England had invited King John to draft the Magna Carta. A constitution that is drafted by a government, or indeed even by parliament, will reflect only the consensus among the members of the majority party, if not the imperatives of the head of that government. By no stretch of one’s imagination could it be described as a social contract.

A Constitutional Commission

If any lessons are to be learnt from the mistakes of the past or the experience of other democratic countries, the task of drafting a constitution ought to be entrusted by parliament to a small but politically independent and representative constitutional commission. Before such a body, the government and other political parties, interest groups and individuals, will be able to make representations on an equal footing and in full transparency, with the assurance that such representations will receive equal consideration. When the commission publishes its report together with a draft constitution, it will, of course, be for parliament to decide whether or not to enact that constitution. It is only then that the constitution will truly encapsulate the aspirations of all the people of the country, and not merely of the majority. Such a constitution may claim to be a social contract. There are numerous precedents from across the democratic world that we should seek to emulate, not pretend not to know or see.

As important as the process is the content of the constitution. Anyone who embarks on reforming a law will ask himself why it is necessary to change that law. In answering that question with respect to the fundamental law, regard must be had not only to the manner in which this country has been governed during the past four decades, but also to the quality of governance in the world around us with which we must necessarily interact. We need to look ahead to the next twenty-five years and ask whether the constrictive framework of governance prescribed in the 1970s is appropriate or adequate to meet the challenges of the new millennium. Despite regular and repeated assertions of independence and sovereignty, Sri Lanka, in common with the rest of the world, is now inextricably linked to the global village. As John Donne observed four centuries ago, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." If the present constitution is dissected with these considerations in mind, the following are some of the issues that may need to be addressed.

The Head of State

For a quarter of a century after independence, this country had a constitutional head of state. In the past twenty-five years, the head of state has also been the head of government. Which institution is preferable? The former symbolizes the state, not the ruling political party or alliance. He is a unifying figure who provides stability to the state. He is accessible to anyone of whatever political persuasion, especially when the heavy hand of government is felt. He performs the ceremonial functions of the office, leaving to the political head of government the resolution of the important matters of state. Although the constitutional head of state is required to act on advice, I am personally aware of several occasions when President Gopallawa requested reconsideration, and even declined to act as advised until he was furnished with good and sufficient reasons for doing so. When, in 1974, the great conflict arose between the National State Assembly and the Constitutional Court, it was only in the presence of President Gopallawa that the Judges were willing to speak with the representatives of the Government. In a highly politicised, multicultural state such as Sri Lanka, the restoration of the constitutional presidency appears to deserve serious consideration.

The Legislature

Since 1978, the distinction between the legislature and the executive has not merely been blurred, but has virtually ceased to exist. When nearly every member of the government parliamentary group is appointed to executive office, and members of the opposition who cross the floor are similarly rewarded, parliament is reduced to a token assembly capable only of validating government decrees. Self-interest becomes an overriding consideration, and parliamentary life is equated to employment which one cannot afford to lose. Parliament represents the people, makes laws, and holds the government to account. To perform these tasks, members should be elected from geographical constituencies as they were until 1977. They should be relieved of executive duties; and instead required to monitor, through select committees, the performance of the different ministries. In a second chamber, representation through functional constituencies may provide the unique expertise that the first chamber may not possess.

The Executive

It is an indisputable fact that, with very few easily recognizable exceptions, ministers of governments formed after 1994 have possessed neither the intellectual capacity nor the experience to handle the great affairs of state. To how many of them will we entrust responsibility for our own personal affairs? The proliferation of ministries in order to extend the field of patronage has reduced government to such a state that, were it a corporate body, it would have succumbed to bankruptcy or been driven to dissolution. In an age when most governments across the continents, including Asia, consist of technocrats who are experts in their respective fields who can confidently communicate with their counterparts abroad on an equal footing, the question arises whether we too should not draw our ministers from among the best and the brightest in the professional world? They must, of course, sit in parliament but without the right to vote. They will steer legislation, and be accountable both to the legislature and to the appropriate select committee. It is desirable, however, that the Prime Minister, as head of government, should be an elected member of parliament who commands the support of a majority of its members.

The Judiciary

Until 1977, Sri Lanka had a competent judiciary trained in the highest traditions of the legal profession. It was fiercely independent and absolutely incorruptible. For example, it was unthinkable that a chief justice would accompany a minister on a study tour. Nor would a supreme court judge offer legal advice to a prime minister. In 1962, the Supreme Court declined to proceed with the trial-at-bar of senior police and military officers accused of conspiring to overthrow the government because the bench of three judges had been nominated by the minister of justice. In 1969, the Supreme Court acquitted a former army commander and others charged with the same offence without even calling upon their defence. No constitutional provisions can restore integrity in the judiciary. However, it would help if a new Constitutional Court is created, at the apex of the judicial hierarchy, to exercise the fundamental rights and constitutional jurisdictions, including the ex post facto judicial review of legislation. This new court, if constituted in good faith, will be able to establish and enforce standards of conduct consistent with the universally accepted Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct. It will also enable the supreme court and other regular existing courts to focus on disposing the enormous backlogs that have developed over the years.

The Public Service

The civil service in this country was once the pride of Asia. I have ambivalent thoughts on whether its abolition and replacement with the Administrative Service in the 1960s was a progressive measure or not. When I was appointed a permanent secretary in 1970, my colleagues included M Rajendra, C.A. Cooray, Arthur Ratnavale, Mahinda Silva, J.B. Kelegama, P.B. Karandewela, James Lanerolle, Nissanka Wijeratne, A.E. Gogerly Moragoda and Baku Mahadeva. They were men of knowledge, experience and integrity. The standards they and their predecessors set and observed are now distant memories. When the 1972 Constitution required a secretary to perform his functions "subject to the direction and control of his minister", instead of "the general direction and control of the minister" (i.e. policy directions) as previously, the process of politicising the public service began. Good governance requires the re-establishment of a competent, permanent, independent and professional public service capable of serving any government that is elected to office, and not owing either personal or political allegiance to any politician.

Secular State

National reconciliation and reintegration require that Sri Lanka should assert its secular character, as India and Singapore have done. As a Buddhist, I believe that tolerance and pluralism form the basis of the philosophy that the Buddha preached. I am saddened by the worldly roles that monks have arrogated to themselves and politicians have bestowed on them. I consider that providing monks with official residences and ostentatious limousines is a desecration of Buddhist philosophy. If others too believe as I do, they would insist that there be no reference to Buddhism in the constitution. It was a mistake to have done so in 1972. It is time we recognized that in this multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious country, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and does not need the intervention of the state to exercise that right. In some countries, the clergy are prohibited from seeking election to parliament, the rationale being that a priest is capable of exerting undue spiritual influence on the voter. Is there any good reason why we should not follow that example

Language

Language is not only a mode of communication; it is also the medium through which knowledge is acquired. It is unfortunate, but true, that Sinhala does not serve either purpose adequately. It is a matter of recent history that efforts to impose Sinhala as the medium of education and of administration have also resulted in tearing this country asunder, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of our fellow Sri Lankans. Political leaders with foresight and sagacity prevented such consequences not only on the African continent, but in countries such as India, Singapore and Malaysia. By retaining English – now the acknowledged international language – they ensured that their peoples were able to acquire the status of global citizens who could communicate not only with their own countrymen but also with the wide world beyond their geographical boundaries, and acquire the new knowledge that now emerges as rapidly as the old is debunked. In a social contract with the rulers, which language will the youth of this country wish to be educated in?

Minorities

The President was reported to have remarked that there are no minorities in Sri Lanka since all are equal citizens. While the latter is true, the former is fiction. A minority is a group of individual human beings who share ethnic, linguistic, religious or cultural bonds and possess a collective desire to live together. The tragedy of Sri Lanka is that many of our politicians have refused to recognize the fact – the unalterable, immutable and enduring fact – that we are a multicultural country. In the contemporary multicultural state, minority communities have rights in common with, and no less than, everyone else. Indeed, because of the need to protect the distinctive character and identity of minority communities, which is what constitutes the cultural mosaic of our world, they even enjoy additional rights. For example, contemporary international law protects the physical existence of minority groups by criminalizing genocide, by recognizing the right to seek asylum, by prohibiting discrimination, and by guaranteeing to such groups the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, and to use their own language. International law also recognizes the right of a minority to determine its political status. As the Supreme Court of Canada has held, if a minority is denied meaningful access to government, it has the right to decide to secede.

A Bill of Rights

Sri Lanka has acceded to several international human rights treaties, but has failed to give constitutional force to the rights recognized in them, or to provide effective remedies. When the citizens agree to be governed, what they insist in return from the rulers is that their rights and freedoms be effectively guaranteed. Much of the squabbling that is now taking place, especially with the EU over GSP+, may be avoided if the constitution provides, as it does in many other countries, that an international treaty, when ratified, will have the force of law, superseding any inconsistent existing law. If the government is unwilling to so provide, why ratify a treaty at all?

Conclusion

The whimsical intervention of a minister, acting on a sudden impulse, resulted in the inclusion of the term "unitary" in the 1972 Constitution. Some of the reasons now being adduced to justify tinkering with the present constitution suggest a desire to perpetuate individuals, families and current political groups. But today’s power-holders, as yesterday’s were, are merely trustees for the time being. This country belongs to all of us – all twenty million of us. We have the right not only to be heard, but also to actively participate, in determining the content of the social contract that will form the foundation of a new constitution for our country.

Need for harmonization of Sinhala - Tamil relationship in post - war Sri Lanka

by Gnana Moonesinghe

When reflecting on warring Sri Lanka or post conflict Sri Lanka, the predominant thought that comes to mind is the need for harmonization of Sinhala Tamil relationship. What is it that is necessary to achieve this goal that has eluded this country for over six decades, a sad epitaph for our political leaders?

Obviously our leaders we have had to date, were not able to provide solutions to a problem that would have been less complex had it been dealt with in the first attempt at resolution with the Bandaranaike–Chelvanayagam pact. Consequently, this country has to continue to echo with Plato that "until philosophers are kings or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and wisdom and political leadership meet in the same man, ..…cities will never cease from ill, nor the human race". In being critical of the political leadership over time we, the people of this country, also have to share in the complacency with which we have watched over the sluggish attempts at resolution, of a burning problem which in the end scorched us all.

The state finally is a reflection of its citizens and therefore "we need not expect to have better states until we have better men; till then all changes will leave every essential thing unchanged." How true has this been in this country’s experience where we think changes have been made which will change whatever is necessary to make relationships better but then we look again only to find that nothing has indeed changed. Even today in the aftermath of the end of the war the pious hope of all has been a quick political solution to this Sinhala Tamil equation. But again, something, somewhere, in the inclination or implementation of decisions, intentions had gone astray, again for want of political will.

Confidence building

We have many dilemmas to face after the war. The end of the war is an achievement never to be minimized despite whatever problems facing post- conflict Sri Lanka. Having said that, it is imperative that we create conditions that will not permit a repetition, for unlawful elements to raise their head again to act as saviours, to rectify the leadership problem amongst the Sinhalese and the Tamils, both in the North, the East as well as in the south. However this has to be managed by creating the right conditions in the North and the East for the Tamils to gain trust and confidence that their place in the country will be restored to them with dignity and security. As of now, there remains nothing or near nothing, in terms of modern calculations for an acceptable quality of life in the war torn area in the North. Delays in logistics will be acceptable if sufficient faith is placed in the sincerity in the policy dialogues taking place between the Government and the Tamil leadership.

Sometimes it is difficult to be sure of who represents whom or in fact who does not represent the people living in these areas who have been cast aside to swim or drown; fortunately their fortitude may enable them to swim and keep abreast even if the waters remain somewhat murky. But one thing seems certain as pointed out by Rt. Rev. Chickera (20.06.2010, Sunday Island), that growing militarization will not help. It only suggests somewhat cruelly that armed presence is "necessary in these areas since the winners distrust the losers;" this becomes counter- productive because the people here who are emerging from living through such a dark period can certainly do without the armed presence. They just need the space to walk around, be free, may be, to take a wrong turn quite unwittingly, without having to fear that if questioned they have no valid answer for the direction they took, except that they perhaps simply liked to wander around. Would the answer create trust?

The missing feature – the spirit of patriotism

The purpose of citing these instances is not to continue to stir up the muddied ethnic broil but to find ways of coming out of it if we are to become the ‘Asian miracle’ which we are hoping for and can by all accounts be able to achieve. Apart from the investments and management capabilities what are the basic ingredients we need to accomplish this task? We will need a leader who can take decisions boldly and with conviction and take the risk to put the fear of possible adverse repercussions in the back burner. Unfortunately we are a people who will not come together even to celebrate our national day if we do not belong to the party that is in power and is taking the lead role in the planning of the celebrations.

I do not think there is another country anywhere in the world, where conflict of interest is seen in joining in the celebrations for the National day. This day belongs to all of us individually and collectively and nothing should deter us from joining in the celebrations. Also, is there a country where when national honour is in jeopardy over accusations of war crimes when there will be one’s own countrymen who will fuel the fire? One recalls the incident when Rajiv Gandhi was nearly attacked by a Sri Lankan navy personnel on guard duty, all of India stood by their Prime Minister and members of Parliament from every party went to the air port to receive their Prime Minister on his return to India. Such a show of solidarity is something this country is missing.

While referring to political leadership one has to set the course clear of the roles of policy makers and the managers of policy decisions. The latter is the role of the bureaucracy and since this important role is assigned to them it is necessary that we ensure that no man or woman "hold office without specific training, nor hold high office till he has first filled a lower office well". A sound education for the bureaucracy is essential to guarantee excellence. "the essence of higher education is the search for ideas: for generalisations, laws of sequence, and ideals of development, …..we must discover their relation and meaning, their mode and law of operation, the function and ideal they serve or adumbrate; we must classify and coordinate our sense experience in terms of law and purpose; only for lack of this does the mind of the imbecile differ from the mind of Caesar."

The strengths of the bureaucracy

It is essential that recruitment be based on meritocracy if the country is to draw from the wisdom of the best among the officers. This would make politicization of the bureaucracy difficult and encourage the spirit of independence that would permit discretion in decision making, free the officials from serving their political masters and permit them to serve their country, the coffers from which their salaries and emoluments are paid. The competent officials will be able to advice the leadership to choose appropriate information on which to base their decisions, exploit the information that officials can provide in the fields of developed information and communications technology along with superior management techniques. Knowledge today is highly specialized and leaders must tap such expert sources to enrich themselves with what is made available to them by the bureaucracy.

Considering the need for a specialized bureaucracy the concept of permanent civil service must be conceded; a service that has security of tenure will be able to be independent and can offer advice and implement policy decisions without fear of interference from the political leaders. Most importantly such a bureaucracy will give the country continuity in the event of a change in political leadership as they themselves do not change with a change in government. This will put a stop to every new government that comes in from making a clean sweep of policies adopted by the outgoing government.

It is therefore obvious that the bureaucracy must have access to quality education, sensitized to suit the requirements of a specialized bureaucracy. In this context it will be unacceptable to think that young boys and girls will not be interested in the monetary aspect in their pursuit of higher studies. The government aware of the importance of English and communication technology has declared English and IT to be introduced in schools. To think as has been suggested sometimes that either the parents or their children will be willing to be satisfied with following the traditional Buddhist way of life in all its simplicity will be to forget the reasons for the 1971 insurgency and the more cogently orchestrated one in 1987-89, that posed armed challenge to the governments of the time; all this fury was released by the frustrated children from rural Sri Lanka in the South.

The loss in terms of human lives, public and private property, cost to the government to overcome the rebellion were immense. In terms of time, one year in the first instance and three years in the second, it bears comparison proportionately to the large outlay of losses incurred in the three decade conflict in the North and the East. Alas, man is acquisitive and avaricious by nature and no amount of religious influence will help to abandon monetary interest in this world. We no longer live in a society where the barter system operates but in one where money plays a large part and the lack of it leads to several problems in society, primarily to the destabilization of the social structure quite apart from threat to state security. What the country needs is investment in quality education to the entire educational system. With free education every child is assured of equality of educational opportunity. This access it must be emphasised is to study and not to do politics in the universities, disrupting the system which often leads to closing of the university and loss of time for those interested in their studies for which purpose they enter college.

War shrinks freedoms

The political leadership has to intervene to establish law and order in the country. One of the ill effects of the war is the leverage it provides for travesty of justice, and more so for the culture of impunity to be tolerated in the absence of relief from law enforcement personnel; this allows the abuse of the norms of justice embodied in the constitution of the country. The introduction of a just society will require the wheels of justice to roll on so that men and women "will fall into that order which constitutes intelligence and organization; justice is not the right of the stronger but the effective harmony of the whole." Fears are expressed that the ‘judiciary is in jeopardy" and that the systems in the judicial process are controlled by means that are not legitimate.

In any country the balance of power is based on the evenness with which justice is dispensed, a basic factor in strengthening democracy. It is the hope that corrective measures are taken with a great deal of publicity for the lapses in law enforcement and there is reinforcement in our attitude to the judicial authority as an integral part to defend basic rights of the people rather than the "interests of powerful actors " in the country and this too is brought to the attention of the public . The fact that sections of the emergency laws have been removed is a first step in providing some of the civil liberties to the people. In addition, greater responsiveness from the political leadership to calls for personal security and media freedom will put the country well into a take off mode for progress because the inhibiting influences on free expression and enhanced levels of freedom will become less restrictive.

The international factor

When greater freedoms are put in place the enthusiasm for participatory development processes particularly in economic development can be facilitated by the central or provincial authorities and the citizens. Poverty caused by disparate development spread has brought in charges of elitism and bias; western province is much ahead of the other provinces and the poverty levels are grater in some areas like in Badulla and the hill country amongst the plantation workers. The nutritional levels also show similar variance and this deprivation can be corrected only by focussed development of these areas. The leadership while concentrating their attention on the war ravaged areas must see that partisan politics for political advantage do not engineer another element of division by raising hostility to the efforts put to improve the war ravaged economy as inhibiting growth in the south.

This is but a humanitarian need and the leadership while placing emphasis on economic growth must place equal emphasis on transparency and accountability so that extraneous players as in the case of Tamil Nadu do not lift an accusative finger demanding accountability. At no time is it conceded that Tamil Nadu has a voice in anything that happens here, one because we are sovereign country and two, how we manage our business is our concern ours alone. Without being offensive it is time that their attention is diverted to the pitiful conditions under which some of their people are living in Tamil Nadu. Charity must begin at home and it is timely that we are allowed to manage our affairs and Tamil Nadu be persuaded to turn their attention to their domestic politics. This comment is not to detract from the invaluable support and aid we receive from the Indian Government during and after the war and the distinction is made between the central government and the State of Tamil Nadu and some elements within the State of Tamil Nadu.

Responsibility of the government to foster national identity

Although we have political problems with the state, our ethnic identities and other differences must not surface above our Sri Lankan national identity. A sort of nervousness, some degree of temerity or reluctance is seen in some to admit to this truism but the quicker we accept this, the fewer will be the problems we face. The interfering ‘hands’ reaching out from all over the world to stir and muddy the pot but give no permanent solutions, can then be stopped.

It is up to the leadership to generate trust and confidence to the minorities so that assertions for inclusivity can be made with confidence by all the people. The nation belongs to all of us citizens and the sooner that we all realize this and take our rights to ownership the faster will be the healing and unifying process. The onus is on the type of leadership that can be provided to make the people stand up to attention for the national anthem because we are all part of the whole. The positivity in this attitude is exhilarating when all round one hears nothing but negative vibes. Where there are shortcomings let us point out but let us not make it the whole picture. Let us not talk of a Sinhala Buddhist country but of a united Sri Lanka where everyone has an equal place and where there is hope for amity and kindred spirit.

Constitutional changes must not be done in secrecy or in haste

An Interview with Ruana Rajepakse by Namini Wijedasa

Namini Wijedasa:
How would you assess President Mahinda Rajapa-ksa’s approach towards constitutional change?

Ruana Rajepakse:
The process is the problem. It has been the case where a lot of constitutional amendments are concerned. There isn’t time to study and discuss this properly.

A constitution is supposed to be the country’s basic law. Therefore, if it is to be changed it must be something that is carried out with a lot of deliberation and public discussion. But very often we find there is no public participation in the amendment process.

Sometimes, amendments are even proposed in the form of an urgent bill. A constitutional amendment has to be first drafted in bill form after which it has to go before the Supreme Court which will decide whether it needs just a two-thirds majority-which is a basic requirement for any constitutional change-or whether it also needs to be put to the people at a referendum.

NW:
Could an amendment to the constitution be ushered in as an urgent bill?

RR:
There is a clause in the constitution which provides for the government to submit bills as urgent bills. This means the court must give its decision within twenty four hours. The court has somewhat modified this to mean 24 hours after the first sitting of court after the bill is presented.

For example, if the government gives the bill on a Friday evening, then the 24 hours starts to run at the first sitting of court on Monday. On the other hand, if the government is smart and gives it on Tuesday morning, the court would then have to give their determination by Wednesday morning. It is questionable whether this process was ever meant to be used for constitutional change. It’s even questionable whether any act of parliament needs to be passed as an urgent bill because if an urgent or emergent situation arises, the government can always deal with it under Emergency Regulations that can be promulgated under the Public Security Ordinance.

NW:
Will President Rajapaksa have the proposed amendments introduced in the form of an urgent bill?

RR:
We don’t know for sure but there have been hints in the papers that they will be put forward as an urgent bill and that there is precedent for it. It’s an unhealthy precedent but there is precedent.

NW:
What is the danger in this?

RR:
A lack of proper scrutiny, lack of opportunity for public debate and I would think a lack of opportunity for parliamentarians to study it carefully...and they are the ones who have to pass it.

NW:
Why would a government take such a non-transparent route?

RR:
They may be feeling they have a better chance of getting it (bill) passed if people don’t have a chance of scrutinizing it very carefully. When I say government, I mean various governments. All governments that have had a two-thirds majority or are confident of getting one have tried to do this because obviously only they can do it.

NW:
What is the ideal manner in which the government can see these amendments through?

RR:
I would say any government should indicate their views to the public, put forward a paper setting out the main features of the amendments and allow time for public discussion. They should also take note of what the public says.

NW:
Everything is politicized in this country. Whenever controversial change is attempted, the process is either permanently cobbled or drags on forever. In that context, don’t you think the government is right in thinking this is the best way to approach constitutional change?

RR:
They don’t have to listen to every objection. At some point, the government has to take a decision. I don’t think this is a reason for doing it in secrecy or in haste. Everybody is entitled to express their opinion. The government of the day can ultimately decide which opinion it prefers and which opinion it is going along with.

NW:
According to report, President Rajapaksa has said that if one or two MPs leave the government over the proposed constitutional amendments, ten or fifteen are waiting in line to join. Your comments?

RR:
I’m not going to read the political situation. But I think constitutional change is a matter that affects all people, whether they voted for the government or not. And all citizens have certain rights. When a constitutional change is made, it should be made for the greater good of the country, and not for the purely partisan interests of one political party or coalition. That (the latter) is what we have seen happening quite a lot. We first saw it under the J.R. Jayawardena government. They had a two-thirds majority and he changed the fixed term presidency to a situation where the incumbent president could decide the date of the election and could go for it anytime after four years. That gave an unequal advantage to the incumbent president. The same applies to some of the other amendments.

NW:
How would you assess the amendments that are currently rumored to be in the pipeline?

RR:
They relate again to the idea of giving the president the option of running for a third term or even any number of terms. That will, of course, have to apply to any future president also. So you can’t say it is only to benefit Mr Rajapaksa. But we must look into it carefully. Why was it limited to two terms? Is there a policy that other people must be given a chance? Even a popular president has to first get re-elected. The fact that he has the chance to go on for any number of terms doesn’t mean he will be president for all those years. But maybe the original framers of the constitution thought one person shouldn’t enjoy more than 12 years of power, that there should be an opportunity for others.

After all, there are 20 million people in this country. I have also heard another view that when the president knows he’s in his second term and he can’t have another term, he has no interest in governing well. There may be some merit in this idea but it’s the principle of it that it should be properly debated. People who wish to object or file objections in court should be given the chance to do so. The court must be adequate time to deliberate.

NW:
What are the demerits of removing the term limit?

RR:
The same person can go on for a long time, provided he is elected. I think some of the disquiet about this amendment also relates to the electoral process. In a country where the electoral process is above suspicion, then this kind of amendment will probably not cause the same amount of disquiet. Unfortunately, many times in our recent past, from 1982 onwards, there have been serious doubts of the integrity of the process and many facts have come to light.

There has been a high level of violence; there have been allegations of other forms of electoral fraud. Even now there is a petition pending about the last presidential election. Therefore, the reluctance to give more than two terms is to some extent tied up with the fear that the longer a particular person remains in power, the more he will be able to influence the electoral process-the media and the agencies of government- and thereby keep himself in power. The gap between the advantage enjoyed by the incumbent and the challenges faced by the other candidates will be bigger the longer a particular person remains as president.

NW:
Is there a justification for introducing a second chamber, or senate, as is reportedly being proposed?

RR:
A second chamber costs money. We are a country which right now is in dire need of money, or are very much in debt. If you’re going to spend on a second chamber, it must serve some definite purpose. It hasn’t been indicated very clearly what the purpose of a senate is going to be. I think there is a school of thought that it might help to resolve the ethnic problem...and the differences among the communities... but it has to be thought out clearly. Firstly, you can’t possibly do this as an urgent bill. The senators will have to be chosen differently to parliamentarians.

Otherwise it will be just another reflection of parliament. Then there is the question of whether they are to be elected or chosen in some other way. These are all weighty issues which need to be gone into.
In a paper hastily presented to cabinet on a day when the president and most ministers were absent, permission was sought to make “minor” changes to certain sections of the constitution. What do you think of these proposals being termed as “minor” changes?

None of these things are minor. First of all, no amendment to the constitution is minor. But these are particularly significant ones.

NW:
You have studied earlier amendments to the constitution. How would these compare with what is being envisaged now?

RR:
In substance and in process, I think there is great similarity. Everything emanates from the president. That’s the first thing. The other thing is that it’s not in the public domain long enough for the public to really understand it. I see a lot of similarities between what’s happening now and what happened in the 80s with regard to constitutional change. And you must remember that the 80s became one of the most violent decades in this country so something went wrong.

NW:
Is it entirely up to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not the proposed bill must to be tested at a binding referendum?

RR:
If it is inconsistent with certain clauses of the constitution, the court could call for a referendum. The constitution provides for two kinds of referenda. One is just to get public opinion before a law is drafted. That is good. Parliament can take into account both majority and minority opinion. If you have a majority of six to four, for instance, parliament must look to see what the four percent are also wanting and they can, maybe, find some middle ground which is the healthier thing to do. My view is that putting it to a binding referendum is not a good idea.

Normally, a constitutional amendment has to first be passed by a two-thirds majority in parliament which should represent roughly two-thirds percentage of the voters. What is the point if parliament passes it by two-thirds and the people reject it by, say, 51 per cent to 49 percent? Where do you stand? A binding referendum is not a good idea also in the context of our communal problems. Suppose something is put to them regarding the 13th amendment and the Sinhalese vote rejects it, you will have a situation like in Kosovo where the minority communities will appeal to the international community saying they can’t get justice from the majority community regime.

(Eminent Lawyer,Ruana Rajepakseis author of the book” A Guide to Current Constitutional Issues in Sri Lank”. These are Excerpts from an interview appearing in “Lakbima News”.)

Pathmanathan alias "KP": Rajapakse regimes "very bestest, bestest friend"

by Namini Wijedasa

We’ve said this before but what the heck let’s churn it up again: Sri Lanka is a nation of such appalling paradoxes that it puts all paradoxes everywhere in the world to dire shame.

SPTC626.jpg

Selvarasa Pathmanathan, also known as ‘KP’, is seen seated in the foreground with (from left) Velupillai Prabakaran, Anton Balasingham and ‘Col.’ Sankar behind him.

Now take this Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP). That sweet Tiger doyen-chief arms procurer, ambassador, overseer, manager and successor to Velupillai Prabhakaran-is now, bless his soul, the government’s very bestest, bestest friend. Getting top security and people to carry his bag, it seems.

Damn, I don’t get anybody from the state to carry my bag or to clear the roads for me. Then again, I was never a highly successful terrorist. I didn’t kill anyone, procure weapons to kill anyone, amass shady wealth or take over a terrorist organisation after my terrorist boss died. Therefore, it’s understandable (one supposes) that I would not be as popular with the government as someone like KP would be.

The same government boasted only last year that Sri Lanka’s state intelligentsia was so good it managed to nab the elusive KP in an elaborate sting operation that involved cooperation with several countries. Back then, Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella (who continues to run an utterly successful laundry service) said that KP’s arrest was a big blow to the remaining foreign network of the LTTE.

Defence sources were also quoted as saying that the arrest followed a weeks-long intelligence operation in East Asia by several teams from Sri Lanka. Seems KP was on Interpol’s list of most wanted for various charges including the smuggling of arms and criminal conspiracy. Meanwhile, India had also asked for him in connection with Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. These are only a fraction of KP’s vast repertoire of misdeeds.

Anyway, KP was brought to Sri Lanka. The public was told that he was in state custody and being questioned by intelligence. After a while, we heard nothing more of KP. The people didn’t know where he was being held, what sort of freedom of movement he had, what he had revealed (but for selected revelations in certain newspapers), what had become of the vast wealth he had in his control, where he bought his clothes, who his drinking buddies were, who cooked his food, who paid for his maintenance and what was to be done with him.

Despite it being a citizen’s right to know what the government had done with this extremely high-profile terrorist, nobody thought to ask. Being loyal subjects, we have learned not to raise questions that the state may not appreciate.

Anyway, what to ask now? KP has suddenly resurfaced, travelling to the North and East and meeting all nature of government officials with offers to help reconstruction efforts. We don’t know what else he has offered to help with-or, indeed, help along-but, hell, we’re not asking. The government will get angry.

Meanwhile (and here’s the paradox) 10,000 ordinary cadres of the LTTE are still in detention with no information-naturally-of when they would be released. KP is hobnobbing with the government; ordinary cadres, many of whom the terrorist organisation he helped to lead had forcibly recruited, are languishing in jail.

It is such a pity that ordinary cadres don’t have money. Because it must boil down to money... mustn’t it? And contacts too, one assumed. Of course, being a government that defeated one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world, this must know what it is doing, right?

Perhaps KP has the contacts they need to do whatever it is they are in the process of doing (sssshhhhh, don’t ask). After all, he has already brought nine Tamil “intellectuals” to meet government leaders and got them to pledge support to reconstruction efforts. Presumably these intellectuals once had close ties with the LTTE. So, what better way to get money than to ask it from former terrorists, no?

But this government does like paradoxes and they don’t do it in halves. Observe, for instance, the prices of essential items. They have shot through the roof (to put it mildly). Vegetables, milk powder, sugar, bread and flour are costlier by far. Gas is exorbitantly priced. Rice is too expensive for a commodity that is our staple food. Tinned fish is also high but cheaper than unprocessed fish which will soon become a luxury (despite new catches entering the market from the North and East). It is too expensive to eat in this country and soon it will be too expensive to take a bus because the fares are to be revised.

Still, who needs to take a bus? While most of the price hikes are a result of the government imposing taxes on essential commodities, Sri Lankans can now buy a Mercedes Benz on the market for roughly four million rupees. The same model was around seven million rupees before the government slashed the tax.

So here’s the plan: Buy a Mercedes Benz (scrape the barrel; take a few loans; ask your parents if you have to), lie low till the government raises the tax again-everyone says they will-sell the car, and buy food. How’s that for a plan?

Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott's "Robin Hood": Righting wrongs, restoring justice, re-learning politics

By Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

I hope everyone saw Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, with Russell Crowe in the title role. The BBC History channel backed it up with a two hour programme, piecing together the legend from historical fact and circumstance.

It also revealed that Scott’s movie was based on wide historical research. Russell Crowe is interviewed on the programme and he says that the most important motivator for Robin Hood, the reason for the perseverance and popularity of the legend and its most significant contribution to the society of today and tomorrow is the idea that “the balance must be righted; a balance must be restored”.

The movie itself is a rich source of political lessons. In this film Robin was a longbow man in the army of Richard the Lionhearted, a king who lived up to his name, and to whom Robin was therefore loyal. Yet, in an opening scene Richard has Robin placed in stocks for giving an honest answer in a face to face encounter. Robin is critical of Richard’s decision to behead Muslim civilians following a battle. He says that in the eyes of a young Muslim woman about to fall under his sword, he saw pity, because she knew “that in that moment God had abandoned us”. Thus Robin’s code involves the ethical use of violence and echoes the Christian doctrine of Just war. The innovation here is that the doctrine originally distinguished between Just wars and Holy wars, and in the latter, anything went. In the movie, Robin inserts the one into the other: even within a Holy war (Richard was returning from the Crusades), Just war criteria hold, and not anything goes.

This is a lesson that the movie teaches in these, post 9/11 times. The dominant ideology in Sri Lanka holds that in ‘the war on terror’ anything is permitted. Indeed there is no other way to fight terrorism. The war on terrorism is seen as a synthesis of Just War and Holy war, in which The Other is demonised and one’s own cause is not merely Just but sacred. The question then arises why this was not in ideological evidence during the two civil wars in the South, against the JVP even in its Pol Potist reincarnation. The answer obviously is that the war on terror was not simply a war on terror because the terrorist were not simply terrorists; they were separatists-and furthermore, the state they strove to secede from is not understood as a rational, secular, man-made formation but as a sacred space.

Robin’s stint in stocks is also intended to make the point that speaking truth to power is not palatable to most wielders of power, even the most courageous, and that punitive steps may follow, even if one has been a skilled warrior in the cause of the state. It also shows that there is an ineffaceable gap between the free individual spirit with its conscience, its notions of right and wrong and of justice, and the perceived interests and doctrines of the wielders of power, however brave and great in stature.

The political message gets richer and more complex as the movie goes on. Richard the Lion heart is succeeded by his venal brother John, whose gets rid of the more realistic and mature advisors to his brother and mother, and picks in their place his half-brother, a bloodthirsty enforcer who not only blazes a trail of terror against the autonomous baronies but attempts to hunt down and kill Robin who has stumbled on his plot to take the throne with the help of the king of France.

Robin is faced with a hard choice as the French fleet draws near. Forget his last experience with King Richard, a great figure, and fight for his country under the banner of the vicious, untrustworthy King John, or stand aside and watch his country invaded and probably conquered due to internal divisions generated by the drive against the barons, who have responded by raising an army against the King. If there is civil war, external conquest will succeed, but is it either desirable or possible to unite the nation under a king who is a far from virtuous despot.

Robin does not let his now-deadly conflict with the King’s high officials and by extension the King, supersede his duty to England, but his patriotism is romantic, reformist, populist and democratic. It does not dictate blindly unconditional support for the King and the political status quo. The movie presents Robin’s martyred father as an author of the Magna Carta or an early version. Picking up where his father left off, Robin pushes the envelope insisting that the King pledges himself to reforms guaranteeing a broad-based consensual monarchy, more accountability and greater freedom. In a demagogic flourish the King agrees and Robin rallies the barons, combining the Royal forces, the baronial armies and his own ‘merry men’ in a battle to rout the French invader and local collaborator and ally.

The enemy defeated and the traitor slain in a battle beneath the cliffs of Dover of the like that only Ridley Scott directs in today’s cinema (though inferior by far to the opening battle scenes in ‘Conan’ and ‘Gladiator’). Robin is held to have played the decisive role. Indeed the King is told that he owes the preservation of his realm from external threat, to the maverick archer.

Not many days after the decisive battle, the King publicly goes back on the reforms he agreed to implement (he probably considered them conditions agreed to in the face of external threat which had since been overcome). He also declares Robin of Locksley alias Robin of the Hood, the man who played a decisive role in uniting a broad bloc of diverse forces to defend the country and the realm from foreign intervention and ‘regime change’, and is no threat to his throne - indeed has no interest in it — an outlaw and places a price on his head.

Robin, his patriotic duty done despite his awareness of the domestic character of the regime, the seeds of the idea of a democratic Charter planted in the popular consciousness despite its disowning by the King, returns to Sherwood forest, a space inhabited by a counter-coalition of a ruined if democratically minded barony, freethinking Anglo-Saxon yeomanry like Robin and his veterans from the Crusades, a dissident Catholic friar and the orphaned and dispossessed juvenile delinquents who are the rural detritus of the debilitating foreign and internal wars.

Robin and his men defend this space with their bows, arrows and swords, and their legend lingers through time, as a paradigm of guerrillas with an antagonistic yet ambiguous relationship with the various levels (sub-structures) of the power structure and power wielders, sometimes at arm’s length and at other times at an arrow’s range, but always motivated by the need for individual freedom, social solidarity, a more democratic order, and above all, justice.

Stephen Sackur checkmated Defence Secretary on several occasions during “Hard Talk” BBC interview

By S.V.Kirubaharan, France

The recent BBC series of hard talk programmes on Sri Lanka presented by Stephen Sackur was well-received globally. This telecasting has shown the good, bad and ugly sides of Sri Lanka

The true stories about the return of the internally displaced people – IDPs, the present feelings of the Tamils, the reporting on demining, views expressed by the Defence Secretary, including about detained General Sarath Fonseka, the pathetic situation of the free media and the interview with Sunday Leader editor Frederica Jansz; the rehabilitation of former Child soldiers, the work of the English Teacher Bernadine Anderson and all the rest are very interesting and informative documentary.


Generally, interviews on television and radio and in newspapers not only give the point of view expressed by the individual but also cover several other aspects – such as evaluation and revelation of the truth behind lies which attempt to hide weaknesses and worse. TV interviews are an effective means of seeking opinion using body language and psychology.

During the total of almost one and half hours broadcasting time, it is interesting to watch the interview with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who has a difficult task, and being a member of the Rajapaksa family, has the additional task of defending his own family.

Anyone who watched this interview can’t deny the fact that Stephen Sackur checkmated the Defence Secretary on several occasions. There were many instances when the Defence Secretary was desperate to express particularly strong feelings : “I don’t know why people are harping on these things?; very unfair; bogus report; these are LTTE propaganda; propaganda by the people against the government; don’t go by these people who are writing against; political game; allegation purely for their personal gain” and so on.

At one stage the Defence Secretary made the mistake of challenging Stephen Sackur to show him where newspapers had written against the President of USA and the Prime Minister of UK. But the ultimate reply by Stephen Sackur was that “when I criticise the government of Britain, I do not end-up with a bullet in the head!”.

Interestingly, when Stephen Sackur put forward certain questions, the Defence Secretary was very emotional and angry – leading anyone who knows body language and the rudiments of psychology to understand what the answers deep within, might be. For instance, the questions on the subjects of: the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga; the fact that seventy five percent of the budget is controlled by the Rajapaksa family; War crimes and questions about the detained Sarath Fonseka. All these are good examples. Those who know about body language might like to have another look at this programme.

When Stephen Sackur asked about the power enjoyed by Rajapaksa’s family, the Defence Secretary replied: “…… if the people gives that – President was elected by the people, Basil Rajapaksa was elected by the people with a highest majority in this country with the highest preferential vote, Namal Rajapaksa was elected by the people with the highest percentage of preferential vote, Chamal Rajapaksa was elected by the people, so what, if the people want, so it be!”

Then on another occasion, the Defence Secretary said: “People of this country over and over again they are electing the President and electing this government, why? They think that they are doing the right thing.”

Carefully considering these answers, I have a question not only to the Defence Secretary but to anyone who agrees with his reply.

“So what…, if the people want?”

In the 1977 general elections in Sri Lanka, the people in the North and East overwhelmingly voted in exercise of, and gave specific expression to, their “Right to self-determination”. They consecutively voted in every general election for their political rights. This is the wish of the people in the North and the East. But what progress has been made to fulfil this wish of the people in the North and East? Can’t the Defence Secretary agree that he and his government are being undemocratic? In the last general election the people of the North and East voted, or in his terms “wanted”, the merger of the North and East. What are your answers to these valid questions?

Now let me come to another point about ‘hanging Sarath Fonseka’ and the accusation about War Crimes. The Defence Secretary said that “…..we will hang him, if he do that”. Eventually he told Stephen Sackur “don’t talk about him (Fonseka)…….”.

If Sri Lanka is truly a democratic country, where does the Defence Secretary obtain this special power to make such statements in public?

My next point is that being the Defence Secretary of Sri Lanka and being an American citizen, he is not only threatening a person who is in detention that he will be hanged, he also openly admits that he has sued the “Sunday Leader” for a billion of rupees with the motivation of closing down this news paper! This shows a flagrant abuse of power, which surely is an eye opener to the world!

I am neither a supporter nor a fan of General Sarath Fonseka. But when it comes to the media, there is a huge difference between the ways in which he and the Defence Secretary come across. Fonseka may have committed all the sins under the Sun, but he appears in front of the journalists and public, as a softly spoken saint, whereas the Defence Secretary confirms doubts and creates further new doubts.

If the Defence Secretary can say the aforementioned threats in a TV interview, one can imagine how much worse the things must be, that are said, and that happen, behind closed doors and in meetings among officials, trusted friends and relatives – including giving orders to the security forces.

Even talking about the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga is considered by the Defence Secretary to be propaganda! There is no logic in such view. The Editor of the Sunday Leader, Frederica Jansz presents a clear picture of what has happened to their newspaper, both before and after the assassination of Lasantha. Importantly, she also refers to courageous journalism.

It was good to see the programme about the rehabilitation of former child soldiers. The English Teacher Bernadine Anderson gives an informative picture about their training and lessons. Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe who is in charge of the rehabilitation is rather bizarre though! When Stephen Sackur commented to him that “these (are) children who never spoke a world of Singhalese are now singing the National Anthem in only Singhalese”. Immediately the Brigadier’s reply was that “we have never heard in any country which has National Anthem sung in different languages!”

Brigadier you are utterly mistaken! In Switzerland, as there are four official languages, the original National anthem in German was translated into three other languages – French, Italian and Romansh. Also consider South African National Anthem which is sung in the five most widely spoken of the country’s eleven official languages – Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotha, Africans and English – “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika” (God/Lord bless Africa)

Anyway, I still remember in the 60s, the government demanded that the people in the North and East sing the National Anthem in Tamil – “Namo Namo Namo Namo Thaaye, Nam Sri Lanka……”. If I remember correctly, the translation was done by Pandithar (Poet) M. Nallathamby. If so, why are these Tamil rehabilitees forced to sing the National anthem in a language which they don’t know and is not familiar to them? On the other hand, the government claims internationally that Tamil is an official language in Sri Lanka!

In the last (14th) session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Sri Lankan Ambassador Mrs. Kshenuka Senewiratne spoke in the Council on 14th June 2010. The official UN press report of that session stated : “Sri Lanka shared the deep concern expressed about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. Sri Lanka firmly believed that only meaningful negotiations would achieve the two-state settlement that was envisaged by all, putting an end to the Israeli occupation and culminating in the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian State for the realization of Palestinian people’s inalienable rights.

Therefore, it was an urgent need to put an end to all unlawful settlement activities, including the continued campaign of colonization that fragmented the Palestinian territories. That had also led to the displacement of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, destroying the economic, social and cultural fabric of that society. Israel should heed the call of the international community to lift the blockade, open the crossings, and end the regime afflicting the entire population of the Gaza Strip. Those actions had jeopardized all efforts to initiate a meaningful dialogue for peace. Sri Lanka called upon all parties to intensify their efforts in forging an early solution based on the two-state settlement envisaged by all, to establish a sovereign and independent Palestinian State” (UN Press release)

http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10149&LangID=E

I am sure the Sri Lankan representatives must be aware that, as far as the government of Israel is concerned, the present Palestinian issue is a “terrorist” problem, much in the way that Sri Lanka labels the Tamil issue as a “terrorist” problem. In such a scenario, Sri Lanka is not practising itself, what it preaches to Israel.

Let us be honest to ourselves about the recently appointed local Commission, “Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission”. Will this commission deliver justice to the Tamils? I have met and participated in a few discussions in the UN forums in Geneva with some of the appointed members to this Commission. For a long time these members have been justifying the atrocities committed against the Tamils and lobbying internationally on behalf of the government. In such circumstances, how can one expect justice from this Commission? In fact, this is yet another international eyewash.

The Sri Lanka government representatives including the Defence Secretary come out with the pretext that the thirty years of war cannot be rectified within months or years. Well and good. But the government has readymade funds, manpower and time, to carry out rapid colonisation, planting of Buddha statues and opening Buddhist temples and promoting Sinhalese business enterprises in the North and East. Are these are the outcomes of the military victory?

It has become a motto or a slogan for every government representative to murmur that there are more Tamils living in Colombo than any other community. This is a racist remark by the same people who want the Tamils to consider themselves as Sri Lankans.

To see this in a real comparison, take the United Kingdom as an example. The British never say that there are more Scottish, (or Irish and Welsh for the matter) people living in London, even though Scotland was granted a separate parliament and devolution of powers and the last Prime Minister of UK was a Scot.

I take this opportunity to mention that, many are well aware that, a so called “expert on terrorism” has taken a new role, replacing Norway – “walls have ears”!

My last comment is that when I was about to write this article, some of my friends told me that “I may be digging my own grave”. As far as truth and justice are concerned, I won’t hesitate to bring anything to the eyes of the world. Everyone who comes into this world has to die one day. William Shakespeare, once said, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once”.

June 25, 2010

Video & mp3: Tradition vs modernity dilemma in Tamil literature

by B.Kolappan

When music director A.R. Rahman wanted a preamble for the song Theendaay Meitheendaay in the film Yen Suvasakaatrey, lyricist Vairamuthu did not think twice about the choice. Thus, “Kanrum Unnaadhu Kalaththinum Padaadhu” a Sangam age poem from Velliveethiyar's “Kurunthogai” anthology embraced the digital age of music.

It is perfect fusion. If my lines in modern verse express the feelings of an aroused woman, the poem penned by Velliveethiyar captures the intensity with beautiful imageries,” says Vairamuthu.

The interplay between tradition and modernity has always been a driving force behind great literary works. Tamils who take great pride in their tradition have also embraced modernity as a vehicle for exposition. After all it is youth icon A.R. Rahman who composed the music for the theme song for the World Classical Tamil Conference.

As a poet who has studied the Tamil classics and experimented with literary forms, Mr. Vairamuthu argues that though Tamil has lost many of its words like other languages, its roots are strong, enabling it to bloom a thousand flowers.

“That is why a poem of a second century effortlessly fits into the tune of A.R. Rahman in 21st century. It is here that I see myself as a continuity of the tradition,” he says adding that “brevity is the character that brings modern verse close to Sangam poetry."

Being rooted in tradition allowed him to go for selective lines from Sangam poetry. For instance, in a song composed by Rahman for the film Iruvar, he borrows imageries from the poetry of that period - “Narumugayey” and “Chempulam cherntha” from Kurunthogai and “Attraithingal” from Purananuru.

mp3 ~ Bharthiyar's line “theekul viralai vaithaal” ~ from movie Eazhavathu Manithan

This borrowing has been happening consciously or subconsciously. Bharthiyar's line “theekul viralai vaithaal” probably has its origin in Nammalwar's hymn “ariyum sentheeai thazhuvi atchuthan yennum.” Similarly, Kannadasan's song “aatuvithal yaroruvar”, will remind a reader the lines from Thirunavukarasar's Thevaram. Before him, Vallalar also has used the same lines.

Writer Jayamohan says like the branches of a tree, which continue to draw succour from the tree, all the great literary works thrive on the elements and forms of tradition. “If western literature has roots in Greek and Latin classics, in Tamil our roots run deep in the classic and folk tradition. It also manifests itself in the values and human relations of the subject matter of our literary works,” he says.

While attaching great importance to tradition, D. Ravikumar, noted Tamil writer and member of the Assembly, argues that it should manifest in the subconscious state after the process of assimilation.

According to him, great literary works could be brought within the conventional rules (Thinaikkotpadu) of conduct, place, region, situation and site laid down by Tholkappiyum.

“All the literary works that were born out of experiences have in them the elements of tradition. The experience can be personal or collective. The traces will be missing only in literary works attempting experimentation at the level of the language. Even if you want to reject the tradition, you have to first learn it,” he stresses.

Tradition is strength, agrees A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies. Editor of the complete works of Tamil short story writer.

Pudumaipithan, he recalls the short story Kadavulum Kandasamy Pillaiyium to explain the concept of “deep traditional lore viewed from a critical modern perspective.”

“You cannot fully enjoy the story if you are not familiar with Saiva Siddantha. On the other hand a person who has no idea of modern literary concepts might not fully appreciate the satire on God,” he said.

After all it was his deep knowledge of Tamil literature that gave Kannadasan's film songs a classical touch. All the higher concepts of life, death and religion manifested in his lyrics, which became accessible to the layman.

“Besides Kamban and Bharathi whose works occupied the mainstream literary debates, Kannadasan's deep knowledge of Pattinathar, who sang about the human life and its complex dimensions, made his lyrics more appealing to the common man. A man on the street can pick a song, depending on the situation he is in and fully identify himself with it,” says Mr. Venkatachalapathy.

Is rejecting tradition possible? “Can one reject gravitational pull?,” asks Mr. Venkatchapathy. “Of course a rocket does. But it will fall somewhere,” he said.

Muthuswamy Master: Illustrious Tamil Music Composer of Sinhala Cinema

22nd Death Anniversary ~ June 27th 1988

By Firoze Sameer

Ramaya Asari Muthusamy was born on January 5, 1926 in the village of Nagerkovil bordering Kerala in South India. He was the only son of the versatile South Indian musician called Ramaya Baagawadher.

The father’s attempt at making his son practice music on a baby violin resulted in young Muthuswamy enjoying the rare privilege of mastering the violin at the tender age of ten. Muthuswamy thereafter proceeded to participate in several variety entertainment recitals in Madres.

MSTC625.jpg

Muthuswamy Master

On January 21 1947, the first Sinhala motion picture in Ceylon Kadawuna Poronduwa (Broken Promise) was screened. R Narayana lyer, the music director of the movie, gave the opportunity for Muthuswamy to join his orchestra, when recordings were being made in India.

Narayana lyer was quick to recognize Muthuswamy’s talents as a violinist and appointed him as his assistant. It was at one of these recordings in India that SM Nayagam, the South Indian producer of Kadawunu Poronduwa, met Muthuswamy. Nayagam encouraged Muthuswamy to visit Ceylon, where, subsequently, his career as a music director was firmly established.

On October 20, 1952, Mutuswamy Master joined the State-owned Radio Ceylon Tamil orchestra as a violinist with a group of others. They included co-violinist G Shanmugananthan, the gadam and thambura player KK Atchuthan, Mirudhangam players T Ratnam and K Ganapathipillai, veena player Colendavelu and E Suppiahpillai on clarinet, all playing under the leadership of the South Indian music conductor, DS Manibaagawadher.

Sometime in 1953 Muthuswamy Master resigned from Radio Ceylon, accepting an invitation extended by film producer Nayagam, who had built the Sundara Murugan Navakala Sound Studios in Kandana (presently SPM Studio) in Ceylon, to be in charge of the music section at the studio.

During this period, business tycoon cum film producer, K Gunaratnam, who considered Muthuswamy Master as a top Carnatic violinist, sought his services in music direction for the movies he produced. Incidentally, Gunaratnam, while travelling in his car was shot dead on August 9, 1989 by unidentified motorcyclists at Armour Street in Colombo, during the height of the JVP crisis.

It was in 1953 that Muthuswamy made his debut as film music director in providing music for the Sinhala movie Prema Tharangaya.

He received the award of a certificate, for the Best Music director for this achievement, from the South Indian Journalists’ Association at age 27.

Then followed Pudhuma Laylee (1953), Ahankaara Sthree, Maathalang, Hitha Honda Minihek (1975) in a series of movies, leading to the road of fame and success.

Muthuswamy who composed the background music for the hit number Pruthugeesukaraya, which was recorded in India, in Lester James Peries’s (later Dr) celebrated Sinhala movie Sandeshaya. Muthuswamy gave a break to budding vocalist HR Jothipala to sing this song and thereafter rocket to fame, at a time when the great Dharmadasa Walpola held sway in the local music field.

The melodies by Sunil Shantha and the background music for the movie were greatly enriched by Muthuswamy Master on par with the high South Indian standards of that time. LP record sales at Cargills topped over Rs 100,000; a comparatively tidy sum in that era.

Sometime in 1966, Muthuswamy Master played on the first electric Hammond organ imported to Ceylon, at the opening ceremony of the Sinhala movie, Okkoma Hari, produced by Wijayapala Hettiarachchi. In 1974, Muthuswamy Master received the Deepasikha award for being selected as the musician who composed music for the most number of movies.

The OCIC recognized and honoured him for his valuable contributions to Sinhala movie music. On January 3, 1987 he was awarded the Layagnanavarudhee by Regional Development Minister C Rajadurai, while his son, Mohanraj, received the Mellisai Mannan award.

While several South Indian singers sang under Muthuswamy Master’s baton, local artistes who were backed by Muthuswamy Master included the famed Dharmadasa and Lata Walpola (later Kalasuri), HR Jothipala, Mohideen Baig (later Kalasuri), GSB Rani, Sujatha Perera (now Attanayake), Milton Perera, Narada Dissasekera, Angeline Gunatilleka and others. Notabnle were WD Amaradeva (violin), Premasiri Khemadasa (flute) (later Dr), Sarath Dassanayake (sitar), Victor Ratnayake (violin) and Dharmadasa Walpola (flute) all reading their respective instruments under Muthuswamy Master’s direction.

He was instrumental in Nanda Malini’s entree to music in Daruwa Kageda in 1960.

In recognition of his contribution to Sinhala music, a directive was made by Prime Minister Sir John Kotelawala, consequent upon which Muthuswamy Master was awarded an honourary Ceylon citizenship on April 12, 1956: a historic day on which Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike’s first Cabinet in the 3rd Parliament of Ceylon was sworn in.

Sometime in 1958, Muthuswamy Master re-joined Radio Ceylon as a violinist. With the departure of the Tamil Orchestra Leader Manibaagawadher, who held a Temporary Residency Permit (TRP) to South India, Muthuswamy Master rose to that exalted position in the following year.

On December 9, 1961 Muthuswamy Master played Oya Belma Oya Kelma Nilupul Nethai, the song in the Sinhala movie Kurulubedde, at the ceremonial opening of the Vijaya Sound Studio in Hendala.

It was penned by lyricist and broadcaster Karunaratne Abeysekera.

Apart from being a Carnatic music teacher, Muthuswamy Master was also a singer.
His rendition of Madhura Yaame with Sujatha Perera (later Attanayake) in the movie Sithaka Mahima was popular among the public then.

The movie 'Sithaka Mahima' was screened in 1964 and the actors were Ashoka Ponnamperuma and Rita Ratnayake in the scene of the song. Original song by Sujatha Attanayake and R. Muttusamy. Uresha Ravihari and Mohan Raj (Muttusamy's son) sing here.

Decades later, his son Mohanraj’s identical rendition of the same number with popular female vocalist Nirosha Virajini brought about a great degree of popularity to Mohanraj among the Sinhala speaking audience.

During this era, several musicians used to be employed by Radio Ceylon/CBC/SLBC on casual basis. Notable was the popular violinist MK Rocksamy, a one time Saxophonist, who, unlike Muthuswamy Master, was not a Carnatic musician, but later on conducted the music direction for some 20 Sinhala movies.

The other was Gadam Vidhvaan Kandraseri Krishnan Atchuthan (Kalasuri in 1992), the Malayale from the village of Guruvaayur in Kerala, South India, who received an honourary Ceylon citizenship from Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike, on November 5, 1958. Morsing and Gadam recitals were innovations of Muthuswamy Master in Sinhala movies.

Muthuswamy Master continued to serve as the Leader of the Tamil Orchestra through Radio Ceylon’s conversion into the CBC/SLBC, upto the time of his retirement at age 55 on January 5, 1981 completing a total of some 24 years in that state institution. On October 7, 1961 Muthuswamy Master married BDE Neeliya Perera, sister to the erstwhile shenai player, violinist and member of the Ceylon Navy band, now turned vocalist, Victor, who hails from a known Sinhala family in Kandy.

On September 27, 1962 Muthuswamy Master and Neeliya were blessed with a son, and they named him Mohanraj, now the leader of the popular Apsaras Music Group. Thereafter three girls followed in a row: Chithrangi, Prasannavadhani and Keerthica.

In early 1988, Musthuswamy Master was approached by Sinhala movie star cum producer, Vijaya Kumaratunga, to music direct his movie, Samaawa, directed by Shirley P. Wijerathe.

It was the first time father, Muthuswamy Master and son, Mohanraj, were combinedly involved in a project of music direction for a Sinhala movie at the Ceylon Studios in Narahenpita, Colombo.
On February 15,1988 Vijaya spoke to the Master over the telephone pertaining to arrangements to be made to voice the last song by the famous Lata Walpola on the 17th. However, come February 16, on the verandah of his residence, Vijaya was assassinated.

On a Monday evening, June 27, 1988 Muthuswamy Master passed away peacefully at the age of 62. State television Rupavahini’s evening news telecast carried his obit on June 29, 1988.

At the time of his death, Muthuswamy Master had composed music for nearly 225 Tamil and Sinhala movies.

(Abridged from a manuscript, The Apsaras Music Group - The first Thirty Years: 1975-2004 by Firoze Sameer)

Who are the diaspora Tamils who met G.L. Peiris and Gotabhaya Rajapakse along with a man called "KP"?

By Veerasingham Anandasanagaree

It is real mockery for the Government to seek or accept the offer of assistance of Tamil intellectuals and ex-militant sympathizers for post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. Who is this K.P alias Pathmanathan?. Who are the diaspora Tamils who met G.L. Peiris aand Gotabhaya Rajapakse along with a man called "KP"?

What are his credentials? Who are these so called intellectuals who came from abroad on a delegation to meet top officials of the Government and offered to assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in the country. The news that this team of so called intellectuals headed by the notorious terrorist Mr. KP of international fame had met the Defense Secretary and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, come to me not merely as a surprise but also as a great shock to almost all Sri Lankans.

Mr. KP is the person who claimed to be the head of the LTTE succeeding Mr. V.Prabaharan on his demise, never surrendered to the authorities on his own. If he was not arrested tactfully today he would have been a threat to everybody who faced threat from Mr. Prabaharan in the past. In-fact even now there is no guarantee that he won’t be a potential threat to the country and its people.

Who are these unidentified intellectuals who have come on a delegation to meet top Government Officials and offer assistance to the Government for rehabilitation and reconstruction. An intellectual is a person who has the power of reasoning and acquiring knowledge. But what did these intellectuals do? Did they have any power to reason out things.

It is ridiculous for K.P or any one in his team to tell us that there should not be room for petty differences and that all must work towards stabilizing the hard earned peace. We Sri Lankans wish to know the identities of these so called intellectuals and also want to know from them as to what credibility they have to give an undertaking that several tiger activists, living abroad, have now begun to understand the ground realities. It is a pity that they did not understand the ground realities all these days. Let no one take us for a ride once again.

I have every right to protest to the Government not to have anything to do with anyone of them. The whole world will laugh at us if we entertain them and it will amount to betrayal of our people, not one or two but the entire country. Every one of our people in this country had been a victim in one way or the other. We lost over two hundred thousand lives, that include several thousand innocent civilians, thousands of service personnel, and the LTTE combatants, most of whom were conscripted. More than one hundred and fifty thousand had been widowed and several thousand had been orphaned or had become destitute persons. In the East alone there are 42,000 widows.

How many had lost their eyesight and limbs. There are many without both their legs, without both hands, some move about on one leg and many crawl about. All these innocent ones are destined to suffer for the rest of their lives. How many thousand students had been deprived of their education. Surely these intellectuals should know to what extent the parents would have suffered when their school going children were conscripted and brought back home dead. One should have become a victim under one of these categories or must have lost a dear one to feel the pain. How many families have lost all the members of the family, parts in some others.

How many billions and billions worth of property both public and private had been destroyed. Hardly one person has his house in tact in Kilinochchi and Mullaithevu, Vavuniya and Manner and to some extent Jaffna also suffered a lot. The East still have people who live in tents even after two years of their displacement. The Government should send them to the interior villages of Mullaithevu and Kilinochchi to see for themselves, how devastated Vanni is and the destruction caused. The people of Mullaithevu, Kilinochchi and parts of Vavuniya and Mannar have nothing left in their homes including roofs, windows and doors of their houses.

I honestly feel that I am betrayed and the others who had suffered for quarter of a century will feel more. The Government should have asked the respective Governments from where they came for their extradition. So far not a single country has lifted its ban on the LTTE. India and U.S has renewed their ban on the LTTE. The act of entertaining these people who are equally responsible for all the losses the country and the people have suffered will amount to tacit lifting of the ban on the LTTE. The supporters of the LTTE now ask if these hard core elements are being entertained by the Forces, why should the Government keep ten thousand of our children, most of whom are innocent, in rehabilitation camps and in jails.

These are the type of people who, from behind the scene, directing operations and caused the loss of thousands of innocent lives and destruction of several billions worth of public and private property and hundreds of thousand houses of innocent people. As a first priority the Government should use this money to give full compensation for the houses destroyed totally or damaged. As the second priority compensation should be given for the other losses, loss of lives in particular.

The Government must now without further delay start assessing the loss everyone had suffered due to the foolish act of these people. Those who died in Bomb-blasts, suicide attacks and land-mines spread all over the country, should be fully compensated. All the Muslims who were sent out of the North by the LTTE left behind everything and were allowed to take only Rs. 500 each. All these families had been living in poverty all these days.

Assistance of all Governments should be sought to cease all funds, these people have all over the world. There are views of the people who quite innocently and blindly supported the LTTE, little knowing that these people were not genuinely fighting for a cause but only for personal gains. I am one who for several years did not sleep peacefully, did not have the freedom to walk on the streets or to express my views which had been blacked out, although it is the same with many like me.

This is an emotional outburst of one who had been victimized, in several ways including the right to live in Kilinochchi. I am reflecting the views of hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of Sri Lanka, the people of the North and the East in particular. If anyone feel that I am wrong, I apologize to them. Those who agree with me can give me their support to take my mission forward.

Thanking You.

Yours Sincerely,

V. Anandasangaree
President
Tamil United Liberation Front

June 24, 2010

Russia reprimands Ban-Ki-moon for setting up panel on Sri Lanka

Russia has expressed caution about the UN Panel set to investigate Sri Lanka’s war. In a press release, their Foriegn Ministry said “The UN Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the United Nations should apparently have asked the opinion of the Security Council or the General Assembly on this matter. But this has not happened.

What also makes us cautious is the fact that this decision was taken without regard to the position of a sovereign state and a member of the UN – Sri Lanka.”

Russia has veto power on the UN Security Council and has used it in the past to prevent discussion of the war in Sri Lanka while it was going on. The current Foreign Minister of Russia is Sergey Lavrov. He began his career in Sri Lanka and has a command of the Sinhalese language.

The full text of the press release is included below:

Moscow has taken note of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to appoint a UN panel of experts to investigate war crimes during the period of the campaign against the Tamil Tigers. As follows from UN sources, this panel is not a fact finding or investigation mechanism, but is designed solely to advise him on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

In doing so, the UN Secretary-General as chief administrative officer of the United Nations should apparently have asked the opinion of the Security Council or the General Assembly on this matter. But this has not happened. What also makes us cautious is the fact that this decision was taken without regard to the position of a sovereign state and a member of the UN – Sri Lanka. As is known, they in Sri Lanka have already begun their own investigation process at national level (the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation with a mandate to review all aspects of the conflict). As follows from the statement made on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka by the External Affairs Ministry of that country, and the statement of its Minister of Information, Sri Lanka “regards the appointment of the Sri Lanka Panel of Experts as unwarranted and unnecessary and contrary to the position of a UN member state.” Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, who visited Sri Lanka a few days ago, as we understand, was aware of this position of Colombo.

We believe that the primary responsibility for investigating the events that occurred in the past in Sri Lanka lies with its Government and that the newly appointed UN panel of experts, which, as follows from UN Secretariat statements, does not intend to visit Sri Lanka, will not take any steps that would complicate the investigation being conducted by the authorities of Colombo.

Audio & Transcript: Radio Australia Interview with Marzuki Darusman, UN Panel Chief on Sri Lanka

'Members views on this ("war crimes tribunal") will have bearing on the content of the report' - Marzuki Darusman

The United Nations has announced a three member panel to look into alleged human rights abuses during Sri Lanka's civil war by both the military and the Tamil Tiger rebels. After a three decade civil war, the Tamil Tigers were defeated by government forces in May last year. The UN panel aims to investigate allegations that thousands of civilians were killed in the final months of the conflict and rebels troops trying to surrender were executed. But the move has angered Colombo which says the panel members will not be allowed into the country:

Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speakers: Marzuki Darusman, Indonesia's former Attorney General and chairman UN panel investigating war crimes accusations in Sri Lanka

Listen: Windows Media

DARUSMAN: This is an advisory panel to the United Nations Secretary General to advise him on proposals to address the situation in Sri Lanka in terms of alleged human rights violations and the latter part of the conflict.

COCHRANE: A UN spokesman said that the panel would have a mostly consultative role, with the primary responsibility resting with the Sri Lankan Government. So is the panel assisting the Sri Lankan Government's investigation or is it independent of that?

DARUSMAN; It's attached to the secretary-general's office and any relations or connections with the Sri Lankan Government will have to be done through the secretary-general's office.

COCHRANE: So you're saying it's independent of the Sri Lankan government's investigation?

DARUSMAN: It is and perhaps I might add that we are also there not representing any government. We are there in our personal individual capacity.

COCHRANE: Previously, the Sri Lankan authorities have indicated that they are not interested in cooperating with the panel's investigation. How do you think this will affect your work?

DARUSMAN: There again I might not be able to comment as much as I would want to, but we will have to know exactly what the status is after we meet with the secretary-general and therefore it might not be for us to comment on that at the moment.

COCHRANE: Now you've had experience yourself in conducting human rights investigations in Sri Lanka and have previously encountered political interference, which ended those investigations. How challenging do you think this investigation will be?

DARUSMAN: The thrust of the work of the panel I suppose would be to collect and address issues that were brought to its attention. Whether or not this is sourced within the country or outside the country, but it will be unfortunate of course if the panel is not in a position to verify or cross check with the government of Sri Lanka as to the status of matters brought to its attention. We recognise given facts, which is the fact that the panel has been established and that there are strong views or clear views on the part of the Sri Lankan Government on the setting up of the panel.

COCHRANE: Will the panel be investigating the actions of the Tamil Tigers also or just of the government forces?

DARUSMAN: As we understand from the secretary-general's visit to Sri Lanka and the statement that came out from the spokesperson attributable to the secretary-general, it will cover a broad range of issues, covering the period between the time when the alleged human rights violations took place and the closure of the conflict. This would then cover acts that were committed in the course of that conflict.

COCHRANE: I know it's at an early stage at this point, but are you confident that you'll get visas to go to Sri Lanka and conduct an on the ground assessment?

DARUSMAN: That remains to be seen. We certainly hope that the panel is allowed the widest scope in the discharge of its function. But then again, I must emphasise that we will not in any way take up the issue of whether or not we might be able to go to Sri Lanka, that is for the secretary-general to decide.

COCHRANE: When will the panel's investigation start and how long is it expected to take?

DARUSMAN: As I understand it at the moment, the panel is expected to submit its report within four months and therefore we would have to start almost immediately. We're still waiting for further advice from the UN Secretary-General or the secretary-general's office and then draw up a work plan which would cover the whole period of the mandate of the panel. So we will have to address this first before making any statements on the workings of the panel.

COCHRANE: And if the panel does find evidence of serious violations, will you be recommending to the secretary-general that a war crimes tribunal be set up?

DARUSMAN: That remains to be seen. I don't want to jump ahead on these issues, but certainly the panel will be influenced by the individual background of its members, therefore the members views on this will have bearing on the content of the report and this would in a way indicate that perhaps the content of the report would also cover best practices in addressing issues of such nature throughout the world.

Sri Lanka says UN panel 'will not be allowed' to enter

from the BBC:

The Sri Lankan foreign minister has said that a UN panel on human rights will not be allowed into the country.

GL Peiris said that there was "no need" for the panel to come to the country and they would not be allowed in.

UNMTC624.jpg

Head of the three member UN panel - Marzuki Darusman

The UN secretary general announced earlier this week that the panel will look into alleged human rights abuses.

The UN has described the move to prevent the panel from entering the country as "most unfortunate".

"Everybody loses out if we cannot go to Sri Lanka, it will make it harder for the truth to be unearthed," former Indonesian attorney-general Marzuki Darusman - the head of the three-member panel - told the BBC.

Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the panel would advise on how to deal with alleged perpetrators of abuses.

About 7,000 civilians died in the last five months of the war, the UN says.

There have been several allegations that both the army - and Tamil Tigers rebels who they routed last year - committed crimes at the end of the war.

Prof Peiris said that the UN panel was unnecessary.

"The position of the Sri Lanka government is abundantly clear - we will not have them in this country," he said.

Correspondents say that the government wants to fend off international concern over its conduct in the latter stages of the war - which ended in May 2009 - by launching its own internal inquiry. But its exact terms of reference are not clear.

International human rights groups are sceptical about the ability of the government to investigate claims impartially. They are demanding an independent investigation.

The UN says that its panel is designed to give advice and is not a full investigation.

Earlier this week Sri Lankan Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that the government was "concerned" that Ban Ki-moon, as an outsider, had appointed the panel of human rights advisers.

Mr Darusman was part of an international team appointed to observe proceedings on a previous Sri Lankan commission on atrocities - but he resigned saying that commission did not meet basic minimum standards. - courtesy: BBC -

Related:

UN to probe Sri Lanka civil war ~ AlJazeera

The 15 EU conditions: 'Erode authority of the Govt. of Sri Lanka' - Ministry of External Affairs

EUTC624.jpgHere are the 15 conditions spelt out by the European Commission for renewal of GSP+ and followed by response from the Ministry of External Affairs, Sri Lanka:

1. Reduction of the number of derogations to the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).

2. Take steps to ensure that the key objective of the 17th Amendment to Constitution, namely to provide for independent impartial appointments to key public positions, is fully safeguarded, including through Constitutional Council which adequately reflect the interest of all political, ethic and religious groups and minorities within Sri Lankan society.

3. Repeal the remaining part of the 2005 Emergency regulations, notably those Regulations concerning detention without trial, restrictions on freedom of movement, ouster of jurisdiction and immunity and repeal of the 2006 Emergency Regulations (Gazette No 1474/5/2006). If GoSL considers that it is essential to retain certain provisions which are compatible with the ICCPR or UNCAT, such as provisions concerning possession of weapons, such provisions should be transferred to the Criminal Code.

4. Repeal of those sections of the Prevention of Terrorism Act which are incompatible with the ICCPR (in particular sections 9,10, 11, 14, 15, 16 and 26) or amendment so as to make them clearly compatible with the ICCPR.

5. Repeal of the ouster clause in section 8 and the immunity clause in section 9 of the Public Security Ordinance or amendment so as to make them clearly compatible with the ICCPR.

6. Adoption of the planned amendments to the code of Criminal Procedure, which provide for the right of a suspect to see a lawyer immediately following arrest.

7. Legislative steps necessary to allow individuals to submit complaints to the UN Human Rights Commission under the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and to the UN Committee against Torture under Article 22.

8. Steps to implement outstanding opinions of the UN Human Rights Committee in individual cases.

9. Extension of an invitation to the following UN Special Procedures who have requested to visit Sri Lanka (UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, UN Special Rapporteur pn Torture, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers).

10. Responses to a significant number of individual cases currently pending before the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances.

11. Publication of the complete final report of the 2008 Commission of Enquiry.

12. Publication or making available to family members a list of the former LTTE combatants currently held in detention as well as all other persons detained under the Emergency Regulations. Decisive steps to bring to an end the detention of any persons held under the Emergency Regulations either by releasing them or by bringing them to trial.

13. Granting of access to all places of detention for monitoring purposes to an independent humanitarian organization, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

14. Adoption of the National Human Rights Action Plan by Parliament and its prompt implementation.

15. Take steps to ensure journalists can exercise their professional duties without harassment.

GLPHRCTC620.jpg

Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Sri Lankan Minister of External Affairs G.L. Peiris, at the Department of State. State Dept Image by Michael Gross- May 2010

Response from Ministry of External Affairs

STATEMENT CONCERNING THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION LETTER OF 17th JUNE TO THE MINISTER OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

The Government of Sri Lanka received a letter dated 17th June 2010 from the European Commission (EC) stating that the GSP+ preferences could be extended for a limited additional period, subject to a clear commitment by Sri Lanka to fulfill all of 15 conditions spelt out in a list attached to the Commission letter. The letter and its list were considered by the Cabinet of Ministers at their meeting on Wednesday, 23rd June. It is the view of the Government that the position taken up by the Commission, involves the imposition of a series of conditions, the cumulative effect of which is clearly inconsistent with Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

The Government wishes to emphasize that it has, for its part, always acted on this issue in the best interest of the country, as well as of the longstanding partnership between Sri Lanka and Europe. When in October 2008 the European Commission decided to launch its “investigation”, Sri Lanka was facing the unprecedented turbulence of a severe terrorist onslaught. Given this situation it was inopportune for Sri Lanka to participate in such a process. The Government also pointed out that, despite the severe constraints being then encountered, there were nevertheless several other ongoing processes of engagement both between Sri Lanka and the European institutions and with the UN system, which could be drawn upon to clear up any matters of doubt. Moreover, the propriety of the “investigation” due to its per se discriminatory nature, was difficult to perceive.

However, with the “investigation” coming to a conclusion and the EC asking for comments on its report of October 2009, the Government provided a comprehensive response. Thereafter, on 15th February 2010, the EC announced its decision to withdraw the GSP+ trade benefits from Sri Lanka, with the decision taking place six months later with effect from 15th August 2010. In the Press Release conveying this decision, the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission stated : “The EU remains open to a full dialogue with the Government of Sri Lanka, above all to encourage it to take the necessary steps towards an effective implementation of GSP+ relevant Human Rights Conventions”. The Press Release went on to add : “Once sufficient progress has been made, the Commission will propose to EU Member States that the decision taken today be reversed and GSP+ benefits restored”.

The Government of Sri Lanka immediately responded to the offer of dialogue by reaffirming that “Sri Lanka will therefore continue her engagement with the EU in the upcoming six months”. The Government also added that, for the engagement to be purposeful, “the setting of unattainable targets and the shifting of goal posts” should be avoided.

The Government followed up by on its pledge of engagement by sending delegations which included the Hon. Attorney-General, the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, the Secretary of the Justice Ministry and the Secretary of the External Affairs Ministry, for two rounds of talks in Brussels in March and in May this year. The Sri Lanka delegation pointed out that the end of the extraordinary situation of terror faced by Sri Lanka for almost three decades, has enabled the authorities to scale down and roll back the laws and regulations specifically enacted to deal with the contingencies of that period. In the discussion in May, the delegation illustrated the actions being taken by the Government towards this end by pointing out the very significant scaling down by Parliament on 6th May 2010 of the Emergency Regulations and of the establishment of the Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation.

The other such examples were the rapid and sustainable reintegration of the internally displaced back to their places of livelihood, the successful and conclusive end to the issue of child soldiers recruited by the LTTE and the counseling and vocational guidance given to former LTTE cadres who had surrendered, with releases already of approximately 3,600.

The delegation also responded comprehensively to a host of issues raised with regard to the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, the Evidence Ordinance, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Public Security Ordinance, the Judicature Act, the independence of the judiciary and of legal practitioners and the proposed National Human Rights Action Plan. The delegation called upon the European Union (EU) and its Member States to give appropriate consideration to the manifold challenges pertaining to the development process faced by Sri Lanka and invited the EU to extend its partnership, in keeping with the longstanding tradition of friendly ties.

The letter of 17th June from the European Commission states : “We positively acknowledge the steps which the Government of Sri Lanka has taken to address the concerns raised in the European Commission report of 19th October 2009”. Notwithstanding this acknowledgement the conditions attached to the letter dated 17th June and addressed to the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka jointly by the High Representative, Vice President of the European Commission and by the Member of the European Commission, are so unacceptably intrusive as to require the public to be appraised of their implications of acceptance of these conditions. Accordingly, the full list is annexed.

It would be observed that condition number two relates to the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. The wording is such as to leave no discretion for the Government or the people of Sri Lanka, to decide on this issue of vital national importance. In fact, one possible result of such a mechanism might be the perpetuation of the fragmentation that terrorism sought to inflict, through encouraging mindsets based on perceived ethnic, religious and political divergences, instead of the more positive approach of all perceiving themselves as equal members of a wider Sri Lanka family. In any event, the Commission’s demands with regard to the 17th Amendment clearly represent an unacceptable intervention in the internal affairs of this country.

The third condition would, inter alia, result in those LTTE cadres who are now undergoing counselling and vocational training, having to be abruptly released without the necessary logistical support. This inevitably would have the impact of eliminating the opportunity for them to acquire civilian skills, whilst creating a conducive climate for those wanting to rekindle the embers of separatist terror.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is referred to in item 4 of the list, was adopted on the basis of existent provisions already in force in several democratic nations, including those of Western Europe. It is observed that similar provisions adopted by certain developed nations, are far more stringent. Sri Lanka, too, might need to contemplate measures of a similar import, having regard to endeavours such as the formation of the so called “Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam”. Decisions relating to the need for vigilance in this regard are matters for the elected Government of Sri Lanka, and not for any external agency.

The request for repeal of Sections 8 and 9 of the Public Security Ordinance as per item 5, stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the intent of the two sections. The provision of immunity for acts commissioned in good faith stems from an universally accepted dictum of governance, namely that acts are presumed to have been correctly performed. There is in no way any scope for mala fide acts being shielded through these sections. We cannot endorse the Commission’s demand for attribution of liability to public officers, who are constrained to act in good faith to protect life and limb in extremely challenging situations.

The conditions listed as items 7 and 8 would require an Act of Parliament to override a considered decision of the Supreme Court, which has proceeded to pronounce that the domestic laws and mechanisms have more than adequately provided for the protection and safeguarding of fundamental rights in keeping with national law and treaty obligations. In our view, it is hardly for the Commission to demand the reversal of a decision by the highest Court of Sri Lanka.

The matters referred to in item 12 are now superfluous given that the LTTE cadres in protective custody have been permitted access to their family members and to legal services. The majority of them have or will be released upon the completion of the counselling and rehabilitation programme, while a much smaller group, having regard to the gravity of their involvement, would be subjected to criminal proceedings. This process is well underway. In any event, whether all persons held under Emergency Regulations should be immediately released or not, is a matter which should be decided upon by the Government of Sri Lanka, and not by an external agency.

Item 13 of the list, which refers to a role for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is under consideration. It has to be noted that the conditions under which the ICRC first began operations in Sri Lanka in 1989 have now ceased to exist, with the termination of the conflict situation in May 2009.

The reference in item 14 to the National Human Rights Action Plan is a matter upon which, as mentioned above, the EC has been fully briefed wherein the Government of Sri Lanka is keenly pursuing the initiative.

It must be appreciated that international law as well as the practice of multilaterism are based on the sovereign equality of nations, which principle Sri Lanka holds sacrosanct. It is therefore constitutionally imperative for the Government to leave no room for an usurpation of sovereignty. The possible expectation of the restoration of the GSP+, cannot be an exception to this cardinal principle. In taking this decision, the Government is conscious that there are some opposed, both to the economic recovery of Sri Lanka from the conflict as well as to the further strengthening of national amity. These extremist elements are bound to claim the decision to stop the GSP+ with effect from 15th August 2010, as an endorsement of their cause. The gist of the Government’s considered view is that the conditions imposed by the European Commission, under the guise of what is essentially a trade agreement, amount to an intervention, the range and depth of which inevitably erodes in every significant respects, the authority of the Government of Sri Lanka to decide upon, and to deal with, a variety of sensitive domestic issues which have a vital bearing on the wellbeing of our nation.

Sri Lanka appreciates the benefits that were received for a certain period while the GSP+ concession was in operation. At the same time, as His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka observed in his Address to the Nation on the 18th of June 2010, “We are not ready to accept aid under conditions that will betray the freedom of our land and people”. The Government is confident that the people of Sri Lanka who faced the challenge of terrorism, will also face and overcome equally successfully the challenges of ensuring economic progress and development. The Government will remain steadfast in prudently pursuing the path of restoring normalcy and of achieving rapid economic development, parallel to the progressive elimination of the threats of de-stabilization.


Ministry of External Affairs
Colombo

24 June 2010

June 23, 2010

UN panel an unwarranted unnecessary interference on sovereignty - Sri Lanka

Statement on the appointment of the Sri Lanka – Panel of Experts by the Secretary General of the United Nations

By Ministry of External Affairs, Colombo

The Government of Sri Lanka strongly opposes the appointment, by the Secretary General of the United Nations, of the Sri Lanka – Panel of Experts announced by his Spokesperson in New York on Tuesday, 22nd June 2010.

Sri Lanka was ravaged by the scourge of terrorism for over 30 years. The people of Sri Lanka have, during this period, suffered violence and terror of unimaginable proportions, unleashed on them by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world. After a long and difficult struggle the Government of Sri Lanka has successfully rid the country of terror, and is in the process of rebuilding the lives of her people. As an important part of this process His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka has appointed a Commission on “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation” under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, a statutory regime available under Sri Lankan law. The Government is confident that the Commission would make a most significant contribution to the further strengthening of national amity, through a process of restorative justice.

Sri Lanka is a sovereign state with a robustly independent judiciary and a tried and tested system for the administration of justice. The Government of Sri Lanka has consistently promoted and protected human rights. Indeed, this has been explicitly acknowledged by legitimate organs of the United Nations system. The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has formally adopted, after the cessation of the conflict situation, a resolution commending, inter alia, the commitment of Sri Lanka to the promotion and protection of human rights.

Sri Lanka regards the appointment of the Sri Lanka – Panel of Experts as an unwarranted and unnecessary interference with a sovereign nation. This interference, moreover, has potential for exploitation by vested interests hostile to the process of reconciliation taking place in Sri Lanka.

The Government of Sri Lanka notes that the joint statement of the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary – General issued at the conclusion of the Secretary – General’s visit to the country on 23rd May 2009 makes no reference to “allegations of violations of international humanitarian law committed during military operations between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)”.

Ministry of External Affairs
Colombo

23rd June 2010

Five Day World Classical Tamil Conference begins in Coimbatore today

by T.Ramakrishnan

Tamil, which has the oldest literature among living languages, will be the focus of the festival of letters coming up in Coimbatore. Beginning on June 23, the five-day event organised by the Tamil Nadu government will celebrate the glory of Tamil with special focus on Classical Tamil.

Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi wrote the theme song for which A.R. Rahman composed the music

Nearly 3,000 delegates from 50 countries will deliberate on the uniqueness and antiquity of the Tamil language, culture, art and society. This is why the festival is called the World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC).

Considered the brainchild of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi who is himself a renowned Tamil litterateur, the WCTC is being held at a time when the language is witnessing exciting developments, and facing challenges too. Conscious of the growing application of information technology in Tamil and future requirements, the government is hosting the ninth Tamil Internet Conference concurrently. “The aim is to highlight, in a balanced way, the greatness of our antiquity and special features of Tamil computing,” M. Rajendran, Tamil University Vice-Chancellor and coordinator of the research forum committee for the WCTC, says.

In terms of sheer numbers of participants and papers, this meet will exceed the eight World Tamil Conferences held between 1966 and 1995. “More importantly, a comprehensive coverage of subjects has been planned this time. Topics such as the impact of Dalitism and modern existentialism in Tamil writing are going to be discussed,” Avvai Natarajan, co-chairman of the research forum committee and former Tamil University Vice-Chancellor, says.

Talking of the role played by the World Tamil Conferences held under the auspices of the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR), Sa. Kandasamy, Sahitya Akademi award winner for Tamil for 1998, recalls that subsequent to the 1968 and 1981 conferences, the International Institute of Tamil Studies and the Tamil University were established.

Similar conferences had been held for other languages of the South. After the formation of the Tamil University institutions for Telugu and Kannada were set up.

Recalling the services rendered by Thaninayakam Adigal in organising the initial conferences, Mr. Kandasamy points out that A.K. Ramanujan (1929-1993), the academician-writer, played a significant role in establishing internationally that Tamil did not just have moral or religious works but creative writing of superior quality.

Tirupur Krishnan, the Tamil writer-journalist, expresses the hope that just as what the World Tamil Conferences did, the WCTC would help promote the language further. An immediate positive impact of the Conference can be seen in the improvement of infrastructure of Coimbatore city and suburbs.

Works estimated to cost Rs. 300 crore were taken up. Among the projects is the ‘Garden of Classical Tamil' planned on the grounds of the Coimbatore Central Prison.

As in the case of WCTC, the Tamil Internet Conference will see greater participation of delegates. Poongothai Aladi Aruna, Minister for Information Technology and TIC committee organiser, says that the previous editions of the TIC had seen, on an average, 150 delegates, whereas this time there will be over 450 persons.

T.N.C. Venkatarangan, chairman of the International Forum for Information Technology in Tamil, says the papers will go beyond issues concerning platform software.

A meet of this scale and sweep is being held for the first time after the Union government announced, in October 2004, its decision to accord the status of classical language to Tamil. Considering the significance of the occasion, the authorities have planned a number of programmes.

An exhibition is organised adjacent to the CODISSIA complex. There are pavilions on the features of Tamil civilisation, culture and literature under six themes with 30 sub-divisions.

The meet will begin with the rendering of the theme song, authored by Mr. Karunanidhi. President Pratibha Patil will declare open the meet. In the evening, a cultural pageant will be organised. The parade will start from the VOC Park and end at the venue. Floats will reflect Tamil arts, culture and literature. Folk artistes will perform.

The President will declare open the meet and present the Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi Classical Tamil Award to Asko Parpola.

The event promises to be a historic event not only in terms of enriching intellectual acumen but also making the common man understand the richness of Tamil. - Courtesy: The Hindu -

Criteria for affording classical language status to Tamil

by V.C.Kulandaiswamy

There is lack of clarity even among Tamil scholars on the issue of criteria for according classical status to a language. It is therefore necessary to examine the attributes that qualify a language to be reckoned as classical.

The concept of Classicism had its origin in Europe. The term ‘classical' is derived from the Latin word ‘classicus', which belongs to the 2 {+n} {+d} century A.D. From Latin, it was adopted in French and later in English from French.

One does not come across a definition of a classical language as such in dictionaries or encyclopaedias. There does not seem to exist anywhere an authoritative list of classical languages.

Some Tamil scholars have given the impression in articles and speeches that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has an authorised list of classical languages and that it has specified criteria for a classical language.

To my letter of December 26, 2007 to UNESCO, I received a reply on January 24, 2007 that it had not established any criteria for designation of classical languages, and that it did not have a list of languages approved as classical languages. “It is a matter which is beyond UNESCO's mandate,” the letter said.

The Union government, while considering a representation from the Tamil Nadu government for endorsing the classical status of Tamil, approached the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, for its opinion. The President of the Sahitya Akademi constituted an expert committee under his chairmanship.

The committee, in a meeting on September 2, 2004, observed: “It was noted that the criteria for defining a classical language are not mentioned anywhere. But abstracting the standard features of what are universally accepted as Classical Languages (such as Sanskrit, Latin and Greek), it was agreed that the following criteria [mentioned in later paragraphs] be applied in the case of such a designation henceforth.”

It is thus clear that the criteria for granting classical status to a language have not been stipulated explicitly. Against this background, we may consider the basis on which languages such as Greek and Lain were designated as classical languages.

A study of the issue leads us to the finding that the literary contributions of ancient Greece and Rome, in Greek and Latin, were considered by scholars as classical, and these two languages were designated classical languages. In other words, it is the literature that is assessed as classical, and by virtue of the literature, the language is termed classical.

What is the definition of classical literature that forms the basis for a language to be termed classical?

The Grolier Academic Encyclopaedia says: “The word classicism in literature refers to those elements of style or content such as reason, clarity, order, restraint and humanitarian outlook that characterised the writing of ancient Greeks, ranging from Homer, Plato and Aristotle.”

The following explanation appears in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica: “When used to refer to an aesthetic attitude, Classicism invokes those characteristics normally associated with the art of antiquity, harmony, clarity, restraint, universality and idealism.”

The criteria for determining classical status are therefore derived from Greek and Latin literature and are not based on any independent design. The characteristics of Greek and Latin literature, by and large, are: Antiquity, Harmony, Clarity, Restraint, Serenity, Idealism, Universality, Reason, Order and Humanism.

The Sahitya Akademi's expert committee mentioned four criteria for a classical language.

One is the high antiquity of early texts/recorded history of over 1500 to 2000 years.

The second is a body of ancient literature/texts that is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.

The third criterion is that the literary tradition should be original and not borrowed from another speech community.

Fourthly, the classical language and literature should be distinct from the modern, and there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or offshoots.

It is seen that the criteria are based only on the characteristics of literature.

Kamil V. Zevelabil, European scholar and an exponent of the classical status of Tamil, stated in his book, The Smile of Murugan: On Tamil Literature of South India: “But the early Tamil poetry was rather unique not only by virtue of the fact that some of its features were so unlike everything else in India, but, by virtue of its literary excellence; those 26,350 lines of poetry promote Tamil to the rank of one of the great classical languages of the world” (Pages 1-2).

Dr. Zvelebil based his decision only on the quality of the literature.

The term classical is also liberally used in the sense of excellence in quality.

In the case of the Japanese language, the literature of the period 794 A.D.-1185 A.D. is considered to be classical.

In the case of French, the literature of the latter part of the 17 {+t} {+h} century, that is, after the establishment of the French Academy, was considered to be classical.

In English, the literature from 1660 to 1714 A.D. was considered classical.

When interpreted as excellence in quality, every language can claim to have a period when its literature could be termed classical.

Some Tamil scholars can claim that the Kamba Ramayanam is a work of classical literature: others may stake the claim in favour of Sekkilar's Periapuranam.

These issues are altogether different from this discussion, which is on the set of classical languages of the world — classical languages in the sense in which Greek and Latin are referred to as classical languages.

As mentioned earlier, the concept of classicism is of European origin and we have adopted it. In the case of languages, the criteria are derived form Greek and Latin literature. In any set of criteria formulated, this aspect must be reflected.

The criteria specified by the Akademi's expert committee do not provide for this requirement.

Keeping in mind the universally accepted characteristics of classical literature which qualify a language for classical status, we may for general guidance marginally modify the criteria specified by the expert committee.

We may reformulate them, considering all the attributes derived mainly from Greek and Latin literary traditions.

First, the language has high antiquity, of about 1500 to 2000 years, for its literature.

Second, it has a body of ancient literature meeting the core attributes of classicism and is held as a valuable heritage bequeathed to humanity.

Third, the literary tradition is original and not borrowed from another speech community.

Fourth, the classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be discontinuity between the classical language and later forms or offshoots.

(The author, a former University vice-chancellor and Sahitya Akademi award winner for Tamil in 1988, is vice-chairman of the Central Institute of Classical Tamil.)

Is Gotabhaya Rajapaksa a one man deterrent to discussion and dissent - The lifeblood of democracy?

by Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

Many readers may have seen if not read about Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s interview with Stephen Sackur of the BBC HardTalk programme in which he calls Sarath Fonseka a liar and threatens to hang him for his position on a war crimes investigation. Local opinion, not surprisingly, given the current political context, has been divided on the propriety of Mr Rajapaksa’s outburst and the damage it could do to the image of the regime and of the country internationally.


HARDtalk 4 - Gotabhaya Rajapaksa interviewed by Stephen Sackur

There are the shocked and perturbed, albeit mostly in private, on the one hand and on the other, the hallelujah chorus of the apparatchiks. According to them, Mr Rajapaksa showed Sackur what’s what and saw off the smug arrogant, hostile Occidental propagandist with panache!

My concern here is to inquire into what this interview and the response to it tells us about the state of governance in our country, post –war and once more on the verge of constitutional reform.

Let us be clear at the outset as to what we are inquiring into – an interview given by a public servant in which he delivers threats and accusations against a former army commander and defeated presidential candidate who is currently in detention and who is – and this is important – a Member of Parliament. The public servant is the defence secretary and an architect of the historic military defeat of the LTTE. He is also a former army officer and of course, this is important too, the president’s brother. Furthermore – this is important as well – the public servant’s minister is the president, his brother.

Were such an event to have occurred in India, the world’s largest democracy or in Britain from where our parliamentary traditions and conventions of governance hail, the public servant would have had to resign and if he did not, he would have been sacked. Were the latter action not taken, the government of the day would be in jeopardy. Public opinion and the media would bay for its blood.

The rationale for all of this being that in functioning democracies, public servants are not supposed to make policy pronouncements of their own, voice their personal opinions to the international or local media or make statements that are tantamount to the grossest interference in an issue, which is the subject of an ongoing judicial process.

Was Mr Rajapajsa merely expressing government policy, the policy of his brother, his minister and president? Or, since no action has been taken, is it the case that this a case, not of Yes Minister but of Yes Secretary?

It is indeed sad that Mr Fonseka apart, members of parliament have not seen it fit to raise what is surely a privilege issue. A secretary to a ministry has in effect called a MP a liar and traitor on international television and pronounced that he should be hanged. It is also sad that there has been little comment or observation of the insight this affords us on the state of governance in the land.

Is Gotabaya Rajapaksa a one man deterrent to discussion and dissent – the lifeblood of democracy? Does one decisive military victory and two thumping electoral mandates to his brother and by extension his family, give him the licence to mouth off maliciously in flagrant violation of the dignity and propriety of the office he holds?

Given the impending revocation of the Seventeenth Amendment and the jettisoning of the Constitutional Council and independent commissions it provides for and the removal of the term limit on the presidency, the structure of power and government in the country will be shoved further away from the structure of power and government that characterizes democratic governance.

Those who railed against the executive presidency and promised loudly to abolish it are to entrench it instead and with it no doubt, the arbitrariness and caprice of a monarchy and dynastic rule.

The nature of the regime and its rule are profiled by the defence secretary’s vituperative interview, the priorities for constitutional reform in the current context of limbo between the post war situation we are in and the post-conflict one we should aspire to and the reported appointment of who is now frequently referred to as the First Son, 24 year old fresher MP Namal Rajapaksa to head the District Development Committee for Kilinochchi!

More Crown Prince perhaps than First Son, being given war ravaged Killi to dabble in development? Is there a precedent here of Killinochchi becoming the local Duchy of Cornwall?

The gratitude and appreciation of the citizenry for the defeat of the LTTE and expressed in two thumping mandates for the Rajapaksa family should not blind the citizenry to the dangers of authoritarianism and the corrosion of governance. Nor should we allow fear to silence protest and resistance to this and then wallow in regret for our complicity and appeasement at a later, god forbid, much later date.

Whoever rules, whoever governs and for how long is not the issue. There must always be, as a basic minimum, checks and balances, the rule of law, due process, best practices and standards adhered to, rights protected and duties fulfilled.

And public servants should be public servants, irrespective of who their siblings are. Or else they should go and if they do not, they should be sacked. This is surely the way of a functioning democracy.

Sri Lankans must unitedly use the weapon of "boycott" against international interference in our internal affairs

By S. L. Gunasekara

On the 18th May 2009, Sri Lanka awoke from the nightmare of separatist terrorism which had plagued it ever since the 22nd of May 1972.

During this period, a foreign country, India, equipped trained and armed terrorists to commit mass murders of our citizens, both servicemen and civilians of all races, castes, creeds, genders and ages, and destroy our property on our soil; thereafter India prevented the restoration of peace 23 years ago when it bullied Sri Lanka into aborting the Vadamarachchi Operation which would have seen the end of the Tigers. That bullying included the unforgivable violation of our air space by war planes of India.

A recurrent feature of that 37 year nightmare was bombs being exploded in crowded city centres, buses and trains, whole villages being slaughtered and Muslims at prayer being mown down by machinegun fire purely because they were Muslims. Among those who suffered death and mutilation by these wanton acts of terrorism were Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burgers, Malays and even some foreigners.

Despite all this, no committee of experts (`real’ or `so called’) was appointed by the United Nations. No effort was made by the United Nations to prevent the wanton acts of unbridled terrorism that were being committed in this country. Men, women and children continued to be murdered and mutilated; property continued to be destroyed and our country continued to get more and more impoverished.

The United Nations did nothing. The United States of America and the other Western Countries now screaming their hypocritical heads off calling for a UN probe did nothing. Were they, perchance frightened of `antagonizing’ India, which was big and strong while we were small and weak ?

Now, however, when that nightmare is over, the UN, egged on by the frustrations of the affluent Western States at poor little Sri Lanka asserting its independence and not obeying their commands, seems determined to embark on a probe with the ultimate objective of finding some of those who delivered our Country from evil guilty of war crimes !!.

While that terrorism that plagued our land has now been eliminated, there are around the globe and in our own Country, those who benefited immensely from the suffering of the people of Sri Lanka who wish to revive that self same terrorism as well as the nonsensical demand for a separate State to enable them to continue to live lives of comfort in foreign climes. These are, for example, the people who, without doing an honest job were collectors of money for the LTTE who used a part of it to purchase and dispatch weapons, ammunition etc. to the LTTE.

Apart from them are those politicians in Sri Lanka such as those of the TNA whose politics consisted solely of the politics of racial hatred, created divisions where there were none, and sustained themselves on the horrible myth of an ethnic problem in need of resolution. These malodorous politicians had no policies other than the politics of race founded upon the myth of a non-existent ethnic problem and needed to keep that myth and the artificial issues created by it alive for their political survival.

There can be no doubt that the United Nations has been influenced by these evil forces and by Western Countries which sought to prevent our victory when it became inevitable by demanding that we commit suicide by declaring a ceasefire and were properly rebuffed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose supine predecessors would surely have succumbed. Had that happened, this country would still have been plagued by terrorism and the death and mutilation of the civilians would have still been a regular feature in our land.

Had terrorism and the attendant death and mutilation of civilians continued neither BK Moon nor L Pascoe nor any of the hypocrites of the West would have demanded a UN probe.

Ban Ki Moon and Lynn Pascoe are both bureaucrats of the United Nations which in turn is financed largely by the United States of America. If the United States cuts off its funding both Pascoe and Moon would lose their privileged positions and their munificent perquisites of office which would make even our Cabinet Ministers turn green with envy.

It is no wonder therefore, that this duo and perhaps other bureaucrats of that organization have adopted dual standards, one for poor and weak Sri Lanka and another for the rich and powerful United States and its allies in the West.

We have seen no committees of experts or otherwise appointed to look into the most horrible war crime committed in recent times when some Western countries led by the United States and its `lap-dog’ `Great’ Britain invaded Iraq on the fraudulent pretext of there being weapons of mass destruction in that country, destroyed countless civilians and Iraqi property worth billions of dollars with state of the art weapons and hunted down the Head of State of that country and members of his family as the so called the English `gentlemen’ would a fox. That was not all.

No committee of expert or otherwise was appointed to look into or advise the Secretary General of the United Nations about the inhuman treatment of prisoners at the torture chamber of the United States at Guantanamo Bay [even though many of those prisoners were foreigners who had been forcibly abducted from their Countries by the United States], or any of the horrific crimes against humanity/war crimes committed by that Country around the globe at different times.

Thus, there is one rule for the rich and the powerful and another for the poor and the weak; and we are one of the poor and the weak.

Yet, this does not mean that we must tamely give in and suffer some group of foreigners called ‘experts’ coming in to investigate with a view to finding fault with us, how or under what circumstances we destroyed that gang of underworld criminals called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and restored the lawful writ of the Government throughout the length and breadth of our land.

For a start, the Government should, in my view, refuse visas to any members of any committee of foreigners appointed by the United Nations or any other body to pollute our soil with their presence in order to investigate our internal affairs and/or seek to sit in judgment over us. That however may not be within the realms of practical possibility having regard to the degree of economic blackmail that the Western Nations are capable of exerting on an impoverished country like ours. Bullying the weak and the impoverished appears to be one of the favourite pastimes of these moral lepers.

That however does not leave us completely defenseless against this monstrous attempt at interference in our internal affairs. If the people of this Country band together, forgetting all the political and other differences, we the people with no Governmental power could defeat the aims of these interfering foreigners.

Thus, it behoves us all who love our Country to `boycott’, and `boycott’ completely, any group of foreigners whether appointed by Bank Ki Moon or any other to investigate or sit in judgment over us in respect any of our internal affairs. We cannot stop there. If any person whomsoever, does not so boycott such foreigners and gives evidence before them or even associates with them or any of them in any manner whatsoever, such person too should be `boycotted’.

Such `boycott’ should take the form of ostracizing them in every manner possible – namely, not talking to or associating with them; not selling them any goods or buying any goods from them; and not providing them with any kind of services, whether professional or otherwise.

We little realize the power that we as ordinary people can exercise over even the most powerful, provided we act collectively.

Let us, therefore, stand tall as a Nation and resist any attempt made by BK Moon, L Pascoe or any other person/persons whomsoever from any country/countries whatsoever to interfere in our internal affairs, investigate our internal affairs, or sit or seek to sit in judgment over us and tell us how to manage our affairs.

Let us tell them, with one voice to mind their own business.

New British Prime Minister hopes magnanimity would follow victory in Sri Lanka

by Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha

It was depressing, on my first morning in England this time round, to attend a debate at the House of Commons on Sri Lanka in which the usual suspects revived their attacks on Sri Lanka and its government. However, since unlike them one should look at what is in a half full glass, rather than concentrate on what is missing, it seemed to me that there was also reason for optimism.

In the first place, there were fewer of the suspects than previously. Dismal Andrew Dismore had been defeated, as Joan Ryan had been. It was the latter who thought education in the Vanni was finished when Save the Children withdrew, only to be roundly rebuked by Save the Children itself. Andrew Pelling was gone, and so was Susan Kramer, who had been heavily involved with the hunger striker of MacDonalds fame last year. And even those who remained seemed more subdued, as though they no longer believed in their exaggerations.

Most heartening of all was the response of the new Junior Minister assigned the subject. Sadly, with almost all those there hostile (only 15 of them, it should be added, despite claims that the large attendance was evidence of keen interest in the subject), his tone was apologetic, but he seemed determined to suggest a new dimension to the relationship.

He commented on the reduction in the numbers in the Welfare Centres and made it clear that any inquiry into the conduct of operations was the business of the Sri Lankan government.

If then the British government is, rightly, more concerned about positive measures in the future than dwelling on the past, and if the usual suspects have realized that beating the same drum will serve no purpose, there seemed to me nevertheless some reason for worry in a new dimension was introduced.

This was by Barry Gardiner, perhaps the sharpest of those who were present on the opposition side. He it was who had introduced the idea that Tamils returning to Sri Lanka still faced danger, and later in the debate he asked for a commitment that the British government would work with those elected to the so-called Transnational Government.

The Minister very properly ignored that request and instead noted that the government would listen to everyone. This seems to me perfectly acceptable, but I trust the government will not be dragooned into granting any official status to this Transnational Government.

Apart from the fact that very few people voted in the election, thus making clear the desire of the majority of Tamils in the diaspora to move on, without clinging to the remnants of the LTTE, it would certainly be strange if a friendly government took cognisance of something that purported to exercise authority with regard to parts of a fellow sovereign nation.

That effort by Barry Gardiner struck me as the most insidious of the feelers put out by the opposition. In comparison, their efforts to play the China card, and suggest that Britain needed to be worried about this, seemed childish, and were dealt with very tactfully by the Minister.

The response to the question about GSP +, for the deprival of which many of the Labour MPs present unashamedly took credit, was also reasonable, indicating hope that the Sri Lankan government would be able to retain it. This use of the work retain, rather than regain, suggested a positive approach, which is eminently desirable given the evident desire of elements in the previous government to claim responsibility for Sri Lanka losing GSP +.

Some of this and more came up in meetings I had both with the Minister for Immigration, and at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The latter was attended also by a representative from DFID, the aid branch of the government. While I could understand the current British position that, as a middle income country, we were not a suitable recipient for aid, and while obviously it would be wrong to ask for funds that would be taken away from more needy countries, it seemed necessary to remind the officials present of the squandering in the past of funds designed both for peace building and for humanitarian assistance.

Whilst one appreciated the intentions of the British government, and while certainly some humanitarian agencies had done a good job, it was clear that better monitoring should have been done. In particular the earlier determination, to give vast amounts of money for peace building to agencies that seemed intrinsically opposed to government, was obviously a strategy that the new government needed to rethink.

Whilst obviously old habits and predilections die hard, I felt that new officials in place were prepared to listen, and certainly they acknowledged the need to coordinate with government. Obviously we could not be funded for activities the British government did not wish to promote, but equally obviously funds intended to benefit the Sri Lankan people should not be given for activities which did not fall within the framework of the plans and policies of the elected Sri Lankan government.

Earlier there had been a claim, untenable but perhaps understandable given the approach of the 2002-2003 government, that the internationals held a balance between the Sri Lankan government and a group which, though terrorists, were in negotiation with that government. After the LTTE withdrew from talks however there was no excuse for the failure of our friends to register the primacy of government throughout the country. That message I believe is now well understood throughout.

My view then is that both countries are ready to move forward in terms of our traditional friendships and in accordance with international norms. This optimism was confirmed in a brief discussion with the Prime Minister, whom I happened to meet at a strictly social occasion.

I expressed my gratitude for the fresh approach the Ministerial statement seemed to indicate, and in acknowledging this he drew attention too to the work of Liam Fox, who had been able to inspire confidence in us even at a time when the British government seemed less than sympathetic to our struggle against terrorism.

He ended with the hope that magnanimity would follow victory, a much more heartening appeal to our common values than the blaming and shaming that characterized the approach of earlier officials.

June 22, 2010

UN Panel on Sri Lanka: 'Public report for one death, secret for tens of thousands of deaths?'

Indonesia's former Attorney General Murzuki Darusman, a member of the panel of Advisers on Sri Lanka announced by Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon also served on UN panel inquiring the death of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and that panel's report was released to the public.

However, in Sri Lanka case though, UN did not say today if the panel's report will be made public, nor if any of the three members will take questions from the Press, according to Inner City Press (ICP).

Full report by Inner City Press as follows:

On War Crimes, UN Ban's Panel May Not Speak to Fonseka or Travel to Sri Lanka, Report May Be Secret

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 22 -- A panel on Sri Lanka war crimes has been named by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the day after Inner City Press exclusively disclosed the names of its three members -- but the panel, it turns out, won't necessarily travel to Sri Lanka or interview any witnesses.

Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky if, for example, the panel will interview Sarath Fonseka, who served as General in charge during the final stage of the conflict and who has spoken of orders to kill people who surrendered, a war crimes.

Nesirky replied that "the mandate is such that some of the precise details, the who and how, still need to be worked out." The aim, he said, is to speak with "the concerned officials," and to finish in four months.

Which officials are more "concerned" than President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brothers Gotabaya and Basil, and his Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona, named by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having given assurances that those who surrendered would be treated in accordance with international law -- before they were killed

(Kohona disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar, something that at a minimum one would expect this UN panel to inquire into and resolve.)

Inner City Press asked Nesirky, in light of the European Union's announcement that it will only extended the GSP Plus tariff benefit if the Rajapaksa administration takes specific human rights related actions in the next six months, if the UN believes or wants one of the actions to be cooperation with the UN panel.

Nesirky replied, we're focusing on the work of this advisory panel. So much for coordination.

So much, too, for consistency. Murzuki Darusman served on Ban's panel on the death of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. That panel's report was released to the public. Darusman came to the UN briefing room on the day of its release, and Inner City Press asked him questions.

In this Sri Lanka case, though, Nesirky would not say if the panel's report will be made public, nor if any of the three members will take questions from the Press.

UNBDTC622.jpg

UN's Ban and Darusman: public report for one death, secret for tens of thousands of deaths?

Inner City Press asked, for example, how Mr. Darusman will handle his four month Sri Lanka focus with his new other job, as special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea / DPRK.

Has Steven Ratner performed any other service for the UN, other than advising Kofi Annan about Cambodia's Khmer Rouge in the last 1990s? Nesirky did not answer any of these. And so we'll add a third, about the third member: is Yasmin Sooka more about reconciliation or accountability?

Even as Nesirky announced the names, confirming what Inner City Press has asked him on the record the previous day, his Office did not have ready biographies for the three, as is the usual practice.

Later on Tuesday, after Inner City Press asked Nobel laureate and Elder Maarti Ahtisaari a question, Ahtisaari said of Sri Lanka that it was sad that in the international community, no one had been prepared to do anything. Sad indeed. - courtesy: Inner City Press -

Other Reports - on Sri Lanka by Inner City Press

About: Inner City Press

Ban panel 'roadmap' for international investigation in Sri Lanka-HRW

Peggy Hicks of the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said UN Secretary General Ban's panel was necessary since "the Sri Lankan government is unwilling to seriously investigate war-time human rights abuses." She added that she hoped the panel would produce "a roadmap for an international investigation."

Remarks by Peggy Hicks of HRW regarding the UN panel was reported by Louis Charbonneau of Reuters marking the announcement of a three-member panel on Tuesday Jan 22, by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon. Ban is appointing the panel to advise him on accountability issues concerning Sri Lanka war.

The Reuters report further says:

Hicks urged Ban not to waste any time getting the long-delayed panel to work. "It's important that there be no further delays," she said.

HRW and other rights groups took advantage of last month's first anniversary of the defeat of the Tamil Tigers to renew pressure for a probe of the end of the war, when they say tens of thousands of civilians died in the bloody final battles.

The government denies any war crimes took place, but rights groups say that both the government and the Tamil Tigers were guilty of human rights violations that resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths.

Nesirky said that the panel was not a formal investigative body and would be available to the Sri Lankan government, should they choose to take advantage of it. The group will have four months from the time it starts to complete its work.

If the panel decides to travel to Sri Lanka to interview witnesses and conduct research, it will need the permission of the government, Nesirky said.

Last month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa named an eight-person "Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation" to look into the last seven years of the war. U.N. officials say the world body is interested in its progress.

U.N. Secretary-General on Tuesday announced the formation of a three-member panel to advise him on whether any crimes were committed in Sri Lanka during the final months of its war against Tamil Tiger rebels.

The Sri Lankan government had urged Ban not to appoint the advisory panel, saying it has its own commission to investigate possible human rights violations at the end of its war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam separatists in May 2009.

Amid heavy Western pressure, Ban has insisted the panel must go forward despite Sri Lanka's urging against it, and assertion that it is a violation of its sovereignty.

The panel will be chaired by Indonesia's former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. Darusman was also recently named the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea.

The other two members of the panel, Nesirky said, are Yasmin Sooka, a human rights expert from South Africa, and Steven Ratner, a U.S. lawyer who advised the United Nations on how to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice in Cambodia.

Nesirky said Ban's panel "will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka."

"The panel hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka," he said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman/Reuters)

Champika Ranawaka’s apology is a positive step towards reconciliation

by Mano Ganesan

JHU general secretary and Minister Champika Ranawaka’s apology to Tamils on burning down of the Jaffna library is a positive step in the long journey for reconciliation between Tamils and Sinhalese. We welcome this testimonial declaration in the right spirit.

We call upon JHU to upgrade this gesture by addressing the root causes to the national ethnic question said DPF leader Mano Ganesan in a release issued by DPF media office today. Ganesan said further,

We do not fault the Sinhala community as a whole for the burning down of the library and other state terrorist atrocities perpetrated before, after and during the war against the Tamil people. We work with Sinhala men and women who shed tears and cry out against atrocities practiced against innocent Tamil people.

Similarly terrorist atrocities carried against the innocent Sinhala people are not what the Tamil people wanted to achieve. Terrorism is not the Tamil manifesto. Powerful politically infested minorities are performing within both the communities. Minister Ranawaka is right and rational when he apologized in the name of his community.

Because these crimes are done in the names of Sinhala Buddhism and Tamil nationalism. The Tamil apology should be on the way. But such gestures will be lost in no time if the root causes for the ethnic divide are allowed to continue. JHU should reconsider it’s inflexible policies it campaigned with during the war and now attend to the root causes to the ethnic issue. It is what the post war era demands.

Related:

Australia's Dateline reports on Jaffna Library:

Aired in May 2009

Champika Ranawaka apologizes in Jaffna for 1981 arson attack on Jaffna library

By N. Parameswaran

The Jathika Hela Urumaya yesterday apologized to the Jaffna citizens for what it called an ‘unpardonable and disgraceful’ attack on the Jaffna library carried out by ‘violent elements within the UNP’.

JHU General Secretary and Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka made the apology when Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) leaders visited the Jaffna Public Library to handover books worth more than Rs.two million donated by well wishers to Ven. Maharagama Mahinda Thera.

“It is unfortunate that the attack came from identified UNP elements belonging to our community. The attack was launched by a handful of people and the Sinhala community as a whole did not condone it. Many openly condemned it. Similarly the LTTE went on the rampage against the Sinhala people and launched attacks on the Sri Maha Bodhi and the Dalada Maligawa. Such attacks were not condoned by the average Tamil citizens,” Mr. Ranawaka said. “We are committed to preserving Buddhism in this country and this means we cannot harm those belonging to other communities. There is space for everybody to co-exist,” Mr. Ranawaka said.

JHU leader Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera addressing the gathering said the presentation of books was made as a token of brotherhood and with a great sense of solidarity.

“We hope that the children and adults in Jaffna would benefit from this exercise and join us in our efforts to go for greater integration as one nation” the JHU leader said.

Minister Douglas Devananda who participated at the ceremony said the Jaffna people had been prejudiced against the party due to a barrier in communication and added that with the book donation by the JHU a new chapter would help foster inter-community relations. COURTESY:DAILY MIRROR

Related:

Australia's Dateline reports on Jaffna Library:

Aired in May 2009

June 21, 2010

Radio Australia Audio & Transcript: UN panel on Sri Lanka civil war almost finalised

The United Nations is this week expected to confirm a panel to investigate allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka. It's something international observers have long been calling for. However, the government says it has already appointed its own internal commission, and is describing this latest move from the U-N as an "unneccessary interferance".

Presenter: Helene Hofman
Speakers: Robert Templer, Asia Program Director, International Crisis Group; Mahinda Rajapaska, President, Sri Lanka; John Dowd, President, International Commission of Jurists Australia; Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Executive Director, Centre for Policy Alternatives (Colombo)

* Listen:
* Windows Media

HOFMAN: It's not clear when exactly the United Nations will release the names of its panel to investigate allegations of human rights abuses committed during Sri Lanka's civil war.

Last week, the U-N's head of political affairs, Lynn Pascoe, ended a two-day visit to the island, by confirming that he was close to finalising the appointments.

He's now back in New York, and should make an announcement in the coming days.

The news has been welcomed by international observers and human rights activitists like Robert Templer, the Asia program director for the International Crisis Group.

TEMPLER: Well, it's a positive step but it falls short of a full international investigation. 'm hoping that it will take a very clear look at the Sri Lankan investigation and possibly suggest a full international investigation is needed. We believe it has a fairly reputable people on the panel, they are serious human rights scholars and lawyers, they're not people who are going to be bullied in any way by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Already it's expected the panel will face an uphill battle.

The Sri Lankan government has openly opposed the inquiry since it was first mooted in the closing stages of the conflict last year.

It has appointed its own Internal Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation, which the U-N panel hopes to liaise with and monitor.

However, speaking to the Al Jazeera news service in May, the president Mahinda Rajapaska said he was not interested in co-operating.

RAJAPASKA: This is an internal matter. I don't want my internal matter to be inquired by any other country or any other NGO. So we will look after that. That's why we appointed the commission, so that if there are any violations we will see. If it is a crime, whether it is my relation or my army commander or anybody is immaterial, it is a crime. Crime is crime so we have to punish them.

HOFMAN: The U-N says finding of it's own panel will be passed on to the U-N Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.

However, while he can use the information to advise on reconciliation, only the U-N Security Council could call for a war crimes tribunal.

The U-N is still hopeful Sri Lanka will decide to co-operate, but the president of the International Commission of Jurists Australia, John Dowd, says the panel doesn't need the support of the Sri Lankan government.

The International Commission of Jurists has itself begun collecting evidence to be used in the event of a war crimes tribunal.

DOWD: there are witnesses in Australia and other countries that can give direct evidence of war crimes so it doesn't matter what the Sri Lanakan government says. an international tribunal can look at what evidence they're prepared to disclose and an objective test will work out which evidence can be believed and which cannot.

HOFMAN: Within Sri Lanka, concerns have been raised that the Sri Lankan's reluctance to co-operate with the U-N could strain international relations.

Dr Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu is the Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in the capital Colombo.

SARAVANAMUTTU: Unfortunately the Sri Lankan made too much out of its resistance to the panel and too much out of denouncing it and as a result I think its got much much more prominence. You know there's nothing that they can do to stop the panel being set up but one hopes that once the panel is set up one hopes that relations wouldn't be terribly scarred and soured.

UN Sri Lanka Panel To Include Steven Ratner and Yasmin Sooka of South Africa, Reconciliation or Accountability?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- On Sri Lanka war crimes, sources tell Inner City Press that the three names including not only former Indonesian attorney general Darusman but also American lawyer Steven Ratner, and South Africa's Yasmin Sooka, who served on that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, who was proposed by Ban advisor Nicholas Haysom, also of South Africa.

According to these well placed sources, and contrary to unsourced reports in the Colombo press, there will be no Austrian on the panel.

After his widely criticized "victory tour" to Sri Lanka last May, during which interned Tamil children were forced to sing for him in the Vuvuniya camp, surrounded by barbed wire, Ban has hounded by calls to follow through on his and Mahinda Rajapaksa's statement at the end of the trip.

On March 5, Ban said he would name a panel to advise him "without delay." Now, belated, he is slated to name the panel this week.

Sri Lanka is lashing out in advance, even as their ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona chairs an international investigation panel about the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Can you say, hypocrisy?

Kohona has also been named by Ban's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar as having provided assurances that surrendering LTTE leaders would be treated in accordance with international law -- before they were killed. Kohona disputes the timing of his communications with Nambiar. Courtesy: Inner City press

Other Reports - on Sri Lanka by Inner City Press

About: Inner City Press

Hardtalk 4: Is Sri Lanka really entering a new era?

BBC HARDtalk 4:

Presented by Stephen Sackur:

"HARDtalk has come to Sri Lanka, a year after government forces finally defeated the Tamil Tigers, to end Asia's longest running war. But now the talk is of reconciliation and rebuilding; but how realistic is that?, when this country is still wrestling with communal and political mistrust; My guest today is Sri Lanka's influential Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse:"


Stephen Sackur is the regular presenter of HARDtalk, the current affairs interview programme on BBC World and News 24. Previously, Stephen was the BBC's Europe correspondent and, prior to that, the BBC's Washington correspondent.

Sri Lanka furious as UN's Ban names war crimes panel

by Amal Jayasinghe

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka is "deeply unhappy" at a move by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to name a panel to look into alleged war crimes committed during the final months of the island's civil war, an official said Monday.

Colombo repeated a protest that President Mahinda Rajapakse made to Ban in March, a senior government official who declined to be named told AFP.

"The government is deeply unhappy with the appointment of this panel and made it very clear to the secretary-general himself and other UN representatives that this is unwarranted and uncalled for," the official said.

Ban was due to name the three-member panel later Monday to advise him on the massive military campaign that finally crushed the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year after decades of fighting.

Colombo has been dogged by war crime charges following the final offensive. It has consistently rejected as fabrications videos, pictures and satellite photos released by rights groups as evidence of war crimes.
Ban's move follows a visit to the island last week by Lynn Pascoe, the UN under secretary-general for political affairs.

Pascoe told reporters on Thursday that the panel of experts would advise the UN chief on issues of "international standards" and "accountability" surrounding the end of the war.

Rajapakse warned Ban in March that the appointment of the panel would compel Sri Lanka to take "necessary and appropriate action", although he did not give further details.

The Sri Lankan government last week held official celebrations of the Tigers' defeat, with Rajapakse delivering a speech insisting that his soldiers did not kill a single civilian.

"Our troops carried a gun in one hand and a copy of the human rights charter in the other," the president said. "Our guns were not fired at a single civilian."

Rights groups as well as the United States and the European Union think otherwise and have said the allegations are credible and worth investigating.

The UN itself has said that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians perished in the first four months of last year, just before the government claimed final victory over the Tigers.

The military has also been accused of executing rebels as they surrendered.

The exact mandate of Ban's panel is not yet clear, but diplomats said the team could be a precursor to a full-blown war crimes investigation.

US President Barack Obama sent two senior advisers to Colombo last week to urge Sri Lanka to promote post-war ethnic reconciliation by tackling claims of war crimes committed by both sides in the fighting.

"The US has strong, credible allegations of evidence of atrocities during the prosecution of the war against the Tamil Tigers," a US source, who declined to be named, said after the high-level visit.

Colombo managed to stave off censure at the UN Security Council last year thanks to the support of Russia and China, close allies and key suppliers of military hardware to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's major aid donor Japan has backed Ban's panel and said it would be "useful" in reconciling Tamils and the ethnic majority Sinhalese.

Yasushi Akashi, special peace envoy to Sri Lanka, ended a five-day visit Sunday urging Colombo to accept the UN panel, but said he detected a "lack of flexibility and openness" in Sri Lanka's attempts to promote reconciliation. [courtesy: AFP]

Video: Protest against Burma Military Junta, near Burma Embassy in Colombo

Protest against Burma Military Junta, 26th May 2010 - Colombo (near the Burma Embassy in Colombo) - organized by ''Friends of the Third World" ~ Video: Vikalpa SL:

Protest against in Burma Military Junta, 26th May 2010 - Colombo (near the Burma Embassy in Colombo) - organized by ''Friends of the Third World" ~ Vikalpa SL

‘Sri Lankan Model’ of Terrorism vs Terrorism is no model to Follow

by T.V.S. George

If it takes a thief to catch a thief, can we say it requires terrorism to defeat terrorism? That is the theory Mahenda Rajapakse put into practice in Sri Lanka. Because he succeeded in crushing Prabhakaran’s LTTE, the “Sri Lankan Model” is now attracting the attention of other governments that face internal insurrections.

[Protesting visit by Burma's military dictator Than Shwe - Nov 2009 - Vikalpa SL]

Perhaps the most notable example is the not widely publicised visit Burma's military dictator Than Shwe paid to Colombo recently. Than Shwe rarely travels outside his country, yet he was impressed by the "victory against terrorism" in Sri Lanka. He went there to see if he could employ some of the techniques against the ethnic groups that have been fighting the Rangoon government for long.

Thailand faces a Muslim rebellion in its southernmost areas. But Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva is facing a threat from political opponents in Bangkok itself and there is serious talk of a possible civil war in the country. The tactics Sri Lanka used against the LTTE won't work against the political opponents or the Muslims in the South because the circumstances are vastly different. Even so, he found time to exchange notes with Lankan leaders.

Bangladesh sent a military delegation to Colombo to see what lessons it could learn from the "war for peace" Sri Lanka fought. For all we know, P.Chidambaram himself must have secretly wished that he could do in Dandewada what Rajapakse did in Elam territory.

But, thank God, he can't. What Rajapakse did, no democratic country can do. His military operations elicited serious charges of war crimes by Western governments. Besides, the campaign against the LTTE was part of a larger political agenda that would perhaps suit Burma, but not others.

For one thing, Rajapakse only defeated Prabhakaran's LTTE, not solved the wider cause of Lankan Tamils, an integral part of Lankan polity. Prabhakaran was a cruel extremist who eliminated several Tamil leaders and his own eventual elimination was welcomed by large sections of Tamils themselves. But Rajapakse did not have the wisdom to see Prabhakaran as separate from the Tamils of his country whose claims for fairplay were, and remain, legitimate.

Secondly, Rajapakse's basic agenda is different. A glance at the power structure is enough to bring this out. He as President directly handles defence,finance, planning and a dozen other portfolios. Brother Gotapaya functions as defence secretary with direct control of the armed forces, immigration and urban development. Brother Basil is Economics Development Minister. Brother Chamel has resigned as minister and assumed the office of Speaker of the House. Son Namal has been elected to Parliament. The Constitution is being amended to make presidential powers virtually absolute. This is the real Sri Lanka Model. Who will dare follow it, other than Burma?

There is another model not far away. This is Indonesia's "Detachment 88", a 400-strong elite special operations unit of the police that functions as the country's counter-terrorism squad. That it is a police, not a military, unit is itself indicative of the government's thinking. The Indonesian military is still associated with the long dictatorship years and the present democratic leadership wanted to avoid any stigma arising from that history.

Detachment 88 has to deal with Indonesia's resident terrorists who are Wahabi-influenced Muslim fundamentalists. The unit is tough with them when required, but treats them now correctly, now sympathetically, never in harsh ways. Suspects are openly prosecuted. Members of the D-88 act also as spiritual counsellors, eating with the arrested men, praying with them. Muslim religious teachers are brought in for discussions on the Koran and Islam. The aim is to de-radicalise the suspects. Interestingly, anti-terrorist squads from Thailand and even Pakistan have attended training camps in D-88's centre in central Java.

The choice is clear. It is not between the Sri Lankan model and the Indonesian model. It is between family dictatorship and democracy.

Kandiah Kandasamy lived and died for the finest cause in the world

by Shanie

"Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world- the fight for the Liberation of Mankind."

Today, twenty two years ago, Kandiah Kanthasamy, lawyer and human rights activist, was abducted in Jaffna by one of many armed groups that roamed the streets of Jaffna then

Those who knew him have written of his unassuming and modest nature but with a total commitment to the cause of peace and justice. Suriya Wickremasinghe, Secretary of the Civil Rights Movement who edited a commemorative volume for Kanthasamy, wrote of him: "His vision of justice knew no narrow boundaries. Through his dedicated work in the Civil Rights Movement he promoted the human rights of all Sri Lankans; in his active membership of Amnesty International he sought to help victims of human rights violations in the rest of the world."

Kanthansamy fell into the category of persons whom Nikolai Ostrovsky, the Soviet writer and activist, had in mind in the above well-known quotation from his writings Kanthasamy’s life and his strengths were devoted to the finest cause in all the world – the liberation pf mankind. Wickramesinghe continues in her introduction: "Kanthasamy was totally non-partisan. He believed that relief and rehabilitation work should be conducted after identifying priorities carefully and according to proper standards and accepted procedures. While recognising the need to have rapport with various political agencies, whether governmental or other, Kanthasamy was adamant that the independence of a non-governmental organisation engaged in such humanitarian work should be preserved and must not be subject to political pressures, from whatever quarter they may come. ‘If we cannot carry on as a free organisation we should close it down’ was what he wrote shortly before his abduction.

In documents that he had with foresight left for safe-keeping with the Civil Rights Movement, Kanthasamy speaks of the leaders of the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation (EROS) calling on him on a number of occasions in the months prior to his abduction. Kanthasamy had been one of the founder members in 1977 of the Tamil Refugee Rehabilitation Organisation (TRRO, not to be confused with the present TRO) and was actively engaged in relief and rehabilitation work in the North and East. In this work, he had circulated a memorandum detailing the work being done and the work that needed to be done.

Kanthasamy writes of the meeting he had at his office with three representatives of EROS who had called there: "The discussion was centred round the memorandum circulated by TRRO under my signature. They said they would disrupt any rehabiltation work not in conformity with their policy, and no work will be tolerated except with their permission (as an after-thought they added with the permission of LTTE). When I asked them what their policy was, they said they cannot announce it, but permission should be obtained case by case. They also reminded me that Kathiramalai was killed because he acted against the policy of EROS, and that would be the fate of others as well."

The end and the means

It was clear as to which group was the primary suspect in Kanthasamy’s abduction. But irrespective of which group was involved in this case, one needs to question the wisdom of violence in achieving one’s objectives. Regi Siriwardena, in a memorial lecture on the first anniversary of Kanthasamy’s abduction, stated: "There is in fact a deadly symmetry between the logic of ruling powers and the logic of militant groups engaged in mortal combat with them. Both believe that the end justifies the means. In the one case, it is the end of preserving democracy, restoring law and order, protecting national integrity; in the other case, it is the end of national liberation or social liberation. In either case, the lives of individual human beings are considered to be a small price to exact for the cherished end.

"What makes this logic unacceptable are not just human considerations which some people will dismiss as sentimental moral squeamishness. It is the fact that the means you use determine the end you reach. As the German socialist Lassale wrote in the last century:

Show us not the aim without the way.
For ends and means on earth are so entangled
that changing one you change the other too.
Each different path brings other ends in view."

We see the truth of what Siriwardena and Lassale said in our own situation, and have seen the truth of it in the past in many countries. ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ was the rallying cry of the French Revolution but very soon the revolutionaries under the Jacobins led by Robespierre had instituted a reign of terror. At the trial of the deposed King, Robespierre (or his colleague Danton) had declared: ‘We don’t need to judge the king; we will kill him’ and so the King was executed. Not long after, Robespierre had Danton executed for dissent. It did not take much more time for the tide to turn against Robespierre and he was denounced in the Legislative Assembly and sent to the guillotine. Arrogance and disregard of the rule of law will always end in disaster. As Siriwardena said, it is inane logic to attempt at preserving democracy by undemocratic methods and upholding law and order by breaking the law.

Mahesway Velautham, also a lawyer and an activist, was yet another victim to the violence of one of the militant groups in Jaffna. She dared to be independent. But twenty years before the assassin’s bullet got her, she wrote of Kanthasamy: Those who killed him have committed an enormous crime against our society. Kanthasamy acted nobly without swerving from his ideals, never was afraid to do right, never hesitated. Siriwardena said: It isn’t difficult to see that the very existence of such a man was a challenge to any group which was seeking to enforce uniformity of opinion. Kanthasamy can rightly be honoured as a martyr to a cause which too few people are prepared to defend today in this country.

Why Human Rights is important

The UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Almost all countries have a chapter on fundamental rights written into their Constitutions and many have ratified optional human rights treaties. The issue of human rights is not to be dismissed as some sort of sentimental airy-fairy concept. It is related to real life. In almost all countries, there are issues of violence based on race, ethnicity, religion, caste, gender and politics. Domestic violence, violence against women and children, violence against political dissidents and discrimination in various forms are every-day life situations for many even in Sri Lanka. That is why it is important to ensure that fundamental rights are not only entrenched in our Constitution but enforced. Those who violate them have to be made accountable for their actions. Very often, violation of fundamental rights by agents of the state are not properly investigated and our justice system has time and again proved ineffective.

Suriya Wickremasinghe in the same commemorative volume raises some very pertinent issues which all those who wish for a Sri Lanka where peace and justice prevails must ponder: "What is the role of the moderate, nonpartisan activist in human rights and relief work in Sri Lanka today? What is the role of the truly independent non-governmental organisation in this field? Traditionally, threats have been seen to come from the State, one has learned to cope with and to live with such dangers. How do individuals and organisations now face up to new threats from other and hitherto unexpected quarters?" Wickremasinghe was talking primarily of militant groups who then abducted and killed people like Kanthasamy. But even today those concerns are still valid with armed groups still active not only in the North and East but also in other parts of the country as well.

Human rights, justice and democratic freedoms can be preserved and the rule of law upheld only if we have courageous people like Kanthasamy, who will speak up for these freedoms and stand in solidarity with such courageous people who struggle for such freedoms. Wickremasinghe concludes: "Everyone concerned with human rights and relief work must face up to and discuss these issues. Most important, the public must be made aware of them. For in the last analysis it is the responsibility of the people to decide on and demand the standards they expect of their leaders, and the nature of the society in which they aspire to live."

No hostage to the past: An encounter with Mervyn de Silva

Mervyn de Silva: 11th Death Anniversary ~ June 22, 2010

By Asanga Welikala

The eleventh anniversary of the death of Mervyn de Silva, the great Sri Lankan journalist and editor, falls on 22nd June.

MSTC620.jpg

Mervyn de Silva

I once had an extraordinary encounter with Mervyn, although sadly as it turned out, at the very empennage of his life.

In a wholly spontaneous chat that lasted less than two hours, we (mostly he) talked about the international use of force for humanitarian interventions and Robin Cook’s ‘ethical foreign policy’ in the then fashionable Blairite project (Mervyn wasn’t impressed), F.C. de Saram and M. Sathasivam (and the politico-sociological implications of their fractious dispute over the All Ceylon captaincy in 1947), billiards and snooker (I knew that the latter was invented in the Indian Army, but did not know of the debate whether it was the Jalalabad officers’ mess or the Ootacamund Club), and the relative merits of a pre-prandial aperitif at lunchtime (for one of which he was on his way).

It was one of those conversations one remembers forever, and it was a near complete pastiche of Mervyn de Silva, the journalist, the intellectual, the conversationalist, the man. It was a sparkling demonstration not only of the breadth of his intellect and the depth of his knowledge, but also his palpably genuine interest in the human condition, both underpinned by the total absence of that plague that afflicts progress in every sphere of Sri Lankan life: deferential hierarchy. He knew he was a living legend, and saw no need to reiterate it.

This conversation was prompted by my telling Mervyn that I had implicitly relied on his dispassionately analytical, yet deeply empathetic essay about the politics that led to and followed Black July 1983, in my first editorial in the Michaelmas term of 1995 as co-editor of the S. Thomas’ College Magazine (which, incidentally, was a case for a federal Sri Lanka). That intelligent and elegant, but disquieting essay was published as ‘Paradise – and Hostage to the Past’ in the Far Eastern Economic Review in January 1984, a chilling coincidence with the dystopia Orwell described in his novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’.

Two and a half decades later in post-bellum Sri Lanka, its major themes are as relevant as ever.

In anatomising the conflict of ethnic nationalisms, Mervyn expressly relied on the history of Evelyn Ludowyck, who like him was part of mid-twentieth century Sri Lanka’s admirably urbane, liberal intelligentsia associated with the golden age at Peradeniya. It is history that celebrates pluralism, embraces modernity, and above all, enables tolerance and coexistence. It is also history that has no time for the trite hagiographies of either humanitarianism or genocide that are now dominant on either side of the ethnic divide.

Not only that historical tradition and its proponents, but also the necessary civic institutions for its survival have been under siege since the 1950s, an attritional process that Mervyn vividly described in 1984 in relation to the Jayewardene administration’s acts of democratic manipulation. In 2010, we see the full autocratic possibilities of our monarchical presidency being exploited to the hilt, if only more efficiently with the benefit of the experience and precedents of the last twenty-five years.

Mervyn also saw clearly the impending dangers of the clericalism that has become such an insalubrious feature of democracy in our country today. As he explained with both truth and economy, “…as in the Shah’s Iran, suppressed dissent has found refuge in an impregnable forum, the temple, and an articulate spokesman whom nobody dares to touch, the monk.” The ghastly intolerance that is associated with monks in politics requires no retelling, but the wider lesson is about the failure of democratic institutions in delivering good government and prosperity which might have obviated these electoral adventures with monks in politics in the first place.

Like many in his generation, Mervyn was a Butskellian social democrat who believed in the power of government to do good, and in the developing world context, public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. He could therefore be expected to be sceptical of the post-1977 liberalisation of the economy, and he warned of “…the question of whether the new economic strategy has in fact exacerbated old conflicts [which] presents unexpected dilemmas for both policymakers and their foreign advisers and patrons.”

Sri Lanka of course has never experienced genuine capitalism, in which the full potential of free trade and commerce to generate wealth in ways in which consumption, savings and investment become a mass phenomenon rather than the preserve of a privileged few, and which enable government to ensure the level playing field, reinvest in growth and development, and escape assistance dependency. Instead of a properly functional free market under the rule of law, what we have had was colonial capitalism, then a disastrous experiment with state capitalism, and finally various forms of what has been accurately called ‘crony capitalism’.

Aside from this, the role of economics in the exacerbation of conflict in Sri Lanka has been in the failure of both the state and the markets to generate sufficient prosperity so as to enable any kind of meaningful stake-holding by citizens in the economy, not whether one or the other was the better mechanism of redistribution. But Mervyn was right to draw attention to the fact that unplanned and inequitable growth would generate discontent and add impetus to existing conflicts.

No model of economic development is likely to succeed in Sri Lanka without certain key foundations, which include less politicised and stronger institutions, the rule of law and a sustainable settlement of our political problems. The post-war economic paradigm of state-led developmentalism we see in 2010 may well succeed in the medium term, but it will not be sustainable in the longer term without also addressing those broader institutional and political issues. And those have been the issues which time and again have come back to haunt peace, democracy and development in our country.

“Each fresh confrontation and every violent eruption becomes an instant invitation to an overpowering onrush of self-righteous recidivism,” wrote Mervyn, “against which reason can only erect the feeblest defences.” Mervyn made this observation in the context of what had transpired in 1983 generally, and in relation to Cyril Mathew and his toxic brand of Sinhala-Buddhist supremacism in particular. It is unlikely to be what the evangelist Reginald Heber had in mind when he wrote of Ceylon as ‘where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile’, but it surely is what the stanza, of which Mervyn was fond, means in present day Sri Lanka.

June 20, 2010

Contribution of Sri Lankan Tamil priest Thaninayakam towards classical language status of Thamizh

By Rev. Fr. Thamil Nesan

The World Classical Tamil Conference is scheduled to be held from 23rd to 27th of June, 2010, at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu fulfiling the wishes and aspirations of Tamil scholars, not only from Tamil Nadu but also from all over the world. Several Tamil scholars, linguists and Tamil patriots from around the globe will participate in this great event.

FTATC620.jpg

Rev. Prof. Thaninayagam (1913 – 1980)

At this memorable occasion, it is very much appropriate to remember gratefully Rev. Prof. Thaninayagam (1913 – 1980) who toiled hard and dedicated his entire life to make Tamil Language, Tamil Literature and Tamil Culture better known and appreciated in the world.

Today, Tamil is one of the few Indian languages taught in many universities of the world. Scholars, who are not of Tamil origin, have undertaken Tamil research. International conferences on Tamil studies are conducted frequently in many countries. Tamil festivals are celebrated in many parts. All this was possible, thanks to the strenuous efforts by one individual: Xavier S. Thaninayagam, a Catholic Priest from Jaffna.

The continuous requests for a Classical Status for Tamil language have been turned down in India for several years, for political reasons, and it is only in 2004 that the central government of India made Tamil a legally recognized classical language of India. Tamil scholars and Tamils were overwhelmingly rejoiced at this announcement, although it came too late. The following languages are generally taken to have a ‘Classical’ stage in the world scenario – Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Sumerian, Sanskrit, Chinese and Arabic. Now Tamil finds itself on that list.

Internationally famed linguist George L. Hart, the Professor of Tamil at the University of California, U.S.A., since 1975 and the current Tamil Chair at that institution, says, "To qualify as a classical status, a language must fit several criteria: it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own, not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature. Unlike the other modern languages of India, Tamil meets each of these requirements.

It is extremely old (as old as Latin and older than Arabic); it arose as an entirely independent tradition, with almost no influence from Sanskrit or other languages; and its ancient literature is indescribably vast and rich. Let me state unequivocally that, by any criteria one may choose, Tamil is one of the great classical literatures and traditions of the world".

It is not an exaggeration to say that it is due to the untiring efforts of the late Fr. Thaninayagam that the world came to know the classical status of Tamil and finally accepted. As the ever first World Classical Tamil conference is to take place in Tamil Nadu, it is ever fitting to look back at the unique services of Fr. Thaninayagam, an ardent advocate and zealous Apostle of Tamil language of the 20th century.

Xavier Nicholas Stanislaus – later known as Xavier Stanislaus Thaninayagam was born in Kayts. Jaffna, on 2 August1913, the first child of his parents, Naganathan Stanislaus and Cecilia Bastiampillai. He chose the name ‘Thani Nayagam’ – the parental ancestral name after being ordained a priest. The name, having served so well this Catholic ambassador of Tamil culture, now stands immortalised in the history of the Tamil people and Tamil Studies.

From his younger days, he was quite conscious of the linguistic and literary talents that God had given him and he cultivated them well in order to use them in the service of God and men. As a priest he made a deep study of the Tamil language and literature in order to equip himself better for his ministry among the Tamil speaking people of South India and Sri Lanka. Since he was well versed in many European Languages and their literatures, he was able to blaze a trial in the comparative study of Tamil Literature with the literature of European Languages. In this field he definitely had an advantage over other Tamil scholars and he excelled in this field.

He published outstanding books and articles on classical and modern literature. He made better known the contribution of earlier scholars, both through reprints of almost forgotten books and through bibliography and editorial work.

He founded and edited an international journal devoted solely to Tamil studies, with the happily chosen title Tamil Culture for over a decade. It was the journal that paved the way for recognition of the importance of Tamil studies at an international level.

He occupied, with great distinction, the Foundation Chair of Tamil Studies in the University of Malaysia. He travelled far and wide to spread the appreciation of Tamil, both by personal contact and in public lectures, speaking in Italian in Rome and Naples and in French in Paris, where he was appointed to the Chair reserved for distinguished foreign professors at that most prestigious of institutions.

On top of all this and most importantly, he was the inspiration behind the foundation of the International Association of Tamil Research (I. A. T. R) in 1964. Without this, and without Father Thaninayagam, there would have been no First International Conference of Tamil Studies in Kuala Lumpur in 1966 and no succeeding International Conferences in Madras, Paris, Jaffna and Madurai. What had seemed an impossible dream was realized in a splendid fashion. Nor was the impact of his effort and his genius felt in the field of Tamil studies alone; scholars, and lovers of other Indian languages – Sanskrit, Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu – were inspired by his achievements to organize international conferences celebrating their languages.

It is worth to quote a comment Fr. Thaninayagam made comparing certain languages: "If Latin is the language of law, French the language of diplomacy, German the language of science and English the language of commerce, then Tamil is the language of Bhakthi". The word Bhakthi may be translated as ‘Devotion to the Sacred and the Holy.’ Coming from one who knew so many languages and who himself was a Roman Catholic priest, this comment is regarded as very significant.

Many international distinguished scholars have stated clearly about his contributions as well as his greatness. Prof. R. E. Asher of University of Edinburgh, U.K. says, "In the spreading within and outside its homeland of an appreciation of Tamil culture, there have been many memorable names during the last three centuries of so, a good number of them Europeans – Ziegenbalg, Fabricius, Beschi, Caldwell, Pope, Arden, Vison, Filliozat, Zvelebil …. Yet it would be difficult to sustain a claim that the contribution of any of these of others whom one might name equalled in range that of Father Thaninayagam."

Prof. M.B. Emineau of University of California, U.S.A., says. "His perfect and beautiful mastery of the English language and its literature was matched, to the astonishment of his Western friends, by his equal mastery of so many of the West’s languages and literature – Latin, French, Italian and who knows what more, That this enhanced his studies in Tamil literature goes without saying"

Prof. E. Sarathchandra of the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka says, "He wore no mask of any sort. Whatever he said he said straight from the heart. And what he said was at once sincere and truthful. There were no half truths in his words…. We never discussed communal harmony together. But he and I talked together of the points of contact. between the culture of the Tamils and the culture of the Sinhalese. How one had enriched the other and could do so in the future."

Prof. C.R. Boxer of the University of London, U.K. says, "He was in the best sense a ‘Citizen of the World’ widely travelled in four continents and on seven seas, he was always alert and receptive to new ideas, people and places; but he was never deflected by them from his vocation as a Roman Catholic Priest."

Fr. Thaninayagam has made a tremendous contribution towards internationalising Tamil Studies. He was a Catholic priest who championed Tamil Culture. Catholic Christianity is an international region and it seemed to have helped him a great deal in his life – time task of internationalising Tamil Studies.

In the midst of all his international activities for the acknowledgement of the antiquity, richness and beauty of the Tamil language and literature, he remained always a devoted priest of God.

He was given the highest posthumous honour in the City of Madurai, India during the Fifth World Tamil Conference held in 1981. On the eve of his first death anniversary, the University of Jaffna conferred on him, posthumously, the Degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa.

Fr. Thaninayagam, as his name in Tamil means, was a ‘unique leader’ among Tamil researchers. Each of his achievements was a contribution to the elucidation of Tamil culture.

As the World Classical Tamil Conference is being held in Tamil Nadu it is paramount important to remember Fr. Thaninayagam, the roving Ambassador of Tamil.

The difference in "economics" between Ranasinghe Premadasa and Mahinda Rajapakse

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Surely there is no strength in wall or ship, Where men are lacking and no life breathes within them.”- Sophocles (Oedipus Rex)

Until a few months ago, Greece was a lavish spender with defence expenditure topping its bloated budget. Using its cold war with neighbouring Turkey as justification, Greece spent more of its GDP on defence than any other European nation.

Spending far beyond its means, and borrowing to finance the consequent mountainous deficits, Greece gradually became ensnared in a classic debt trap. ‘Greece borrowed too much’, diagnosed the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad, during his recent visit to Sri Lanka. Its economy in tatters, its society in upheaval, Greece is learning that economic laws cannot be flouted with impunity and financial hubris exacts a heavy price.

The Grecian crisis is a timely reminder of the continuing validity of that old equation of guns vs. butter and its applicability beyond national production to national finance. There is a financial possibility curve as well as a production possibility curve. A country cannot increase military expenditure, endlessly, without a corresponding decrease in socio-economic expenditure. A country which seeks to evade this unpalatable trade-off by persistent borrowing will eventually become mired in a debt trap.

The 2010 budget marks a critical turning point for Sri Lanka. As the first post-LTTE, peacetime budget, it should have prioritised developmental spending over defence expenditure. Instead the 2010 budget displays a clear military bias. How else can one explain the massive Rs.24 billion increase in defence expenditure in 2010?

Logically, rationally, defence expenditure should have decreased with the victorious conclusion of the war. This is particularly so in a country which is struggling with a huge debt burden (86% of the GDP in 2009) and an unmanageable budget deficit. Economic rationality demands that such a country divert towards development purposes a substantial portion of the recourses it previously spent on the war. Irrationally, Sri Lanka chose to do the inverse; the 2010 budget makes an unequivocal choice in favour of guns over butter. And by continuing a militarist economic policy in a time of peace, the Rajapakse administration has put paid to the hope of a peace dividend. Southern expectations of immediate economic relief are fated to remain as unfulfilled as Northern expectations of rapid restoration of normalcy.

The economic thinking of Ranasinghe Premadasa can be encapsulated in one sentence: “There is no point in any development that keeps the people in hunger” (Providing Assets to the Assetless – 13.2.1989 ). Seemingly a truism, but a truism which is, all too often, observed in the breach, not just by the international financial institutions but also by many national and nationalistic leaders. In fact, the practice of demanding more and more belt tightening from an already overburdened populace is particularly favoured by leaders of the ‘organic’ variety, leaders who use patriotism and national sovereignty to bestow upon themselves the right of impunity, the untrammelled capacity to exploit and oppress their people.

In Rajapakse Sri Lanka, patriotism has become the ‘state religion’, the creed which provides the ‘unstated framework for thinkable thought’, as Noam Chomsky put it (The Manufacture of Consent). This mental straitjacket is preventing many in the South from even considering the possibility that Rajapakse Rule is inapposite and inimical to post-war Sri Lanka and that the Rajapakse trajectory cannot but end in a financial abyss. The 2010 budget should be warning enough; an administration which is seriously interested in economic development and truly concerned about popular well being is unlikely to prioritise military expenditure over socio-economic expenditure in peacetime or mire the country ever deeper in debt. The Rajapakses are doing both, and yet, they are able to pass off their economic irrationalism as patriotic forethought.

Choosing guns over butter means the de-prioritisation of vitally necessary public services, such as education and health. The allocation for education and higher education is just 18% of defence expenditure while the allocation for health is 25% of defence expenditure. According to the new Education Minister (who was a pioneering tuition-merchant) the Grade 5 scholarship exam, which enables clever students from non-privileged backgrounds to enter prestigious national schools, is unnecessary; students are failing OL and AL exams in droves because the syllabuses are too wide-ranging and questions are too difficult. Thus the solution to the crisis in the education sector is not to improve the quality of teachers and of teaching or to provide facilities to underprivileged schools, all of which cost money; the solution is to abolish the Grade 5 scholarship exam and make both OL and AL exams less difficult. In other words further reduce the quality of our education to achieve an ephemeral quantitative success – an inevitable outcome in a country which opts for guns over butter, even in peacetime.

“We have got used to treating the poor as a set of worthless beings”, observed Ranasinghe Premadasa (Speech on 4.9.1989); his economic strategy was consciously premised on the belief that the poor are a developmental asset rather than an impediment to development. Post-Premadasa, that conceptual advance has been abandoned. This is evident in the low priority accorded to poverty alleviation and employment generation in the post-Premadasa economic strategies. For example, according to media reports, some of the Chinese funded infrastructure projects do not provide even temporary employment opportunities for local people because they employ migrant workers from China. Such projects may bolster growth, but it will be a jobless growth and an iniquitous growth, a growth which causes no improvement in popular living conditions.

The latest Global Hunger Index (a composite of child malnutrition and child mortality rates and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient) labels Sri Lanka’s condition as ‘serious’. According to a nutrition and food security survey conducted jointly by the Health Ministry, the UNESCO and the WFP, Lankan households spend 37.9% of their monthly income on food and nearly a third of the households borrow money for their purchases. The monthly income of 39.1% of the households is less than Rs. 9,000 while 32% of the households ‘did not have enough food’ at least once during the previous 12 month period. The ‘Build Baby, Build’ approach to development has not only devastated the environment and increased exponentially, the possibility and the potency of certain natural disasters; it has also failed to improve the living standards of the majority of people, except marginally and incidentally.

Hambantota is a metaphor for Rajapakse economics. Hambantota has been the family bastion of the Rajapakses for decades; after Mahinda Rajapakse assumed Presidency, the district was inundated with massive infrastructure projects, including a harbour, an airport, an international cricket stadium and a mega convention centre. Hambantota is said to be busier than an anthill. And yet, Hambantota has a very high rate of child malnutrition. This anomaly is a logical outcome of Rajapakse economics, which in reality runs counter to that truism Ranasinghe Premadasa never forgot – development is not development if it keeps people in hunger.

As a grade 11 student participant of an island-wide essay competition (organised by the Premadasa Centre) to commemorate the 80th birth anniversary of the late President said, “If the ‘development’ of a country goes hand in hand with the worsening of the living conditions of the people, for whom or for what is that development? A developed country for a malnourished people – is this not an insanity? Must the people of the country gaze at highways like a child looking yearningly at an empty ice cream cup? Should the people eat stone or tar, when development fails to eradicate hunger?” (quoted in ‘Ran Piyawara’ – a publication of the Premadasa Centre).

Budgets are omens; they indicate the nature of a country’s trajectory and the direction in which it is headed. The clear military bias of the 2010 budget is an ominous indicator of the character of post-war Sri Lanka. A country which spends fare more on defence than on education and health combined, and slashes the import duties of luxury vehicles while increasing the import duties of essential food items is a country which favours the interests of the rich and the powerful over the poor and the powerless. The wages of this counterproductive and anti-developmental prioritisation of guns over butter is being paid by the ordinary people in the form of high costs of living, deteriorating living standards and poor services. And patriotism is used to obtain the consent of the Sinhala majority for this anti-popular economic strategy.

And, yet, there is a method in the madness that is Rajapakse economics. The irrational lopsidedness of budgetary allocations fits in with the goal of a national security state. The Defence Ministry is increasingly encroaching on civilian territory; the acquisition of the Urban Development Authority has been followed by the acquisition of the NGO Secretariat. Government propagandists openly talk about the need to win the developmental war the same way the war against the Tigers were won. For instance, the controversial acquisition of the UDA by the Defence Ministry was explained as a step taken to expedite development. This acquisition was followed by the forcible eviction of several low income groups from their dwellings in prime locations in Colombo. Many of these people were long standing residents and quite a few of them legal owners of their properties. For instance, many of the evicted residents of Mews Street had been granted legal ownership of their houses by the Premadasa administration. When the householders resisted the eviction, the military was deployed in full force and the South witnessed scenes which would have been long familiar to people of the North and the East – armed military manhandling unarmed women, old men and children, who were trying to protect their right to a roof over their heads, a basic measure and object of development.

Ranasinghe Premadasa once asked, rhetorically, “If as the result of the modern inventions of he scientist, the fertility of the soil dwindles, and herbs, fruit and vegetation in general are poisoned, wouldn’t that scientist amount to a murderer? If as a result of the technologist people are thrown out of employment, wouldn’t that technologist be an enemy of the people and not a friend?” (Speech at the Anamaaduwa Gam Udawa – 3.7.1988). Such rethinking has gained an unprecedented immediacy and validity, in the aftermath of catastrophic BP oil spill (and Sri Lanka’s own recent experience with floods). Similarly, the time has come to question the patriotic credentials of leaders who spend more on defence than on education and health in peacetime and drive the country towards an avoidable debt-trap with their gross financial mismanagement.

If Sri Lanka is to avoid the fate of Greece, she must rethink her choice of guns over butter and her current economic strategy which ‘scarcely touches the devastating plight of the poor and the ill-sheltered’. Would it not make sense, even from a national security point of view, to spend some of the bloated defence budget on Premadasa-style housing and poverty alleviation programmes in the North? Economic and developmental crises cause political upheavals; a country in the throes of such turmoil is not strong, even if it is armed to the teeth. In post-war Sri Lanka, real national security depends on equitable and humane development, rather than on arms. The time to make the shift from guns to butter is now, before bloated defence spending becomes the national sacred cow.

Foreign policy shift by Sri Lanka in post - war situation

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Revolution, once said that when a specific music is played, the issue is not which key is important, but when a particular key should played. The events unfolded in the past month or so have shown that Sri Lanka has made a new turn in its foreign policy. By identifying this new turn, I do not mean a paradigm shift in Sri Lankan foreign policy, but changes in emphasis and prioritization within the given paradigm.

As I have observed in my previous writings, that (1) there has been a paradigm shift in Sri Lankan foreign policy regime under Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency and (2) this change and associated policies not only satisfied the specific war-time needs but also envisioned global changes that have been taking place in the global economy since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Furthermore, I submit that the current foreign policy paradigm is the best foreign policy framework in post-independence Sri Lanka as it can be depicted as active and futuristic.

To begin with, let me list briefly the major events that have unfolded in the last two weeks or so.

(1) Following the Indian example, Sri Lanka names the foreign ministry as ministry of external affairs.Although it sounds mere semantic, in my opinion, it signifies the need of broadening country’s relations with the rest of the world.

(2) The visits of the Minister of External Affairs to European Union and the USA in order to clarify Sri Lanka’s position on multiple issues and to reaffirm the place of the West in the Sri Lankan relations with the rest of the world.

(3) Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris participated at the Shangri-La Dialogue Asia Security Summit in Singapore.

(4) President’s visit to India and the agreements signed during this visit have demonstrated key role of India in the Sri Lankan foreign policy framework. It seems that the importance of Tamil Nadu factor in bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka has been given due consideration in this visit by extending an invitation to MLAs (Members of Legislative Assembly) from Tamil Nadu to visit Sri Lanka in near future.

(5) Sri Lankan Cabinet has decided that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and Sri Lanka will be signed this year. India is a leading trading partner of Sri Lanka and second largest direct foreign investor in the island.

(6) Visits to Sri Lanka by UN deputy political secretary, Japanese special envoy and two key officers from Obama administration signify significant changes in the attitudes of the West towards Sri Lanka.

(7) The new Conservative-Liberal government in the United Kingdom has indicated that it is in the process of reviewing the previous Labour government’s position on Sri Lanka. In this article, I argue that these events and trends mark a significant and positive change in Sri Lankan relations with outside world and signify necessary policy adjustments required by the post-war situation that has placed priority on economic consolidation and development.

In one of his TV interviews, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence, identified the principal parameters of the Sri Lankan foreign policy after 2005. He started with the general and broader premise that Sri Lanka is a non-aligned country so that it seeks to maintain friendly and cordial relationship with all countries irrespective of their policies and ideological positions. The principle of non-alignment has been the basis of Sri Lankan foreign policy since the late 1950s. Although President J R Jayewardene was suspicious about the whole notion of non-alignment, no noticeable change can be traced in the foreign policy regime between 1977- 1987.

The foreign policy of Sri Lanka took a paradigmatic shift because of the second and third element identified by the Defence Secretary. Throughout its post-independence period, Sri Lankan foreign policy had been oriented towards the West owing to multiple factors such as its colonial past, its foreign assistance structure and trade relations. Since 2005, Sri Lanka has shifted its policy orientation to the Indian Ocean region and this marks a significant change.

One may argue that this change was pragmatic and may be attributed to the on-going war situation in the island. Sri Lanka had to ensure the supply of oil, military equipment, and military intelligence in adequate quantity and at reasonable terms.

Many Western countries indicated that Sri Lanka could not depend on their supply of arms, ammunition and training. Foreign assistance from Western nations, especially from the EU countries was cut down drastically during this period. Hence there is a truth in this argument; but this shift in orientation may also be attributed to Sri Lanka’s recognition of the current changes in the global economy. It was clear at the beginning of the 21st Century that the epi-centre of the global economy was in the process of shifting to Asia-Pacific region. In this sense, shift, in my opinion, marks a futuristic vision.

Thirdly, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa emphasised the fact that Sri Lanka in designing its relationship with the rest of the world should always take into account India’s position and interests. Hence, Sri Lanka should be careful to avoid taking decisions that would be embarrassing to India. (Ref. Interview with the ITN). India’s special and unique place is summarised well by President’s later statement that "India is Sri Lanka’s relation (big sister) while others are friends". Does the use of femininity signify a change?

Although, it was not the intention of the Sri Lankan government, an implementation of this foreign policy framework and the on-going intense armed conflict created some tension in Sri Lanka’s relations with the Western countries including its relations with Australia and New Zealand. Hence one may argue with some justification that the presence of this tension is a significant gap in the above-mentioned foreign policy paradigm. Does it mean a falsification of the paradigm?

I answer this question in the negative and submit that the ‘core’ of the paradigm (in Lakatosian sense) remains correct and well grounded. However, since war has come to a definite end, the foreign policy makers should be now concerned with filling these remaining gaps while working within the existing paradigm. In my opinion, the recent foreign policy initiatives listed above should be read from this perspective.

There is no doubt, that the style and approach of the new minister of External Affairs Prof G.L.Peiris would help the process considerably. In renegotiating terms of relations between Sri Lanka and the West, Sri Lanka is now in a better position owing to the fact that the security-related concerns that were over-emphasised and given priority during the war can be now put on the back-burner. Emphasis should be placed on three main issues.

First and foremost, return, resettlement and integration of the internally displaced people should be completed before the end of this year. Mahinda Chinthanaya 1 has promised Rs. 250,000 each to IDP family by way of compensation. I believe that the government should keep this promise without further delay.

Secondly, elected Northern Provincial Council should be set up as soon as possible and powers and responsibility of reconstruction of war-torn areas devolved to the elected Provincial Council thus breaking from the existing tradition of centre-led development programmes.

Thirdly, human rights situation of the country should be further improved with necessary institutions and practices.

External relations do not mean only relations between states although such relations are always dominant in international relations. Whether we like it or not, there are two old and new elements that have to be kept in mind while dealing with external affairs. The old element is what I call Chennai factor. Sri Lanka should maintain friendly relationship with Tamil Nadu politicians and civil society through multiple networks and continuous exchange of views. The IIFA festival demonstrated beyond any doubt the importance of Chennai factor in Sri Lanka’s international image.

If I extend President Rajapaksa’s metaphor, one may even say, if India is Sri Lanka’s big sister Tamil Nadu should be considered as Sri Lanka’s twin sister. The new element is Tamil diaspora. The government of Sri Lanka I believe should begin to reassess the diaspora and develop new methodologies to open a discussion with them.

The importance of external dimension in Sri Lanka’s economic consolidation and development cannot be underestimated. Correct development policy plus well thought-out foreign policy would be the key to Sri Lanka’s future.

Fidel's legacy and left scholarship

By Nathan Coombs (Royal Holloway, University of London)

(Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro by Dayan Jayatilleka, London: Pluto Press, 2007. 235pp., £17.99, ISBN 978 0 7453 2696 2).

Two contemporary trends in the scholarship of the left converge in Dayan Jayatilleka’s appraisal of Fidel Castro’s legacy.

The first is the emerging perspective, from Jacob Taubes to Alain Badiou, that Christianity provides the foundation for the universalism and moral basis of communism.

The second is the shift from the Second International’s emphasis on the scientific basis of historical materialism to the subject-centred philosophy of the existential movement: from Heidegger’s authentic decision, to Jean Paul Sartre’s notion of commitment, and finally arriving as the discourse of post-Marxism in Slavoj Žižek and Alain Badiou.

Jayatilleka does not assess Fidel’s significance from the heights of such philosophical speculation, but it is clear from the outset that he works within the shared historical horizon of the theoretical left.

He proposes a radical explanation for the downfall of international, revolutionary socialism: that it did not coincide with some change in the underlying economic base of the global economy, but solely from a strategic loss of advantage in defeats of the left between 1974 and 1980. These defeats include Portugal, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Grenada, El Salvador, Chile and Iran.

His hypothesis is that internal fissures imploded these movements, which resulted from extreme internecine violence between factions of the revolutionary left and the loss of moral advantage as exemplified by the barbarism of the Khmers Rouges under Pol Pot.

As the last remaining – and at least somewhat successful – communist state, Jayatilleka proposes that Cuba holds the key to explaining what went wrong with other revolutionary movements.

Fidel Castro’s Jesuit upbringing and attachment to notions such as honour and morality in the correct deployment of revolutionary violence are used to explain the success of the regime and the attainment of moral hegemony on the global scene.

What Fidel achieved was a fusion of moral precepts with Machiavellian realism to attain both stability and continuing regime legitimacy.

In light of recent attempts by the left to model divine violence on Paulian love, it would have been interesting if Jayatilleka had explored the Christian aspect in a comparative perspective with other international movements.

Is there, for instance, a religious essentialist truth as to why the communist regimes of Catholic Latin America are generally perceived as more humane and successful than those practised in Asia and elsewhere?

In other words, we are left with the tantalising question: is it just Fidel’s ‘Ethics of Violence’ that worked so well, or something deeper within the cultural fabric itself?

[This Review appeared in POLITICAL STUDIES REVIEW, journal of the POLITICAL STUDIES ASSOCIATION, UK, published by BLACKWELL]

Magistrates of Chavakachcheri and Vavuniya transferred out of North suddenly

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Two magistrates from the Chavakachcheri and Vavuniya Magistrates’ Courts have been transferred with immediate effect to different areas for no specific reason.

Chavakachcheri Magistrate T.J. Prabhakaran and Vavuniya Magistrate Alex Raja have been transferred with immediate effect to Akkaraipattu and Colombo respectively.

When contacted by The Sunday Leader, Prabhakaran confirmed that he had indeed been transferred with immediate effect and has been requested to report to work at the Akkaraipattu Magistrate’s Court tomorrow (21).

He said that Thursday (17) was his last working day at the Chavakachcheri Magistrate’s Court and he has to now move to Akkaraipattu along with his family within a few days.

Alex Raja was not available for comment.

However, the sudden transfers of the two Magistrates are speculated to have taken place following a speech made in parliament by UNP Parliamentarian Jaya Sri Ranga during the last parliamentary sessions.

Sri Ranga in his speech during an adjournment debate directly accused the EPDP, a constituent party in the governing UPFA, of abducting and extorting money from Tamil people in the North while threatening the judges who heard the relevant cases in court.

He has specifically mentioned the names of Chavakachcheri Magistrate T.J. Prabhakaran and Vavuniya Magistrate Alex Raja saying that they were hearing cases against members of the EPDP for alleged threats, abductions, extortion and even murders.

Sri Ranga in his speech called for the independence of the judiciary in the North saying that the judges were under constant threat by members affiliated to the government if they delivered a judgment against alleged extortion.

At the time of the transfer, Chavakachcheri Magistrate Prabhakaran was hearing a case of abduction and murder of a teenager that had taken place in Chavakachcheri during the general election period.

A 19-year-old schoolboy from the Chavakachcheri Hindu College was allegedly abducted and later killed by the group who had abducted him with the intention of extorting money.

Several EPDP members had been accused in the case and EPDP member and Jaffna Deputy Mayor T. Illango alias Regan had allegedly threatened Prabhakaran.

Meanwhile, Vavuniya Magistrate Alex Raja at the time of his transfer had been under threat and had been asked to withdraw an open warrant issued by him on several suspects in a murder case.

According to Sri Ranga, the suspects in all these cases have been identified as members of the EPDP.

EPDP Leader and Minister Douglas Devananda when contacted by The Sunday Leader on Friday (18) asked us to call him in 10 minutes and did not answer the numerous telephone calls made to his mobile phone afterwards. - courtesy: The Sunday Leader -

Jayalalithaa urges implementation of an 18 point plan to alleviate Tamils' plight

AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa on Saturday June 19th listed an 18 point request to help Tamils in Sri Lanka. "The Centre and the Tamil Nadu governments must ensure that the Lankan government fulfills these promises and resettles the Tamils," she said in a statement released in Chennai.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said Tamil Nadu Gov. conducting Tamil Classical Conference in Coimbatore under the present circumastaneces is totally unnecessary, and called for the implementation of the following 18 points to alleviate immediate difficulties of Tamils in Sri Lanka:

AIDMKTC620.jpg

AIADMK General Secretary Jayalalithaa

1) Still there are still 100,000 people languishing in camps in Sri Lanka North. They should be accorded with resettlement and rehabilitation.

2) It is imperative that resettled people are provided with adequate relief supplies.

3) Scorched agro lands must be restored.

4) Re-construct destroyed water resources

5) Provide education for people

6) Inaugurate new educational institutions

7) Construct new educational facilities

8) Renovate and repair educational facilities

9) Enable rehabilitation of women widowed during the war

10) Provide counseling and assistance to sexually abused women and children during the war

11) Renovate temples, churches and mosques

12) Take measures to curtail temples and churches being converted into Buddhist monasteries

13) Provide medical assistance and rehabilitation to those became incapacitated during the war

14) As the number of males have dwindled, alleviate the stress encountered by women

15) Empower women through businesses run by women

16) Assure all relief assistance is properly reaches Tamil people

17) Allow Non-Governmental Organizations to operate there

18) Grant permission for media persons to meet Tamils.

US ambassador at large for war crimes Stephen Rapp says Sri Lanka panel doesn't meet standards

By Matthew Russell Lee

Sri Lanka's Rajapaksa administration insists that its panel on "Lessons Learned" is a sufficient response to reports of tens of thousands of civilians killed in the final stage of the conflict last year. On June 18, Inner City Press asked Stephen Rapp, US ambassador at large for war crimes issues, if "Lessons Learned" are enough.

"Obviously, what's been announced to date has not met the standard," Rapp said. "They're telling use it does have that capacity, to investigate these cases, to follow up and call witnesses. We're hearing it, but we're not seeing it."

Rapp, whom Inner City Press had previously questioned as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, said his office will be filing another report with the U.S. Congress by the end of July, on "what has been done." He said, "they will not have concluded their investigation, but we can talk about the standards."

Surprisingly, while Rapp responded to Inner City Press that he had seen the BBC Hard Talk interview with Gotabaya Rajapaksa, he said he had "missed" the portion in which Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that if former top general Sarath Fonseka testified about war crimes, he would be "hung" as a traitor.

"He said that?" Rapp asked. "It missed that... Witnesses need to testify freely, without consequences." Yeah. Rapp emphasized that the US is "engaged... Samantha Power was there." Yes, in the run up to the victory celebration.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who back on March 5 said he would appoint of Group of Experts to advise him on accountability in Sri Lanka, is belatedly slated to name the Group this coming week.

Beyond a Austrian member whose nationality but not name Inner City Press has previously reported, an intrepid publication in Sri Lanka has named as a panel member Indonesia's former attorney general Marzuki Darusman. Courtesy: Inner City Press

Other Reports - on Sri Lanka by Inner City Press

About: Inner City Press

Veteran LTTE Leader Pathmanathan alias "KP" meets Gotabhaya and GL Peiris along With Tamil diaspora group

by Ananth Palakidnar

A group of nine Tamil intellectuals including former prominent militant sympathisers who had been operating internationally for the militant outfit along with Pathmanathan (Kumaran), the former head of the LTTE’s activities abroad said they would assist in the post conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in the country.

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"KP"

The delegation of sympathisers of former militants domiciled in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Australia met Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L. Peiris in Colombo with regard to the Sri Lankan Government’s peace building efforts.

Pathmanathan who played a key role in bringing down the nine-member delegation to Colombo was also present at the meetings held with the Defence Secretary and the Minister of External Affairs.

Pathmanathan, known as `K.P’ commenting on the change of heart of Tiger sympathisers abroad and the delegation’s visit to Colombo told the Sunday Observer that several Tiger activists living abroad had now begun to understand the ground realities.

The Tamil diaspora have been observing the situation in the country since the conflict came to an end in May last year.

At the early stages there were misunderstandings due to adverse campaigns carried out by certain organisations which did not seem to like the country enjoying peace. However, during the past one year there was a vast change in the minds of the Tamil diaspora, particularly those who remained supporters of the LTTE, according to Pathmanathan.

Apart from their key meetings in Colombo, the delegation from abroad also received first-hand information on the post-conflict humanitarian activities by visiting Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Jaffna.

The delegation pointed out certain shortcomings in the resettlement process which the Government agreed to look into.

The Security Forces Commanders in Vavuniya and Jaffna briefed them on the progress made with regard to the resettlement and reconstruction activities carried out in the North.

They also met representatives of civil societies. They were impressed with the construction of houses by the Army in Chavakachcheri for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The Security Forces are in the process of building 400-500 houses in the North for those who had lost their dwellings.

Elaborating on the collection of funds from the Tamil diaspora, Pathmanathan said that an understanding has been reached to set up a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) to streamline the financial assistance for the post-conflict humanitarian programs from abroad. The NGO is expected to be called North and East Development Program.

Apart from receiving assistance from abroad, the NGO will also work towards creating awareness among the Tamil diaspora on the post-conflict humanitarian programs.

This will go a long way to counter the adverse campaigns carried out by organisations abroad against the peace building efforts in the country. Detailing the Tiger assets, the former international chief of the Tiger outfit said that the assets are worth several million dollars. Those who are handling the funds collected by the LTTE abroad are now willing to transfer them for humanitarian programs in the country.

Welcoming the TNA’s new stance to cooperate with the Government in the peace-building process the ex-Tiger stalwart said that there should not be room for petty differences and all must work towards stabilising the hard earned peace. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Observer ~

Ex-LTTE cadres unite in wedlock at mass marriage ceremony

By Sarasi Paranamanna

Attending a mass marriage ceremony is quite an unforgettable experience, because, being part of a marriage ceremony always gives a joyous feeling, and when it is on a mass scale, the celebration is amplified.

In Pictures by indi.ca

The mass marriage ceremony I attended last Sunday had its own reasons to be considered unique and special. For the first time in history, rehabilitated ex-combatants were wedded, and the occasion’s expenses were borne by the Rehabilitation Commission, with the support of other NGOs, Hindu Congress and the Council for National Unity.

Tears of joy

Not more than a year ago, Vavuniya was filled with gunshots and the weeping of innocent people, but last Sunday, the Pompaimadu camp area was filled with the loud joyous tunes from the trumpets and the drums at the marriage ceremony. The occasion was held at the Pompaimadu Campus Hostel area where 53 rehabilitated ex-combatants stepped into a new life they had been looking forward for years.

The LTTE robbed the innocence of children, lives of beloved ones and they had forbade people to have relationships, and these youths were couples who have had relationships in secret, while they were in the LTTE. “We weren’t allowed to get married nor have relationships with girls, when we were recruited to the LTTE by force,” said Simson, one of the bridegrooms. The couples were seated dressed in traditional garments and the brides were holding their grooms’ hands shyly. The colourful saris, jewellery and the traditional wedding decors added a vibrant, vivacious mood to the ceremony.

According to the Rehabilitation Commissioner General, Brigadier S. Ranasinghe, many rehabilitants, who were already lovers, had requested to legalise their marriages and the Rehabilitation Commission had spent over Rs.20 million to organise this event. These rehabilitants, who were once cursed by the cruelty of war, can look forward to a better future now. The marriage ceremony was indeed a grand occasion in its fullest sense, because all the needful, starting from the decorations to the wedding suits were presented to these couples.

Organisations such as the Hindu Congress had generously sponsored these couples, their wedding saris and the “thali kodi”, which is a gold necklace given by the bridegroom to the bride during wedding rituals. Priests and marriage registrars were also present on the occasion and it was truly a cheerful moment for all these rehabilitants, as an important day in their lives was celebrated on a grand scale. To think that, not more than a year ago, they were taken into custody by the army, when they had nothing but the garments they were wearing.

VIP witnesses

Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms D.E.W. Gunasekara was the chief guest. Prominent personalities such as Deputy Minister Vijith Vijayamuni Zoysa, Ministers Dilan Perera, Douglas Devananda and Rishad Bathiyudeen signed as witnesses to the marriage registration. MP Namal Rajapaksa, who also signed as a witness, stated that all the young MPs are dedicated to the long-term procedures to integrate these youth, who were in the wrong track, back to the normal society.

All the couples were overjoyed to see Bollywood film star Vivek Oberoi at their wedding ceremony. The film star signed for several marriage registrations as a witness, and the couples were indeed thrilled and excited by his presence. Vivek Oberoi congratulated the newlyweds and said, “This historical moment is indeed a celebration of humanity, because, as “udayam” (sunrise) these people now have hope to start a new life, with events like these only, the government can win the people’s hearts and bridge the gaps which the 30-year-old conflict created.”
The couples walked around the sacred fire and the bride keeping her feet on the grinding stone, vowed to be together with the bridegroom in both happiness and sorrow.

Former Rehabilitation Commissioner Major General Daya Ratnayake said that the newlyweds will be placed in the Peace Village at Pompaimadu, as they are still going through the rehabilitation process. The couples were provided with separate houses in the Peace Village and bank accounts at People’s Bank, with Rs.10,000 gifted to each couple. “These couples will be provided further assistance to build a life on their own, which will include vocational assistance and financial aid. We were fighting against each other before, but as soldiers, we are more than happy to see them starting a life on their own, because so many soldiers sacrificed their live to see these misled youth receive a permanent solution to their problems. With all the assistance, for at least three years, we will also monitor how these couples are progressing in building their lives,” said Major General Ratnayake.

Sweet celebration

After the rituals were performed, and the brides were adorned in the “thali kodi” and “sindur,” the joy was celebrated by eating sweet “laddus.” I also got the chance to taste the sweet yellow “laddus” and share the joy and celebration of the occasion. Speaking to one of the relatives who attended the occasion, I realised the courage these people have, because going through all the hardships, they have been able to come to a new turn with new hopes in their lives, forgetting their bitter pasts. “I am very happy to see my sister starting a new life, and even our lives are changed now, because we do not have such a hard time. We can make a living, as my father is working as a priest in the Nallur Kovil, now all we want is to see my sister come out of the camp,” said Sumathi, an elder sister of one of the brides who had come all the way from Yal Panam.

There were 41 Hindu couples, 11 Christian couples and 1 Catholic couple, with each couple allowed to invite 10 guests for the occasion. I saw the mothers hugging their newlywed daughters, friends congratulating the couples, and it almost looked like a miracle, because not more than two years ago these people were separated from their loved ones by force.

The occasion was made more vibrant and cheerful by the performances of the rehabilitants, who were trained by veteran actress and founder of Abhina Academy, Anoja Weerasinghe. The dances were indeed pleasant and enjoyable because to see a group of youths using their lives for a good cause and enjoying their lives at the same time indicates a major psycho social reform in these youths who once knew only to handle weapons. While the performances were proceeding film star Vivek Oberoi joined their dance which augmented the excitement of the event.

Turning back to return home with a happy heart, I saw the couples going towards their old rehabilitation camps. They were bidding goodbye to their friends still undergoing rehabilitation, and behind the thorny fences, their friends were wishing them luck to start their new life. The sight was indeed touching. One group is walking towards a new life, and the other group is looking forward to a new life.

That sight itself is enough to see that the freedom we gained is too precious and too valuable, because hope is what keeps people alive, and peace allows these people to hope for a better future, which is indeed a blessing to the land once cursed by the hopelessness and the futility of war. - courtesy: Nation -

June 19, 2010

The hijacking of a military victory by one political family to consolidate its own power

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene

The day after the military victory over the LTTE last May, the street down which I live was fluttering with national flags hoisted atop each and every conceivable point.

Certainly, the mood was euphoric, somewhat along the lines of what we saw decades back when the militant leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was captured and killed by government forces in much the contentious circumstances surrounding the killing of LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Repression in the name of patriotism

This week however, heralding the so termed Victory Day announced by the Sri Lanka government, and initially postponed due to the unkindness of the weather gods, (who was probably acting on the behest of Western conspiratorial forces as a wag appropriately put it), little of that euphoria was present. Flags were certainly not fluttering on my street. Was my street peculiar from others throughout the country? I would not have thought so.

And peripherally, the thought crossed my mind; as much as the soldier pictured on the front pages of the newspapers saluting the wife of Sri Lanka's former Army Commander and common opposition candidate now in custody, had allegedly been transferred for his imprudence, would there be consequences for his lack of patriotism as defined by this administration?

This thought is not so absurd after all. We have already reached the limits of repression in the name of patriotism; what is there to stop the line from being stretched a little further each time?

Constitutional reforms entrenching authoritarianism

But it should well behove this government to examine why this Friday passed by with scarcely a collective yawn. The question does not really need profound thought. The hijacking of a military victory over separatists, (at the cost of several thousand lives over several decades), by one political family intent on using that victory to consolidate its own political power, calls for little celebration. Instead of magnanimity in victory, what we see is deep political insecurity leading to greater repression. Instead of a return to rule of law governance by the proper implementation of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, what we have is constitutional reforms entrenching authoritarianism in the dark. Core to this is the throwing out of the Constitutional Council (CC) and the return to unfettered Presidential appointments with only a vague duty to 'consult' others before making the appointments to key offices as well as the constitutional commissions.

Meanwhile, we are being asked to believe the absurd claim, (ala some political allies of the People’s Alliance), that this wholesale jettisoning of the CC is because it will pander to the tune of non governmental organizations.

This is scarcely paranoia but rather a most convenient façade to mask the real aim of these reforms which is the unabashed consolidation of power. Similarly, instead of limiting the powers of the Executive Presidency, what we have now is the unlimited possibility of contesting for that post and the further political control of the Office of the Attorney General. In addition, the police remain in the control of the President's brother, the Defence Secretary and a vast number of public institutions are retained in the hands of either the President, his brothers or his relatives.

Continuing political insecurity

So when we hear of President Mahinda Rajapaksa swearing this Friday to properly look after the people in his country, many of us must be forgiven for taking such statements with the proverbial pinch of salt. Frankly, let alone the minority, many in the majority have trouble believing this assertion. By constitutional reforms aimed at consolidating its power, by the continued militarization of law enforcement as well as by incarcerating and injudiciously hounding what it obviously perceives to be its most dangerous political opponent, this administration has only demonstrated a continuing political insecurity despite the seemingly large electoral majorities that it won in elections earlier this year.

Unproductive exercises of truth and reconciliation

And as we tread down this virulently anti democratic path, expecting a 'Truth and Reconciliation' Commission to achieve any significant results is to literally wish for the moon to be brought down to earth. For the Tamils and the Muslims, this effort is not only farcical but a cruel mockery of the anguish that they have suffered. For those Sinhalese who have themselves undergone countless such unproductive exercises referencing the killing fields of the South in the eighties and early nineties, this body is most monumentally irrelevant. Its only useful purpose appears to be as leverage vis a vis foreign governments for reasons that have virtually nothing to do with either truth or reconciliation between communities.

As harsh as this critique is, it stems from far more than the limited mandate of this body or indeed, its composition. Where the basic norms of ordinary democratic governance are being disregarded and where every effort is towards entrenching authoritarian rather than egalitarian rule, by what stretch of the most willing imagination can we expect a Commission of this nature to achieve anything substantial in terms of truth or reconciliation as if by a miracle, as it were?

Meeting serious concerns in regard to accountability

In this background, it is unsurprising that the Secretary General of the United Nations has decided to go ahead with his decision to appoint a panel of advisors to brief him regarding accountability questions in Sri Lanka. This is neither an international war crimes inquiry as claimed by some nor does it appear to be calculated to embarrass the country on the first year anniversary of the ending of the conflict. It is rather a step taken months ago, which the Secretary General is fully empowered to take according to his mandate concerning a member state of the United Nations.

In response, parading useless commissions of inquiry or engaging in pompous rhetoric commanding the world to keep its hands off Sri Lanka, do not help. Instead, to ensure that genuine concerns are not subverted by pro LTTE diasporic pressure, the Rajapaksa administration should engage in open and consultative constitutional and systemic reform on the question of accountability, which addresses Rule of Law and majority/minority concerns. Hounding political opponents and dissenters must stop. We could then truly commemorate victory for the country and not for one political family or party or, for that matter, one religious or ethnic community alone.

UNP must renew itself as a party and take on the dictatorial Rajapakse regime

By Ranil Wickremesinghe

Politics is a dynamic process, so political parties cannot afford to be stagnant. Whether we win or lose, parties need to renew themselves periodically because the needs and desires of the electorate keep changing.

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The human mind is not constant, as the Buddha said; it can be rational or emotional; calm or agitated. Any district or country consists of millions of human minds which keep shifting according to external situations and personal experiences. This is why political parties keep re-branding themselves from time to time the world over. The strength of the UNP has been in its capacity to revive and renew itself under trying circumstances.

Many forget that we can trace our party's history back to the Buddhist revival and the Temperance Movement of the late 19th Century. Furthermore, the UNP has always upheld the principle of responsible government which C.A. Lorensz of the Burgher community first agitated for in the Legislative Council during the mid-19th Century. Sir Ponnabalam Ramanadhan, the first elected member of the Legislative Council, saved the lives of some of the founder members of the UNP during the 1915 riots. Subsequently, many of his Tamil followers joined the party in forming the party. The support of T. B. Jayah and the Muslims helped the UNP to establish a multi-cultural Sri Lankan identity, on which we have always stood steadfast.

The UNP has given a lot to this country. Its governments were instrumental in achieving independence from the British, joining the United Nations and the Commonwealth as well as forming the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC). It was responsible for granting free education for millions of children and establishing a free healthcare service for all. It initiated massive development programmes during the time of successive leaders starting from D. S. Senanayake and especially during the administrations of J. R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa.

These include the establishment of the armed forces in the 1940s and later re-building them as fighting forces, hydro-electricity power generation; the establishment of many of our universities, the Mahaweli, the Free Trade Zones and more than 200 garment factories, a new capital city - Sri Jayewardenepura; the opening up of the economy in 1977, the facilitation of migrant workers and better standards of living by instituting and introducing TV, mobile phone and information technology; and the resurrection of the economy from dire straits in 2001 and achieving self-sufficiency in rice production by 2004.

Like many of you I see 2009 as a defining moment in Sri Lankan politics as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was defeated and Velupillai Prabhakaran killed during that year. The LTTE'sarmed struggle was effectively over. Since 1983, the war that raged in the North and East had overshadowed other issues such as the economy and disputes over political liberties. However, now that the war has ended, these issues have come to the forefront.

But one year after the end of the war, we have yet to deal with thousands of displaced people in the North and East and evolve a political solution to ethnic grievances -- a solution that is acceptable to all communities. We have to contend with the increasingly sophisticated challenges of a globalised economy such as gaining preferential access to larger markets for our products and upgrading ourselves to the next levels of technology.

We have to provide better quality food at affordable prices, meaningful education, efficient healthcare, and better living standards to our people. Furthermore, we have to institute good governance and democracy.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa government used massive propaganda on the war to gloss over these issues and win the last presidential and general elections. But the government cannot keep on doing that because the people are tired of waiting for results ad infinitum - especially since some of the central issues in local politics are no longer dominant. Therefore, over the next few years, the government has to demonstrate that it is capable of satisfying the urgent needs and aspirations of our people.

I have grave doubts as to whether this will happen.

The government's actions are aimed at centralizing and confining power to members of one family to perpetuate an indefinite political dynasty. This can only be achieved by Mahinda Rajapaksa by curbing the hard-won democratic rights of our people.

The economy which is based on policies of market fundamentalism cannot provide for the welfare of our people -- given its short-term, high-profit motive. A few are capitalizing on this; the favoured are making money through bribery and corruption; and the rest are trying to balance their household budgets. A number of workers have lost their jobs. These trends are now alarming even those who voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa.

As a responsible opposition party, the United National Party (UNP) has to renew and re-organise itself to take up these issues. Our primary duty is to take on the government on behalf of our people. We did it once in the seventies and then again in 2001-- and there is no reason why we cannot do it again. And that is what the UNP is planning for.

However, the electorate of 2016 or 2017 will be different from today's electorate.

On the one hand, there will be younger voters. On the other hand, the over-50s will also be a significantly large category. There will be greater urbanization and more and more people will be aware of global events outside the country and the global reaction to us as a nation.

Firstly, the UNP has to rebuild its vote base. We have done it before. We lost our vote base in 1956 but we were returned to office in 1965. The vote base we gained in 1977 we lost in 1994, having lost part of the middle class vote -- to the Lalith Athulathmudali-Gamini Dissanayake faction. We regained it in 2001.

Secondly, we have an additional challenge in the form of large-scale voter boycott and apathy at national elections. This is a new and startling trend that we have to deal with at future elections. At this year's presidential election, there was extensive abuse of state power and this impacted greatly on the general elections that followed.

Discouraged by the outcome of the presidential election, millions of voters simply stayed at home; and asking them to vote became a futile exercise. Consequently, not only the votes of the UNP, but the votes of the UPFA, DNA, and all other parties declined drastically. In fact, the most drastic decline was for the UPFA between the presidential and general elections - not that we can get comfort by comparing the declines. It is a measure of the immensity of the problem.

Thus the UNP has to face the challenge of reorganising the party so as to garner this vote and a new generation of voters -- this is the path to victory. There is a broad agreement emerging as to how the party should set about to become the leading political party in the country. The UNP has neglected its organisational capacity at grassroots and the potential to mobilise support as has been evident at provincial council elections and then at the general elections.

This is a result of the proportional representation (PR) system, where candidates neglect their constituency base in favour of campaigning for preference votes from the entire district. This is known as pillion-riding where candidates go after the second or third preference of a vote that has already been canvassed. There is less focus on attracting new votes. The UPFA and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have also been affected by this.

With there being agreement that future elections will be conducted according to a mix of the PR system (without the preference vote) and the first-past-the-post system, the new system of elections would have electoral constituencies that MPs and aspirants will have to nurse. When I entered politics in 1972, we began our careers by being asked to organize a constituency that had to be won to enter Parliament.

Another challenge facing the UNP is the need to enhance the Sinhala vote, especially in the rural areas and devise an approach to woo the Buddhist voter. We also have to develop our own Muslim and Tamil leaders in the party. We need to find new candidates -- and their personalities must go hand in hand with a strong grassroots organisational capacity.

The party will probably require two years of hard work at the grassroots level to establish effective branch organisations and to train the cadre. If we do not do this, we are not only deceiving ourselves, we are also letting down the country.

The party is focusing on creating a new set of second and third line leaders. The new faces in this Parliament have provided us with the opportunity to do so. These parliamentarians will be given the responsibility and the space to develop themselves. I believe they should lead the attacks on the government. Parliament should only be the beginning in mass-scale agitation on behalf of the people.

The next step should be to take the issues at stake to the people -- both directly and through the media. This will enable them to obtain feedback about the mood of the country which in turn would help us to shape our policies. I have already asked the UNP's Parliamentary Affairs Committee to set about this task.

There has been a lot of discussion about the party constitution and I agree that changes to the constitution are essential. The media focus appears to be on the election of party officials. We have had the elective principle pertaining to officials from the beginning of the UNP and the prescribed forum or mechanism has differed from time to time according to the prevailing party constitution. However, in practice, officials were elected uncontested through the Working Committee.

When the Executive Presidency was introduced to the country in 1978 we changed the system within the UNP whereby if a member of the UNP was the President, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition (in that order) then he or she would ex-officio become the party leader. In 1994 we lost the Presidency to Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who was not the head of a party. At the time, some members joked that she could pay ten rupees and obtain membership to take over the party!! We reviewed the situation and decided for many reasons to go back to the elective principle.

According to our present Constitution, the deputy and assistant leaders have to be nominated by the leader of the party with the consent of the Working Committee. This requires that the leader consults the Working Committee in making this selection. The leader is elected by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of 2000 members. Currently, about 800 members have still to be appointed by the relevant organizations to the NEC.

But today in a climate where party decisions are being increasingly submitted for judicial scrutiny by disgruntled party members, these provisions may be subject to interventions by the courts of law. For instance, if an indeterminate state arises as a result of an election, the courts will be giving directions to the party.

Do we really want a system where the High Court of Colombo, for instance, decides who the party leader and the other office bearers should be? The UNP has to look into all these factors and provide safeguards. This is why the Working Committee has appointed a committee headed by former Speaker Joseph Michael Perera to look into these and the other issues mentioned below.

In this process, the committee has already come to an agreement on maintaining the tradition of uncontested election of officials and it is formulating a mechanism to arrive at a consensus for this. Other issues are also being debated and discussed now.

These include the term of office for all office bearers including the leader, the duties of the various officials, reducing the number of members in the Working Committee, a request by women MPs for a quota for women in the party hierarchy, making the NEC more manageable so it could be summoned at least twice a year, restoring the principle of making the Working Committee answerable to the NEC, setting up a forum for local and provincial council representatives and finally, whether the district organisations of the party should be abolished.

The committee has now met most representatives and started formulating detailed proposals. Once the recommendations of the Committee are approved by the Working Committee, they will be put forward at a special party convention. Once accepted, a new party constitution incorporating these proposals will be presented to the party's annual convention.

The reorganization of the UNP has come under intense review by the media. Unfortunately, some sections of the media have gone beyond the task of reporting news and are currently participating in making up or creating 'news' about the UNP. There are daily programmes sensationalizing the divisions in the UNP and the 'greed for power' ('Bala Thanha'). Other newspapers have made allegations of financial impropriety based on the dubious integrity of a statement made by an individual named Sabir Hussein.

The same newspaper, in its issue of August 28, 2005, in an article (written ironically by the journalist who is now its Editor) describes this individual as: "A 45-year-old Sri Lankan, Sabir Hussein, having made a massive amount of money on web-based poker sites, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison by Swedish Authorities"

Need I say more?

We live in an age where there is a multiplicity of print and electronic media that are supposed to portray diverse views, but may not always be permitted to do so by the government. Yet if any media organization -- regardless of whether it praises us or attacks us - comes under pressure from the government, we will stand for its independence because we are unconditionally committed to the democratic principle.

Doubtless as a political party our central objective is to secure power, but I must emphasize that the UNP is a political party that wields power with responsibility -- both to our members and to the people we represent. However, I don't believe that we are obliged to respond to every stray allegation of the media just because they have the power and the forum to make these allegations; especially, when they are not being made for the public good; but for individual causes which have not been accepted by the party.

The very fact that these allegations are based on the petty self-interest of individual journalists and media organisations and not the collective concern of the nation should say something.

The process of reviving the party has led to different views being expressed publicly and sometimes passionately. There are, regrettably, clashes between personalities. This is the hallmark of dynamic and democratic party politics. Yet in this process the UNP should not forget to oppose the government which is deviously trying to suppress democratic freedoms and impose hardships on the people. We can and must certainly discuss, debate and even disagree -- but we should not allow this to become a circus.

The UNP is unique in that it has the ability to work with all hues of civil society: the Buddhist clergy and other religious organisations, the Muslim and Tamil parties, and the JVP - have all been able to come together on common issues and platforms - sometimes despite ideological differences of opinion. It is a phenomenon that we should retain. Such relationships are necessary for any country to progress because no political party will remain in power eternally.

In the final analysis, our priority at this point should be to renew ourselves as a party and to take on the dictatorial tendencies of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. We owe that not only to our own party members, but we owe that to our country too. ~ courtesy: daily mirror. lk ~

Freed Sri Lankan journalist Tissainayagam arrives in U.S.

by Committee to Protect Journalists

New York, June 19, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalist welcomes the arrival in the United States of Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, who arrived at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Saturday morning.

tissa.cpj620.jpgHe was met there by friends. According to CPJ representative Kamel Labidi, who was on hand to meet Tissa, “He was all smiles, and said to thank everyone who helped him gain his freedom.”

“Tissainayagam’s arrival in the United States is very welcome news, and we join in the joy that he and his wife Ronnate are feeling,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We hope his arrival in the U.S. is a step by the government to address its harsh policies toward the media—policies that have not changed since the end of Sri Lanka’s more than 30 years of civil conflict.”

On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the government announced that it would grant Tissainayagam a presidential pardon. Tissainayagam had been released on bail in January and had lived in seclusion in Sri Lanka since. The Tamil editor was first jailed in March 2008 and eventually indicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in August 2008.

So far, the Sri Lankan government has made no official statement about the terms of his release, and Tissainayagam and his wife have made no public statements.

National Reconciliation begins when the pause after war drives a nation to Its senses

by Rt.Rev.Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo

It is now a year since the civil war has ended in our beloved Sri Lanka and sadly national reconciliation continues to elude us. In these circumstances the CR de Silva Commission on "lessons learnt and reconciliation" is timely and welcome. It is yet another chance to learn from mistakes of the past and to humbly declare the truth that brings reconciliation.

The mere end of war does not simply bring reconciliation. It rather offers a promise of reconciliation by bringing an end to fighting as a problem solving device. It is when the pause after war drives a nation to its senses and the realisation that the highest purpose of life is to protect and enhance life, that national reconciliation begins.

Reconciliation eludes us today because the immediate wounds of war have not been substantially addressed. State policy on resettlement and development in the previous war zone has not yet been adequately clarified; and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the people to hold Government Ministries and Departments accountable for clear information, incompetence or delay.

Much more serious is the growing militarization of the previous war zone. This trend sends counter-productive signals to a people, crushed for years; first under the LTTE and then the ravages of a fierce war. It suggests that an armed presence is still necessary in these areas since the winners distrust the losers; and stands in contrast to a visibly indifferent resettlement policy.

Reconciliation in a poor country also demands economic reconciliation. In-spite of lapses which require attention, state sponsored health care and education for all, are exceptionally commendable welfare measures that need to be appreciated. However, given today’s economic realities which trap and dehumanise the poorest, we need to move beyond these measures. More realistic economic opportunities for the poor should be accompanied with welfare measures for the most vulnerable in our society.

A concerted war on a sub-human quality of life requires the attention of our economists. Politicians will contribute best if they initiate such policies; and opt voluntarily for a simple life style. Such a response mostly, will counter the peoples perception that in many instances the quest for political power today is also a quest for personal financial gain.

The crux of the reconciliation crisis however is the inability or refusal to substantially draw the minorities into the task of governance and nation building. For this to happen there should be a shift in attitude. The minorities cannot continue to be sidelined as peripheral communities dependent on goodwill decisions taken at the centre or with little to offer the nation.

The alarmingly conspicuous absence of all national languages and cultures at national events as well as the fast diminishing number of minority community representatives as national advisers, consultants and senior bureaucrats, apart from tokenism, makes the point. The sooner that competent persons from minority communities are included in all departments of national life, very specially our shared political future, the sooner reconciliation will be within our reach.

The investigation of disappearances and deaths of a large number of civilians, including media personnel, is another step that will enhance reconciliation. The identification of sites of death or burial, so that last rites can be performed should be part of this work. This will help relatives come to terms with the truth, the past and grief. It is when the deepest longings of those who grieve have been heard, that reconciliation spreads.

Another obstacle to reconciliation is the delay in declaring a Day of National mourning to commemorate all Sri Lankans who died as a result of the war. This should be done to concurrently demonstrate that war must never be repeated; and that those who died gave their lives to end all wars. Such a national opportunity to mourn will no doubt release a vibrant collective national energy towards national integration.

With peace and blessings to all.

Tim Martin of "Act Now" seeks justice for Sri Lankan Tamils

Tim Martin, one of the directors of human rights group Act Now was invited to Oxford on Wednesday, June 9th to give a lecture at the Oxford Union, once described as the "world's most prestigious debating society".

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Linked but not controlled by the University the Oxford Union has a long history of hosting international figures and celebrities from politicians to military figures to stars and has proved a valuable training ground for many future politicians from Britain and other countries. For example, in the same week a General in the US Army, the Maharajah of Jodhpur and various UK politicians spoke and debated including John Major a few months ago.

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Tim was invited to speak about his experiences working as a humanitarian aid worker in Sri Lanka, in the northern region where the conflict took place, the reasons why he took part in a 21 day hunger strike in Parliament Square, about his campaigning work with Act Now and what he believes the International Community (IC) can do for Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Tim explained that he went to Sri Lanka to help repair the damage caused by the devastating 'Boxing Day' Tsunami. He explained how he had witnessed first hand the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government, lived with the fear from daily shelling and ariel bombardments from the Sri Lankan armed forces and heard the first hand accounts from his friends about the atrocities of the past.

He told the students how after returning home he felt compelled to campaign in the UK for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka and to expose the true scale of the human rights violations that were taking place. Then in May 2009 he launched a 21 day hunger strike as he felt it was the only way to keep the spotlight on Sri Lanka amidst the MPs expense scandal and the problems in Gaza. The hunger strike initially started outside the US Embassy calling upon the then new President Obama to move his satellite over the area and calling for the IC to act to avoid further genocide.

He explained to the audience how the UN had a responsibility to protect and had once again failed both Tamil civilians and the IC by refusing to intervene meaningfully in Sri Lanka and that despite promising not to allow another Rwanda or Darfur, they had done exactly that.

He particularly attacked those members of the UN Human Rights Council who hypocritically backed Sri Lanka's conduct of the war and explained how according to human rights groups, the council is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China, Cuba and Russia, who protect each other from criticism. He also criticised the UK for supplying arms and aid to the Sri Lankan Government which allowed them to slaughter civilians.

Even after the end of the war over 300,000 of the survivors including 50,000 children and 20,000 amputees were herded into concentration camps in appalling conditions. Some 80,000 are still held there.

Since that time he and Act Now have continued to campaign in favour of a political solution to the conflict and are calling upon the IC to investigate the War Crimes that took place and to expose the ongoing human rights violations. Ultimately Act Now believes that a UN supervised referendum such as occurred in East Timor is the mechanism to bring about a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. A process of boycotts and sanctions are required to pressure Sri Lanka to strike such a deal. This was the reason why Act Now is campaigning so hard to obtain the withdrawal of the EU's tax concession to Sri Lanka.

After the debate Tim said "The audience were shocked to hear about the scale and scope of the atrocities visited upon Tamils going back many years. A number promised to become involved in the campaign to bring War Criminals to justice and to support an economic campaign against Sri Lanka. Given that many in the audience are destined for top level posts in Government and Industry this bodes well for the future. I would urge all those reading this account to get involved in our campaign to bring peace and justice to Sri Lankan Tamils. We can win but not without everyones help!"

SIGN THE PETITION

As part of the fightback we need to highlight the Sri Lankan Government's murderous attitude towards Tamils. We need an investigation into allegations of war crimes and other crimes under international law and those responsible must be prosecuted before independent criminal courts.

We urge you sign the following petition calling upon the UN to investigate Sri Lanka rights violations at Amnesty International

A Royal Visit From Trincomalee to Colombo

By Sharlene de Chickera

“A child more than all other gifts that Earth can offer to declining man, brings hope with it and forward looking thoughts”…George Eliot

The day was June 2nd 2010. Our mission was to receive 86 school boys from Trincomalee District and host them at Royal College, for a day!

The trip was planned by the Army, in terms of organizing an educational trip to Colombo for a group of students from three schools in the Echchalampattu area in the Tricomalee district.

The main objective of the trip was to enable these students to visit Colombo schools, and gain exposure to the lifestyle and day-to-day activities of their peers, thereby enjoying the peace and harmony established after a 30 year war.

What transpired was building of friendships that would last a life-time and memories that would linger in the heart and mind forever, on both sides.

Our ‘Royal Troops’ were ready at the main gate sharp at 8.30 a.m. on the appointed day! The Oriental band was dressed in their finery and the prefects smartly lined-up. The staff of RCU was also part of the colorful parade.

The much awaited day was about to begin…

The battalion of faces came forward…in rows of two’s and three’s…our hearts sank a little…their shy smiles showed courage, but we observed instantly that they were in need of more than friendship. They were in need of material things that our sons of Royal took for granted. Every day!

The band struck up their music and started their dance, and set off the parade to the main hall. We all followed, behind the Army personnel, teachers, prefects and invitees. Once in the hall the customary speeches were made. The Principal of Royal College embraced the invitees like his own brood at Royal College. Mr. Rizan Nazeer, the Secretary of the Royal College Union, bonded with the boys from Trinco, addressing them in their spoken language, Tamil.

The visitors felt welcome and were inspired and awed to be in such a grand hall.

Next was bonding time. Our boys and their boys, exchanged names, and colored bands. And with genuine intention, ingenuity and friendship, used the fantastic layout of Royal College, to create events, games and fun for the rest of the day.

The first session included games. These brought out the ‘child’ and competitive spirit in everyone. Some won, some lost, but what was more important was how the game was played. The spirit of Royal College was burning a flame in the hearts of our visitors. Did they dream of studying here? I am sure they did. For I also dream that dream…

Next they created a banner. A token that was unique, a symbol of friendship and creativity. Something to remember their presence and foot-prints at Royal College. This creative task was captured by the cameras of ‘YA-TV’, and while the electronic eye captured the details, the experience was already embedded in the hearts and minds.

Having worked up a healthy appetite with all the fun and games, it was time for lunch. And the hostel Warden had done justice to the request by serving a truly delicious Royal banquet. We enjoyed the lunch and dessert to the maximum, and we also appreciated the hospitality very much.

The next session in the water at the pool-side was a treat for our guests. It was a sheer delight to observe their fun and frolic in the Royal College swimming pool. The boys from Trinco took the plunge like Ducks taking to water, and really enjoyed the time spent in the pool.

The evening witnessed plays which were symbolic in terms of social themes, and also health themes such as Dengue, which were enacted in Tamil, but were understood by all in terms of gesture and nuance. Special mention should be made of the skit which had elaborate costumes such as wigs, and the boys dressed up as girls were an added laugh.

They memorable day came to an end with more speeches, this time ‘teary’ and giving of gifts. But what was given and received was life, laughter and the exuberance of youth which would be crystallized in the memories of those who participated in the events of June 4th.

Well done Prefects, you have upheld your badge of honor and rallied round the College flag with your seniors, to layout the carpet of warm friendship and dish out the best treat to your young friends. We thank Mr. Rizan for creating an opportunity like this out of the blue for all of us to show our hospitality and learn gratitude and be humble for all the blessings we have received at Royal College.

Let us remember the smiles and cheer. Who says that hopes, dreams and wishes of youth have several languages? We are one brotherhood and we live under the aegis of the Lion Flag.

No International War Crimes Investigation against Sri Lanka for now

By Namini Wijedasa

The Tamil diaspora is likely to be livid. International human rights groups like Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and Amnesty International will not be happy. And this certainly was not what Navi Pillai, the UN high commissioner for human rights, had hoped for.

Nevertheless, the Sri Lanka Government seems to have pulled it off–if the public statements of several visiting envoys last week are to be believed, an international war crimes investigation is off the cards for now.

Proof of the pudding

The main reason for this is the appointment of a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. While this commission is derided by critics as a dud, an inevitable failure and a feeble exercise to buy time, members of the international community seem increasingly inclined to evaluate rather than to condemn outright. “After all,” said a US official last week, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Calls for an international body to probe alleged war crimes are being replaced by a willingness to let the LLRC do its work first. Despite unflinching evidence that commissions of inquiry in Sri Lanka have been nothing more than temporary measures to deflect attention, three sets of foreign envoys last week laid emphasis on domestic accountability mechanisms over external ones.

This may partly be due to the government’s recent efficacy in convincing the international community of its good faith in setting up the commission. With the war–and elections-over, the Rajapaksa regime has toned down its rhetoric and has embarked on a mission of engagement. And one subject, the government has been irrevocably clear: They will not allow for or participate in an international investigation into domestic affairs. In the face of such obduracy, the international community, too, has been forced to engage.

Visiting the country last week were Japanese envoy Yasushi Akashi; UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe; Special Assistant to President Barack Obama on Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights Samantha Power; and Obama’s National Security Council Director for War Crimes and Atrocities David Pressman.

Internal matter

Akashi made Japan’s position on war crimes allegations clear on Monday, in comments to media after his meeting with External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris. The international community should not dwell on the past, he said. If there were reasonable allegations that international norms of combat were violated, it was for Sri Lanka to define the precise role of an inquiry. “It is not for other governments or international organizations to dictate to Sri Lanka what it should be doing in this highly complicated and sensitive area,” he said.

Lynn Pascoe’s visit to Sri Lanka had been in the pipeline for some months. At the UN headquarters in New York, journalists grilled Ban Ki-moon’s spokespersons about reports that Sri Lanka was deliberately blocking Pascoe’s trip. But at a press conference on Thursday, Pascoe showed no signs of tension with the government. He said he was “very impressed” by the government’s efforts to provide basic facilities for the internally displaced and showed appreciation for the difficult task Sri Lanka faced in recovering from the trauma of a 25-year-old war.

Pascoe confirmed during the question-and-answer session that Ban Ki-moon will set up a panel next week to advise him on international standards and comparative experiences with accountability. He said it will also be available as a resource Sri Lankans can turn to. He indicated that the panel’s members would have a broad mandate. The indication was that the panel would be more of a body that Sri Lanka could rely on for assistance rather than one that would query the military’s actions during the final stages of the war.

In Pascoe’s own words last week, there have been “many misunderstandings about what the panel will do”. He said there was “no cause for concern” and that it would be “very useful for the government”. So much for Ban Ki-moon’s sensational panel.

Meanwhile, Pascoe, when questioned about Sarath Fonseka’s detention, emphasised that it was an internal matter that should be left to the Sri Lankan legal system. This, it is understood, is also the position of the US which is now placing great emphasis on domestic process.

President makes pledges

The visiting US envoys, like Pascoe and Akashi, had a long week of travel and meetings that involved stops in the North and East. During discussions with government officials, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Power and Pressman reportedly stressed that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was an important tool in moving forward. Their position was that there must be closure for those civilians who had suffered loss and injury in the war–and the LLRC would provide the means by which such closure could be achieved.

In reply to several concerns raised emphatically by Power and Pressman, President Rajapaksa made several pledges. He assured them, for instance, that there would be an investigation into alleged war crimes and that there would be criminal accountability, official US sources said. In other words, those found guilty of wrongdoing would be punished. He said the report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission would be made public. He also promised that the ICRC would be given access to Tamil detainees.

It is learnt that Power and Pressman during their trips to the North and East were repeatedly struck by the sense of fear among the civilian population. This prompted them to raise concerns about witness protection with President Rajapaksa. The US sources said Power and Pressman had stressed to the president that it was important to ensure there were no reprisals against anyone for testifying before the LLRC. (Significantly, draft legislation related to witness protection is still in limbo despite the government promising to have it passed during the tenure of the short-lived Commission of Inquiry into 15 allegations of human rights and international humanitarian law).

The US delegation’s final position was that they were encouraged by the president’s promises but that only time will tell if these pledges are kept.

Global context

The international community now seems to be moving in a direction that supports Sri Lanka’s own post-war aspirations. This has led some analysts to scrutinise whether the “China dynamic” is at play.

The US is eager to further relations with Sri Lanka on the basis of “mutual interest”. This includes maritime cooperation. India is recently more interested in showing greater presence (either way) in Sri Lanka. This is reflected also in requests to open deputy high commissions in other parts of the country. There is realisation that Sri Lanka, with its strategic position in the Indian Ocean, will readily move towards so-called rogue nations if its Western friends keep berating the government.

And in the meantime, China is moving in fast

As confirmed by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe, a panel to advise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on accountability for potential war crimes in Sri Lanka is likely to be named next week. The Sri Lanka Government continues to oppose the appointment of this panel. LAKBIMAnEWS reliably learns that the panel will consist of a member from Indonesia and one from Austria. The announcement is expected to follow Pascoe’s return from Sri Lanka. It is also learnt that the Indonesian member is Marzuki Darusman, former attorney-general of Indonesia who was also on the panel to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani premier, Benazir Bhutto.

Interestingly, Darusman was also a member of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) that was composed to assist the farcical Commission of Inquiry set up under Justice Nissanka Udalagama to probe 15 serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka. The Austrian has not yet been identified to media.

Human rights activists like Rajan Hoole welcome some form of international pressure on Sri Lanka “to ensure that the truth of what innocent civilians suffered as the result of the actions and designs of both sides is placed on public record”. In his own words:

“The very fact that an international war crimes tribunal is widely discussed, should make each one of us ask why this virtual reprimand? It is of no use blaming the rest of the world or the LTTE. It is a by-product of this country’s post independence political legacy. It is a statement of the fact that the country drove itself into creeping anarchy by repeatedly spurning opportunities to put its house in order.

“Unfortunately, the latest commission to go into Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation underlines the problem of credibility. The earlier commission that drew much attention was the one appointed by the president to go into several cases of impunity, including the ACF (Action Contre la Faim) killings. That too was an opportunity mislaid.

The ACF hearing was largely directed under the former attorney general, the chairman of the new commission. That commission never revealed the truth. An extract from its leaked alleged report, contrary to the best indications, blamed the LTTE and in our (UTHR-J) documentation we have shown that the AG’s role was to suppress the truth. A study of the ACF case and how the state behaved would reveal most of the lessons important for the Sinhalese.

“UTHR-J documentation reveals frankly the LTTE’s culpability for turning several opportunities for peace into very destructive wars. There is a crying need for the Tamils to make a frank assessment of the LTTE’s legacy and put it behind us. But this new commission is not the place where Tamils could speak frankly with a good conscience, against the well-founded suspicion that, like in the ACF case, it would not do them justice and instead all they say would be misused to shift the blame from the state.

“I feel hesitant to talk about an international war crimes tribunal. But for any reconciliation the truth must be placed firmly on record and we must be grateful for any international effort to this end–humbly acknowledging that we have failed and have shown no real desire to succeed. We are the cause of making our sovereignty an object of ridicule.

“International norms and measures to deal with questions of justice came through recognition of past collective failures involving several nation states–nothing aimed at us. If we recognise that the future of this planet is our collective responsibility, we should have the courage and foresight to use international mechanisms for our own good. Xenophobic abuse would only confirm us in our perdition.” ~ courtesy: Lakbima News ~

A video look at US Gulf coast oil disaster as Sri Lanka announces offshore drilling in Mannar basin

Sri Lanka's Petroleum minister Susil Premajayantha recently announced that offshore drilling in the Mannar basin will commence from late January 2011 to May 2011.

Here is an AlJazeera Fault Lines program to watch in conjunction while Mannar basin awaits offshore exploration. The video highlights the pitfalls and tragedies as a result of neglect amidst lax rules and regulations over the course of decades long drilling in the US Gulf coast:

In the two months since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, millions of litres of oil have gushed out of BP's well into the water each day, slowly encroaching on the coastline. Fault Lines' Avi Lewis travels to the drill zone, and learns about the erosion in the wetlands from industry canals and pipelines, the health problems blamed on contaminated air and water from petrochemical refineries.


AlJazeeraEnglish — June 17, 2010

Writing on minister Susil Premajayantha's announcement on Mannar offshore plans, a recent column in the Colombo weekend newspaper The Sunday Leader said:

"Off shore drilling is increasingly becoming a more frequent activity as oil reserves with easier access are fast depleting all over the world. It is much riskier and more expensive than conventional drilling and the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico happened after BP’s deep sea oil rig exploded 5000 feet below sea level.

Sri Lanka stands to make a lot of money from possible gains from oil deposits but a lot will depend on how intelligently it designs and enforces its contracts. Many oil rich states have failed to capitalize on their natural wealth due to corruption and exploitation and have even given rise to acts of terrorism like in the Niger delta." - Offshore Drilling in Mannar, Sri Lanka Next Year [Sunday Leader]

But apart from the challenges of making possible gains from the oil deposits, AlJazeera's Fault Line exposes how lax rules and regulations is destroying a way of life and livelihood of a whole lot of people even more.

Other News: In Niger Delta: Far From Gulf, a Spill Scourge 5 Decades Old [NY Times]

June 18, 2010

Leave re-settlement process and the development projects of Vanni in my hands

By Veerasingham Anandasangaree

June 16, 2010

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa
Your Excellency,

Please permit me to bring to your notice the pathetic plight of the re-settled Internally Displaced Persons. I am sure this letter will not dis-please you, if you have the patience to read it with the sympathy these people deserve.

Both you and I entered Parliament in 1970, representing the electorate of Belliatta and Kilinochchi respectively. You were the youngest of the lot and I was senior to you by 14 years and also senior to you in Politics. I am sure you will not dispute my right to advice you, however un-palatable my advice may appear to you.

I am not in agreement with the two matters discussed by the Tamil National Alliance with you and your team and the opinions expressed there. It thoroughly disappointed the IDPs and caused much concern to them. They were so confident that their children will be released without delay from detention and where-ever necessary houses will be built newly or repaired or roofed depending on the condition of each house.

The children conscripted by the L.T.T.E are the most valued possessions of the IPDs. The parents are disappointed that the authorities who promised to release all, after a brief inquiry, have not kept their promise. On arrival at the various IDP Welfare Centers, announcements over loud speakers were made, requesting even those who had one day’s training to report to the authorities. Promise of quick release accompanied these announcements. Many parents claim that although they had several opportunities to escape, from Mathalan, they did not do so hoping that they could leave with their Children held by the LTTE as combatants. The most distressing thing for them is the fact that the very same hard-core LTTE cadre who conscripted their Children are seen with the Army Intelligence identifying, as belonging to the LTTE cadre, those whom they recruited to the LTTE earlier.

Many hard-core elements had escaped from the camps with large sums of money and are either settled locally or fled to neighboring countries and safely settled there. There are many others who are freely moving about with the civilians. Some, who acted as advisers to the LTTE, are now serving as advisers to the Government Authorities. There are many parents who are prepared to identify these hard-core elements even now.

If you accept my suggestion the detenus can be released without any problem and any protest from anybody. Appoint a few three member committees comprised of a Senior Lawyer, a Police Officer of ASP rank in service or retired and a third person, a Respectable Citizen to serve in the committee. How these committees should be constituted is certainly your decision. These committees can inquire into the background of the detenus, and also get the views of the parents and on being satisfied that a detenu concerned has no serious involments, can recommend his or her release. This must be done immediately. On the same basis on the recommendations of these committees, the political prisoners could be released on bail. Your Excellency you are aware that some hard-core elements are facing trial by being released on bail. So why penalize the innocent ones. I also strongly urge you to consider releasing a list of persons who are in detention, for the parents to know whether a person missing is dead or alive.

Your Excellency, we should not forget that what had happened in Vanni and many other parts in the North and the East are no incidents like a minor cyclone or an earth quake but an event that had seriously affected the livelihood and habitation of a few hundred thousand people, directly in eight of the 25 districts in the country. Of the eight districts, Kilinochchi, and Mullaithevu are so badly devastated that several thousand houses were razed to the ground, several thousand without roofs and many others need major repairs or re-building. Hardly one house has windows, doors or even rafters for roofing.

The District of Mannar and Vavuniya come next followed by the Jaffna District. I do not know of the present situation in the East. The damage caused in Kilinochchi and Mullaithevu is far beyond estimation. Tsunami was the most disastrous event of large magnitude that occurred in Sri Lanka and within hours everything was over but the impact is still being felt even after five years. But the war that devastated a major portion of Vanni prolonged for a few months and the lives lost and the damage caused to property are so much that the Tsunami cannot be sited as a parallel to what happened in Vanni of which Mullaithevu and Kilinochchi are parts.

Seeing is believing Your Excellency. I wish you take the trouble to pay a visit to the devastated areas in Vanni. I could not control my tears when I saw their pathetic plight during my recent visit after they were re-settled. You are aware that I lived there, taught the students there and represented Kilinochchi in Parliament for a long time. I know most of them by their names. I know every nook and corner of the electorate which was twice bigger than all the other ten electorates in the Jaffna electoral district taken together. It was I who brought Electricity to Kilinochchi 43 years back, as Chairman of the Karachi Village council, served as Chairman of the Kilinochchi Town Council and was also responsible for carving out Kilinochchi as a separate District.

Your Excellency, please be assured that I am not trying to play politics. The Vanni people whom I served with devotion and care for over 50 years had been misled and I am sure will not be cared for, the way I cared for them. Vanni has suffered enough, enough in the sense that not for an year or two but for quarter of a century or more. They need care and protection. I offer my services to them and take the responsibility of serving them with devotion.

I have decided not to seek election anymore. I am not at all satisfied with the way they are looked after. Please leave the re-settlement process of Vanni in my hands and the development projects too. Don’t let anyone to fish in troubled waters. Allow all the NGO’s to operate in Vanni and have strict control over them if you doubt their sincerity of purpose. What happened during the LTTE period could be forgotten because even Government and Semi Government institutions dealing with money had been paying “kapam” to them. Don’t deprive the re-settled IDPs who are having many problems, of any benefit, they may gain through the NGOs. There are a number of NGOs from the south wanting to come to their aid.


In Conclusion, I wish to very strongly advice you, Your Excellency that the Government although cannot be held fully responsible for the devastation caused to the North and East, cannot shirk its responsibility of providing houses for all who are deprived of their houses. While appreciating the good gesture of the Indian Government that had offered to build 50,000 houses I urge you to discuss this problem with the other countries and International Organization that had helped us very liberally. They will be too willing to help.

The request for compensation from those who had been made paupers overnight cannot be considered as an un-reasonable request. I suggest that a team representing the donor countries and organizations to pay a visit to the devastated areas, in the North and East.

Thanking You.

Yours Sincerely,

V. Anandasangaree

President
Tamil United Liberation Front

Grieving and mourning seem to be criminalized in the newly "liberated" North

By Ruki

Today, 18th June 2010, has been declared a public holiday by the government. Many Sri Lankans, especially Sinhalese from the South are expected to respond enthusiastically to the government’s elaborate plans to celebrating the war victory over the LTTE. For several days, citizens in Colombo had to put up with closed roads in preparation. How much of our – citizens – tax payer’s money will be spent for this celebration is something I don’t know and dare not think.

Some media had highlighted on the fact that the General who led the war victory is likely to be in detention and not invited to celebrate the victory he led.

What seems to be forgotten, and what I do know for sure is that tens or hundreds of thousands of Tamils, particularly in the North, will not be celebrating this victory. Many of them infact, will be grieving and mourning for family members and friends killed, injured, missing and detained in during the course of the war, particularly the final months of the war.

However, now, even grieving and mourning appears to be criminalized in the newly “liberated” North.

On 17th May, amidst heavy showers and floods in Colombo (which had compelled the government to postpone the victory celebrations), I was with a group of friends, at an ecumenical (Christian) event to commemorate those killed in the war. As we were starting the event, I got a call from a good friend, a Catholic priest in Jaffna, who told me that he had got several threatening calls asking him to cancel a religious event he had organized in Jaffna to commemorate civilians killed in the war.

In addition to the telephone calls, senior army officers had visited his office and asked him to cancel the event. He was in a dilemma – he was personally not keen to cancel the event, but was concerned about the safety of his staff and families due to participate in the event.

Later, I came to know that this was not an isolated incident and several other friends were subjected to similar threats.

On the same day, 17th May, Nallur Temple area in Jaffna, where an inter-religious event was being held to remember those killed in the war was held, was surrounded by the police and the army. The people who came to participate were threatened and told to go away. Those who insisted on going in they were asked to register their names and other details with the police. Many went away in fear and only few had participated. Later on, the army had questioned and threatened a priest who was involved in organizing the event. The priest was even summoned to Palaly military headquarters in Jaffna for questioning.

In Vanni, an army officer had told a villager that he will shoot a parish priest and drag him behind his jeep, because he (the priest) was organizing prayer services for those killed in the war. Another priest was prevented from celebrating a holy mass to pray for those killed in the war on 19th May in the Vanni.

So, it is clear the army doesn’t want Tamils to mourn and grieve for their loved ones killed during the war. The thinking appears that all these events are to commemorate the killing of LTTE leader Prabakaran. Or that May 17th – 19th is a victory day, and thus, no mourning should happen, and everyone should celebrate, even if your own mother or child or husband was killed.

This seems to be the official policy of the government, with the Minister of Media and Information reported as saying that Tamil people only have a privately commemorate their kith and kin killed privately and not publicly. (See http://www.lankaenews.com/English/news.php?id=9568 [1])

Of course the writing has been on the wall for some time. Ever since the end of war, I had seen many monuments built in the Vanni celebrating war victories and in honour of dead soldiers. At the same time, memorials for Tamil militants built by the LTTE have been destroyed, in the Vanni as well as in Jaffna, denying family members the opportunity to light a candle or lay a flower. At one such destroyed memorial site in Jaffna, army officers told me not to take photos since that place is now earmarked to be an army camp. I was not allowed to even get near another such well known memorial in Kopay, Jaffna.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t see a single memorial built to remember civilians killed in the war. A priest in Vanni who was trying to build a simple and small monument for civilians killed was warned by the army to stop building it.

Beyond a moral and ethical perspective, these incidents raise serious issues about freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.

Just a few days after some provisions of the emergency regulations, including restrictions on public processions and meetings were repealed, the military had prevented peaceful religious events from taking place and threatened organizers and participants.

The army had also curtailed religious freedom, despite freedom of religion being a right that cannot be restricted in any circumstances in the Sri Lankan constitution.

So, we Sri Lankans will have to live with a type of homegrown reconciliation in Sri Lanka that doesn’t allow its citizens, and especially families of those killed, to light a candle, lay a flower, say prayer to mourn and grieve.

We will have to live with an indigenous “liberation” and “freedom” which doesn’t include rights of religion and peaceful assembly to have religious events to commemorate family members and loved ones killed.

(This article was sent to transCurrents by the writer Ruki. The heading has been changed)

'Our armed forces battled carrying gun in one hand and the Declaration of Human Rights the other': President Rajapakse

By Mahinda Rajapakse

As I hoist the national flag today, I recall the cry of victory raised by the entire nation waving the national flag throughout the country one year ago. For the first time in the history of our nation the proud roar of being brought under a single national banner was taken to the entire world by our people. Our national flag fluttered on that occasion in the last breath of those heroes who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the land. Each day, as the sun rises I remember these heroes of war who laid down their lives for the country.

We must also remember that presidents, presidential candidates, ministers, members of parliament and political leaders and intellectuals such as Duraiappah, Amirthalingam, Lakshman Kadirgamar and Neelan Thiruchelvam who faced death at the hands of terrorists are interred in our soil. We also must remember that large numbers of people, including thousands of little children, who were killed by terrorist attacks on villages, streets and highways, also lie buried amongst us. Our land today does not comprise only rock, sand and gravel but the flesh and blood of our ancestors, too.

As long as we remember that those who sacrificed their lives now rest in the soil of our land, I declare with pride that our people shall not leave room for anyone to divide this motherland of ours.

The strategies to divide our motherland were not limited to the battlefield. This had entered not only our parliament but also factories, schools and even our homes. For thirty long years our people faced this threat in the midst of many obstacles. On some occasions our people even had to face international sanctions.

Our people have faced the worst tragedies in the history of the world. Even at a time when the Sri Maha Bodhi, the Sacred Tooth Relic and Bhikkhus were being assassinated, the community of Bhikkhus living in distant villages did not abandon their sacred responsibility of being the guardians of the nation. They gave guidance and strength to people, who clutching their children had to hide in the forest at night, returned to work their fields at day and protected the villages that would have been the borders of our land. Both in the North and East children who were returning from school were forcibly taken by the terrorists for the war. The mothers in the North and East suffered this loss.

In spite of the bombs being exploded in trains and buses, and air raids, not a single person abandoned their places of work. Terrorists
who snatched away the lives and property of our people could not deprive them of determination.

The effort of the terrorists to change our hearts through the pursuit of terror for thirty years did not meet with success. Our children were deprived of their right to learn the history of our nation. The name of King Dutugemunu was demeaned even worse than during the reign of King Elara. Many were the efforts made to make us forget that we are a people who in the past had defeated the most powerful invaders.

Terrorists decapitated the villagers in the North and East. Others who earned dividends from separatists struck at the minds of the people. The determination of the heroic youth of Sri Lanka was blunted by those who spread the belief that going to war against terrorism was a dangerous and unwise task. Films were screened all over the world seeking to humiliate heroes who were disabled in the war. As much as our language, our intellectuals too, were totally ignored. Sons of Sri Lanka were been made to be temporary lodgers in their homeland.

We must be proud that our people did not allow the nation to be divided despite all these challenges that lasted thirty years. The mere recruitment of youth in large numbers to the armed forces and strengthening the forces with more arms was not sufficient. It was necessary to consider this land as part of ourselves. It was necessary to instill the confidence that the nation belongs to the people themselves.

We inscribed in the Mahinda Chintana the path of bringing back to the nation what was forcibly taken away from us and our nation. A government that sells the national assets of the country to foreign racketeers, that degrades our national history, that pays no heed or respect to our national language, traditions and values, is not capable of winning such a struggle. Heroism cannot be imported from abroad- it lives in our history and tradition.

In a struggle to liberate one's country, knowing the enemies' terrain alone is not important. It is necessary to understand the heartbeats of the people, their views and aspirations and respect them, too.

The people should have complete faith and confidence that the land that was liberated from terrorism through great sacrifice of life will not be handed over to the forces of separatism again.

One cannot succeed in liberating the motherland by keeping your son at home and getting another's son to fight. When we came forward to liberate the motherland, it was not done thinking that the leader, the people and the country were separate from each other, but was a single entity.

A year has passed since that glorious victory. But there were attempts to tarnish that victory in the recent past. You are aware of the attempts at the biggest betrayal of bringing the armed forces to disrepute took place. It is an insult to the heroic troops who shed their blood and gave their lives for the country in this great humanitarian operation to say that they shot at terrorist leaders who came carrying white flags. Our armed forces comprise those who went to battle carrying a gun in one hand, the Declaration of Human Rights the other, as well as taking food for the liberated people of the North and full of human kindness in their hearts.

It is only those who have hatred towards the country and nation can betray such heroes. The beneficiaries of such a great betrayal will only be the separatists.

But my dear friends, it is with the same satisfaction that I felt when we won the humanitarian operation that I am pleased to say today that the people of this country have accepted the great challenge of protecting this glorious victory.

I believe the people of this country will stand firm as a solid fortification around the government and the security forces who won the country for them.

We are aware that some countries being battered by terrorism have taken strength and courage from these victories won by Sri Lanka. It is time for the countries facing the attacks of terrorism to look back and see where they have gone wrong.

It is a grave error of judgment to think that while been opposed to terrorism targeting you, to believe that terrorism that is no threat to you is good.

The world has so far trod on this wrong path. Terrorism remains unvanquished because of this incorrect thinking. I must state that the countries that show sympathy towards terrorism and separatism will be the victims of terrorism. This is the lesson of the history.

What those from abroad who seek to strengthen separatism are really doing is, to once again corral the people of the north into camps.

The world should look into what happened to all the aid that was given as relief for the Tamil people of the North. For thirty long years they did not see the development of roads, electricity and schools. It is now seen how all those funds went for the luxury, pleasure and overindulgence of separatists and for them to deprive the people of the North of their freedom.

The problems of the Tamil people, Muslims and all others who are born and live in this country cannot be a burden to those outside. It is our own responsibility to solve the problems of our people. It did not take us long to restore normalcy to the East that was affected by terrorism. We shall next resolve the problems faced from terrorism by the people in the North, by the end of this year.

Many who went to the North are satisfied with the work done by the government towards the welfare of the displaced people. We have already appointed an Independent Commission to inquire into the causes that led to terrorism, the lessons we can learn from this, and reconciliation. It is our intent to make the people in the North be the most pleased by this victory over terrorism. It is understood by all that we carried out this great humanitarian operation only to eliminate terrorism. We left no room for even one bullet to be fired against ordinary citizens. Therefore, we consider day as one which unites all our people.

The conditions laid before us holding this country to ransom with the threat of terrorism are not valid anymore. There is a government and people today ready to make any sacrifice to safeguard the freedom of this country.

We are not ready to accept aid under conditions that will betray the freedom of our land and people. We must be ready to end the era of dependence on aid.

It is not to idly waste our time that we liberated this land. It was not to hand over the country to thieves, crooks, the corrupt and those of the underworld and also not to waste our time in lethargy.

More than 200,000 in our armed forces have given Sri Lanka a victory through their commitment through day and night in good weather and bad. These heroes are our children born in our own villages.

Our public service has six times the manpower of the armed forces. They are also our own children born in our own villages. If our public servants make a commitment for four years similar to that by our heroic forces we will be able make this country the Wonder of Asia.

You should be well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. We went to battle under the slogan, 'Api Wenuwen Api'. Similarly, in building the nation and country we must line up under the slogan, 'We for the Country'. Many countries in the world have developed through the extra-ordinary endeavors of their people. We, who have astonished the world through success in our humanitarian operation, must do so in development, too. We must surprise the world through the unthinkable.

It is only those of us who are born in this country that have the will to build this country. People of our country have the strength and courage to build this country. What is only needed is the will.

Yes! What is most needed to prevent the shedding of blood and tears for the country is to restore the hearts shattered by violence and ease such pain. I am confident that the Sri Lankan nation has the will to achieve this.

Heroic Troops,

We had a past full of valor, heroism and courage. But we have such qualities in which we can take pride, today. In the future when there is a need for the Sri Lankan nation to launch an incomparable battle to protect this land, they will recall with pride and take courage from the heroism displayed by you today. Even if you die you will not lie in a grave but in our hearts that love our land.

We shall pay you the tribute of our nation for every drop of blood you have shed to free our land by uniting all our peoples, ensuring that terrorism does not raise its head again, and building this nation to its true greatness.

May you have a prosperous future!

May you be Blessed by the Noble Triple Gem!

(Full Text of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s address at the ‘Victory Day’ celebrations at Galle Face, Colombo, June 18, 2010)

June 17, 2010

BBC HARDtalk III - Sri Lanka's child soldiers

BBC HARDtalk III

In the third of a special HARDtalk series in Sri Lanka, Stephen Sackur reports on what is happening to the thousands of child soldiers who took part in the war.

HARDtalk is the hard-hitting flagship news programme shown on BBC World News and the BBC News channel.


HARDtalk asks the difficult questions and gets behind the stories that make the news - from international political leaders to entertainers; from corporate decision-makers to ordinary individuals facing huge challenges.

The main presenter of HARDtalk is Stephen Sackur, one of the BBC's most respected journalists.

Before joining HARDtalk, he worked as a correspondent in the Middle East, America and Brussels.

President Rajapaksa's New Delhi visit: 'Much ado about few things'

By Col R Hariharan

From Indian point of view the much hyped visit of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa to New Delhi from June 8 to 11 can be summed up in one sentence as much ado about few things, with apologies to Shakespeare.

Shorn of usual diplomatic fillers, the tangibles in the joint statement issued at the end of the visit were on three tracks. One set formalised projects already in the pipeline for sometime and included financial incentives from India to push them forward. The other set attended to easing structural arrangements (i.e., agreements, MoUs, statement of intentions) to promote better relations and trading arrangements. And the third set related to rehabilitation largesse from India.

But there was little or no animation of perennial issues discussed in the joint statement. There were very few hopeful signs to progress three gritty issues rehabilitation, devolution, and strategic security. Overall, the impression created after the Presidents visit is that India had tacitly agreed to let President Rajapaksa handle these issues at his own pace in his own style. I will be happy if those involved in the process prove me wrong.

The Indian Prime Minister making the inane statement that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement, creates the impression that sidelining of the Tamil issue appears to have been accepted. In the last three years India's representatives have said the same thing a number of times. And Sri Lanka's response had been more to buy time than make any real progress on the issue.

President Rajapaksa does not talk any more about the 13th amendment or even the 13th amendment +. So not surprisingly in the joint statement he made no commitment to implement the 13th amendment which in any case has been pushed to the realms of relevance. The President merely reiterated his determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all communities that would act as a catalyst to create the necessary conditions in which all the people of Sri Lanka could lead their lives in an atmosphere of peace, justice and dignity, consistent with democracy, pluralism, equal opportunity and respect for human rights. Towards this end, the President expressed his resolve to continue to implement in particular the relevant provisions of the Constitution designed to strengthen national amity and reconciliation through empowerment.

Have we not been hearing similar dialogue for a long time now between Sri Lanka and India? It is difficult to understand how the mere repetition of implementation of13th amendment as a mantra from Indian side and the flowery rhetoric on democracy, pluralism et al from the Sri Lankan side are going to improve the lot of Tamils. Are we not thinking of any other options? Apparently not; otherwise it would have found a place in the joint statement.

So it is no wonder Tamils on both sides of the Palk Strait feel they have been let down very badly by India. The window dressing offered by arranging a meeting between the visiting President and the members of parliament from Tamil Nadu might satisfy the ruling coalition party leaders but not the people. The rhetoric and political manoeuvring on this count to be wearing thin as people are waiting to see visible action on all fronts from Indian side.

Of course, later in Chennai Home Minister P Chidambaram, presumably on a mission to enlighten Tamil Nadu on the takeaways, highlighted Indias allocation of Rs 1000 crores to build 50,000 houses for people in north and south left to fend for themselves. And he explained that the money would be directly given to householders through banks.

While this is laudable, the process of rehabilitation has remained good in parts like the proverbial curates egg. But what is the overall architecture for enabling the people ravaged by war to resume normal life and join the national mainstream? Without such an architecture bound by a time frame, accountability from both sides and integrated execution, these welfare measures tend to get dislocated, downgraded or even get hijacked. For instance, in the east infrastructure facilities have made good progress, but peoples struggle for livelihood continues as before.

When the Eelam War raged there were protests in Tamil Nadu by pro-Eelam and pro-Tamil Tigers segments of political parties on happenings in Sri Lanka. Then these were joined in by protests on human rights violations and humanitarian issues and war crimes. The protests were neither large nor spectacular. But they were there.

During President Rajapaksas visit this time - a year after the war - the protests have become significant because there is no Prabhakaran or war to give a boost to these protests. The protests had gathered sufficient public and media attention, even without the orchestration provided by the war.

The pro-Eelam leaders Vaiko and Nedumaran and about thousand followers courted arrest while protesting against the Presidents visit. These protests have to be studied in sequence of Sri Lanka-centric events that have been happening. First there was pressure on film personalities to boycott the International Indian Film Awards function in Colombo. These were followed by protests in other forms in Tamil Nadu. There are indications of simmering discontent over Sri Lanka policy increasing into effervescence.

A Public Interest Litigation filed in the Madras High Court sought issue of directions to the government to arrest Sri Lanka Minister Douglas Devananda, who was part of President Rajapaksas entourage. The PIL alleged Devananda was a proclaimed offender, wanted in a slew of cases including murder in Tamil Nadu.

The moot point is the Tamil Minister, well known for his strong anti-Prabhakaran stance and equally strong support to the President, had visited India and Tamil Nadu a number of times even at the height of the Eelam War. And nobody thought of raising the issue on such occasions earlier. Why now, after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and decimation of its leadership? Clearly the PIL was aimed at embarrassing New Delhi and the visiting dignitary.

The other incident was more sinister. Thanks to alertness of railway staff, the Rock fort Express train going from Kumbakonam to Chennai escaped from accident after a metre-long portion of the railway track was found blown up at Sithani, about 25 km from Villupuram junction on the railway link to Chennai. The incident happened a day after President Rajapaksa flew out of New Delhi. High-power gel-type explosive device ignited by electric power had been used indicating familiarity with handling of explosives.

It was powerful enough to create 80-cm crater and blow up the sleeper along with a piece of the rail. The Police were quick to suspect the Tamil Nadu Maoist elements and later the Tamil Tiger acolytes in the act of sabotage. Both are capable of organising the sabotage. Even though they failed to derail the train, with their act they have sent a strong message of their extreme frustration at Indias inability to respond to the Tamil problems in Sri Lanka.

During the Eelam War, there were a few instances of the LTTE elements and the Maoists coming together for mutual benefit. But caught between the turbulence of caste politics and the allure of Dravidian political idiom, Maoists were always weak force in Tamil Nadu. Even those few fell out with the all India body of the organisation in the eighties over the question of supporting Tamil nationalism. They could not survive as a cohesive entity in the face of the Tamil Nadu police dragnet. So they scattered and have become embedded in one or more of the half a dozen small Tamil political outfits.

These fringe outfits have diverse agendas, but are united in the struggle to preserve exclusiveness of Tamil identity and Tamil nationalism which they feel are threatened by New Delhi and Colombo. They are unhappy that even the Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi, who used to tacitly support the Tamil identity issue, has joined the national political mainstream and let them down.

It is doubtful whether the disparate groups can come together to form a mighty insurgent body in Tamil Nadu like the LTTE and wage war as Prabhakaran did. That may never happen. But they represent the extreme edge of the anger many Tamils are feeling over Indias failure to respond positively to attend to the Tamil grievances in Sri Lana. This is more so because India had vigorously championed their cause in the past. This feeling has many takers among Sri Lankan Tamils both at home and abroad.

Usually police are left to handle developments of extremism in a knee jerk reaction. However, in Tamil Nadu the approach has to be more nuanced. We need to pay serious attention to the issues that have generated the discontent and act to produce visible results in Sri Lanka. And political parties of Tamil Nadu have a large responsibility in suggesting and steering New Delhi to positive courses of action than merely acting as listening posts, playing politics.

(Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence. He is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: colhari@yahoo.com

Charges of Financial irregularities in SL media rock IFJ world congress In Spain

Accusations about the Asia office of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) turning a blind eye to financial irregularities in Sri Lanka’s media organizations led to several key figures being ousted from office at this year’s IFJ world congress.

The Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions (FMETU) has accused the Asian leadership of the IFJ for not heeding warnings of financial mismanagement in Sri Lanka’s media organizations. The IFJ Asia office was criticised of not being interested in at least making an inquiry.

The general secretary of FMETU Dharmasiri Lankapeli made this accusation at the IFJ World Congress held in Spain. It was held under the theme Journalism: In Touch with the Future. Dharmasiri Lankapeli, General Secretary of Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions and Kanchana Marasinghe, National Organizer of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association Represented Sri Lanka.

Representing Sri Lankan journalists Lankapeli said that a huge amount of money issued to several projects has gone unaccounted. Addressing leading media activists he added “it is still unknown to most of us the way how money was spent”.

None of the candidates who were backed by the IFJ Asia office were elected to leadership positions. Christopher Warren, the Former President of IFJ was only able to secure the final place in the executive committee.

The presentation made by FMETU General Secretary Dharmasiri Lankapeli representing Sri Lanka in full.

Dear colleagues,

I bring good wishes from all our colleagues in the Federation of Media Employees Trade Unions or better known as the FMETU. It is an honor to be present here at this World Congress and represent our country, Sri Lanka.

I would like to have a few minutes to tell you everyone about Sri Lanka. I think you have already heard about what’s happening there now. We have always talked about the plight of journalists in Sri Lanka; they have been assassinated, abducted, threatened and tortured in several ways during past few years. However the situation is still quite same even if those incidents have been revealed to the whole world.

As a result of having a disastrous war in the country for decades now Sri Lanka is facing lot of problems including IDP s.

I’m not going to talk about those problems right now. However I want to draw your attention to what happened after certain events and projects organized by IFJ Asia office and the critical situation faced by our media organizations.

Let me remind you that it was in 2001 that FMETU became a full member of IFJ. In 2003, the first project, the Tolerance Prize was introduced for journalists, and we could make that a brilliant success through our organization. There we could get together with several other media organizations as well.

Afterwards in 2004, with the immense support of IFJ we could financially support all those journalists and Media workers who were distressed by Tsunami. Thus IFJ together with FMETU could draw a lot of attention and good name from people all around the country. Then only IFJ gets to meet both SLWJA and FMM.

Then at first Asia Office starts to work together with Free Media Movement. All the projects and events were handed over to certain individual and it was him who initiated to organize those events. Even if the activities were run by FMM, it was always said that those events were organized by all five media organizations. We had been disagreeing all along to what’s happening but it was always disregarded.

Dear General Secretary, a huge amount of money was issued for those projects, and it is still unknown to most of us the way how money was spent.

How could such things be possible?

Is it fair that we let such things happen where as we are suppose to stand against corruptions and frauds and establish good governance everywhere.

Our struggle was always very internal because at a time where freedom of expression is suppressed, the government could have easily taken our conflicts as a weapon against us.

Making the safety issue a point, every individual who was involved in such projects has now left the country. Therefore, now it’s only us, those who remaining at the country have to answer all the questions raised against our organizations.

I would say it’s unfair when only a few of them had their lives in danger, many individuals took it as a chance to go abroad and leave behind the accusations which followed them. It is still doubtful who supported all these people to leave the country at once without any inquiry.

As a result now our media organizations are now quite weakened and fingers are pointed against us.

I would like to say that I’m also one of those journalists whose life is in an utter danger; however I managed to face this critical situation without leaving at once.

Even if I was asked to leave the country though I thankfully refused to leave everything behind and run away. To the diplomat who brought this suggestion of leaving the country what I told was that FMETU and I even been in streets with the current president to protect all democratic rights including media freedom when he was in the opposition.

I even got to know through media that I’m there at the top of the hit list they have created recently.

If Asia Office paid their least attention on the facts we revealed FMETU certain that things would not have been this awful. It is doubtful whom they wanted to defend, since they are not least interested in finding what really happened.

Thus our organizations were weakened all along.

On the other hand they even didn’t let us continue our work independently; for example the online petition against the imprisonment of Thissanayagam was disregarded saying that it’s merely a personal opinion. However by now government has declared that he would be released quite soon. Therefore you see how practical our organization is in making such a petition to get him released. I also take this opportunity thank you everyone who supported us by signing the petition.

Because of above mentioned incidents, as individuals and organizations, what we have done on behalf of the freedom of expression has been in vain.
Therefore there is a foremost need of taking these facts into discussion and do whatever necessary to strengthen our media organizations in Sri Lanka.

At last but not least, I would like to tell you that if we are unable to fix this situation it’s impossible that we unite together and work against the government’s suppression of freedom of expression.

Tamil diaspora Organizations Desperately Attempting to keep Concept of Tamil Eelam Alive

By Asutosha Acharya

Amid media reports indicating that Tamil organizations made up of diaspora in different countries are still making desperate attempts to keep alive the concept of "Tamil Eelam", suspected pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) elements, for the first time since the military defeat of the LTTE in Sri Lanka in May 2009, allegedly executed a terrorist attack in neighboring India.

On the morning of June 12, suspected LTTE cadres blasted railway tracks at the Perani railway station in Villupuram district in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Passengers of the approaching Tiruchirapalli-Chennai Rockfort express escaped unhurt because the driver applied the emergency brakes in time on hearing a loud explosion. Leaflets condemning the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse to India (June 8-11) were found at the incident site, police said.

On June 8, hundreds of pro-LTTE activists, led by MarumalarchiDravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader V Gopalswamy, alias Vaiko, waving pictures of slain LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, held protests in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, against Rajapakse's visit.

Despite the LTTE's comprehensive defeat in its own homeland, diaspora elements and Tamil sympathizers continue to garner support abroad, including in India's Tamil Nadu state, raising vital questions on the future of Tamil radicalism in Sri Lanka.

Notably, addressing the Emergency Regulation debate in parliament, Sri Lankan Prime Minister D M Jayaratne on June 8 stated that the LTTE was attempting to re-establish itself in the country once again, with the backing of its international network. He stressed the necessity of the Emergency Regulation to thwart these efforts and check on the funding of the LTTE's revival by the diaspora networks. The prime minister further stated:

There are LTTE operatives who are still mingling amongst civilians. During the last month we have arrested 77 die-hard LTTE cadres who are believed to have been directly involved in terror activities in the country. Intelligence agencies reported that Tigers who escaped the military campaign last year were collecting weapons they had stashed away to resume their struggle. LTTE support base internationally remains strong despite them being militarily defeated. LTTE fundraising network is attempting to build apartments and residential complexes in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo and its suburbs for LTTE supporters.

Significantly, the state of emergency was extended by another month. The island nation has been in a state of emergency since the assassination of then foreign affairs minister Lakshman Kadirgamar on August 12, 2005.

On January 15, 2010, Rajapakse said that Sri Lanka still faced a severe threat from separatists, though the LTTE had been militarily crushed. The president mentioned threats posed by the LTTE operatives in the Jaffna Peninsula, claiming that the area had not been cleared fully and that LTTE cadres could account for as many as 10% of the total population in the district. The president added that LTTE and its agents would do anything to advance their cause.

That the government is still worried about the security scenario in the country is reflected in the allocation of 201 billion rupees (US$1.8 billion) for defense in 2010, down only marginally from an estimated 210 billion rupees in 2009 and 204 billion rupees in 2008, at the height of the fighting with the LTTE.

Remnants of the LTTE remain active in countries outside Sri Lanka, with regular reports of arrests on charges of terrorist activities. The most prominent of recent incidents include:

April 27, 2010: Seven suspected LTTE cadres were arrested in the Netherlands along with computers, paperwork, phones, documents, photos, DVDs and 40,000 euros (US$48,800) . "Among the suspects are the leaders of various organizations of Tamils in the Netherlands, which probably play a role in the international network of the LTTE," the Netherlands Justice Ministry stated.

March 3, 2010: The German Police arrested six LTTE cadres, including three German nationals and three Sri Lankan nationals, suspected of raising funds for the outfit. The suspects were arrested during raids on eight premises including the Tamil Coordination Committee, a front organization of the LTTE, in Oberhausen in Essen.

December 11, 2009: Authorities in Thailand arrested five people, including an LTTE cadre, for producing and smuggling more than 300 fake European Union passports and other official European documents, officials said.

Further, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry quoted the ambassador of Sri Lanka to Brazil, A M J Sadiq, as stating that a number of vessels belonging to the LTTE's shipping fleet, which had hitherto been involved in drug trafficking and gun running, had shifted to the lucrative business of human trafficking.

Moreover, according to the Malaysian National News Agency Bernama Today, Malaysian police had arrested a number of key LTTE leaders, among other foreign nationals, between August 2009 and March 2010. According to the report, Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein stated that the Malaysian authorities had recently conveyed information on the arrest of the LTTE leaders to Sri Lanka's Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse.

Meanwhile, various LTTE leaders residing in the US and European countries have clustered into rival factions, with each attempting to project itself as the "sole representative" of the Tamil diaspora around the world, and to secure access to the vast funds created by the LTTE.

Soon after the defeat of the LTTE and the death of its chief, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the then international head of the LTTE, Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias KP, along with the New York-based Lawyer and International legal adviser of the LTTE, Viswanathan Rudrakumaran, formulated the Transitional Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) proposal. On June 22, 2009, just a month after the collapse of the LTTE, Rudrakumaran issued a media release announcing the concept of the TGTE in New York:

We, the people of Tamil Eelam and its diaspora ... firmly believe that the formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam is imperative. It is a well accepted proposition in international law that the legal claim to establish a government in exile arises the more readily when the exclusion of its political leaders is achieved through acts contrary to principles of jus cogens, such as the unlawful use of force, abductions with a view to torture, genocide, war crimes, detention in internment camps or "open prisons", the rape of women and the kidnapping of children. In this connection, we, the people of Tamil Eelam and its diaspora, propose to put together a committee for the Formation of a Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.

The release claimed, however, "Our program and efforts in this regard are fundamentally democratic."

After Pathmanathan's arrest on August 5, 2009 in Malaysia and his subsequent transportation to Sri Lanka, Rudrakumaran alone has shouldered the task of taking the TGTE effort forward. On May 17, 2010, Rudrakumaran disclosed, in a press statement, that the TGTE would hold its inaugural sessions in the city of Philadelphia in the United States (US) for three days between May 17 and 19, to coincide with the first year remembrance of the military suppression of the LTTE. The communiqu้ stated that TGTE "will continue its struggle until conditions are created which will enable the Tamils to realize their right to self determination and exercise their sovereignty".

Rudrakumaran, who was the coordinator of the TGTE formation committee, was elected as its interim chief executive at the meeting, and a seven member Interim Executive Committee (IEC) was also formed. The IEC members included Mahinthan Sivasubramanium, Sam Sangarasivam, Gerard Francis, Selva Selvanathan, Vithya Jeyashanker, Sasithar Maheswaran and Janarthanan Pulendran.

The TGTE meeting at Philadelphia was the result of a year-long effort by influential pro-LTTE elements of the global Tamil diaspora to create an organization representing more than a million Tamils of Sri Lankan origin dispersed in different parts of the world. The TGTE, in a sense, is a rebranded manifestation of the LTTE overseas structure. Like LTTE, its ultimate goal is the creation of "Tamil Eelam". Although it does not unambiguously endorse the LTTE, the TGTE's commitment towards the LTTE was established clearly at the Philadelphia summit, where LTTE flags waved in profusion, despite the fact that the LTTE is a banned foreign terrorist organization in the US.

The establishment of the TGTE, however, has done little to stem the internecine conflicts within LTTE diaspora elements. The struggle to establish control has resulted in a rise of extremist rhetoric and postures, with the TGTE itself becoming more and more hawkish.

Although Rudrakumaran is frequently referred to as the new leader of the LTTE in sections of the media, the reality has been somewhat ambiguous. The overseas LTTE structure has been deeply divided since Prabhakaran's death. Political commentator D B S Jeyaraj divided the successor organizations of the LTTE into three factions, the TGTE, Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and Tamil Eelam People's Assembly, also known, respectively, as the KP or Rudra faction, the GTF or Father S J Emmanuel faction and the Makkal Peravai or Nediyavan faction.

Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, alias Karuna Amman, a former top LTTE commander, has also underscored the fact that the Tamil diaspora was divided and had conflicting views on the so-called TGTE. Muralitharan argues that the Tamil diaspora would fail to make a significant impact internationally because of internal dissensions. He identified three principal diaspora factions - the US-based Rudrakumaran group, the Norway-based Nediyavan faction and the London-based British Tamil Forum.

Significantly, Thambiah Ganesh and Kuppilan Ravi, believed to be members of the Nediyavan group, were arrested in Paris on June 4, following the death of Ramesh Sivarupan, believed to be a member of the Rudrakumaran faction. Sources indicate that Sivarupan was abducted and taken in a van from his residence in Paris and was later found near his house with injuries, to which he succumbed at a hospital in Paris on June 3. Earlier in the week, the Nediyavan faction had burnt thousands of copies of Thainilam, a newspaper in Paris printed by the Rudrakumaran faction.

Besides internal differences, there is widespread skepticism about the TGTE exercise. To be in any measure relevant to the Tamils, the TGTE would have to have a public presence in Sri Lanka, but has no foothold there, and it is extremely doubtful that it will be able to establish any such presence. As Muralitharan notes, "How can they set up a separate state without the support of the Tamils living in Sri Lanka? ... They [the Tamils in Sri Lanka] detest the LTTE for having destroyed them. No pro-LTTE element will get the support of the Tamils to set up a separate state in Sri Lanka now."

Meanwhile, there appears to be some urgency in the government's efforts to develop the war-ravaged areas of North and East provinces. Economic activity in the north has picked up, though in the long term development alone will not satisfy Sri Lanka's Tamils.

Basic aspirations for equity and for a restoration of trust and security would have to be met before the country's "Tamil problem" can be thought of as having been resolved. Colombo has to work out a reasonable political package that will satisfy Sri Lanka's minorities, something that Rajapakse has repeatedly promised. The government would also need to take stock of its role in past conflicts, in particular, its record of manipulating ethnic tensions for electoral gain. It is significant that the militant Tamil diaspora was created by the policies and actions of successive administrations in Colombo.

The LTTE is still banned in 32 countries across the world, and its diaspora organizations are yet to secure significant traction abroad, or consolidate linkages with LTTE survivor groupings in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, the aspirations for an independent Tamil Eelam are being kept alive, and extremist activity, while marginal, persists.

These impulses will continue to seek opportunities for a future crystallization, and both Colombo and governments abroad - particularly including India - will have to exercise the utmost vigilance to ensure that a terrorist movement is not able to take root again, even while fullest freedom for democratic engagement is permitted to peaceful Tamil groupings.

(Asutosha Acharya is a research assistant, Institute for Conflict Management. This article appears in South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal )

June 16, 2010

British House of Commons debate on Tamil civilian plight in Sri Lanka

June 16, 2010:

11.00 am Siobhain McDonagh: (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): I am grateful for the chance to highlight again the appalling treatment of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan Government.

Many hon. Members share my interest in the subject, and although the debate is short, I will take as many interventions as I can. I pay tribute to the former hon. Member for Enfield North, my great friend Joan Ryan, who has always been one of the most powerful and passionate supporters of human rights and who continues to care deeply about what has happened to the Tamil community.

Before I begin my speech properly, I want to go over some old ground, as there have been several very good debates about the Sri Lankan Government’s treatment of Tamils in the past 18 months or so. In that time, hon. Members persuaded the previous Government to support a number of measures, including an end to GSP plus—the generalised system of preferences, which is a preferential trading agreement between the European Union and Sri Lanka. GSP plus was stopped because the European Commission conducted a major study of human rights in Sri Lanka and found a variety of abuses, including the lack of a free press, unlawful killings, torture, disappearances and so on. For similar reasons, the Commonwealth decided not to make Sri Lanka the host of the next Commonwealth conference, largely as a result of the British Government’s leadership.

I would welcome the opportunity to hear confirmation from the new Government that they support the decisions on GSP plus and the Commonwealth conference. Those decisions have been debated several times in the House of Commons, and many hon. Members have spoken in favour. Can the Minister confirm that the present Government will support them?

The reason why I called for the debate is that since Britain acted against Sri Lanka’s human rights record, even more disturbing questions have emerged about Sri Lanka’s activities. I am referring to evidence of war crimes. I shall quote from the International Crisis Group report of 17 May, which is called, very starkly, “War Crimes in Sri Lanka”, but first I shall mention a report by Desmond Tutu and Lakhdar Brahimi, who are members of The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders brought together in 2007 by former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is a hero to many of us here. Their report states:

“There is a growing body of evidence that there were repeated and intentional violations of international humanitarian law...in the last months of the war.”

They note that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to appoint “a commission on lessons learnt and reconciliation”and call that“a step in the right direction”.However, they say that it is “not nearly enough.” They go on to say:

“There is no indication, as yet, that the commission intends to hold anyone to account for any violations of domestic or international law.Without a clear mandate for legal accountability, the commission has little chance of producing either truth or reconciliation. Nor will victims and witnesses feel safe in giving evidence.”

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the excellent work that she has done on this issue. In the last Parliament, the then Government appointed a special envoy to try to cut through the difficulties of talking to the Sri Lankan Government. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is perhaps one appointment that the present Government can make to show their determination to try to deal with the horrific consequences of the war?

Siobhain McDonagh: I agree. I thank my right hon. Friend for all his work on behalf of the Tamils and I ask the Minister to address the point that he raises.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the United Nations Human Rights Council failed to carry out its duty to investigate war crimes and abuses on both sides in the conflict in Sri Lanka, and that that is an indictment of those members of the UN system that blocked it—specifically, China, India and Russia?

Siobhain McDonagh: I agree. As I have often admitted, I am a novice in international issues. When dealing with these matters, I have been shocked by the behaviour and procedures of the UN.Desmond Tutu and Lakhdar Brahimi believe that an independent international inquiry is needed. They say:

“In our experience in South Africa and other countries, these kinds of inquiries work best alongside a full and open reconciliation process. This would allow the suffering—and mistakes—of all communities during decades of war to be acknowledged.”

What happened to Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka was disgraceful, but equally disgraceful is the fact that what took place there was so hard to document because of the restrictions on monitoring and reporting and the lack of a free and open press.

Mr Lee Scott (Ilford North) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing the debate. Does she agree that however an international investigation is conducted, one of the most major things that needs to be dealt with now—indeed, it should have been dealt with a long time ago—is that not one displaced person should still be in a camp, not one person should still be suffering and everyone should be returned to their homes in safety? That should happen immediately.

Siobhain McDonagh: I agree.Independent analysis was extremely difficult, but the ICG report is the most comprehensive investigation so far into what happened. It concludes:

“The Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam…repeatedly violated international humanitarian law during the last five months of their 30-year civil war...Evidence...suggests that these months saw tens of thousands of Tamil civilian men, women, children and the elderly killed, countless more wounded, and hundreds of thousands deprived of adequate food and medical care, resulting in more deaths.”

Mr Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I associate myself with my hon. Friend’s words about the former hon. Member for Enfield North, who was indeed a true champion of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. The evidence that my hon. Friend has presented is overwhelming. In the light of the failure of the United Nations to do anything in relation to human rights in Sri Lanka, is it not now incumbent on the west and particularly the United Kingdom to take a lead in having an independent investigation into these war crimes?

Siobhain McDonagh: I agree, and I hope to deal with that point in my speech.

To be fair, we already knew that these things were happening. However, the ICG goes further than previous studies and convincingly argues that there are“reasonable grounds to believe the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible.”

Of course, the report also accuses the LTTE and its leaders of war crimes, but it says that
“most of them were killed and will never face justice.”

It adds:“While some of the LTTE may go on trial in Sri Lanka, it is virtually impossible that any domestic investigation...would be impartial given the entrenched culture of impunity.”

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that it is an absolute priority now for the Government of Sri Lanka to release the people who are still in the camps, who have been there for so long; to ensure the freedom of journalists; and to begin constitutional change in earnest to bring about a political settlement?

Siobhain McDonagh: I agree, but we know from experience that expressing pious desires does not work with the Sri Lankan Government; we have to be tough and do something about it.

As a result of the evidence that the ICG has found, it argues:

"An international inquiry into alleged crimes is essential given the absence of political will or capacity for genuine domestic investigations, the need for an accounting to address the grievances that drive conflict in Sri Lanka, and the potential of other governments adopting the Sri Lankan model of counter-insurgency in their own internal conflicts."

That is serious stuff. The report goes on to say that there is“credible evidence that is sufficient to warrant an independent…investigation”.

That includes the intentional shelling of civilians, the intentional shelling of hospitals, such as those at Ponnambalam and Putumattalan, and the intentional shelling of humanitarian operations, notably operations from the UN’s PTK—Puthukkudiyiruppu—hub.

The report adds:

“The consequences of the security forces’ shelling were made substantially worse by the government’s obstruction of food and medical treatment for the civilian population, including by knowingly claiming the civilian population was less than one third its actual size and denying adequate supplies.”

The evidence cited by the group is substantial, including“numerous eyewitness statements...hundreds of photographs, video, satellite images, electronic communications and documents from multiple credible sources.”The ICG complains that the Sri Lankan Government “declined to respond to Crisis Group’s request for comment on these allegations.”

The House has already looked into many other allegations. A variety of news outlets and broadcasters have described terrible actions in the last days of the civil war. Few could not have been moved by the terrible pictures on Channel 4 of imprisoned Tamil soldiers being shot in cold blood. The ICG admits that it has looked at only a small number of the alleged violations. It has not looked into, for example,“the recruitment of children by the LTTE and the execution by the security forces of those who had laid down their arms and were trying to surrender.”

Despite that, the ICG states:“The gravity of alleged crimes and evidence gathered...is not a case of marginal violations of international humanitarian law...There is evidence...both sides condoned gross and repeated violations that strike at the heart of the laws of war.”

It is therefore hard not to agree that the allegations should be looked at independently by an international inquiry.

I praised the previous British Government for taking action against human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, but the ICG is much more critical of the wider international community. It concludes:

“Much of the international community turned a blind eye to the violations when they were happening. Some issued statements calling for restraint but took no action as the government continually denied any wrongdoing. Many countries had declared the LTTE terrorists and welcomed their defeat. They encouraged the government’s tough response while failing to press for political reforms to address Tamil grievances or for any improvement in human rights.”

The report therefore places the onus on the international community to make up for its past and to conduct a full investigation into the last year of hostilities.

Many of my constituents had family members who were caught up in the hostilities. Some of their friends and families are dead, or spent many months in temporary camps for internally displaced people that were little more than concentration camps. Many Members still get Tamils coming to their surgeries with their stories. I do not believe that any of us can have been unmoved by the testimony of our constituents.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I agree with the powerful case that my hon. Friend is making. One of my constituents who returned to Sri Lanka was detained on arrival in Colombo, and I have written to the Foreign Secretary this week to ask for the Government’s intervention in the matter. Does my hon. Friend agree that that case illustrates how the Government in Sri Lanka are continuing to persecute Tamils in every way that they can, and that there is no possibility of the diaspora being able to return while such detentions and interrogations continue?

Siobhain McDonagh: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op): I associate myself with my hon. Friend’s comments. Will she also ask the Minister to explain the Government’s policy on its relationship with India and China in respect of an independent investigation into the alleged war crimes? If there is to be sufficient international pressure to get such an investigation, they clearly have a key role to play. What will the Minister do to raise the issue with those key neighbours of Sri Lanka?

Siobhain McDonagh: I thank my hon. Friend for all the work that he did while in government, particularly his work with the EU to get suspension GSP plus. I hope that the Minister will take his questions on board.

Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) (Lab/Co-op): I give testament to the substantial amount of work that my hon. Friend has done, not only in securing this debate but in her work with the Tamil community in London. I certainly have benefited from it working with the Tamil community in Walthamstow.

Does my hon. Friend agree with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) about the continuing persecution of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka and use of camps for displaced persons, and that it is vital that we keep up the pressure on the Sri Lankan Government over how they are acting now, as well as seeking an international inquiry, if we are to gain any kind of redress for the Tamil community and ensure that their human rights are protected? Does she also agree that it is vital that the Government commit to continuing not only the suspension of GSP plus but the aid that was being given to help those who were displaced and put into the camps? The previous Government committed to such aid to help people not only to go home but to build lives full of prosperity and peace, which we want for everyone in Sri Lanka.

Dr William McCrea (in the Chair): I draw to Members’ attention that interventions are to be short.

Siobhain McDonagh: Thank you, Dr McCrea, but may I say how absolutely right my hon. Friend’s comments are? I may not get through all my speech, because we do want the Minister to be able to address all of our concerns. There are so many Members here because they are concerned about their Tamil communities and their extended families in Sri Lanka.

Children are being separated from their parents, people in hospitals are being bombed and soldiers are shooting indiscriminately. On previous occasions, Conservative Members argued that it would not be constructive for Britain to threaten to take action against Sri Lanka. They said that economic action would not help. However, in the past few weeks, the Sri Lankan Government have been acting in ever more paranoid ways.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Secretary, recently appeared on the BBC threatening to execute Sarath Fonseka, the army commander who delivered victory over the Tamil Tigers, because he had suggested that top Government officials may have ordered war crimes during the final hours of the Tamil war. That is not the approach of a reasonable Government whose priority is peace and reconciliation. That was not the first time that we have seen compelling evidence of atrocious behaviour by the Sri Lankan Government.

In October, the European Commission published a report on human rights in Sri Lanka since the war. It stated:

“During the period covered by the investigation, there has been a high rate of unlawful killings in Sri Lanka, including killings carried out by the security forces, persons for whom the State is responsible and the police...extra-judicial killings were widespread and included political killings designed to suppress and deter the exercise of civil and political rights...Unlawful killings perpetrated by soldiers, police and paramilitary groups with ties to the Government, have been a persistent problem.”

In other words, there is enough evidence to conclude that war crimes could have taken place in Sri Lanka, and therefore they should be investigated.

Last year, when the Conservative party was in opposition, its spokesman, the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown), criticised Britain for seeking action against Sri Lanka for abuses. He complained that Britain“voted against the $2.5 billion International Monetary Fund package in July and are now considering ending the EU’s special trade privileges”.

He asked:

“Is that really the most constructive way to persuade the Sri Lankan Government to promote a long-term reconciliation?”—[Official Report, 21 October 2009; Vol. 497, c. 895.]
I am sorry that the Conservative position at that time was that reconciliation required inaction. I hope that that is not the case now.

I believe that a boycott of Sri Lankan goods by British citizens will help Sri Lanka to resolve its past, in the same way that the boycott of South Africa helped that country to bring about peace and reconciliation. In my view, doing nothing will only make matters worse. As the ICG said,

“Now a number of other countries are considering ‘the Sri Lankan option’—unrestrained military action, refusal to negotiate, disregard for humanitarian issues—as a way to deal with insurgencies and other violent groups.”

It argues:

“To recover from this damage, there must be a concerted effort to investigate alleged war crimes by both sides and prosecute those responsible.”

Although Sri Lanka is not a member state of the International Criminal Court and it is therefore unlikely that the UN Security Council would refer the matter to it in the short term, the ICG’s conclusion is that:

“A UN-mandated international inquiry should be the priority, and those countries that have jurisdiction over alleged crimes…should vigorously pursue investigations.”

If countries such as ours do not take that action, disreputable Governments around the world may look at the Sri Lankan option and ask, “What’s to lose?” We must not let that happen.

11.17 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Alistair Burt):

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea. I congratulate the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) on securing this debate and on the number of colleagues who have attended it. I appreciate that the issue raises a great deal of concern among Members and our constituents.
I appreciated the brevity of colleagues’ interventions and would be grateful if those who are already on the record listened to the bulk of my remarks before intervening. I am not sure whether I can compete with the hon. Lady’s speed and clarity, but I will do my best. This is the first occasion on which I have spoken on Sri Lanka as Minister, and I know how much interest the debate will generate in the community.

The United Kingdom has long-standing historical connections with Sri Lanka. Our two peoples are united by many ties of family and culture, as well as business, tourism and education. Our primary objective, therefore, is to support the development of a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka.

Let me turn immediately to the first of the concerns raised by the hon. Lady: the war crimes. Sri Lanka is now emerging from a prolonged and painful period of bloody internal conflict. We have seen immense suffering across all the communities in Sri Lanka, and the country’s development has been blighted by terrorism. Sri Lanka can now blossom and grow, and we want to work with the Sri Lankan Government and all their people to achieve that.

For any country emerging from conflict, there must be a balance between looking forward to new opportunities and development, and dealing with the past with honesty and compassion. The decades-long conflict in Sri Lanka has seen the country’s Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities riven by mistrust and suspicion.

There are serious allegations of the most atrocious violence and abuses having been committed by all sides over the past 30 years. Most recently, serious allegations have been made of war crimes by both Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the final stages of the conflict in early 2009.

Our view is that the allegations will haunt the country for many years to come and will hinder much-needed reconciliation between the communities unless there is an honest process of accountability for the past.

President Rajapaksa made a commitment to the UN Secretary-General last year that he would take measures to address possible violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. He has now announced the establishment of a lessons learned and reconciliation commission. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has written to the President to encourage him to ensure that the commission produces recommendations that address the past allegations and allow all communities in Sri Lanka to live and work together in peace and security. I have today spoken to Foreign Minister Peiris to emphasise the need for a credible and independent process of accountability.

Siobhain McDonagh: We wish the Minister well and want him to make progress with his speech but, for us, the position seems incredible. Do the British Government actually believe that the current Sri Lankan Government have the wherewithal to carry out such a reconciliation inquiry, given that Sri Lanka is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists?

Alistair Burt: We take the view that the Government of Sri Lanka are committed to a process, understanding the extraordinary degree of international concern and recognizing the need for credibility in what happens. The responsibility of an inquiry and an investigation is primarily with the Sri Lanka Government—something that we understand, as did the previous Government, and we are proceeding accordingly.

Barry Gardiner: In taking the matter forward, I ask the Minister to pay heed to the establishment in the diaspora of the transnational Government elections that took place recently? Will he give a commitment that the British Government will work with those who were elected from the diaspora in the United Kingdom to ensure precisely that all the views of the wider Tamil community are taken into account in the Government’s thinking?

Alistair Burt: We shall continue to listen to everyone in such circumstances. It is not for us to dictate how an inquiry should work or what voices it should listen to, but this Government will continue the policy followed by the previous Government and be open to the views of all those in the community.

Keith Vaz: I congratulate the Minister on his appointment; I am sure that his work will be a very valued addition to the Foreign Office. When he next speaks to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister, will he raise with him the newspaper reports that a Chinese firm has been contracted to go into Sri Lanka to remove the evidence of those who have been buried there? It is a very serious matter, and it will obviously affect any investigation that takes place. Will he ask the Foreign Minister whether such reports are true? Has a Chinese firm been instructed to remove the evidence?

Alistair Burt: I shall make sure that an inquiry looks into the issue the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

The establishment of a lessons learned and reconciliation commission is a step in the right direction, but to be credible it needs to show itself to be a strong, independent voice. We urge the Sri Lankan Government to draw on the experience of other countries that have set up successful post-conflict commissions. I said very clearly to the Foreign Minister today that, no matter how painful they are, experiences in South Africa, Rwanda and, indeed, in our country have shown that the only way to deal properly with reconciliation is to be honest and open and to get absolutely to the heart of the matter.

There must be proper public consultation, sufficient time to examine evidence and a clear and realistic mandate.

In particular, we hope that the commission can investigate fully the recent allegations of war crimes. We also encourage the Government to address urgently the issue of witness protection in Sri Lanka, mentioned by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden. That will be essential if the commission is to get to the truth in its investigations. We recognise that it is for the Government of Sri Lanka to take the lead in addressing allegations of war crimes, but we also support the UN Secretary-General’s proposal for a panel of experts to advise on accountability issues.

We trust that the Government of Sri Lanka will co-operate fully with the Secretary-General’s panel to help their own domestic process.

We believe that lasting peace will come about only when Sri Lanka addresses the underlying causes of the conflict and ensures that all communities are treated with fairness and respect. Following elections earlier this year, the President and Government of Sri Lanka have a renewed political mandate. We urge them to use the mandate to take meaningful steps towards long-term, inclusive political action.

We welcome the commitment of the President in his joint declaration with the Indian Prime Minister on 9 June to develop a political settlement that is acceptable to all communities, in which the people of Sri Lanka can“lead their lives in an atmosphere of peace, justice and dignity, consistent with democracy, pluralism, equal opportunity and respect for human rights.”

The United Kingdom stands ready to support Sri Lanka to make good on those commitments, and to take decisive steps to establish a long-term political solution to the island’s divisions.

I hope that the Sri Lankan diaspora in the UK can also play a role. The diaspora’s support following the humanitarian crisis undoubtedly helped to alleviate the hardship of many individuals and their families, and we thank them for their contribution. I hope the diaspora will find meaningful ways to engage with communities across Sri Lanka in pursuit of a lasting and agreed political solution.

Mr Love: I thank the Minister for his contribution, which is coming across very well. However, all the evidence emerging from Sri Lanka is that those wise words are unlikely to persuade the Government. That therefore leads me to GSP plus. Can he give us an assurance today that the British Government will continue to look critically at GSP plus in the light of what is happening in Sri Lanka?

Alistair Burt: The hon. Gentleman anticipates my next but one paragraph. Let me deal first with the humanitarian situation touched on by my hon. Friends the Members for Ilford North (Mr Scott) and for Harlow (Robert Halfon). A focus of much international attention in the past year has rightly been the humanitarian needs of nearly one third of a million Sri Lankan citizens who are displaced due to the conflict. We continue to support the humanitarian response in Sri Lanka as people strive to re-establish their lives. We have been concerned at the long delay in returning internally displaced persons from the camps to their homes, and the restrictions placed on their freedom of movement. We note the progress the Government of Sri Lanka have made in releasing IDPs from their camps to the home areas, but urge that this progress continue.

United Nations figures from 3 June show that some 60,000 displaced persons remain in the camps, compared with an immediate post-conflict figure of 280,000. However, many humanitarian agencies do not enjoy full humanitarian access to them once they return to their home areas. This limits the effectiveness of the assistance we and other donors are able to provide. Concerns remain about the situation of some 8,000 ex-combatants of the LTTE held in detention. Despite repeated calls by the international community, the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been allowed access to this population. We therefore urge the Government of Sri Lanka to establish clearly the legal status of these people and to allow the ICRC access in line with international norms.

As for the GSP scheme, in a meeting with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister recently, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to make progress on human rights and reconciliation. We remain concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. There have been widespread and persistent allegations of human rights abuses by both state and non-state actors. There have been attacks on the media, including the murder and disappearance of prominent journalists. We support the EU statement made at the UN Human Rights Council last week, expressing concern about the situation of journalists and human rights defenders and the lack of adequate investigations of alleged violations of human rights. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that human rights for all communities receive full protection.

Strengthening the mechanisms for the protection of human rights in Sri Lanka will be an essential part of building strong and durable peace and stability. We hope to see these translate into evidence on the ground that the Government are following through with those commitments, and building confidence in the rule of law and good governance. The UK supports the EU’s decision of 15 February to remove GSP plus trade preferences from Sri Lanka from August 2010. The European Commission report of 19 October 2009 on Sri Lanka’s failure to implement core human rights conventions, which are a requirement of the scheme, made this a clear decision.

We also support the moving of the Commonwealth conference, which the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden mentioned. We know that the Government of Sri Lanka are taking steps to address the Commission’s concerns. We encourage constructive engagement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Commission, so that the concerns in the Commission report can be properly addressed. The GSP scheme brings significant benefits to all in Sri Lanka; we recognise that it plays a role in the ongoing development of Sri Lanka’s economy and that economic development has a role in the reconstruction process. We sincerely hope that Sri Lanka will therefore take all the necessary steps to ensure GSP plus is retained.

On the point made by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr Love), Des Browne did a very good job for us. We have not come to any decision on special envoys yet, but I know him very well and will certainly talk to him. It was disappointing that he was not well received by the Government of Sri Lanka, which might limit his effectiveness. We believe that this is an historic moment for Sri Lanka, but it will only get somewhere if it moves forward.

Listening to the concerns expressed by Members and by the international community will be a welcome sign for the reconstruction and reconciliation that we all wish to see among all communities led by the Government in Sri Lanka.

11.30 am - Sitting suspended.

Hard Talk Part 2 -Democracy Sri Lankan style

BBC HARDTalk, June 2010

In the second of Hardtalk's exclusive series of programmes in Sri Lanka, Stephen Sackur talks to journalists who live with the threat of intimidation and murder. He talks to the opposition presidential candidate, former General Sarath Fonseka, who is now in detention facing court martial. He also meets the powerful brother of the president, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and asks if Sri Lanka's ruling family has replaced democracy with their own authoritarian rule:



Sri Lanka is now at peace after decades of civil war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has consolidated his power by winning both the presidential and parliamentary elections. However, there are serious questions about his government's commitment to the rule of law and to human rights.

'BBC meets its match in Sri Lankan Defence Secretary'- The Manila Times

With its foreboding lighting effects that appear to have been plucked straight out of Dante's dark epic Inferno-and cleverly devised one suspects to reduce its willing, and oftentimes unsuspecting, "victims" to submission-the BBC's HARDtalk program has attained a universal reputation (or should that be notoriety?) for tough and bruising interviews that border on intimidation.

Why, in its trailer for the widely popular program the BBC has fierce animals from the wild locking horns in deadly tussles, while HARDtalk inquisitor-in-chief Stephen Sackur looks on arms folded barely able to disguise the smirk on his face.

Last week HARDtalk was "on the road" in Sri Lanka with the sole purpose it seemed to derail the widely held perception that this jewel of an island-blessed with every imaginable treasure that nature could bestow -was finally at peace after a crippling secessionist war that lasted for three decades and ended a year ago with the humiliating defeat of the Tamil Tigers terrorist outfit, and at the needless cost of countless lives.

Any independent visitor to Sri Lanka these days cannot fail to be both surprised and exhilarated at the remarkably swift transformation that has come about in this once war-ridden nation.

One can freely enjoy the spectacular beaches (some of the most breathtaking of which cling to the north east coast which was at the heart of the conflict but are now once again open for leisurely business), savor the easily activated smiles of young and old from every ethnic mix, admire an economy that has been rejuvenated and get a real feel of the people's faith in a government given an overwhelming mandate in just concluded elections to sow the dividends of peace and prosperity.

All that, however, appeared to have been lost on the BBC and its rabid attack dog Sackur. He seemed hell-bent on using his platform to paint-with the aid of a handful of accommodating interviewees-a sinister picture of the country that belied any semblance to the harmonious reality that is post-war Sri Lanka.

To give just one glaring example. Sackur kept harking on about alledged state sponsored media persecution even while he was traversing the length and breadth of the island talking on camera to whoever he cared to choose-including even a telephone chat with detained former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who is the most vociferous critic of the government.

But then came his interview with powerful Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa-a tough no-nonsense tolerating retired Sri Lankan Army Colonel who (invited back in 2005 by President Mahinda Rajapaksa-his elder brother-to Sri Lanka from the US where he was domiciled with his family to lead the faltering war effort) is credited both at home and abroad with having marshalled the decisive phase of the war that saw final victory.

Now spearheading the vital task of restoring and maintaining law and order in a country that has been on a war footing for so long, Rajapaksa is totally driven to ensuring post-war stability in his homeland.

In a recent interview in Colombo with The Manila Times he was passionate in his hopes and plans for his country's future. "While it is true that the government has been able to regain control of each and every inch of land in Sri Lanka and restore peace, we have to keep in mind that we are emerging from a 30 year long conflict that, apart from its local impact, had international connotations too," said he.

Despite the military success, Rajapaksa is not given to complacency. He explains:

"Although the Tamil Tigers have been militarily defeated in Sri Lanka, a lot of pro-separatist activity is taking place internationally, aided and abetted by former Tamil Tigers cadres and activists among the Tamil Dias-pora. So it is imperative that we remain vigilant.

"And while the government is committed to relaxing the emergency regulations and restoring normalcy and giving the people the full benefits of peace, we have to take whatever steps necessary to ensure that terrorism does not raise its ugly head in Sri Lanka ever again."

So, with a reputation as a guy who doesn't mince his words, Rajapaksa's characteristic hard talking style made him the ideal guest for a TV program which prides itself in being called HARDtalk.

But. alas, it turned out to be more than Sackur could handle. Every verbal punch that he threw at Rajapaksa the combative Defense Secretary returned with crushing effect, jolting the normally self-controlled Sackur off balance.

Fixing Sackur with a steely glare and reminding him "that Sri Lanka was a sovereign nation," Rajapaksa tore apart the BBC talking head's argument that Sri Lanka should submit itself to a United Nations brokered inquiry into accusations of atrocities allegedly committed by both sides in the closing stages of the war.

When Sackur pulled out what he thought was his trump card and accosted Rajapaksa with the charge leveled at him by General Fonseka (who, incidentally, has built himself a post-military political career out of making wild accusations against the Defense Secretary) that during the final battle he ordered that even those people waving white flags of surrender should be shot, the Defense Secretary's rage was palpable.

"He is a liar," bristled Rajapaksa, "and if he continues to say that, he should be hanged because that is treason." Sackur, unaccustomed to hearing such hard talking on his show was visibly taken aback, "You mean to say you would execute him?" asked Sacker his voice rising. "Yes, that's the punishment for treason against your country," countered Gotabaya.

And so the interview went on, with the by now emotionally charged Rajapaksa giving back twice as hard as he was getting from Sackur, and making it clear to the BBC frontman that he doesn't have a monopoly on the truth.

So much so that Sackur brought the interview-that by this stage was turning into an absorbing mis-match-to an abrupt end.

Normally the show ends with Sackur shaking hands cordially with his guest. And we hazard a guess his trip is clasping the hand offered by the guest sitting across him and getting a triumphant feel of the sweaty and clammy level he had been able to reduce the often cowering interviewee.

But this time around, in a first-ever for this globally televised talk show, it ended with the Sri Lankan Defense Secretary allowing himself a hearty chuckle in the knowledge that in this particular edition of HARDtalk it was undoubtedly game, set and match to him. And TV viewers worldwide could attest to that! Courtesy: www.defence.lk


June 15, 2010

NYT Editorial: The Truth About ‘Bloody Sunday’

Nearly 40 years after British troops opened fire on protestors in Northern Ireland — sparking decades of bitter sectarian violence — a British government inquiry has finally rendered a credible verdict worthy of a democracy. As Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain announced: “What happened on ‘Bloody Sunday’ was both unjustified and unjustifiable.”

Then Mr. Cameron did something that politicians almost never do, he apologized. “On behalf of the government,” he said, “I am deeply sorry.”

The decision by former Prime Minister Tony Blair to order the investigation in 1998 and Mr. Cameron’s forthright embrace of its conclusions should be an example for countries and leaders around the world. The inquiry determined that British soldiers fired without provocation or warning on the civil rights march in the city of Londonderry on Jan. 30, 1972. It said that the 14 people killed and 13 people wounded were unarmed.

That should discredit once and for all an earlier whitewash investigation that, weeks after ‘Bloody Sunday,’ exonerated the soldiers, saying they were fired upon first. This latest inquiry lasted 12 years, took evidence from 2,500 people and produced an exhaustive 5,000-page report.

The findings are understandably dredging up raw emotions on all sides. With the 1998 Good Friday agreement, Northern Ireland has come a long way on a very difficult path toward peace. The hard truth of this inquiry and Mr. Cameron’s ringing apology should help move that process and the cause of peace forward. - courtesy: NYTimes.com -

India faces flak in Sri Lanka; seen as a bully

by Sutirtho Patranobis

Mahinda Rajapaksa recently said India should benignly look out for Sri Lanka like its little sister. But not many here currently seem to share that tender emotion; India is being looked upon more as a big bully.

India is currently receiving much flak from political parties and the media here over a bilateral business pact, for planning to talk to minority parties directly and – editorials I’m sure are on way -- for triggering the Sunday earthquake off the Nicobar coast that rattled parts of Sri Lanka.

The critics included Weemal Weerawansa of the National Freedom Party, constituent of the Rajapaksa-led ruling coalition and close ally. Weerawansa -- whose anti-India rhetoric is as sharp as his carefully maintained beard -- said India wanted to colonise Sri Lanka through the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). The tirade was cleverly timed; on that day his boss was signing pacts, excluding CEPA, with the coloniser in New Delhi.

The Marxists, Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna, continued its polemic against India. "India wants to subject Sri Lanka to its political, economic and cultural expansionism," chief Tilvin Silva told The Sunday Leader newspaper.

Then, the main opposition party, United National Party’s Ravi Karunanayake, said India was arming groups to foment disturbance in Lanka; his response to reports that India planned to directly talk to Tamil and Muslim minority parties about a political solution.

Newspapers picked up the political ferment. In its June 6 editorial, The Sunday Times – an established English weekly newspaper - said: "Indians are still fingering their southern neighbour…`beware Mahinda’ when you go to India and they throw these laddus, boondi jelabis and gulab jamuns at you."

"The fact of the matter is that if not for India's "substantial and generous assistance" to the LTTE and the entire northern insurgency in Sri Lanka, these internally displaced persons would not have been in such a pathetic plight in the first place," was ST’s reaction to India’s assistance for the displaced after Rajapaksa returned.

"Fingering" is not a word newspapers usually use in sage editorials. But it’s an indication what many feel about India here. And, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with sibling affection. - courtesy: Hindustan Times -

HARDtalk - Sri Lanka Part 1 - 'Has military victory put an end to the Tamil problem?'

HARDtalk - Sri Lanka Part 1 - The Tamils and the North:

Hardtalk on the road in Sri Lanka:

In May 2009, after almost 30 years of civil war, Sri Lanka's government announced its defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But with the government refusing to talk of autonomy for the Tamil people, is the current peace sustainable?

International humanitarian groups are now calling for war crimes investigations - but how strong is the evidence?

Stephen Sackur, HARDtalk's presenter, has been a journalist with BBC News since 1986:

Samantha Power: "Make hope and history rhyme"

Samantha Power, special assistant to President Barack Obama on multilateral affairs and human rights, and David Pressman, National Security Council director for war crimes and atrocities, will hold four days of meetings in Sri Lanka.

SPTC615.jpg

Samantha Power, Director of Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council, speaking about Sergio Vieira de Mello at an event at the United Nations Office at Geneva on June 1, 2010. Power is the author of "Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World" - U.S. Mission Photo: Eric Bridiers

Commenting on the visit, a press release by the US Embassy in Colombo said:

“Two senior foreign policy advisors to President Obama are visiting Sri Lanka from June 14-18. Samantha Power, Special Assistant to the President on Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights and David Pressman, National Security Council Director for War Crimes and Atrocities, will meet with senior government officials and members of civil society in Colombo, Jaffna, and Batticaloa. The visit aims to continue last month’s productive dialogue between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, in which both leaders discussed Sri Lanka’s path through economic renewal, accountability, and reconciliation to greater peace, prosperity, and a stronger partnership with the United States.”

In May 2010 Time Magazine reported Stephen J. Rapp, Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues at the US State Department will be releasing a report on Sri Lanka on June 16th. It is not stated yet if that is still on the schedule.

Ms. Samantha Power, from 1993 to 1996 worked as a journalist, covering the Yugoslav wars for U.S. News & World Report, The Boston Globe, The Economist, and The New Republic.

Speaking at the Harvard Law School Commencement on May 26th, 2010, Ms. Samantha Power said:

“It is in your hands to decide whether law will be enforced, whether law will be just, whether law will be used to slow or speed the spread of liberty and equality,” she said. “It’s on you, graduates, to decide whether law will do what it has done so often—as the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney puts it, make ‘hope and history rhyme.’”

World Tamil Classical Conference in Tamil Nadu Will Boost Chief Minister Karunanidhi's Image

By Pushpa Iyengar

The man considers himself—and there are many in the state who will agree—to be a Tamil icon. And yet, surprisingly, when Muthuvel Karunanidhi struts on to the grand stage in Coimbatore as the presiding deity of the World Classical Tamil Conference (WCTC) later this month, it will be for the very first time in his long innings as a chief minister and state politician So it’s no wonder that the octogenarian politician is pulling out all the stops to make the event memorable.

He has bulldozed opposition from principal adversary, AIADMK chief Jayalalitha, (“I’ll not demean myself by coming to this dubious conference”, she sniffed) and sidestepped controversies to enable this five-day extravaganza to unfold as planned. The event, starting June 23, will see him rubbing shoulders with eminent figures from the Tamil literary world, including many Sri Lankan Tamil litterateurs.

MK himself insists that there’s nothing political about it. Political commentators here, though, pooh-pooh the claim, saying he has not just a beady eye on the state polls (due next year) but is also aiming, through this ostensibly cultural exercise, to resurrect his reputation as protector of the Tamils. That image, of course, is in tatters after last year’s massacre of Tamils post-LTTE rout in Lanka.

Critics of the conference are already dubbing it a “political tamasha”, not dissimilar to Karunanidhi’s over-the-top birthday parties, which he presides over like a benign Chola king, receiving flowers and elakka malais (cardamom garlands), gifts in gold and silver, even cash and kilos of dry fruits. Writer Charu Nivedita says, “The only reason he is holding the conference is because the polls are coming and he wants to tom-tom this as one of his achievements.” He adds, however, that this is standard practice for TN’s mega politicians. Which is true: C.N. Annadurai, M.G. Ramachandran, J. Jayalalitha, they have all organised ‘World Tamil Conferences’.

Tughlaq editor and satirist Cho Ramaswamy, one of the CM’s most acerbic critics, laughs as he says, “When Karunanidhi told the DMK cadre during a recent visit to Coimbatore not to convert the conference into a party affair, the message being sent out was: make sure it’s a party affair and that I am the centerpiece....” That said, it is a fact that Tamil conferences succeed best when they are tamashas, and held on the soil of Tamil Nadu. Historically, those held in Paris (1970), Kuala Lumpur (1987) and Mauritius ( 1991) have been flops. One the other hand, Annadurai’s mega show in Chennai (1968), mgr’s Madurai extravaganza (1981) at which Jayalalitha danced and her own show in Thanjavur in 1995 with folk dances, theatre, song and dance, at which she virtually commandeered the presence of then Congress prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao were successful blockbusters, entertaining the masses and giving the Tamil literary world food for thought.

With the CM leaving nothing to chance, nearly Rs 300 crore has been lavished on the conference, expected to see two lakh people attending (the unofficial figure is 10 lakh). Despite projecting itself as a literary event, the WCTC will have an overwhelming filmi flavour. Why, the Tamil conference anthem, penned by Karunanidhi himself, has been composed by none other than A.R. Rahman and picturised by director Gautham Menon.

Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi wrote the theme song for which A.R. Rahman composed the music

Every hotel, hostel, school and college in and around Coimbatore has been commandeered for the WCTC, creating a crisis of sorts since the marriage season is also on. Wedding bookings made a year ago have been cancelled and nonplussed parents of the bride and the groom told to look elsewhere. Says an unenthusiastic C.M. Jayaraman of the Coimbatore Citizens’ Voice Club, “The government could have scheduled the meet during Purattasi and Margazhi (September/October and December/January which are considered inauspicious) so that it did not inconvenience the public."

There have been other controversies too. The CM, even at 86, is a prolific, well-known writer, but there is a question mark over the literary quality of some of the other work to be presented at the meet. “I was asked to vet 150 abstracts and I found them of very poor quality,” says a committee member. That these were invited through newspaper ads is another sore point. A writer/publisher who wouldn’t be named says, “Many known writers found it insulting to have to send a synopsis and therefore abstained. They expected to be invited as guests.”

So while the conference will be graced by 200 eminent writers from abroad, including Finnish Indologist Asko Parpola, Sri Lankan Tamil scholar K. Sivathampi and Prof George Hart from the US, many known writers from Tamil Nadu itself will be absent. Academics, however, largely from various state universities, will be there in full force, reading a staggering 1,028 abstracts. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi’s MLA Ravikumar, who is reading a paper on ‘Tamil in the time of globalisation’, says creative writers will not be missed as they “lacked academic rigour”. Defending the conference, he says the Tamil world needs a “morale boost” after the war in Lanka. He also asserts: “The conference will lay to rest the raging debate on whether Tamil or Sanskrit is older.”

However, one of the subjects where intense discussion is likely is the state of Tamil today. Manushya Puthran, poet, editor and publisher of the magazine Uyirmmai, says, “When compared to other CMs, Karunanidhi has shown more commitment towards issues that affect the growth of Tamil language.” This, while Tamil “is continuously losing its place in our society”. According to him, “the Dravidian movement which eulogised traditional Tamil literature has not been useful for the growth of the Tamil language. The immense growth is mainly due to the individual contributions of scores of writers, scholars, researchers that haven’t been communicated to the next generation. Linguistic jingoism without a contemporary perspective won’t help.”

Dr A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Tamil writer and mids professor, laments the “abysmal” level humanities and social science studies in Tamil have sunk to. “Factors like money, caste, religion and politics have further ruined it,” he says. What else can you expect when liquor barons and politicians run institutions, he asks. Something perhaps for the conference to ponder over. If it dares to.

June 14, 2010

A new (cultural) campaign against Tamils in Vanni

by Melani Manel Perera

As Tamil signs disappear in northern Sri Lanka, those in Sinhalese go up. Soldiers are rebuilding Buddhist temples whilst allowing Christian churches and Hindu temples to lay in ruin even though most locals belong to these two religions. Meanwhile, monuments celebrating the Sinhalese victory are starting to dot the region, but for Tamil victims there is but oblivion.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The provinces of northern Sri Lanka “are undergoing a different kind of attack, not military, but cultural and religious this time. They are faced with the ‘Sinhalisation’ of the area,” Rukshan Fernando told AsiaNews. The human rights activist and director of the Law and Society Trust just completed a tour of the provinces of Vanni and Killinochi.

“A first example and one that might appear trivial but isn’t so is road signs. Tamil language signs have disappeared; everything now is in Sinhalese. The military claim that Tamil terms are too long and complicated and that’s that. Place names are in both languages, but the one in Sinhalese comes first. What is more, beside the usual and accepted Sinhalese names, signs also mention older Sinhalese names in an attempt to show that these lands are Sinhalese lands,” a Tamil priest told me.

The attempt to change local history and society “also involves religion. In the city of Killinochi, for example, a large arch was put up, saying ‘May Buddhism shine’.” Yet, most people in the area are either Hindus or Christians.”

“Buddhist temples have been rebuilt and are spotless, whereas the places of worship of other religions are not allowed to do the same. And the difference is clearly visible since soldiers are involved in the work at Buddhist sites.”

Lastly, this campaign includes monument building. “Soldiers are building all sorts of monument hailing the victory of the government and the army over the Tamil Tigers. For locals, they are a symbol of their domination, also because no one is allowed to build anything to commemorate Tamil war dead.” - courtesy: Asianews.it -

Post -war reflections for Tamils

by Old "Yaarlppaanathhan"

What is the objective of any one’s writing or what every one wants to achieve?

a) To prove a point.

b) Enlighten.

c) To work towards resolution of a problem (altruistic).

d) To make one self, known-self development, glorification (Egoistic).

e) To deduce, areas of working with others, point of view for resolving and achieving objectives / Target.

f) To find fault, with others, and fester the problem.

g) There is always, number of forces working on any problem, with their own objectives.

h) Enlightened Leadership works to see, how they can achieve the objectives, with less confrontation and damage, with minimum effort, to acquire maximum results / and solve problems in the larger and long terms benefits / context.

i) One may be able to list out, some points of ground realities, on any areas / article which you may agree / disagree, and to plan, one’s own strategy, to work towards achieving, one’s own objectives.

j) Quarrelling all the time, does not lead to, resolution of problems.

It is good, to have spread sheet, presenting realities, for reflections, apart from individual’s passions and emotions. Based on ground realities, and present situational predicament, to rethink, about the future of Tamils, in Sri Lanka

The Sri Lankan Tamil issues, war and its ending, developments there after, had created, emotional out bursts in, one section of Diaspora, freezing of minds, of large section of Tamil people, and reflection, by a few, to chalk out the future.

The thrusted leadership, evolved with armed struggle, and power of gun, assumed liberators, and others, who used the situation, and became appendages, to thrusted establishments, used it, for their own agenda, have failed to deliver anything.

Carriers of the banner of democracy, for conveniences, were rejected by the people, in the two test runs, of urban elections 2009/2010 in Jaffna and Vavuniya / N & E.

Majority, not voting in 2010 is an indication, that manipulative democracy, its establishments, and actors were rejected, by silent dissent, including all fossilized establishments, and norms of obsolete. This is further reinforced in the parliamentary elections of April 2010.

The enlightened people with wisdom, think differently. This must be reflected by all including, persons and groups, who wants to control, by remote control , and who wants to be some one, by muscle and money power, without any scruples, interest, skills, knowledge, and ability, and appear as leaders in parliament to represent the community, only to perpetuate their self interest.

Large number of Head workers, had continued to work, and given prescriptions for the Tamil community of North and East of Sri Lanka. They, men in positions, govt. officials of the area, N.G. O,, the community leaders, news reporters, think only, high powered matters, but to fail to note that, there are no proper urinating , eating , washing places, to facilitate, the natures call, of women , old ladies, sick, diabetic patients, on the A.9, road, through Kurunagala road, or Puttalam road, to Jaffna. This will be worse during the Nallur and other festival season of August 2010.

The present robbery and killing of elders, girls and ladies, abduction of children are no concern for the guardians , and Politicians. The police says, if culprits are apprehended and produced in courts, Lawyers of no scruples appear and get the antisocial elements, released, on bail for them to continue the profession, for them selves, or their hidden masters, and for thrown-out, thrusted political redundants.

A streak incident, of honest social consciousness, was manifested, observed, when a young displaced girl came in search of her parents, not knowing the geography of the area (Manipay) was misdirected, to a wrongful place and raped, by two rabid human dogs. When this reported by the victim to the public, youngsters of the area, apprehended, assaulted mercilessly, and bruced the culprits and handed them, over to the police.

Thamil politicians, Media Personal and Media never pin pointedly declare the antisocial rowdies / Killers to the society. This is, their prime, urgent responsibility, by the community, and not to play with irresponsible, supposed to be altrustic words marality preaching, and vague statements to the press, and take cover by issuing statements to the government. The wounded Tamil community, will never forgive persons, parties or anyone, who condone, and connive with these anti social elements, directly or indirectly, covertly or overtly. In Singapore , this type of news carry, full photos of the person with full bio data, and nature of crime, for the public to know.

The Jaffna / Sri Lanka public is watching, this event, closely, whether the rowdies will go scot-free. What will happen at the hall of justice? What will the so called elected representatives do. Will they condone with the rowdies or they will clean up the society from the mafia, predators, and antisocial rowdies. Is there any hidden agenda behind. What is the society the Thamils wants / aspire to have in North and East. What will be the action the govt. of Sri Lanka do, or, will it allow the people, to take their own course of action and create chaos once again

All the prescriptions, within Sri Lanka , Tamil Nadu, India , and the world over, including USA , U.K, Europe, Canada and expatriate Tamil participants, had generously brought the community, to present plight. It means the prescribers, preachers of all sorts, are ill educated, ameturistic, and are not competent, to deliver, what they had pronounced, appear to be obsolete, in their thinking and action.

What is the future of the community? The community has become homeless, naked, empty handed, and camp dwellers.

A fragment of others, who are outside the camps, lead a hand to mouth living, except, who get their regular dole, from foreign countries. (These people are a nuisance to others, and unproductive, ill educated who doesn’t want to work and contribute).

No problem for the self concerned, government servants, are ok with their pay. The professionals and academics of the universities are fat cows. Dishonest traders and plunderers, aspire to become, Neo leaders, persons of importance and decision makers with the money power, who intimidate the society.

The real potential participants of development , of the community, and social leaders had starved / stifled from growth for the last 30 years, have to wait for a long term, to equip them, and their establishments, with inputs, finance and manpower, to make meaningful contributions.

It means that outsiders, from Colombo and foreign countries, who are waiting for opportunities, will enter, and will have to play a role in development , leaving the locals, and will take lion share, of the benefits of the future activities.

What will be the role of IDPS, refugees, who will be sent back from India , and other European countries, when they come back? All these people, especially, the naked and empty handed, have no other place, except Sri Lanka / North East, and have to return to their own soil,

This community is, without any one / institutions, to guide and help, to be with them, and work with them, and have to walk alone, praying for mercy / and help only from god.

The so called political establishments / mafia, tries to form syndicate, to keep themselves afloat, to reposition themselves, to continue their business, which they did for the last sixty years, and brought the community, to the present plight.

The good, competent, capable lot of the Tamil community, had run away, and the lot remaining are silent / withdrawn, to avoid unnecessary problems, with unscrupulous political actors, and their machinery and mechanisms, and their moral, spiritual values are different. This positive, knowledgeable lots. Contribution, in redevelopment, is not available, for the reconstruction, or the war destroyed people and the land.

The persons / groups, who are presently holding chairs, of assumed power, of all sorts , will never, willingly welcome, knowledgeable, talented resources, and persons, as they are not very sensitive, to the challenges, and to their stands and their knowledge challenged. Such person’s credibility and capabilities, bound to be questioned, and they will obstruct new innovations, due to inability to cope, to the changed needs / norms This springs, from the ill manifestation of fossilized , stunted democracy, and obsolete knowledge base.

Many fail or, can’t comprehend, what is the fundamental problem, what are the issues, How to address each issue, in relation to modern technological, social and cultural context, but remain in the dead past, obsolete issues, and norms.

Every one is emotional, or in groves, and unable to extricate themselves out, of their mind groves, Cannot comprehend, changes, in the knowledge blasting, technologically avalanching, 21st century, context, and position themselves, to develop, a road map to resolve issues, raising themselves above, their international, domestic, and individual compulsions.

The episode at U.N Security Council, on Sri Lanka, during the war times, exhibited a clear polarization, role played by the world, where the division of U.S and European interest / ideology, versus, Asian and allied countries, in terms of political, social, economic agenda, and settling issue, and development and evolving , newer models, based on their self interest.

Writers, opinion makers, international bodies / govt /officials, who projected their own deductions, designs, loyalties, interests, have to take cognizance of, aspirations, and problems of Asia or individual countries, communities, and should not force changes. that are in operation, in their own environment. They should prescribe, appropriate models, for solutions, and not transplant their models, without due considerations, of the ground realities, in every respects.

Sri Lanka is a state, which works, within set of international rules supports, advice of various states, and establishments, apart from likes and dislikes of others. Every where, the ultimate authority, on decision making is, who holds power, and what he can do, with his power. No point accusing, any individual, who is an instrument, to articulate or carry out decisions made, based on their self interest.

The Tamil aspirations, agenda for future, has to be thought out, developed within the ambit of newer norms of the present, and future emerging, Asian and Worlds trends.

What is role, and power, in shaping, internal, foreign policies, of Sri Lanka ,on various issues of the country, as a whole, and the community in particular, by the Tamil community?

Do the present actors in political platforms have the capability, for work and capacity for the task, and solving issues, and problems.

The stands taken by Tamil politicians, not Tamil people, on issues like, solution to estate workers, fishermen of North / East, Sri Lankan, fishermen, who were are without livelihood employment for the last 30 years. Issues concerning Thamils have to be critically examined.

Thamil News media and Thamil politicians of Sri Lanka are voicing more, the interest of Indians, than the Sri Lankens, who are affected and concerned parties, and perpetuate slogan shouting, policy, for power ascendancy, rather to work out formula, for solutions. They forget everything ,except , their, self, vested and business interest, and not mindful of the agony of the people, in Sri Lankan theater, particularly Thamils.

Every issue is viewed, whether it is political, economical, social, educational, with negative-stand, vested group interest, myopic (Eye / Brain), not caring, to find relief, to the suffering, or find solutions in grater interest of people. Actors take the path of least resistance, with vote / popularity in their mind.

It is improper, impolite, unwanted, to comment on subjects, which is beyond one’s comprehension, and understanding. The geopolitical compulsions, and the centrifugal and centripetal forces and the resultant force, that will develop, are beyond most people’s, understanding and of, most of the mases. Pronouncements on such mattes, by ill knowledged, will not be taken seriously, by decision makers. (Ref:- article : Geopolitical URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15667)

Persons like Sir.P.Ramanathan, Arunachalam, Rajaratnam of Hindu Board of Education, and Weerasingham of Cooperative movement, and the likes, had worked with, heart and head, mobilized the naked and hungry and made them to work for their own salvation and transformed the peasants to be, Trusered, English and Thamil educated / cultured, Spiritually elevated , and made them respectable, in every sense, after a period of 500 years, ever since the aliens landed in the soil of Yarlppanam.

This cumulative wisdom , culture, spirituality, saner practices and wealth, material possessions have been removed / looted from us now. Yet, the Athman, heart of Jaffna is very, very rich, by the grace of Lord Nadarajah of Chithambaram, who is with us, as opposed to the prayer of the great poet of Bengal, Tagore, crying , father , Strike , Strike at the penury of my heart, in Gitanjali

The lessons of Jaffna , when truthfully, analyzed and told by honest dispassionate poets, enlightened men and women will tell, wonderful lessons , stories and new norms, known and unknown to the world, to reflect. Players, targets. Designs, manipulations etc, which had been used, and played knowingly and unknowingly, at this miniature site/ laboratory, Jaffna, will be a study material for analysis, development of models etc, for the whole world, students of politics, governance, state craft, and for creators of new order, futurologists ( Jaffna – Means the North, East of Sri Lanka for this writing )

The community, have been left with nothing, for anyone to loot, any material possessions, any more, and are naked, without anything. No one, can escape Karma, and will have to undergo, the effects and manifestations of Karma, to exhaust its accumulation, may be, by several births. There is no way to escape, this wheal of Dharma. The wheal of Dharma, does not stop, for weeping widows, nor for power of mighty emperor. It does its duty, without fear, or favor. Gods ways, are Mysterious, and sometimes, destructive and wasteful.

There are no virtuous leaders at present, like Sir. P. Ramanathan, Mahathmaji, Rajaji, Kamaraj, C.Subramanium, C.W.W. Kanangara, and the likes, who are compassionate, thought, lived, meditated / meditating still, who are silently walking alone, for the good of humanity. This type personality is only manifested in the present days , only by Honorable Ex. President of India , Shri Abdul Kalam

The first person to question the validity, relevance, usefulness, methodology and philosophy of the, so called democracy, for governance, in the context of Ceylon/Asia, before one hundred years, before independence in relation to future needs and the validity, use, applicability to present, changed situations of people , and their developmental aspirations , is the greatest leader, intellectual statesmen, spiritualist, who was highly venerated and admired by Mahathma Gandhiji and Gokale, was Late Leader, of Ceylon, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan.

The same sentiments, were expressed, number of years later, by H.H. Shri Chndrasekara Saraswathy swamikal, spiritual head of Shankara Madam of Kanchipuram, South India, and recently by Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore, and Alwin Toffler, Futurologist, Sociologist of United States of America. Alwin Toffler states that Democracy (based on numbers) has not been developed for the last 200 years to meet the demands and changes to address issues in the tectronic age.This is for the reflection for the political scientists, problem solvers in relation to conflict resolution in various parts of the world including Sri Lanka.

There was a time, before independence, persons like Sir. Pon .Ramanathan, Arunachalam, Hindu Board Rajaratnam, Veerasingam of cooperative movement, created institutions, mobilized the people for their self development, worked with them, and transformed the society / community in the fields of education, economics, culture, values, which earned respectability for the whole society.

Now , only government servants , and politicians hold the power, and the community is left out, and has no voice, in development.

Ruler must Rule and not become robbers says “ Chanakiya ”

The sum total of Indian thought and Wisdom is, Fearlessness, “ABHI ”,

says, Swami Vivekananda

Every one wants Truth, up to the parlor, not to taint their lives, says, Paul Bruntan.

Post independent, so called leadership, did not do any thing, except slogan shouting on platforms, and doing stunts, with the sole idea of going to Parliament of Sri Lanka. This hypocrisy had resulted in, miss directions of different dimensions, away from ground realities, political and other world trends, brought unprecedented destruction, of all values, wealth, culture, and other cherished ideals of Thamils.

We want to live the Truth. Not be manifestation of lies, hypocrisy and deception.

We will live with saints, and manifest, Fearlessness of Asthma Sakthi and not of, low grade muscle power, not money power, not knowledge power of manufacturing, vulgarus death, and destruction., but with moral, spiritual, power of divinity , which , unfortunately , not known, aware to persons, like Alwin Toffler and the likes

We will manifest creative compassion, all times and time surpassed wisdom, and action, and be a model to the future world, to emulate in governance, politics and upholding Dharma and Peace and Happiness. That will be the Real Yarlppanam of the future. Our lord and master of Nallur and Kathirkamathan, Aandi Pandaram-Murugan, is watching us, all the time. New rules, Norms and Methods, institutions will be set by his will and wisdom for the future.

All do gooders, please, leave us. We don’t want you, your free advice, sympathy, guidance, and assistance, since you don’t have a target to reach.

Now What ? What to do ? What is the future direction. How to go about working in relation to ground realities. Who will work. What are the institutional arrangements available and to be created. How to develop working relationship with Govt. of Sri Lanka, President and Ministers and others , in resolving the problems ,of immediate nature, and long term, political mechanisms and methodologies. Who will emerge out, shoulder , this Herculean tasks.

Will the old vultures, and behind the scene manipulators of vested interests, continue, and keep the people with obsolete norms, chained and shackled and with irrelevant slogans and the land under, undeveloped state, to show , as beggars wound, and thrive on the misery, in the future also.

How will the Sri Lankan Govt. view, self development in this situation, and the future of Thamils, and reconciliation and reintegration , in the present context.

The entry to democracy, with 9 votes, after 1983 , and enlarged in 1992, and 180,000 votes, polled , for / against in 2010, is very significant, development, to be taken note, and to be reflected, by all. Can this be interpreted, as reversal towards, pre 1983,and, from dictatorship, to some sort of, cautious, semi democracy model, gradually, unfolding. Will all players and stake holders, reflect, and work further, to develop a working model, in relation to the, future norms and needs.

The behavior of Thamils, at present is a reactive process, of anger due to suffering. The future should be viewed with dispassion, objective, scientific, target oriented, problem solving, and make / integrate the people, to feel and contribute, for their own prosperity, to rise from the ashes of destruction, and subdue hatred and passions.

The solution providers, should do introspection, on the lessens learnt, and not to do patch work, or do , a cover up, as there are deep seated compulsions, of contemporary and futuristic necessities, demands, and to be in unison with, the changed trends of world and aspirations of people, and not to push the community, into the obsolete, dark past.

Thamil community and persons, who are supposed to have been elected , want to lead, have to be extremely cautions, knowledgeable, and responsible, and not to be irresponsible, impulsive, and emotional, should have their head and heart, tuned to, synchronize to realities, future trends and develop a model.

What is their work programme. What are the institutions they hope to create and work full time or must declare, whether they want to be, only on the platform, and shout empty slogans

The solution developers, should evolve, work out, acceptable, formula to the Thamil people and not present, or thrust , thoughts of vested groups, labels, establishment, of obsolete past. They should have proved their credentials, by work, performance and integrity.

Tamils should reflect and asses and answer themselves

Selfish ?

Corrupt ?

fanatics?

Violent ?

Hypocritical ?

Can we practice what we preach to others?

What are the norms to be adhered to, in the interest of the community and its future.

What are the collective dreams, aspirations of Tamils, in the changed situation, and in relation to the future? Is it responsible cooperation? or empty slogam shouting confrontation.

Every one should ask, what is the fundamental institution, I have created, individually or collectively to develop the people, area and community. This should be reflected by all.

What is the model of politics, governance, Thamils of Sri Lanka hope, to work for.

Is it Sri Lankan , Indian, Thamil Nadu, U.K, U.S.A, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan?

Do we intend to continue, the model philosophy and leadership style of

Sir P.Ramanathan,

G.G.Ponnampalam

S.J.V.Chelvanayakam

A. Amirthalingam & M. Sivasithamparam

V.Pirapakaran

OR

A completely, a new model, to synchronize with 21st century tends, and modernity with Virtues and values, taking cognizance of failures and achievements of the thinkers. Leaders, of the past, present, and to shape the future.

Channeling energy, pursuing or working on obsolete, irrelevant , thought / concept, is not the way of rational, analytical, thinking human mind / brain of wisdom, which could sense / intuition, on the futility of such action, which will be a waste of time , energy, resources and the results, that may manifest in the form / create misery, on all actors, and connected persons and places.

Men of wisdom reflect / meditate on any concept / idea for a long time, on success / failure, on such idea before pronouncement.

Men of history / past, have no relevance to the present or future. The past is obsolete.

Present is real. Future, is for creative minds to work.

Tamils of Sri Lanka, should reflect to charter, the future, and not be guided by illusory deceptive, inflated slogans , which are irrelevant, and not in realism, to ground situations at present and future trends

Sinhala leadership must be based on co-optation, consensus and pre-eminence and not on domination, coersion or monopolistic ownership

by Dayan Jayatilleka

Sri Lanka has peace but is not yet at peace with itself. The critics who say that peace has not yet arrived in Sri Lanka are wrong. For anyone who has lived through thirty years of war, the absence of war deaths, of organised armed violence against the state and society is peace. But it is a cold and bitter peace on the island and a cold war outside, with elements in the Diaspora supporting the separatist cause

The man known variously as the Sage of Singapore and the Oracle of Asia, Lee Kwan Yew, is critical of ‘Sinhalese extremism’ in a brand new book, predicting that though the Tamil Tigers have been killed and things are alright ‘for now’, Sri Lanka’s problem is not settled, and the Tamils, a ‘capable’ community, will not remain ‘submissive’. Watching BBC’s Hard Talk and listening to an uprooted peasant about to leave the camp for his devastated home, one could sense the irreducible collective identity and spirit of these people. As Stephen Sackur later said to a hidden ex-Tiger combatant, these Tamils detest the Tigers and never want to see them again. Still, as the destitute farmer told Sackur, the problem is not solved unless the Tamils have “some solution [of]... self rule...within the Constitution”. The ex-Tiger’s answer to Sackur and to these disenchanted Tamils was the wager that “two three years from now, these same Tamil people will want to start a new war because the Sinhalese government which has never given the Tamils anything, will not give them anything”. It is up to Colombo and the Sinhalese to prove him wrong, because if there is a renewed conflict, the world – including our Asian allies-- will stand aside, telling us we had a chance to solve the problem after the victory but failed to do so yet again.

The victory in war needs to be defended and consolidated but what is not understood is that paradoxically, this may need exactly the opposite qualities than those honed in war. A warm, productive peace, a sustainable peace requires tolerance, generosity and reconciliation, informed by a correct vision. What should that vision be? There are three views on how Sri Lanka should be; three ways on how to run Sri Lanka, which some may consider options, but I would list as models.

I. Sinhalese sole ownership of the island: ‘This is a Sinhala Buddhist country’.

II.Co-equal Sinhala and Tamil ownership: variants on a spectrum being 50:50, ‘Tamil Eelam and Sinhala Rata’, confederation, the CFA, the ISGA, the PTOMS, full ethno-federalism with ‘self determination’.

III. Equal citizenship, unequal co-ownership: strong unitary state, devolution of power, autonomous provinces, Tamils as ‘minority partners’ in the state. This is a Sinhala Buddhist country but not only a Sinhala Buddhist country – and the political identity of the State is multiethnic, not primarily or solely Sinhala Buddhist.

As a Realist, I stand for the third model or option. Even if Model I were to be considered desirable, it is not feasible. If Model I is unfeasible because of the irreducible collective identity of the Tamils, then Model II is unfeasible because of the irreducible collective identity of the Sinhalese, plus their enormous demographic weight on the island. Neither the Tamil and their allies, nor the Sinhalese and theirs, can impose and sustain Models I or II on each other. The evidence of history shows that the Tamils could push but never maintain a permanent control south of a certain point of the island while the Sinhalese could never roll the Tamils back beyond a certain point in the North of the island.

The geostrategic lessons seem to me to be twofold: (a) the Wanni has to be controlled by the state as solid buffer zone, while the sea has to be securely patrolled and (b) the state and state power will and must remain controlled in the final analysis, by the Sinhalese (Singapore is finally controlled by the Chinese), though there must be no Sinhala monopoly of power.

Model III is the sole sustainable one. Its essence resides in the answer given by Lee Kwan Yew, about a similar problem in another place, far more successful than ours: “If they change in a pragmatic way...keeping tight security control and not allowing riots and not allowing rebellions and at the same time, easing up, giving more provincial authority...it’s holdable” (Tom Plate, Conversations with Lee Kwan Yew, p73)

The decades long failure of the federalist politics and propaganda, taken together with the cumulative weight of public opinion over a fairly long period of time (12 years of survey data) and the complete absence of any political formation of significance at the centre (a contender for state power) which stands for federalism, tells the realist in me that the balance of forces leaves no room for a federalist perspective. If however, there had been a significant body of opinion or some serious political current with a chance of success, which stood for federalism, I’d spend more time on it, rather than consider it the utopian abstraction that I do.

I really don’t get the logic as to why anyone interested in a sustainable solution should privilege and push the federalist stand of Tamil nationalism (representing under 10% of the citizenry) over the unitarist stand of Sinhala nationalism (representing almost 80% of the citizenry), or the converse, instead of doing what I have consistently done, which is to identify and support the saddle-point, maximum devolution within the unitary state (with the 13th amendment as base line), and urge both sides to converge.

If Tamil nationalism were so metaphysically wedded to federalism, it should have succeed in convincing either India, or Sri Lanka or the LTTE to accept it-- but it could not even convince its own vanguard to do so (which would have meant accepting CBK’s union of regions package in ’95 or sticking to Oslo 2002 and voting for Ranil in 2005). Why should the settlement entail the surrender by the Sinhalese, the overwhelming majority, of their unitarism and the embrace of the federalism of Tamil nationalism – instead of a mutual compromise, which in turn cannot but reflect the realities of power, on and off the island?

In the UK, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, to name just a few, there is no serious call or political campaign involving a major political formation agitating for a federal state. I take that as a given; a fact, which is not to say that it will remain so in permanence. What it does mean is that the issue does not enter any consequential political calculus. The same is true, or even truer, of Sri Lanka.

If however, a Sri Lankan government or political formation with a proven commitment to a strong state, national security and sovereignty were to arrive at a negotiated federal solution with the Tamil leadership, I would not write in opposition to it and would support it as a risk worth taking.

It is not that one cannot conceive of a state with more than one nation. I have no problem either with a two state solution for Israel/Palestine or with a one state solution in which there would be a single, secular bi-national state. Indeed I have no problem with the idea of a multinational state. Tito’s Yugoslavia with its population distribution was one. However Sri Lanka currently does not hold two equal nations. The concrete demographic reality leads me to conclude that currently there is only one fully fledged nation on the island and that is the Sinhalese nation, while the Tamil community constitutes (at best) a minority nationality or (at least) a national minority. Even if one were to accept that both Sinhalese and Tamils are nations, it would be a fiction to pretend that they are or should be equal nations in terms of access to /distribution of power.

The challenge today is to accommodate and reconcile Sinhala and Tamil collective identities, with their enormous asymmetries of presence, within an overarching national or state identity (’Sri Lankan’). While as citizens and as between citizens there must be complete equality (and I have advocated a powerful anti-discrimination legislation and a standing commission), no progress is made by ‘whiting out’ the real and abiding asymmetries of power.

I argue that Sinhala leadership on the island is unavoidable and understandable, but if it is to be successful it must be based on co-optation and consensus, not domination/pure coercion; on pre-eminence, not monopolistic ownership.

The Sinhala chauvinists have no model of partnership with the Tamils, while the Tamils (with the significant exception of Devananda) have no realistic recognition of the possible terms and parameters of such partnership. The model I propose is as similar to Obama’s ‘ethical realist’ strategy for US global leadership as the Sinhala hardliners is to the Bush Neo-Conservative model of global dominance, or to use another example, mine is closer to the Rabin-Peres-Barak two state solution with ‘security red lines’ rather than the Netanyahu-Lieberman ‘apartheid’ Occupation model of the Sinhala hardliners. Surely there is a qualitative difference between Putin’s Chechnya model and that of the Gaza strip or the West Bank under Netanyahu?

My ‘domestic Yalta’ model must not be dismissed as essentially what we have today or a mask for the status quo. Mine is an argument for maximum devolution within a unitary state, incidentally, as pledged in Mahinda Rajapakse’s winning Presidential election manifesto of Jan 2010: “implement and improve on the 13th amendment”. To me that is the concretisation of the ‘Dutugemunu’ Realist model, which mirrors the material reality of the island’s historically evolved social formation, with Sinhala pre-eminence in state (politico-military) power in the final analysis, while moulding it in a progressive direction by devolving power to the periphery through an authentic measure of ‘self-government’ or ‘home rule’ in those contiguous areas where the Tamils comprise a compact majority. This is local autonomy or “self rule...within the Constitution” as the Tamil farmer, about to board the bus back home from Menik farm told the BBC’s Stephen Sackur.

Nobody can fiddle with our constitution behind closed doors without asking us first

by Namini Wijedasa

Sri Lanka’s old left parties (and, yes, the adjective “decrepit” was passed up with much difficulty) recently came out blazing against a proposal to remove the two-term limit on the executive presidency.

Displaying an uncharacteristic burst of energy, several members of the left publicly opposed the move on the basis that it would be of great detriment to this country. And we thought, phew, somebody is finally speaking up. Somebody still has guts. Somebody cares more for his nation than his position. While all the other losers in parliament are today keeping silent, somebody dared buck the trend.

Yes, we nodded. The left would not betray the legacy of great leaders like Pieter Keuneman, N.M. Perera and Colvin R. De Silva whose service to Sri Lanka remains unmatched. But we were wrong. One short week later, nobody is speaking up.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in India last week. Ministers were initially told the cabinet meeting would be postponed. When it did take place as scheduled on Wednesday, many ministers were absent, opting to honour other commitments. As the meeting was winding up, an urgent cabinet paper was hastily taken up. It had not been on the agenda and was read out with equal haste--so quickly that some ministers claimed “they didn’t quite get what was in it”-- and passed by cabinet before you could say ketchup.

What this paper pertained to, we were later told, was constitutional change. It did not contain the draft amendments. It stated, instead, that “minor” changes were being proposed to Sections VII (A), XI and XVIII of the constitution. Section VII (A) deals with the President of the Republic, his or her election and term of office. Section XI deals with the procedures and powers of parliament and Section XVIII (A) deals with the setting up of Provincial Councils.

The cabinet paper sought cabinet approval to instruct the legal draftsman to put together the required amendments. The draft will then come back to cabinet for approval. It is at this point that ministers will become aware of the exact nature of the amendments. Thereafter, the draft will go to parliament for approval.

Some ministers said they hadn’t known the paper was coming to cabinet that day (“though there had been rumours”), particularly since President Rajapaksa was not present. Certainly, the country did not know it was coming up before cabinet. But there are many things the country today does not know.

For instance, who is drafting these changes? Which minister is in charge of the subject? Does he have a team under him? When will the public, to whom the constitution rightfully belongs, get some clear and honest information about the direction in which we are being conducted (like bovine incarnations of the human race, you might add)? Whom will these proposed piecemeal constitutional amendments serve— our children, or some children? Will these changes be up for public discussion before they go to parliament? If not, WHY not? Who the devil said a near two-thirds majority should entitle a government to throw transparency, good governance and public accountability to the wind?

Questions, questions and more questions. No bloody answers. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t mind such a situation. We are, after all, a country that was told not to ask questions during the war and we readily complied. We are so compliant that we are still not asking.

But this is different. This is the constitution we are talking about. Nobody can fiddle with our constitution behind closed doors, fashioning it to suit individual—rather than national—requirements without asking US first. This is not and cannot be negotiable. The constitution unlike any other law is meant to protect the people against those who wield political power. It MUST be people-based. Any proposal to change the supreme law of the land must be discussed with the people.

At a UPFA executive committee meeting summoned by President Rajapaksa last week, there were sharp words for those that opposed the proposed changes to the constitution. The left parties, though not members of the UPFA executive committee, were also invited.

The president reportedly said: “We have decided to make a few amendments to the constitution. I know that some people who faced the elections with us are against this move. I also know that this is due to NGO pressure. If somebody is unwilling to accept the situation, we will have to stick by our decisions regardless of these one or two people. Keep in mind that when one or two leaves, ten or fifteen are standing in line to join.” The president said he had information that a member of an old political party and an upcountry lawyer were against the constitutional reforms. He claimed they were being funded by NGOs.

Heck, this is not about NGOs. This is not about conspiracies – at least not of the non-governmental type. This is not about the Rajapaksas or anybody else. This is about our sovereignty, the sovereignty of the people. It isn’t just the left parties. Any right thinking citizen should be demanding that the constitution not be meddled with in a manner that would harm this nation.

J.R. Jayawardene did it once, in 1978. This country is still lamenting over the damage he caused. Will history repeat itself? A constitution may be changed today to serve the interests of an individual. When that individual is no longer around, and should a despot come to power, what might he do with a constitution that makes the executive even more powerful than he already is? Any Sri Lankan with an iota of sense should be quaking at the thought.

June 13, 2010

LTTE: Remnants and sympathisers

By B.Raman

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a terrorist-cum-insurgent organisation is dead. So is most of its leadership at the senior levels, including Prabakaran, its head. One cannot say with equal confidence that all its trained cadres----whether in insurgency or terrorism or both----have been fully accounted for----either killed or captured.

Its dead leaders have not left detailed documentation of their set-up giving details of the number trained, the number of losses, the number still alive towards the end of their fight with the Sri Lankan Army, their deployment, their capabilities, weapons-holdings etc. As a result, it is difficult to assess with some accuracy the risks of a revival of the Tamil militancy in some form or the other in Sri Lanka as well as in Tamil Nadu.

2. One can assess with some confidence that there is little likelihood of the revival of a Tamil insurgent movement. The losses in trained personnel and capabilities suffered by the LTTE at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army will rule that out. The enhancement of the deployment of the Army in the Tamil areas----already under way---- will ensure that Tamil insurgency cannot stage a come-back in Sri Lanka like the Taliban did in Afghanistan.

3. However, one cannot rule out the dangers of a revival of a terrorist movement by the unaccounted for remnants of the LTTE in Sri Lanka as well as in Tamil Nadu. The LTTE had trained an unquantified number of its cadres----men and women--- in different kinds of terrorist operations, including suicide terrorism. One does not know how many were trained, how many were killed or captured by the Sri Lankan Army and how many have managed to evade capture and are biding their time in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. They have a high level of expertise in the use of terrorism as a modus operandi as well as in the fabrication of explosive material by using substances easily available in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.

4. So long as these remnants with the required expertise are available, a determined and motivated Tamil leader can rally them round and create sleeper cells for a new Tamil militant movement. A new generation of Tamil militant leadership is not yet on the horizon a year after the decimation of the LTTE. However, there is still anger in pockets of the Tamil communities in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu over the manner in which the Sri Lankan Army carried out its counter-insurgency operations and over what is seen as foot-dragging by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in carrying out his assurances for a fair political settlement made to the Tamils before the LTTE was crushed. Now that the LTTE has been crushed, he is no longer showing a sense of urgency and fairplay in addressing the problems and grievances of the Tamils.

5. The fact that this anger is present not only in the Tamil community of Sri Lanka, but also of Tamil Nadu became evident recently from the protests in Tamil Nadu over an Indian film festival held in Sri Lanka, which was boycotted by Tamil actors, the protest demonstrations during the recent visit of Mr.Rajapaksa to New Delhi and the unsuccessful attempt by some unidentified persons believed to be sympathisers of Prabakaran to cause a derailment with locally-procured explosives in Tamil Nadu in the early hours of June 12. The Kumbakonam-Chennai Rockfort Express escaped what could have been a tragedy when two alert drivers---one of a train which preceded the Rockfort Express and the other of the Express---- noticed a possible terrorist attempt to cause a derailment. According to media reports, pamphlets purported to have been drafted by supporters of the late Prabakaran claiming responsibility for the attempt were found on the spot. Only a police investigation can establish whether the attempt was made by supporters of Prabakaran as claimed in the pamphlets or by Maoists as a mark of solidarity with the LTTE. In the past, when Prabakaran was alive, there were unconfirmed reports of contacts between the LTTE and the Maoists.

6. Anger is often the mother of militancy and terrorism. The LTTE is dead. Most of its senior leadership is no more. But anger in sections of the Tamil community is still there. Motivated individuals, who are prepared to give vent to their anger by using terrorism, are available. Only leadership to rally them round is not there. The post 9/11 history of terrorism shows that the absence of a leadership capable of uniting the terrorists and orchestrating their activities does not mean the end of terrorism. Autonomously operating individuals itching to give vent to their anger have been behind many recent acts of terrorism. Terrorism analysts have been speaking of an emerging phenomenon of leadersless terrorism due to acts of angry individuals.

7. Till the cause of the anger of the Sri Lankan Tamils is satisfactorily addressed, the danger of a revival of terrorism in sections of the Tamil community will remain present. (ENDS)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presetly, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Military mass wedding: "Rehabilitation rendered a publicity stunt"

"Freedom when?" was what many in the "wedding ceremony" asked according to BBC Sandeshaya and tweets remarked the military marriage of militants "hugely oversteps ethical boundaries".

MWTC613.jpg

The ceremony attracted widespread media coverage. Reports say the mass wedding was held under heavy military presence and future for the newly-weds remains uncertain:

from TweetsTrove:

- the 'happy couples' sure look like they're enjoying the ceremony. rehabilitation rendered a publicity stunt.

- #srilanka state-arranged #marriage of captured militants still in detention hugely oversteps ethical boundaries

And Reuters put out a video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUQQw4Hg3hA

Report by Sandeshaya:

The Sri Lankan military has organised a mass wedding of more than fifty couples suspected to be from the Tamil Tiger rebel group at a ceremony in Vavunia.

Suspected former rebels are being held at a military-run camp following their defeat by government forces in May last year.

Sri Lankan army says many of the couples had been unable to marry earlier because they were fighting in the civil war.

"Freedom when?"

A BBC correspondent who attended the event says many now want to know when they will be freed from military custody.

The mass wedding was held under heavy military presence.

The director general in charge of rehabilitation, Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe said that the newly weds will be housed in a designated village.

"Arrangements have been made for their relatives to visit them," added Brigadier Ranasinghe.

More than ten-thousand Tamil Tiger rebels, who surrendered following the defeat of Tamil Tigers in May last year, are under military custody in northern Sri Lanka.

Excerpts from the report by Guardian UK:

Ravichandra Rasikeshara, 26, married another former fighter, 22-year-old Thaksarani.

"We don't want an Eelam [a separate state]. We want freedom and a happy family life," Ravichandra, who worked as a paramedic for the LTTE, said.

The witness for the marriages was Indian film star Vivek Oberoi who had come came to Sri Lanka for an Indian film awards ceremony earlier this month and visited the camp at the government's invitation.

The future for the newly-weds remains uncertain. Sivapathasundaram Kavithas, 29, had been a fighter for nine years and had met his wife Bhavani, 28, a fighter for 12 years, when they went for weapons training together.

Kavithas said he was pleasantly surprised that his marriage was formalised but said he still longed for freedom from the camp to look after his sister who lives alone. Their parents and two brothers were killed in the last stages of the fighting, he said.

"We will live the same restricted life, the difference is we will be living together again," said Bhavani.

The couples will be provided with separate tents . Few will be going on honeymoon in the near future. Nearly 3,000 of the 11,000 former Tigers detained at the war's end have now been released but Brigadier Ranasinghe said "a little bit more rehabilitation work" was needed before those married yesterday could go free.

In Pictures by indi.ca

Daily Mirror.lk video of the event

Bollywood star Vivek Oberoi at the event

June 12, 2010

Sri Lanka becoming battlefield for proxy cold war between China and India

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers -” African proverb

The Indian International Film Awards (IIFA) became a test of strength between the Rajapakse administration and Tamil Nadu Tamils, and, at the end of the day, Colombo was the loser.

Most major Bollywood stars, giving threadbare excuses, stayed away from the event, which is said to have cost Sri Lankan taxpayers close to a billion rupees.

According to The Sunday Times of June 6th, the actors and the actresses who did come to Colombo failed to show up at a brunch organised by President Rajapakse in their honour. As a reprisal for this churlish behaviour, President Rajapakse, who was billed as the chief guest at the IIFA awards, did not put in an appearance. The entire enterprise became a colossally expensive failure from the point of view of Colombo and the most unsuccessful award ceremony in the brief history of IIFA. The sole winner was the South Indian film industry which boycotted the event and asked Bollywood stars to follow suit to protest the treatment meted out to Lankan Tamils by the Rajapakses.

The lesson is obvious. Though the Tiger is no more and Lankan Tamils are cowed, Indian Tamils and Diaspora Tamils together can still pose a formidable challenge to Colombo. And their capacity to do so will remain so long as the problems of the Lankan Tamils are unresolved.

The war has been won. Vellupillai Pirapaharan, his family and all top and middle level Tiger leaders are dead. The LTTE is decimated. And yet, Sri Lanka is not out of the woods, manifestly. Regionally and globally Lanka’s reputation as a vindictive winner is growing, which, in turn, is causing a steady increase in the sympathy for the defeated and defenceless Tamils. Given this context, Lanka’s woes will not be over until a political solution to the ethnic problem is instituted and normalcy is restored in the North and in the Tamil areas of the East.

Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya’s recent remarks about the need for a political settlement are apposite; his realism is a welcome change from the Sinhala supremacist myopia of his predecessor and his political bosses. In a speech to a group of businessmen, on the first anniversary of the defeating of the LTTE, Gen. Jayasuriya said that “it is up to the government and the people now to fund the root cause of the problem and give a proper solution… I believe in the end a proper solution is needed” (The Straits Times – 11.6.2010).

Unfortunately his words are likely to be unheeded, if not scorned. The Rajapakses will not deliver a political solution, because they do not believe in the existence of an ethnic problem, as the President himself had stated, publicly, time and time again. Disbelieving in the existence of an ethnic problem, they, logically, do not see the need for a political solution.

In the Sinhala supremacist narrative, the Tigers were conjured into being by inimical international forces (including India) to destroy Lanka, the sole refuge of Sinhala Buddhism. Alien Tamils always wanted to possess Lanka, and in this desire they had been aided and abetted, from way back in history, by other alien races and religions.

According to this worldview, the Sinhala Only and other legislative measures introduced since 1956 to ensure Sinhala supremacy are warranted acts, long overdue steps to restore the ‘natural balance’ which the British (and other colonialists) destroyed. Even the Black July is seen as a ‘justifiable reaction’ by ‘much goaded’ Sinhalese. In this narrative, there are no Tamil (or minority grievances) and being ‘aliens’ in Sri Lanka, the Tamils (and other minorities) have no right to grievances. The Rajapakses subscribe to this ‘Sinhala Zionist’ worldview, by and large. Consequently, only the wilfully inane and illogical could have believed and can continue to believe that the Rajapakses will deliver a political solution to the ethnic problem, with or without the Tigers.

Not only will the Rajapakses not deliver a political solution; even the restoration of normalcy or a real improvement in the living conditions of the North-Eastern Tamils is unlikely to happen, except marginally and minimally. The fact that the 2010 budget sets aside Rs.201 billion for defence but only Rs.2 billon for resettlement demonstrates the very low priority accorded by the government to Tamil wellbeing. It also reveals the regime’s inability/unwillingness to see the nexus between development and security. Given such a militarist mindset, reconciliation is but a mirage, a delusion spun occasionally by the state media, for purposes of propaganda.

So India is faced with the classic, take it or leave it, Hobson’s choice. Delhi would know that President Rajapakse will not deliver a political solution (this time even face-saving promises were absent) and – worse still – will hollow out the 13th Amendment leaving only the shell (disempowering the provincial councils seems to be the main purpose of the proposed senate). But post-war, India has little wherewithal to push the Rajapakses into a more compliant mindset. And given China’s very obvious determination to take Sri Lanka into her orbit, Delhi will be particularly vary of ruffling Colombo’s feathers too much.

It is clear that the China factor (and not the Tamil factor) is the focal point in Delhi’s Lankan policy. India seems to be competing with China to give aid to Colombo, to undertake infrastructure projects, to assist in international fora.

The obvious indication of this new priority is India’s curious insistence on being permitted to open a consulate in Hambantota. Delhi is engaged in a race with China burdened by a severe handicap. Beijing does not have to bother about political solutions and human rights; in any case, China is notorious for her uncritical support for notorious human rights violators in the region and outside. India would like to be equally blasé, but given the Tamilnadu factor she cannot.

Delhi must be seen to be doing something for Lankan Tamils, or risk discontent in Tamil Nadu. Already ominous signs are emerging. According to media reports, “passengers in the Tiruchirapalli-Chennai Rockfort Express had a narrow escape when suspected pro-LTTE elements blasted railway tracks at Perani railway station in Villupuram district… Leaflets condemning the visit of the Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse were found from the spot, the police said” (Hindustan Times – 12.6.2010).

Delhi is thus in a bind. It knows that in the absence of a political solution to the ethnic problem and a rapid improvement in the living conditions of the Tamils, Northern Sri Lanka will become radicalised; this can cause a reactive radicalisation in Southern India. A political solution to the ethnic problem is thus critical not only for Lankan peace and stability but also for stability in Southern India. But Delhi is virtually powerless to bring about this desired outcome. Worse still, it cannot even express its displeasure with Colombo too strongly and too publicly for fear of pushing Sri Lanka completely into the Chinese orbit.

According to unconfirmed media reports, India is to initiate direct talks with the Lankan Tamil and Muslim parties about a political solution to the ethnic problem. If true, this decision will rile many in Sri Lanka. Already the UNP’s Ravi Karunanayake (of the Pamankada-Alimankada fame), in an outburst which would have done Cyril Mathew proud, has condemned the move.

But, given the obduracy of the Rajapakse administration, given its obvious disinclination to share power with the minorities, such a step by India is understandable. From the Joint Statement issued by the two countries, subsequent to the discussions between Mahinda Rajapakse and Manmohan Singh, it is clear that Delhi brought up the issue of a political solution to the ethnic problem and Colombo stonewalled it with verbiage.

Delhi would have got the message, and initiating talks with the Tamil and Muslim parties may be its response to Colombo’s recalcitrance. Given the potency of the Tamil Nadu factor, India cannot afford to be seen to be doing nothing, even if she achieves precisely that in the end.

In the 1980’s the Jayewardene administration followed a policy of wooing the West as a counter to India and to Indian pressure on the Tamil issue. This strategy backfired, because, for Washington, as for Moscow and London, Delhi mattered far more than Colombo did or ever could. China then was a third rate regional power. Today she is the pre-eminent regional power and, according to some analysts, a potential contender for the status of the global hegemony.

China, in consonance with this new international gravitas, is making a concerted effort to build a chain of allies and client states, and seems more than willing to stand foursquare behind Sri Lanka, vis-à-vis India and perhaps even the West.

The Rajapakses have adopted a policy of playing India and China against each other and gaining concessions from both. It is a difficult balancing act and how long it can be maintained without turning Sri Lanka into a locus for a proxy cold-war between the two regional powers is uncertain. The contending powers will not content themselves with wooing the government. They will try to win friends and recruit allies in every field, from politics to the media, from the economy to academia, from the armed forces to the cinema and the theatre, in order to plug one’s line and discredit the enemy. Their rivalry will thus divide the already hopelessly divided Lankan society, yet again, between Indophiles and Indophobes, Sinophiles and Sinophobes.

Becoming the friend of both India and China makes sense; but permitting Sri Lanka to be turned into a battlefield for their proxy cold-wars does not. The best antidote to this potential ailment is to diversify dependence, to cultivate other countries for aid and investment. But for this, the unresolved ethnic problem is an insurmountable barrier. Like India, the West too wants to see the root causes of the war addressed. And unlike India it will not hesitate to disengage or even chastise, when faced with Rajapakse obduracy.

The uncertain fate of the GSP+ is a case in point as is the growing pressure on Sri Lanka to investigate war crime charges. Incidentally, outbursts, such as the diatribe by the Defence Secretary, merely serve to strengthen the suspicion that Lankan forces did commit war crimes.

If there is nothing to hide, why should Mr. Rajapakse go into a fit of apoplexy when told that the former Army Commander is willing to give evidence before a war crimes tribunal? When Mr. Rajapakse says, “He can’t do that. He was the commander. That’s a treason. We will hang him if he do that….. How can he betray the country? He is a liar, liar, liar”, the impression is of a man with something to hide and is determined to hide it, at whatever the cost.

Given the precarious economic and financial conditions of Sri Lanka, and the less than sympathetic attitude of the West, Colombo has no choice but to depend more and more on China and India for economic assistance and for politico-diplomatic help in warding off a war crimes inquiry. This means, like Delhi, Colombo too has come to a Hobson’s choice.

Even if it is aware of the dangers of overdependence on contending regional powers and of the consequent possibility of Lankan becoming a locus for their rivalry, Colombo has no choice but to turn towards China and India. Because so long as the Rajapakse unwillingness to deal with Tamil concerns endures, other avenues of help are blocked. The danger of being sucked into other peoples’ battles is clear, but given the Rajapakse obduracy, Colombo has little choice but to risk it and bind itself ever closer to Beijing and Delhi.

MIA: 'I'm here for the people'

MIA is the most provocative pop star of her age. Here, the rapper discusses her new multifaceted album, the absence of her father during childhood and having the video to her latest song, in which a child is 'murdered', censored by YouTube.

"From day one, what I've been saying is that I'm here for the people, talking about the citizens, not the Tigers. I don't know the Tigers, I don't know what they do, I don't give a shit. It's about the Tamil people, because I only know it from that experience." - M.I.A.

by Miranda Sawyer, The Observer, UK

MIA might not be properly famous – not yet, anyway – but she is notorious. Her songs are both played on the radio and banned by MTV.

MIATC612.jpgHer political statements have led to her being described as a terrorist. Her pop videos are analysed for propaganda; the last one she put out, in April, was immediately removed from YouTube for its violence. And in an age where "immigrant" is an insult rather than a description, she uses the word proudly to describe herself: a refugee who started from nothing and became internationally successful by the time she was 28.

She's also a drama queen. "This," she announces at the end of our chat, "may be the last interview I ever do." Don't put money on it. MIA – real name Maya Arulpragasam – is a gift that the media will not let slip away. Beautiful, with flashing eyes and jutting chin, her wild, scattershot style – she favours bright colours, African and Asian prints, hoodies, all-in-ones and has modelled for Marc Jacobs – is accessorised by wild, scattershot statements. She takes up causes ("I think I'll talk about Liberia and stuff") without much thought and picks fights apparently at random: recent targets include Lady Gaga and the Twilight films as well as Facebook and Google, which, according to Maya, were "developed by the CIA".

Mostly, she gets into trouble for speaking out about Sri Lanka. Born in London in 1975, she moved to her parents' native Sri Lanka when she was six months old, spending her first 10 years in a village outside Jaffna, in the north, and in Chennai in India. Her father was a founder of Eros, a student body which campaigned during the 70s and 80s for a separate Tamil state; his actions meant that Maya and her family were forced to return to London in 1987, where they lived in bedsits, hostels and council flats.

Maya doesn't take her politics from her dad, but she does speak out in support of Tamil citizens. Her assertions that the Sri Lankan government is guilty of the genocide of local Tamils have not been going down well. She's even been accused of supporting the LTTE, or Tamil Tigers, the separatist group that was defeated by the Sri Lankan government last year, ending almost 30 years of civil war. Kylie she ain't.

Aside from all that, in the month before we meet, MIA causes two big fusses. The first is over "Born Free", a track from Maya (or /\/\ /\Y/\ as it is written), her forthcoming third album. Without consulting her record company – "Born Free" is not a single – Maya and director Romain Gavras decided to make an accompanying video, funding it themselves.

Gavras comes with his own notoriety: his video for Justice's 2008 track "Stress" shows a teenage gang on the rampage in Paris, smashing up cafes, beating up security guards, robbing a car and torching it. And his nine-minute-long clip for "Born Free" proved to be even more provocative. It starts in LA, with armed militia rounding up several red-haired young men and one child; the detainees are taken to the desert, where they are beaten up and killed. The boy is shot in the head. The metaphor is obvious, but the illustration is graphic, some would say gratuitous, and the video was immediately banned by YouTube, though you can still see it on miauk.com.

The second furore is over a piece in the New York Times by Lynn Hirschberg, where the writer emphasised the contrast between Maya's political pronouncements ("My giving birth was nothing when I think about all the people in Sri Lanka that have to give birth in a concentration camp") and her now-comfortable lifestyle. To be honest, for the waspish Hirschberg, the feature wasn't that nasty, though its tone sneered and she made many of her points through implication. For instance: '"I kind of want to be an outsider," she [MIA] said, eating a truffle-flavoured French fry."'

Maya was not pleased with such an insinuation. So she posted Hirschberg's phone number on the net, along with a recording that proved it was Hirschberg, not Maya, who ordered the posh chips. A storm on a dinner plate? Maybe. But Maya – unsophisticated, sincere, feisty Maya – just can't let things slide.

I am stuffed full of MIA knowledge by the time we meet: my computer fizzing with arguments for and against, statements from governmental spokesmen, rants from barely literate commentators, Maya's own, capital-lettered tweeting and blogging. It's all very entertaining – but it does distract from her music.

So, let's be clear: MIA's music is fantastic. A self-taught rapper, songwriter and producer, she makes infectious, inventive tunes that smash and grab from hip-hop, grime, rave and punk, stir things up with Jamaican beats, Indian rhythms, African drums. She samples with abandon, from older artists such as the Clash and Suicide, as well as from the sounds that surround her: cash registers, toy instruments, the Tamils' urumee drum. Her lyrics are interesting, too: fluid, ambiguous, hard to decipher, they mix up gangsta talk – "Some some some I murder" – with patois, London slang, silliness, personal observation. After just one LP, 2005's Arular, rapper Nas commented: "Her sound is the future."

We meet in the Banana Leaf, an Indian restaurant at the grottier end of Tooting in south London: Maya chose it because it's round the corner from her mum, Kala. When I arrive, the restaurant is quite empty, apart from Maya, her press officer, her boyfriend, Ben Bronfman, and their 14-month-old son, Ikhyd, who's happily trotting around, searching out mobile phones to chew. Everyone else is picking over the remnants of a big meal. Having girded my loins for rent-a-gob hour, I find quite the opposite. Maya, Ben and Ikhyd seem almost sleepy: they've been doing a lot of travelling.

Ben, a relaxed, hood-eyed 27-year-old, offers to take Ikhyd out for a walk while we talk. Somehow, before he does, we get on to the topic of scuba-diving, which Ben and Maya recently tried. Ben loved it, Maya was a bit scared. "I can't do stuff like that!" she says. "Posh people can though," she continues, pointing her fork at Ben and laughing.

Part of Lynn Hirschberg's sniffiness in her New York Times piece was based around Maya hooking up with Ben, whose dad is Edgar Bronfman Jr, the Seagram's heir and CEO of Warners. Ben, the lead singer of indie-reggae group the Exit, runs his own, environmentally friendly record label and was born to wealth. Maya, clearly, was not. The implication: how can she still keep it real when she lives in West Hollywood with a trust fund kid? But such class-bound objections seem ludicrous when you see Ben and Maya together: their backgrounds are different, but they are both music types – good-looking lefties in nice trainers and cool clothes – and operate in that turn-and-turn-about way of any family with young kids. Ben is clearly very proud of his wife-to-be. "Have you heard the record?" he asks keenly. "Isn't it great?"

Perhaps it's because Ben and Ikhyd are around but, after they leave, Maya and I talk for a long time about her family. (She speaks in a strange, drawn-out, London/US drawl.) It's a wild ride of a tale. Though Maya's mum and dad were both Tamils from Sri Lanka, they met for the first time in a pub in Hounslow. Arul, her father, had landed a scholarship to learn engineering in Russia when he was 15, after which he came to London; Kala was studying for a few months, staying with her brother. Kala needed to extend her visa, Arul agreed to marry her, and did so, in a matter of days. They had two girls in two years, Kali (now a jewellery designer) and Maya, short for Mathangi. But unknown to Kala, Arul had become involved with some politically minded Tamils, and, when Maya was two months old, he left. "He went out to buy a pint of milk and didn't come back for four months," says Maya. He went to Lebanon. To train with the PLO.

When Arul did return, it was to inform Kala that he was moving back to Sri Lanka and did she want to come? Influenced by his new friends and his time in Russia, where, according to Maya, there was a kind of coffee-table radicalism ("Every cafe had typewriters and you would think of an ideology, type it up, photocopy it, hand it out to a thousand people. Within two hours you had a rally"), Arul Pragasam was off to his home country to help set up Eros (the Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students). Eros was devoted to supporting the Tamil minority through politics but not violence. It was disbanded in the mid-80s when the Tamil Tigers became the stronger force.

Anyhow, Kala moved back with Arul, to her home village, near Jaffna, in the north of Sri Lanka, where Maya's grandparents could help out. Soon after they got there, son Sugu was born. However, Arul, who now called himself Arular, was still not around. "He asked my mum, 'Why would I devote myself to one woman and three children when I could be helping thousands?' She said: 'If you even have to ask that, you should go.'" Until she was eight, Maya believed her father was dead. She saw him three times in the years she was in Sri Lanka. "One of those times, when he came home, he didn't even know what I was called," she says.

Maya's life in Sri Lanka was happy: she, her sister, brother, mum and grandmother lived in a three-room unit (granny slept in one room, everyone else in another and the third was for visitors). On either side of their house were their aunties, with seven and eight kids apiece, "and on our street there were maybe 50 kids: it was brilliant". Maya's family was the only one on the block with a fridge – "known as the cridge" – and, once a month, they would hire a TV and video. Everyone they knew would come over, cram into one room and watch Tamil films for 24 hours nonstop. They'd put ice on their faces to keep awake.

But Arul still managed to affect their lives. Her family moved again, to a Tamil area of India, for three years, where they lived in a derelict house. When they returned to their Sri Lankan village, government soldiers kept turning up to find him; they would sit Maya on their knee, ask her if her toy was a present from her dad – "I would be, like, I wish!" The same friendly soldiers would then beat up Kala in front of her children, and mete out the same punishment to any local male between 18 and 25. "Kids like my cousin, and all he did was hang about, whistle at girls and sing Michael Jackson songs." After some years, this harassment became too much and the local community scrabbled some money together and gave it to Kala, telling her that she needed to take the kids and go back to the UK.

For an absent father, Arul caused a lot of grief, I say.

"Even now, really," says Maya. "Because everyone thinks my story is to do with my dad, when, you know, it's my uncle in Morden [south London] on my mother's side who's my inspiration." And she launches into his tale: he smuggled himself into the UK, sold clothes out of a car, ended up in the 1960s as "the first ever brown guy to have his own stall on Petticoat Lane". Everywhere you look in Maya's vast family, there's a story of adversity overcome, an epic adventure.

After she returned to the UK, aged 10, Maya heard nothing from her dad, until she summoned him back into her life by calling her first album Arular. "I thought that if he Googled himself, he'd get my LP and then he'd get in touch." The tactic worked, but their relationship is still fraught. Maya learnt most of what she knows about her dad from other people. "It irritates me that I end up giving him so much attention when he had so little to do with my life," she says.

All the while that Maya is talking, I think: she's nothing like I expected. She's gentler, more smiley, more discursive. Her stories ramble sideways; she explains rather than rants. Still, it would be easy to pull out a damning quote or two; she's no diplomat. Talking about Brick Lane, where she hung out when she was 17, she says: "Tower Hamlets got a new MP and because he wanted to tone down the violence in Hoxton, he flushed the area with loads of heroin to sedate and pacify the Bengalis."

It's hard to believe that an MP would do that, I say, mildly.

"I think when a housing community is going to explode then, ultimately, someone gains, whether politically or financially. All the buildings I was hanging out in, the leather factories, the community centres, they all got sold and turned into expensive condos. It's all connected."

Such conspiracy theory thinking is common enough. In fact, Maya's politics, other than her Sri Lankan ones, which are more informed, remind me of Banksy's: essentially, people with power are all corrupt and they conspire to keep the innocents down. She may well believe these things, but you need detail to stand up such claims and Maya will never win a Private Eye award for investigative journalism. That's not what she's for. She's a provocateur.

Which brings us to the video for "Born Free". Maya thinks the reaction to it was ridiculous, given that YouTube has plenty of real-life killings on it. "It's just fake blood and ketchup and people are more offended by that than the execution videos," she sniffs. By execution videos, she means clips of Sri Lankan troops shooting unarmed, blindfolded, naked men in the head. The Sri Lankan government claimed the videos were fabricated; independent experts have confirmed them as genuine, probably made in January 2009. "I Twittered about them six months ago and no one talked about that, and then me and Romain make a video and everyone's like, 'Oh my God.'"

Maya's problem is not that she's uninformed, but that she's emotional and personal and, like, you know, um, a bit inarticulate. You're not meant to get involved when giving out information about war. After our interview, I watch a clip of her on US chatshow host Tavis Smiley's programme, where she very clearly differentiates between the Tamil Tigers and the Tamil citizens. She then says that the Sri Lankan government has been using the Tamil Tigers as an excuse to wipe out ordinary Tamil civilians. She gave the interview in January 2009 and later her version of events was confirmed: it was reported in the New York Times.

"The New York Times," says Maya, "is such a big institution that the journalists don't even read their own news. But two days before Lynn's story came out about me, there was a New York Times news story saying that the Sri Lankan government forces are to be blamed for all the civilian deaths. Yet the day I had my baby and was in hospital coming round, they'd printed a story saying that I was a Tamil Tiger sympathiser. From day one, what I've been saying is that I'm here for the people, talking about the citizens, not the Tigers. I don't know the Tigers, I don't know what they do, I don't give a shit. It's about the Tamil people, because I only know it from that experience.

"Also, when the New York Times put Sri Lanka's beaches as the number one destination [in a new year list of the 31 best travel ideas for 2010], six months after 300,000 people get bombed there... Tourism needs to be connected to politics. All wars are fought over land and you're advertising a piece of land as the best place to go and lay on and sunbathe. [You should] research that piece of land!"

All of which, to those of us uninformed about Sri Lankan politics, seems complicated. But I checked out Maya's accusations, and they all turned out to be true, though the piece that acknowledged that the Sri Lankan government shelled civilian safe zones came out nine days before Hirschberg's, rather than two.

The difficulty for MIA is not that she's lying. It's that the world doesn't really care. She spends a long time explaining to me how the Sri Lankan government dispersed negative propaganda about her on the internet, contacting her fans individually, because they wanted to present a clean image of their country. This may well be true, but if I'm honest, before researching for this piece, I wasn't really aware of the details of the civil war in Sri Lanka, not least that it had ended with hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians being herded on to beaches and bombed. I'm just as guilty as Hirschberg. No wonder there's more shock about a silly pop video than real people really dying.

Maya has spent much of her life moving around the world, latching on to different groups of people. Bengali boys from Brick Lane, art students at St Martins (she talked her way in), LA hip-hop kids (she moved there when she was 18 for four months), or London's in-crowd (she shared a flat with Elastica frontwoman Justine Frischmann and fashion designer Luella Bartley in her early 20s). When she made Kala, her second album, she had problems with her US visa, so she recorded in Liberia, Jamaica, Trinidad, India. When she was pregnant, she had to move out of New York, because the smell of it made her throw up all the time. She doesn't quite fit anywhere.

She and Ben are getting married soon – they have 10 months before Maya's American work visa runs out again – but they don't know where, as their families are so dispersed. After that, they're thinking of living on a boat. "I'm so up for that," says Ben, who's back with Ikhyd.

Maya tells a story about moving back to England when she was 10. On her first day at school, her class were working through a sum. Maya put her hand up, because she knew the answer. "And literally the whole class turned round and laughed at me," she says, laughing herself.

The teacher patted her on the head and told her she didn't have to pretend. But she did know the answer – she just couldn't speak English. She didn't have the words to tell them.

"I didn't care," she says. "I was happy. I was happy wherever." [courtesy: Observer-The Guardian, UK]

Maya is released on 12 July on XL

Related:

MIA talks to NME Magazine at a bus stop in East London about leaving America, the Tory campaign, and how she was "puking out confusion" on her new album

M.I.A. Jimmy Lyrics from Kala (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kala_(album))

Jimmy, Jimmy
Come back Jimmy

When you go Rwanda Congo
Take me on ya genocide tour
Take me on a truck to Darfur
Take me where you would go

Got static on ya satellite phone
Got to get you safe at home
Got to get you some where warm
So you get me all alone

Jimmy Aaja
Jimmy Aaja
Jimmy Aaja

Time and time and time and time again
You keep pushing that button but I don't know what your sayin
You hit me on AIM tryin' flip me on some game
Are you coming are you going are you leaving are you staying

You told me that your busy
Your loving makes me crazy
I know that you hear me
Start acting like you want me

You told me that your busy
Your loving makes me crazy
I know you can hear me
Start acting like you want me

Jimmy Aaja
Jimmy Aaja
Jimmy Aaja

Time and time and time and time again
You keep pushing me, what you sayin
You hit me on AIM, flip me on some game
But I still don't know what you're sayin'

You told me that your busy
Your loving makes me crazy
I know that you hear me
Start acting like you want me

You told me that your busy
Your loving makes me crazy
I know you can hear me
Start acting like you want me

Jimmy Aaja
Jimmy Aaja
Jimmy Aaja

For India, Sri Lanka is not indispensable, but for Sri Lanka, India is indispensable

An Interview with Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Question: President Mahinda Rajapaksa left for India recently and he is set to show his Indian counterpart a draft of the proposed Constitutional amendments. This is seen by many as a gesture of subjugation and their requests to open a Deputy High Commissioner’s office in Kandy and a consulate office in Hambanthota and their insistence of implementing the 13th Amendment are seen by many as attempts to impose their will on Sri Lanka?

DJ64TC612.jpg

Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka

Answer: You use the term ‘many’. Who are these ‘many’ and where are they? I have only seen criticisms voiced by the usual handful of Southern extremists, and some small political parties both in government as well as defeated ones. President Rajapaksa is a patriot and a realist, a pragmatist. The handful of critics may be patriots but they are not realists. When we antagonized India we could not win the war, but when we correctly managed relations with India, we won the war. If India had opposed us or not supported us, we may not have been able to win or withstand the Western moves to stop the war. There is a saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Every relationship is reciprocal. Sri Lanka has to reciprocate for India’s support.

We must bear in mind that we still need that support because, though the hot war has been won by us, a cold war continues against us in the global arena.

We need India’s support to balance off those who are hostile to us or are influenced by the pro-Eelam trend in the Tamil Diaspora. India is our buffer with the USA. Delhi is under pressure to take a stand hostile to us, or to stop supporting us. That pressure comes from Tamil Nadu but not only from Tamil Nadu...from India’s civil society as well as some of India’s Western friends. If India stops supporting us, not even the Non Aligned Movement will defend us fully, because they take their cue from respected Third World states such as India.

If India allows Tamil Nadu or Kerala to become rear base areas once again for LTTE activity, we will have endless security problems. It is only someone who is deaf, dumb and blind to geo-political realities, who will not admit that India has a stake in our Tamil issue, simply because they have 70 million Tamils separated from our territory by a narrow strip of water. As for the 13th Amendment, I must say very clearly that this is the cheapest price to pay. It is simply a matter of letting the Northern and Eastern provincial councils have the same powers as enjoyed by the provincial councils in all other parts of the island for the last 20 years. If we don’t settle for the 13th Amendment now, we shall jeopardize our military gains and we shall probably have to pay a much higher price some years from now.

The request to open a consulate office in Hambantota seems to be an attempt to balance out the Chinese influence in the area. Wouldn’t this add to the already existing tension between the two super powers? And how would this tussle affect Sri Lanka?

We have to balance carefully between China and India. China is our most consistent and strongest single friend, but the reality is that even with its growing power, China is rather too far to come to our aid if our closest and only neighbor makes a move that is unfriendly to us. As we saw during the tsunami, India’s Navy can put a ring of steel around this island in hours, and even project her naval power up to Indonesia. China’s Navy has not yet developed such a capacity.

We must be aware of our strategic vulnerabilities. We must understand the limits of our China card. In the 1980s, J R Jayewardane’s UNP government thought that Sri Lanka can play the American card against India but he failed. Today, no one must have the opposite but similar illusion that we have a China card to play against India. Even China will not want to upset its relations with giant India, over little Sri Lanka. China did not come to its ally and our friend Pakistan’s aid during the Kargil crisis, when it was pushed back by India. China doesn’t want the West to entangle and entrap it in a tussle with India, which will prevent the onward rise of Asia as a whole.

Sri Lanka must realize that there is a miracle going on, namely the economic rise of Asia, which is propelled by two engines, China and India. It is bigger than the original Industrial revolution! If we plug into both these engines, we can rise with the rest of Asia. If not, we shall be left on the ground, like Myanmar. The man renowned as the Sage of Asia, Lee Kwan Yew, recently said that China and India are two great trees and that Singapore must find a spot in the shade where the branches of these two great trees intertwine. I think that is true, and good advice, for Sri Lanka too.

Although India can match China or the USA in meeting Sri Lanka’s economic needs, it cannot help us on the world political stage as do China or the USA who have UN veto powers. Your opinion please?

India is a member of G 20. It is also a member of many groupings of intermediate powers such as BRICS which consists of Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa. If India gives a green light the West, will move against us. The US hasn’t so far, because of its strategic partnership with India, which it needs in order to balance off China. As I said before, without India’s support we will not even get that of our ‘tribe’ the Non Aligned Movement. India has longstanding close relations with Russia, South Africa and Latin America. In fact, India is one of the few powers that have support in the West as well as the East, in the North and well as the South, while China and the USA are competitors who do not have support in some parts of the international system.

We must never forget that despite China’s goodwill, not a dog supported us when India went against us in 1987. Today, despite China’s political support, Sudan is before the International Criminal Court, because it was referred there by the Security Council and China did not block it. The basic reality is that Sri Lanka’s closest friend China is not closest to Sri Lanka physically, geographically! We must neither embarrass nor overburden our friend China nor must we place all our eggs in the Beijing basket.

It was China and Russia that helped us out in the United Nations in the recent past. And they can also assist us in the future as allegations of war crimes gather momentum. So are we jeopardizing their support by seemingly giving into the demands of the Indians?

Russia will not help us if India says not to. Take that from me. The US would have moved against us in the UN and more importantly the IMF last year, if not for India putting in a word in our favour. We have been operating under the Indian and Chinese umbrellas diplomatically, but if the Indian umbrella is furled up, nobody will back us. Our friends will start stepping away from us. This is the basic point: India is so big; it is such a vast market and so powerful an economic player; it is so vital strategically, that no one will take our side against India; no one will support us if India is known to be against us.

I can tell you that as far as certain key issues go, such as the Tamil question and a political settlement with the Tamils, there is no difference between the views of India, China, Russia and the USA! That is true of the Non-aligned countries as well. You noticed that we almost had a problem recently with a pro-Tamil Eelam infiltration and manifestation in revolutionary Venezuela! All these countries want us to settle the Tamil problem politically, by which they mean some kind of autonomy. No one supports Tamil Eelam and no one, not even the USA, has called for federalism, but everyone, and I mean all our friends, want us to solve this problem fast, by means of devolution of power. For India, Sri Lanka is not indispensable, but for Sri Lanka, India is indispensable. That is the cold reality. That is the hard fact.

Can we use the interest shown by all these powers, China, India, USA and the EU without eventually antagonizing one or more parties?

Of course, we can. Lakshman Kadirgamar did it. Before that, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike did it. But we cannot keep saying no to every issue to everybody! And we cannot manage on our own! We must reach out to all, on all points of the compass. We must dialogue with all. Prof GL Pieris has the ability to do that, which he has proven with his successful US trip and meeting with Hillary Clinton. Once again, we have a foreign minister that every Sri Lankans and Sri Lankans everywhere can be proud of.

We must have a policy that defends our vital interests, and compromise on things that are not vital. We must safeguard our core strategic and security interests, while making concessions on tactical issues. Each of these powers has something we need and each of them needs something from us. In order to get what we need we need to give something, which sometimes means giving up something. We cannot have the kavum and eat it at the same time!

The first thing is to understand that we cannot live in isolation, like frogs in the well. If we try, we will crash economically and the Tamil Eelam forces waiting outside the country will triumph. We must also understand that we cannot have everything our way; we cannot negotiate with the rest of the world from a position of strength because we do not have such strength. To build up strength we must have good relations with the world and expand those relations, getting as much as we can and more importantly, learning as much as we can. Each of the global players or sectors you mentioned wants certain things from us, and we should give them whatever does not harm our core interest and our good relations with the other global player or friend. We can have a policy of good relations with all, but at the expense of none.

Since we have an external enemy working round the clock against us, namely the pro-Tamil Eelam section of the Tamil Diaspora, our international policy must be one of building the broadest global united front; the widest global partnerships. If we don’t isolate the Tamil Eelamists, they will isolate Sri Lanka! Here I must repeat what I said earlier: the one thing that all the players you mentioned - China, USA, India, EU, have in common is an urgent need to see Sri Lanka release and rehabilitate IDPs, reconstruct the North and east and arrive at a political settlement with the Tamil people based on some form of autonomy and self-administration. If we do that, we can remove or reduce the pressure on Sri Lanka on issues of war crimes etc. As a top Chinese diplomat and official once told me “You must help us to help you. Sri Lanka must give its friends something to help Sri Lanka with”.

One year after the defeat of the LTTE, what is Sri Lanka’s position in the world. Would you agree if I say, we have not properly used the opportunities given to us to improve relations with other countries? South Indian politicians and its population are still very much anti-Sri Lankan, a sentiment which was clear during the recently held IIFA. Elements of Tamil extremists have set up a transnational government and seem to have gained many sympathizers in the west?

One year after the victory in war, Sri Lanka is not where it should be, either in the world or internally. We have lost the war of opinion in the world’s media. If, as I had recommended, we had quickly followed up the military victory with the implementation of the 13th Amendment while the TNA was disoriented, we’d have been dealing with our ally Douglas Devananda. We lost that moment and momentum because of some small ideological caucuses of ultranationalist pundits who have a disproportionate influence. Even after that opportunity was lost, there are things we could have done.

The government has made the same mistake as the Bush administration after the war in Iraq, namely the absence of a clear postwar plan and program for the area and primarily, the people. Our military did its job superbly, but who congratulates us internationally, one year after? No one, not even our friends defend us publicly when we are criticized! Why? Because, the politicians and the development ministries have not followed up the achievement of the military.

We fought and won a Just War (‘Saadharana Yuddhayak’), but the world looks at us and does not see a Just Peace (‘Saadhaarana Saamayak’) having resulted. What the world sees is something like an occupation of a foreign country or foreign people. Because we do not yet have a Just Peace, world opinion doubts whether it was a Just War to begin with! That is not a sustainable peace.

Simply put, if by today we had a Tamil Chief Minister and an elected Northern Provincial council, the IIFA partial boycott would not have been possible and furthermore, we may not have had this much international pressure on ‘war crimes accountability mechanisms’ either. If we could have shown results in the North, winning the Tamil people over with a fair and just peace, the rest of the world would have told those who criticize us to shut up.

I must also say that in the year after the war, Sri Lanka is losing, or has lost the battle for world opinion. I am not speaking only of the West. In a brand new book, the highly respected senior leader of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew says that though the Tamil Tigers have been killed, the problem has not been settled and that Sinhalese extremism will be unable to keep the Tamils, who are a ‘capable’ community, ‘submissive’. So it is not just the INGOs and the liberal west which is critical of our postwar policies, direction and situation.

Col. P. Hariharan in his article “India’s concerns in Sri Lanka: Update no. 199’ says that ‘the three things he (Rajapaksa) achieved in his first term of office - wiping out Prabhakaran and his Tamil Tigers, re-election for a second term with increased margin of votes and an unprecedented victory in parliamentary poll with 60% mandate from the voters - give him the confidence to talk from a position of strength to New Delhi.’ Do you think it’s an accurate description of the situation since it stands in contrast with many other commentators who claim that President Rajapaksa has no other option but to agree to everything that India puts on the table?

The only leaders who can talk from a position of strength to New Delhi are President Obama of the USA and President Hu Jin Tao of China, but they are both wise enough not to do so.

What can Sri Lanka do to overcome the challenges both locally and internationally in the coming years?

We must use our brains, and may I say our best brains. We must deploy our best talent to face the global challenge and fight the Cold War against Sri Lanka. We must rebuild our educational system to the point that we can produce those who can compete in the global arena and beat those forces hostile to us. We need to build up quality human resources. Today our external and internal relations are tied together. Our external relations depend in large measure on how we resolve our internal problem with the Tamils.

Remember that it is not a purely internal problem though we may like to think so. In the first place the world is globalised; humanity lives in the era of globalization, so there are no purely internal questions. In the second place the Tamils are spread not only in Tamil Nadu but throughout the world, from the USA to Malaysia and South Africa. We must learn from King Dutugemunu. He wiped out the armed Tamil challenge as manifested in a separate kingdom with a separate king and a separate army. He knew that with the Indian Ocean at our backs, we cannot tolerate two kingdoms with two rival armies on this small island.

However, the story tells us that after the victory he appointed a Tamil sub-king and allowed the people of the area to be governed according to their cultural norms and customs. As a wise strategist he didn’t try to control and dominate everything, nor did he try to change the basic character of the area he had liberated. What he implemented postwar, is another word for provincial devolution within a strong unitary state. King Dutugemunu was wise enough not to think of culturally colonizing the Tamils. We cannot wipe out the Tamils collective identity.

If they think we are doing so, they will resist peacefully. If we are seen by the world to crush non-violent Tamil civic resistance, not in the cause of Tamil Eelam or in support of the Tigers, but simply to protect their identity and ancestral homelands, then we will embarrass our friends and we shall have no one to back us. This is when the pro-Tamil Eelam Tamil Diaspora will have its day. Who knows what stand the big powers and the UN will take then? It is far better to have a timely political process and grant a measure of autonomy while the state is still on top.

[Dr Dayan Jayatilleka, formerly Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, is currently a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore. This interview appeared in Lakbima News.These are his personal views and do not reflect the views of the Institute.]

Enormous concessions given for staging IIFA event in Colombo

Besides a staggering Rs 222.3 million (US $ 1,950,000), the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) agreed to provide a host of other concessions including more than 2,600 free rooms and Customs waivers for the Indian International Film Awards (IIFA) ceremony held in Colombo.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the SLTPB and Wizcraft International Entertainment Ltd., which held the franchise for the events, shows that the SLTPB agreed to provide presidential suites, two bedroom suites, one bedroom suite and single rooms free of charge.

All meals for those sharing the suites and rooms were provided free after the menu was decided upon by the board in consultation with the franchise holder.

Also given free were 350 Business Class tickets, 300 Economy Class tickets and 100 additional economy class tickets (besides related expenses). These tickets were for flights to Colombo from Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai among other destinations.

The MoU has been signed on behalf of the SLTPB by its Chairman Eranga Basnayake and Managing Director Dileep Mudadeniya.

As is now known, most of the leading Indian actors and actresses did not turn up for the IIFA awards ceremony. A larger section of the local film artistes also did not take part.

Here are some of the highlights of the many concessions the SLTPB offered in terms of the MoU:

Airport Services

i. SLTPB shall provide the following services, at no cost to Wizcraft, for the IIFA Weekend and Awards related activities:

a. SLTPB shall provide necessary visas/visa waivers for IIFA Contingent and performers, dancers and crew working on the weekend. Wizcraft shall provide a list of all such people and those who will be required to stay in Colombo for more than 30 days. This list to be provided at least 2 weeks prior to arrival. However in such case where it is not possible to provide the names 2 weeks prior, the same will be provided prior to departure from India.

b. Express check in facilities at dedicated counters in Mumbai, Chennai and Colombo.

c. Group check in facilities in Mumbai, Chennai and Colombo.

d. Express VIP immigration procedures with usage of VIP lounge facilities in Colombo for identified IIFA Contingent.

e. Custom waiver for all goods being carried via commercial airlines for usage during IIFA Weekend and Awards 2010.

f. Special baggage screening and clearance in Colombo for IIFA Contingent.

g. Special baggage allowance for IIFA Contingent in India and Sri Lanka.

h. VIP meet, greet and assist with traditional welcome for IIFA Contingent in Colombo.

i. Special parking arrangements for vehicles dedicated to IIFA contingent movement at the airport to facilitate quick arrivals and departures.

A comprehensive list of requirements will be presented to SLTPB not later than 10 May 2010

Logistics

i. SLTPB shall provide the following to Wizcraft, free of cost:

a. Communications.

i. 300 Sim cards with a total top up value of 1000000 worth of top up value.

ii. 70-80 walkie talkies with minimum range of 1 km and with multi channels (subject to defence clearance)
b. Freight & Excess baggage.

i. 12 nos 40ft sea containers with door-to-door service, including custom charges and clearances, between Mumbai-Colombo -Mumbai and Chennai/Cochin-Colombo-Chennai/Cochin.

20000 kg excess baggage/cargo (as the requirement may be) to be air lifted from India to Colombo and back.

Sponsorship rights

No sponsorship rights are granted to SLTPB unless specifically granted in writing.

SLTPB Promotional Campaigns

Wizcraft may at its sole discretion allow additional promotional campaigns that SLTPB may want to implement with the sole intention of creating excitement, awareness and traffic to Sri Lanka. However it is expressly agreed by SLTPB that all such promotios will be implemented only after written approval given by Wizcraft, which shall not be unduly withheld subject to no cost for Wizcraft unless otherwise agreed by both parties

Consideration

SLTPB shall provide Consideration of a fixed amount of USD $ 1,950,000/- (United States Dollar One Million Nine Hundred and Fifty Thousand only) excluding any and all applicable taxes (i.e. including but not limited to taxes on income/withholding tax on income, other statutory levies, etc.). In case if taxes and levies (e.g. VAT, GST, Service tax, etc. by whatever named called) in Sri Lanka is chargeable by Wizcraft on the Consideration, SLTPB undertakes to additionally bear such taxes or arrange for its exemption for Wizcraft.

Event catering

SLTPB shall provide event catering, free of cost to Wizcraft, for all the events held during the IIFA Weekend 2010 at the location of such event and for the number of people outlined in the Event Schedule. The menus for such catering shall be designed by SLTPB/hotel/caterer in consultation with Wizcraft.

In-Suite F&B and Incidentals Payments

For the 75 nominated suites, all in-suite incidentals including but not limited to internet access (except as otherwise provided herein), and pay-per-view movies shall be provided free of charge by SLTPB.

In all other rooms, all in-suite dining and incidentals (except as otherwise provided herein or agreed upon at a later stage) including but not limited to telephone usage, internet access (except as otherwise provided herein) and pay-per-view movies etc consumed by hotel guests will be paid by such guests.

Indian Food

Indian food will be available 24 hours in all the hotels where IIFA Contingent and guests are staying

Laundry

All rooms to have complimentary regular laundry, dry cleaning or pressing services subject to a daily limit of 6 pieces per person. The daily limits will be accumulative and therefore unused amounts can be carried forward. Either the guest or Wizcraft will be responsible for settling any laundry bills in excess of the cumulative daily limit at the time of checkout.

Internet

A total of 65 rooms (to be identified by Wizcraft) will be provided with complimentary Internet access for the complete duration of occupation during the Event.

The Media Centre and IIFA Office for crew will have complimentary Internet access for the complete duration of the Event. 30 Identified IIFA staff rooms will have 24 hour complimentary internet facilities for the entire duration of the stay.

Spa Treatments

SLTPB will provide 150 free Spa treatments to Wizcraft during the Event.

Resort Packages

SLTPB will provide 150 free Resort Packages to Wizcraft during the Event. These packages will be for resorts in Sri Lanka which will be mutually agreed between the 2 parties

Hospitality Services

SLTPB shall provide the following for the IIFA Crew, free of cost

i. Vehicles and telephone cards

1. 4 Vehicles x 30 days (Mini Van or Cars) along with Rs. 1,000/= worth of calls per day for 10 pax.

2. 3 Vehicles x 200 days (Mini Van or Cars) along with Rs. 1,000/= worth of calls per day for 06 pax.

3. 4 Vehicles x 7 days (Mini Van or Cars) along with Rs. 1,000/= worth of calls per day for 21 pax.

4. 4 Vehicles x 14 days (Mini Van or Cars) along with Rs. 1,000/= worth of calls per day for 220 pax.

This is beside a fleet of 166 cars, super luxury sedans, luxury sedans, like Mercedes Benz, BMW, luxury buses and luggage vans, all free of charge.

Internet facilities will be provided by creating WIFI hotspots in Fashion Show, Premiere and IIFA Awards venues for the following:

5. Project Team: 75 pax for 10 days

6. Weekend: 75 pax for 5 days

7. Crew: 75 for 15 days

8. Media: 80 pax for 5 days

SLTPB agrees to indemnify Wizcraft and keep Wizcraft indemnified against any and all claims or liabilities arising out of any failure by the defaulting party to comply with the governing law in performing its obligations or exercising its rights mentioned in the Agreement and/or in respect of any breach, action, omission or negligence on the part of the defaulting party.

Does international outcry about war crimes in Sri Lanka help North-Eastern IDP's of Tamils ethnicity?

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene

So here we are, caught once again in the debilitating cross fire of international calls for a war crimes investigation on the one hand and on the other, (internally) by the misdeeds of a remarkably conscienceless administration. Is this a vicious circle that we can never free ourselves from? This question attracts discussion at several different levels.

A question of strategy

First, it appears to make only mischievous sense to engage in calls for international war crimes investigations on precisely the first year anniversary of the ceasing of active conflict in Sri Lanka. What do such actions hope to achieve? Are we so naïve as to think that well meaning outrage at the atrocities of the conflict at the best or diasporic pressure at the worst will result in an international inquiry against Sri Lanka, given the realpolitik of the day? Do such calls improve the lot of the internally displaced persons of Tamil ethnicity coping with unbelievable hardships in the northern and eastern parts of this country? Or is their plight secondary to the seemingly overwhelming urge on the part of some to engage in counterproductive rhetoric from comfortable capitals overseas?

Peculiarly, it is precisely at the very points at which some stirrings of discontent are evidenced domestically against this government, that we hear calls for international investigations. The inevitable result is, (almost miraculously it seems), renewed public support for an administration that is still perceived internally as having stood up to archetypical bullies in going against the LTTE. At such points of time, I am inevitably reminded of the reactions of a reasonably level headed Middle Eastern watcher and a good friend of mine, who is by no means a supporter of the government but who turns almost incandescent with rage each time that the international war crimes call is reiterated. The reasons for his anger are many, Iraq and Afghanistan being only some of them.

But the point is not the most obvious double standards that this debate engenders or even the most sensible counter argument that what is wrong in one situation does not make it right in another. Rather, it is the political capital that such unwise interventions can afford to an authoritarian regime bent on not only subjugating a minority but also changing the Constitution to perpetuate one party and one family rule. Each time that there is domestic credence to the perception of international double standards, there is added impetus to this administration's push to take back precious libertarian reforms that have been won through decades of political turmoil and with great difficulty.

Standing up for courage

The judicial process is, of course, central to this discussion. There are many relative newcomers to the complexity of Sri Lankan politics who continue to be under the misapprehension that the evil began and will most probably end with Rajapaksa rule. This is most certainly far from the truth. The constitutional reforms that this government are playing around with, including the subordination of the Attorney General's Department, have had their most distinctive precedents in the seventies and eighties, though it is sought to be said otherwise now by key players at that time.

Again, in her time, then President Chandrika Kumaratunge was responsible almost single-handedly for the near total subversion of the country's judicial systems in her obstinate determination to appoint then Attorney General Sarath Silva as Chief Justice in 1999, a decision that she came to regret later at a point when it became inconvenient for her. The damage done to the system was however far more incalculable than the damage done to one individual as a result of what may only be termed, (somewhat kindly), as chronic insecurity. We are still living with the results, if not the diabolical consequences of these actions.

And in a sense, what has happened to the judiciary now marks a clear departure point from the past. Even with the worst of government intimidation in the past, we had strong public support for an independent judiciary and an independent bar. But do we have that now? When judges or state lawyers take bold positions in challenging the government, who is there to support them? This is a question that we should ask ourselves as citizens.

Rule of Law and GSP Plus

Yet this is not to say that the government has been totally successful in enveloping all dissent in the usefully protective banner of pro-LTTE and anti-patriotism sentiment. The debate surrounding the GSP Plus trade facility is one good example. Notwithstanding waves of propagandists attacks in the government friendly newspapers, (and by this is not meant only the state media), that this too was part of a diabolical pro LTTE effort, the truth of the matter was that the investigation was primarily on Rule of Law concerns including the politicization of the judiciary and continuing deficiencies in the legal protection of rights. It had become abundantly clear that there were cause for concern.

The government's earlier obdurate stance in demanding this trade facility appears to have given way to a far more conciliatory approach. To this end, it is little secret that the pardoning of journalist JS Tissainayagam and the relaxation of some aspects of emergency laws was not due to the magnanimity of the current administration. Whether the GSP Plus suspension will be lifted, made permanent or extended in August remains to be seen. For the sake of the thousands of women garment workers who will be directly affected by the formal withdrawal of this trade facility, it is hoped that a positive outcome will be evidenced.

However, as much as these sporadic actions may be put forward as evidence of this government's bona fides and change of attitude, the fact remains that constitutional protections against authoritarianism are in a worst state than ever. The only credible political challenger to the Rajapaksa Presidency appears not only to be facing a court martial but also public execution by all accounts and it seems almost certain that the 17th Amendment to the Constitution will be wholly scrapped. And are we being asked to put our faith in glossy training manuals for the police when the police itself remain even more politicized than ever?

Confronting an authoritarian government

This column has repeatedly emphasized the fact that the travails faced by this country should essentially be ours to confront and to overcome.

It is to this end that shortcomings in our legal systems, our judicial institutions and our prosecutorial processes have been exposed through substantiated study and rationally discussed. And it is with this objective that a full frontal and beautifully unapologetic attack has been made on asinine Commissions of Inquiry that this government and others before, have seen fit to appoint. This applies to the latest such effort. What is the meaning of Truth? What is the meaning of Reconciliation? Does it make sense to establish a Commission of Inquiry with such grandiose objectives without the basic precondition of an acknowledgement of atrocities that have occurred? This was core to the South African experiment after all, which, by the way, was singularly unsuccessful in some other African countries which tried to follow suit.

Putting an end to the vicious circle

We need a strong body of informed public opinion which rejects these face saving exercises. This is however easier said than done when societal changemakers such as professional bodies, academic bodies and trade unions have become complicit partners in this game. Not so long ago for example, the majority among those who accepted unconstitutional Presidential appointments to the earlier independent commissions on the police, the public service and others were lawyers and judges.

However, as difficult as this process of change is, it is in this way and this way alone that slowly but surely an authoritarian government can be confronted in its tracks, not by rhetoric from international capitals. In effect, the responsibility remains ours, collectively and individually. Yet as long as this vicious circle of international war crimes and domestic reaction continues, the people of Sri Lanka will have bleak choices indeed. - courtesy: The Sunday Times -

Ravi Karunanayake is sabotaging the peace hopes of the Tamil speaking people

Is it the official stand of the UNP asks Mano Ganesan

By opposing the mere thought of India talking to Tamil-Muslim parties, UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake is unethically sabotaging the peace hopes of the Tamil speaking people in this country.

RKTC612.jpg

Ravi Karunanayake MP

As an inevitable partner in the Sri Lankan process India is not only talking to the minority parties but also talking to the government and UNP. UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe travels to India to meet Indian leaders more frequently than the government leaders. Karunanayake cannot be unaware of this fact.

We can understand his rush towards the UNP leadership. But he should not flare up such sensitive issues in this post war era for his private agenda. Is it the official stand of UNP approved by Ranil Wickramasinghe asked DPF leader Mano Ganesan in a media release issued by DPF media office today.

India is neither Sinhala nor Tamil or Muslim. It is not a country full of Mahatmas either. Like Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims too have their own problems with India. It is because India naturally performs at it’s interests. The Indian interest which is against the fragmentation of Sri Lanka has protected Sri Lanka from splitting up. Government of the day understood and used it intelligently.

This is the underlining fact that Karunanayake cannot afford to ignore. If the thought of India talking to Tamil and Muslim parties is the problem for Karunanayake, he should only blame the parties those ruled the country including his party today. Karunanayake had been member of past UNP and PA governments.

Before blaming India for the alleged arms training to the Tamil groups, Karunanayake should take few lessons from the history. Policies of the so called national parties and the successive governmental treatments meted out to the linguistic and religious minorities in this country, forced the minority leaderships to seek external assistances. It also paved way for the formation of ethnic parties in this country.

Post war era has not offered any hopes for the Tamil speaking people yet. Tamils are fed up with mere assurances and lectures on a daily basis. The total blame is ruled on the LTTE. Nobody including UNP is prepared to look into the causes those created the LTTE. Therefore it is not unusual for the Tamil speaking people to look for support beyond the shores of Sri Lanka. Sinhala people must have done the same if they are put into such a situation.

Sri Lanka’s 207 Centimetres Tall Tamil Netball Champion

From Asia Calling:

Now, we move to Sri Lanka where our Colombo correspondent, DushiYanthini Kanagasabapathipillai, takes us to meet the tallest female netball player in Asia - Tharjini Sivalingam:

She stands at 6ft 10in (that’s 207 centimetres) and she is also a Tamil.

Her sport, netball, is like basketball but you can’t run with the ball or bounce it.

Twelve months after the end of the decade’s long civil war that divided Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Sinhalese communities for three decades, Sri Lanka is undergoing a period of uncomfortable reconciliation.

Tharjini Sivalingam’s success is not just a source of national pride; it is also a win for the Tamil community.

Last year, Tharjini Sivalingam brought glory to herself and the country. The Sri Lankan netball team emerged the winner of the Asian Championship in 2009. In the final game, she scored 74 of 77 goals.

“My shooting average is 100 percent. Now, I am very happy.”

As a young woman growing up in the predominantly Tamil city of Jaffna, Tharjini Sivalingam was often teased about her extraordinary height. It wasn’t easy for her.

To get on a bus she had to bend herself right over.

Buying clothes and shoes was also difficult.

“Those time, I am staying in my home town Jaffna. That time I am very sad. All people looking at my height. Now, never mind. I am the player. Positive and ok now.”

Her family supported her, but the difficulties she faced clearly caused her family some pain.

“Earlier, I don’t know, my friend told me my mother is very sad. Sometimes she is crying, now my mother is happy, I think. Tallest and famous, no? That’s the reason my mother is now very happy.”

Being selected for the national team has been hugely important in Tharjini Sivalingam’s life, turning her from the subject of teasing to one of admiration.

“I think I am very proud in myself and happy. I think happy. My friends are happy, my parents are happy, all the people are happy. I am playing netball.”

Thilaka Dhammika Jinadasa is the coach of the Sri Lankan netball team.

“I look at Tharjini as an asset for Sri Lanka. She is like a backbone for the national team. Earlier we had lack of shooting. Now, we are 100 percent confident that when the ball goes to the attacking side, it will be a successful game, because of Tharjini.”

Tharjini is not only the tallest woman on the team.

She is the only Tamil.

The rest of her teammates are Sinhalese.

This is sometimes a problem when the players and the coach mostly speak in Sinhalese or English which are second languages for Tharjini.

“On your way back, lean back, lean back. Opposite foot”.

Ishara Harshini Kiriella is one of Tharjini Sivalingam’s teammates.

“Though she is Tamil, she is a good player and good friend .Most of the time in past days she was not talking with us, she was bit nervous, but now she is ok. Now she told everything to us. I think she was shy those days, now she is ok. She is good.”

Her height has helped secure the fortunes of the Sri Lankan netball team. It also brought her confidence and personal success.

It has also brought a certain amount of fame and admiration from her fellow Tamils.

Lakshman Rajkumar is a tuk tuk driver in Colombo.

“I am very happy because she being a Tamil got a place to play for the national team in Sri Lanka. It’s God’s wish. She was born in Jaffna and got selected to play for the national team.” - courtesy: Asia Calling.org -

Related:

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~ click on pic for larger image ~ at 7th Asian Netball Championship - June 2009 - Malaysia vs Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka won the championship ~ pic courtesy of: jet_4orce

June 11, 2010

India - Sri Lanka Joint Statement reveals differences on resolving Tamil question

The visit by Sri Lanka's President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has reaffirmed the country's close ties with India and provided both sides the opportunity to signal a readiness to take the bilateral relationship to a new level.

This was reflected in the joint statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Rajapaksa, and the host of agreements to strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation. It was the first time in a quarter century that New Delhi played host to a Sri Lankan head of state who arrived without the burden of a raging ethnic conflict back home. Mr. Rajapaksa, whose political stock following his presidential and parliamentary election triumphs is unmatched among leaders in the region, did not have to seek support for his government nor assistance in a devastating civil war.

For three decades, the Tamil question, and unease with the way successive Sri Lankan governments handled it, dominated ties between the two neighbours. With the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam eliminated as a military entity, the Sri Lankan leader clearly wants to reformulate the bilateral relationship. That he is prepared to go the extra mile for this is evident from his agreement to an Indian consulate in the southern city of Hambantota where China is assisting in building a modern port, in addition to the already agreed diplomatic outpost in Jaffna.

India too is eager to look at its relations with Sri Lanka through a post-LTTE lens. In this, the immediate issue has been the resettlement of all the Tamils displaced during the final stage of the military operations against the Tigers. In addition to the grant of Rs. 500 crore for the humanitarian relief, rehabilitation, and resettlement of internally displaced persons, the infrastructure development, and other assistance being provided by India for projects in Northern Sri Lanka, New Delhi's decision to assist in the building of 50,000 houses is a timely initiative.

But as a good neighbour, India must make a much bigger, and qualitatively more significant contribution, to the development of the war-ravaged North, and the rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts for the Tamils.

While the assurances given by President Rajapaksa give rise to the hope that the longstanding political grievances of the Tamil people will be addressed in a just manner, it is no surprise that the joint statement reveals differences over how to go about resolving this question. New Delhi expects “a meaningful devolution, building upon the 13th Amendment…[to] create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement,” in other words implementation of the 13th Amendment with significant enhancements.

Mr. Rajapaksa, on the other hand, has recorded “his determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all communities that would act as a catalyst to create the necessary conditions in which all the people of Sri Lanka could lead their lives in an atmosphere of peace, justice and dignity, consistent with democracy, pluralism, equal opportunity and respect for human rights.” Expressing his resolve “to continue to implement in particular the relevant provisions of the Constitution designed to strengthen national amity and reconciliation through empowerment,” he shared with Dr. Singh his ideas on “conducting a broad dialogue with all parties involved.”

This requires, first, political will on the Sinhala side to find a just and enduring solution. It also implies responsibility on the part of Tamil parties to make up their minds quickly on what kind of devolution, development, and future they want for their people within a united Sri Lanka. They must overcome their differences and liberate themselves from the separatist mindset of the Prabakaran era, which prevented even so-called moderates from making any workable proposals in talks with successive Sri Lankan governments. They must move forward in the confidence that Sri Lankan Tamils are a hard-working, educated, brave, and resilient people with many talents. Given a congenial socio-political environment, generous development assistance, peace and stability, and a decent measure of self-administering opportunities, they can shape a bright future for themselves as part of a united nation.

The setting up of a ‘Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation” is a positive step President Rajapaksa has taken towards bridging the deep ethnic divide. Under its terms of reference, the Commission, which has eight reputed representatives from the Sinhala and Tamil communities, is to go into the events of the period, February 2002 to May 2009, “their attendant concerns and to recommend measures to ensure that there will be no recurrence” of such a situation. Some objections have been raised to the limited period covered by the terms of reference as well as to the absence of a mandate for the Commission to inquire into the alleged excesses committed by the Sri Lankan military in the final days of the war.

But in balance, the Commission is a good opportunity for both the majority and minority communities to put the past behind and move forward to live harmoniously in a united Sri Lanka. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Committee, from which the Sri Lankan experiment takes its inspiration, was also not a perfect model but it helped the country close the chapter on apartheid and progress. In Sri Lanka, years of war and attrition have damaged both communities. The Commission can surely help begin the process of healing.

From 1991, successive governments in New Delhi have conducted Sri Lanka policy on sound and constructive lines. The time has come to take the bilateral relationship to a new level by exploring its full potential. As part of this, rising India must – without imposing itself – continue to encourage the Sri Lankan leadership to find a satisfactory resolution to Tamil grievances within an improved devolution framework.

(This is the full text of an Editorial that appears in "The Hindu" of June 12th 2010 under the heading "Productive Visit")

BBC's Hard Talk interview with Gotabhaya was propagandistic rather than journalistic

By C. A. Chandraprema

It was the other day that the BBC aired the full version of the Hard Talk interview with Gotabhaya Rajapakse, and there are certain issues that need to be raised, not about what Gota said in that interview, but about the BBC programme itself.

I have watched only two other BBC Hard Talk programmes, one was an interview with Ms Chandrika Kumaratunga when she was the president and the other was an interview with Ajith Cabraal the Central Bank Governor. I was never a fan of CBK and for seven long years from 1994 to 2001, I wrote against her government. Given the fact that I was an opponent of her regime who at the latter stages of that nightmare of a government also had to face character assassination and imprisonment for my pains, I should have been happy that she was hauled over the coals by the interviewer on BBC’s Hard Talk. But even at that time, I was repelled by the manner in which the BBC presenter conducted that programme.

Being opposed to a politician is one thing, but the manner in which a media establishment practices journalism is quite another. When CBK was re-elected to power in 1999, in a Sinhala column I contributed to the Irida Peramuna, the sister paper of the Sunday Leader and precursor of the Irudina, I called the people who voted for CBK "punnakku kana gonnu" (poonac eating bovines) and I still stand by such statements. Despite all my antipathy towards CBK, that BBC Hard Talk interview with her grated on my journalistic sensibilities. I have always held that no journalist should do hostile interviews.

My idea of the ideal TV interviewer in the international media is Larry King, respectable, non-confrontational, and he allows the interviewee to say what he has to say. A newspaper article would be for the journalist to make his assertions. An interview is for the interviewee to say whatever he has to say, and it should never seem as if the interviewer is trying to make assertions for public consumption through his questions. Larry King never does that and what he practises is journalism whereas I would characterise the BBC’s Hard Talk style as gutter journalism, not worthy of an international news organisation.

I have never noticed such a gutter journalistic programme on CNN. I have not had the opportunity to watch Fox News regularly, but the impression that I get is that even though the Fox presenters are combatively pro-Republican and conservative, they don’t have any gutter programmes on their channel. (I am subject to correction.)

The BBC’s Hard Talk however, resembles a political Jerry Springer show. Most Sri Lankans are not familiar with Jerry Springer’s work, but let it be said that Springer represents the absolute nadir of western civilisation and broadcasting culture. You have estranged husbands and wives screaming at one another and homosexuals and transvestites exchanging insults with the studio audience. This is the ultimate low-brow TV show for the unlettered western masses, and in my estimation, the BBC’s Hard Talk is the current affairs cousin of the Jerry Springer Show. The interviewee is really a victim brought there for the entertainment of the audience. You ask him about all kinds of unsubstantiated stories and the purpose of this exercise if not really to elicit answers to those questions but to make the allegations or accusations widely known so that when the interview is over what will remain etched in the minds of the public will be the questions and not the answers.

My objection to hostile interviews is that the interviewer deliberately asks questions not with the intention of eliciting anything for the information of the public but of targeting the interviewee. This does not seem to be the correct way of going about things. If you have something on a person in authority, then that should be laid on the table instead of provoking a public shouting match about unsubstantiated issues. When you bring someone in authority before a camera and ask him "Is it true that you have links with the organised underworld?" regardless of what the answer is, the impression created in the minds of the audience is negative. A journalist can ruin a man by simply asking such questions, without making any assertions and this power has to be used with the utmost responsibility.

Nobody in this country has criticised UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe the way I have. Yet when I went to interview him a couple of weeks ago, I asked him the inevitable questions and recorded his answers and that was the interview. I did not try to make myself look important to the public by trying to be too smart with the Opposition Leader and former prime minister of this country. But that is exactly what these Hard Talk presenters are doing. The interviewer is trying to look more important than the interviewee!

If a real journalist wants to take someone down for whatever reason, then he should get some facts together and launch a blistering, scathing, frontal assault. This is the more difficult option because this requires some homework and sufficient evidence. There is always a risk associated with this kind of approach. Asking questions on the other hand is a safe option. You can’t be taken to courts for simply asking a question however unfounded or slanderous it may be.

This is not the first time that Gota was interviewed by the BBC, He was interviewed in February as well. If you take the past interviews that he has given to the same channel in the recent past, he must be among the most frequently interviewed persons on the BBC.

What I found objectionable about the whole interview was not Gota’s answers or the fact that he lost his cool at one point, but the manner in which the interviewer conducted the interview. Any journalist can get a person in authority to sit in front of a camera and then ask him all kinds of unsubstantiated questions, especially with a view to causing embarrassment and discomfort. In fact, the same thing can be done to these BBC presenters themselves, if they consent to be interviewed live by other journalists who may not approve of their style of doing things.

From the beginning to the end of that BBC interview, the questions were all loaded and it is a good example of how an interview can serve as propaganda. The interviewer started with the military presence in the north, and went on to the question whether ordinary Tamils were deemed to be separatists, whether the whole Tamil population was being monitored, why there was no full investigation into alleged war crimes, such as 30 reported attacks on hospitals, about the emergency regulations, about a supposed authoritarian tendency in Sri Lanka, about journalists getting killed for writing against the government, whether it was healthy for one family to wield so much power, whether the ruling family controls 75% of the budget, whether one brother in the family is called Mr 10%, whether he (Gota) was worried about war crimes investigations, – literally the whole gamut of accusations levelled at the government by its detractors.

There is nothing wrong in asking hard questions, but if the purpose of these questions is to elicit an answer which will tell the audience where the interviewee stands with regard to these questions, then there is an etiquette to be followed. If the questions are asked but the etiquette is not followed, then the interview amounts to nothing more than an attempt by the interviewer to make various assertions through innuendo and thereby serve a propaganda purpose. Admittedly, there is a very thin dividing line between a bona fide interview and propaganda. In the media, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. There is no doubt that any reasonable person would have considered the BBC interview with Gota propagandistic rather than journalistic. ~ courtesy: The Island ~

Related:

Sri Lankan Official Says War Hero Could Be Executed for ‘Treason’ - By ROBERT MACKEY [Click here to read in full ~ on The Lede ~ New York Times]

Only 2 Billion for resettlement but 201 Billion For defence: Indicator of the future Tamils can expect under Rajapakse regime

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear - kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervour - with the cry of grave national emergency. Always, there has been some terrible evil at home, or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it”. - General Douglas MacArthur (Nation, 17.8.1957)

It defies reason. The year the war was at its most intense and critical, Sri Lanka’s defence allocation was Rs. 177 billion; but in the first year of peace Sri Lanka’s defence allocation increased by a massive Rs.24 billion to Rs. 201 billion. Normally, defence expenditure increases in times of war and decreases (or stabilises) once peace dawns. Sri Lanka has become the antithesis of this norm; in this surreal land, defence expenditure actually increases during peacetime.

This anomaly is sourced in the Rajapakse attitude to peace and nation-building which, in turn, flows naturally and logically from the Rajapakse attitude to war. Peace will not be consensual; it will not be achieved via reconciliation; nation-building will not be voluntary; there will be no attempts to win over the Tamils by addressing their developmental needs and political concerns. Instead peace will be achieved and nation building effected via force and compulsion.

The North and the Tamil areas of the East are treated as occupied territory, its people kept under control by a continuous and overwhelming display of force. Dominance rather than hegemony is the aim. Temporary army camps become permanent while new camps are built; in and around them, Buddhist edifices multiply, under state patronage. Tiger cemeteries, the last resting places of so many young Tamils, are razed to the ground and replaced with monuments to the victors. Every act is a reminder to the Hindu/Christian Tamils that they are but guests in a Sinhala Buddhist country, that they have no inalienable rights even in the land which had been their traditional homeland for centuries.

This policy of pacification requires the accordance of primacy to the military over civilian and to defence over resettlement. This prioritisation is symbolised in the relative allocations in the 2010 budget – a whopping Rs.201 billion for defence and a paltry Rs. 2 billion for resettlement; the sum allocated for resettlement less than 1% of the sum allocated for defence. This stark statistic, in itself, is a sufficient indicator of the future Tamils can expect in a Rajapakse Sri Lanka.

The Sinhalese masses will not fare well either, economically or politically. This is evident in the low financial importance accorded to such key areas as education and health. Education (including higher education) is allocated a mere Rs.46 billion – i.e. around 18% of defence expenditure. Health at an allocation of Rs.52 billion fares only a fraction better – i.e. about 25% of defence expenditure. Thus the living conditions of a majority of Sinhalese are unlikely to improve, despite the ending of the war and the dawning of peace. How can there be a peace dividend in a country which spends more on defence in peacetime than it did during the war?

The Rajapakses would hope to offset this decline/stagnation in real living standards in the South by enhancing the ‘feel good factor’. The Sinhalese will have the doubtful felicity of feeling superior to their non-Sinhala brethren. They will have the dubious satisfaction of going to Nagadeepa, Jaffna or Trinco as members of the victorious race, basking in remembered glory, worshipping at the few old and many new Buddhist shrines, paying homage to the victory memorials.

They can feel proud that they have a leader who defies the world, who refuses to make concessions to the minorities. Whether these psychological factors can make up for the decline/stagnation in their actual living conditions (and for how long), only time can tell.

Namal Rajapakse is not a cricketer. Yet during the IIFA extravaganza, when the visiting Indian film stars engaged in a friendly contest with Lankan cricketers, young Rajapakse was included in the Lankan team, otherwise made up of professional cricketers and led by the national captain. His sole qualification was being the eldest son of the Lankan President, and according to some, the heir-apparent.

The inclusion of young Rajapakse on the Lankan side is a symbol of the present and an omen for the future. Increasingly, the only real ‘qualification’ needed to get ahead in many a field, from politics to cricket, is to be a member or a faithful servitor of the Rajapakse Family. Intelligence and expertise, talent and hard work, commitment and seniority are beginning to matter less and less in Sri Lanka, as the tentacles of the voracious Rajapakse octopus reaches out to almost every aspect of Lankan life.

A regime based on a family is narrow-based, by definition. Such a regime needs an ideology which can win for it the support of the masses, a façade for its true parochial objectives and nepotistic deeds. Thus the Rajapakses have Sinhala supremacism. The Rajapakses’ strong psychological predilection for Sinhala supremacism is indubitable; its extremism and xenophobia fit in very well with the obscurantist outlook of this family of minor aristocrats, big fish in a small pond. Even so, had Sinhala supremacism not been a potential winner, the Rajapakses would not have embraced it, fully.

When Mahinda Rajapakse became the Presidential candidate of the ruling UPFA, conditions were ripe for Sinhala supremacism to recover from the strategic setback of 1987 and surge ahead. The obvious inability of the appeasement oriented peace process of Ranil Wickremesinghe to appease the LTTE and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s failure to occupy the anti-Tiger, pro-devolution space, paved the way for the return of a different anti-Tigerism, which was also anti-devolution and anti-Tamil. The Sinhala supremacist lobby, numerically small but ideologically stringent and vocal, rallied round Rajapakse, forming the bedrock of his campaign. He, in turn, incorporated many of their positions into his manifesto, Mahinda Chinthanaya.

From an opportunistic point of view, the same point of view which motivated SWRD Bandaranaike to adopt Sinhala Only, this alliance between the Rajapakse Family and Sinhala supremacists made perfect sense. Both were on the margins, dreaming of and plotting to occupy the political centre. Alone, it was a feat beyond them. The Sinhala supremacists needed a leader who would rescue their extremist policies from political oblivion and bring them back on to centre stage; the Rajapakses needed a suitable façade for their project of familial rule, a platform capable of guaranteeing majority support. Bandaranaike, the cosmopolitan, the man who supported federalism early in his political career, would have had his moments of discomfiture with his Sinhala supremacist allies (he was eventually killed by a Buddhist monk).

But between the Rajapakses and Sinhala supremacists, there cannot but be near total ideological congruity. Rajapakse had always been on the anti-Tamil, anti-devolution side of the political divide; he was at the forefront of the opposition to any concessions to Tamils in the 1980’s and was a leader of the anti-Indo-Lanka Accord/Provincial Council ‘alliance’ between the SLFP and the JVP (interestingly he maintained a tactical silence on Wickremesinghe’s appeasement process until the UPFA returned to power in 2004). In 2004 his supporters (clearly with his approval) used race and religion to defeat the notion of a Lakshman Kadiragarmar premiership.

(With an anti-Tiger Tamil as the PM, Sri Lanka could have moved ahead, instead of moving back. The JVP, to its eternal credit, was strongly supportive of it and the SLFP would have fallen into line, if Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga did not give into the ‘chandi malli’ tactics of the Rajapakses.) With this history, and with his innate parochialism, Rajapakse fits in well with his Sinhala supremacist allies who believe that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala country and all minorities are nothing but guests in it.

From the inception, Rajapakse’s anti-Tigerism was sourced in a Sinhala First position. As he said, having won the Presidency with Sinhala support, it was incumbent upon him to put Sinhala interests first, over and above minority concerns. This electoral consideration fitted in very well with the Rajapakse aim of concentrating as much power as possible in the hands of the Family. Devolution, like the 17th Amendment, would reduce rather than enhance presidential powers.

Furthermore, devolution would empower a community which had not and was not likely to support Rajapakse. Anti-devolution and the intrinsic Rajapakse disinclination to share power with anyone made a perfect fit. The alliance had worked to perfection, so far. The Rajapakses honoured their part of the bargain by defeating the LTTE, without making any concessions to the Tamils, while negating most of the concessions made to the minorities in the Indo-Lanka Accord. Now the Sinhala supremacist must back the Rajapakse moves to establish dynastic rule and provide it with patriotic cover.

Patriotism is the official creed of Rajapakse Sri Lanka, the sole measuring rod of what is acceptable and what is not; it draws the line of demarcation between a good citizen and a bad citizen. Tigers said Tamils are Tigers and damned any Tamil who did not support the Tigers as a traitor. Similarly, according to the new creed, Rajapakses are Sri Lanka, and anyone who opposes them is a real or a potential traitor to Sri Lanka. The fate of Sarath Fonseka, who, together with Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapakse, waged a victorious war against the LTTE, is symbolic of the potency and relevance of this new equation. With patriotism as creed, doubts and questioning are not permitted and anything other than unquestioning belief is seen as heresy. Periodically, government leaders talk about a resurgent Tiger threat, to keep Sinhala phobias alive, to justify the patriotic creed and the repressive, anti-democratic measures, which stem from it.

Take, for example, the latest outburst by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, in an interview with the BBC’s Hard Talk. When told that former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka has expressed his willingness to give evidence before a war crimes tribunal, Rajapakse becomes incoherent with rage. “He can’t do that. He was the commander. That’s a treason. We will hang him if he do that….. How can he betray the country? He is a liar, liar, liar”, spluttered the Presidential sibling. His remarks capture the essence of Rajapakse rule - arbitrary and capricious, of the Family, by the Family and for the Family, a tyranny made palatable to the Sinhala majority via its role as the main purveyor of the new patriotic creed.

The debate on the most desirable and acceptable mode of devolution can wax and wane; the relative merits and demerits of the 13th Amendment or federalism can continue apace. In reality there will be no devolution; not even the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Instead, with the proposed constitutional amendments, devolution will contract and become nothing more than provincial decentralisation. A patriotic government cannot act otherwise.

In actuality, as the latest budget figures indicate, Sri Lanka is on its way to become a national security state, a state in which every other area from popular wellbeing to democratic rights will be subservient to that nebulous term ‘national security’. Patriotism provides the ideological rationale for this transformation. Patriotism as creed justifies the use of extraordinary measures against anti-patriots, measures beyond not just democracy and justice, but also common human decency. Throughout history, religions have been used for such purposes. The new patriotism too will be used to justify the perpetuation of Rajapakse rule, at any cost, by any means.

Tissa’s pardon – we’re still waiting

by Jim McDonald

On May 4, I wrote on this site about the Sri Lankan government’s announced pardon of the journalist J.S. Tissainayagam (often referred to as “Tissa”), who’d been unjustly convicted and sentenced to 20 years’ hard labor just for criticizing the government’s conduct of the war against the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Amnesty International has adopted Tissa as a “prisoner of conscience” since we believe that he was imprisoned solely for his journalistic activities. I was reluctant to start celebrating until details of the pardon had been clarified.

Well, it’s now been 37 days since the announcement of the pardon, and the government still hasn’t issued it! The Sri Lankan Attorney General said in mid-May that Tissa’s lawyers had to withdraw his appeal against his conviction, and then the pardon could be issued in a “couple of days.” His lawyers reportedly withdrew his appeal on May 31 but the pardon has still not been issued.

Why all the delay? Please write the Sri Lankan government and ask that the granting of the pardon be expedited. Let the government know that the world is still watching and that we won’t rest until Tissa’s rights are fully restored. Thanks

Jim McDonald is the Sri Lanka country specialist for Amnesty International USA.

Courtesy: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/

June 10, 2010

The New Nations of 21st Century will not be born through Liberation struggles but Resolutions Endorsed by the Global Community

By Mangala Samaraweera

Mr. Speaker,

One year ago, with the defeat of the LTTE, a new window of opportunity opened for our long suffering country to move forward along with the rest of the world, as a modern democratic and prosperous nation, united in its ethnic and cultural diversity.

Although I still harbour serious reservations about the manner in which the war was conducted, the defeat of one of the most brutal and ruthless terrorist killer machines the world has ever seen, gave Sri Lanka yet another opportunity to win the peace and harness the economic and social prosperity which has remained elusive since we gained independence 62 years ago.

The scourge of nationalist politics, which raised it’s ugly head each time any of our leaders tried to address the grievances of the Tamil community throughout the post independence era, finally pushed even moderate Tamil opinion towards the Tamil extremists who waged a ruthless war for nearly 27 years, impeding the economic progress of our country which was once tipped to be the ‘Switzerland of the East’. As many of our neighboring countries, especially India, surged forward and prospered as modern democracies, Sri Lanka was stuck in a quagmire of hypocrisy, intolerance and political opportunism; the sad but bitter truth today is that we are on the verge of becoming a ‘failed state’ despite the hyped up slogan of the last Presidential election – ‘third world to first world’.

Mr. Speaker,
We have defeated the LTTE and won the war but have we won the peace?

Instead of using this golden opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people, the first prerequisite for a durable and lasting peace, the unashamedly chauvinistic and triumphant attitude of the government has made the Tamils, especially of the North & East, feel like a subjugated race dependent on the magnanimity and generosity of the central government. While the final stages of the war was raging on, hundreds of thousands of innocent Tamils were incarcerated in camps which were not very different from the camps of the third Reich in the 1930s. The only crime many of these people had committed was to have been born in areas, which was under the writ of the LTTE for many decades.

Perhaps, future historians will write that the seeds of the next rebellion were sown in these camps which finally were disbanded due to the local and international outrage. However, even today thousands are still held in so called interim camps without being allowed to go their respective homes.

One year on, the government is trying to achieve political and cultural hegemony in the North and the East, forgetting the many bitter lessons, which we have learnt from the past, which are bound to have disastrous consequences for the country in the future. Readjusting the demographic pattern is being proposed by powerful sections of the government and some names boards in villages have been changed and recently a village in the Vanni has been renamed “PILIMAGAMA” referring to the Buddha statue, which has recently been erected there. Religious crusades have become the order of the day when VVIPs and their ambitious offsprings fall over each other in the race to take and supplant Buddhism in the North & East like some of their favourite heroes of the Mahavammsa. Adding insult to injury, the recent Vesak celebrations were thrust upon the Tamil People many of whom were banned from mourning the loss of their loved under this same Vesak moon, one year ago.

As a true Buddhist, I am ashamed of the “Talibanization” of Lord Buddha’s great philosophy based on the pillars of ahimsa , compassion and tolerance.

Rather than liberating the long suffering Tamils from terrorism, each action the government has taken since the defeat of the tigers, has made them feel newly repressed. The shocking attitude of this regime was amply demonstrated when the head of State, during the last Presidential election told a shocked audience in Jaffna, threateningly “do not forget this is a Sinhala Buddhist country” after they had dared to heckle at his teleprompted Tamil speech. This triumphalist attitude of the government will not lead to rapprochement but will sow the seeds of future rebellion and the call for separation will surely reignite from the embers of war.

What the government, even at this late must realize is that the sine qua non for the future well being and prosperity of our country is a political settlement which meets the genuine aspirations of the Tamil people along with the Muslim and other minority communities. Any other formula, which ignores this reality, is doomed to fail; it will be like building a sand castle on the beach, which is as good only until the next big wave.

Mr. Speaker,
Unfortunately for our country the present regime is so obsessed by its own political agenda of establishing and perpetrating a family dynasty, the unprecedented window of opportunity, which our nation got for a new beginning, is been squandered away.

A new constitution and constitutional reforms are been discussed without any reference to the political settlement for the ethnic question. The Priority of this government is to do away with the two-term limit of the Presidency. When the majority of our main political parties have agreed that the executive Presidential system needs to be abolished, the government wanting to extend the President’s term is a display of utter political opportunism and a callous disregard to the burning issues our country is facing today.

A second chamber or a senate is also on the cards. A second chamber should only be considered within a wider political package devolving powers to the North and East. In the present context, a senate will be yet another costly tier intended most probably to provide a living to senior citizens related to the first family along other geriatric, cronies and henchman who cannot be accommodated in the government. According to the Sunday Times [who are usually correct] the former speaker is to be it’s first chairman as a consolation prize for not being appointed as a National list MP] The Provincial Councils will be there as training ground for political offsprings, the central government for selected members of the first family and their yes men and the senate for members of the family to pass away their twilight years.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker a senate would be yet another white elephant, an additional burden our country could hardly afford. If at all, a second chamber must be part and parcel of a wider political package designed to address the most burning issue of our times. As I said before, the sine qua non or the indispensable prerequisite for peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka is a political settlement which meets the genuine aspirations of the minorities within a united country. Any new constitution which does not address this issue is bound to compound our problems like the 1972 and 1978 constitutions did.

Another essential prerequisite for our country, if we are to develop as a modern, dynamic democracy is the further strengthening of our democratic institutions. Instead, many of our key institutions are under attack by the executive; the Police force has become a serfdom of the executive, the AGs department has become unashamedly and unapologetically political, the judiciary is under severe pressure and the media is controlled through insidious methods.

Adding insult to injury, it is reported that the government is to amend the 17th amendment to the constitution giving President and not an all-party constitutional council, the powers to appoint the Chairman and members of the independent elections commission, national police commission and other commissions. If there are shortcomings, the government could implement the excellent DEW Gunasekere interim report.

Mr. Speaker,
Instead of using this golden opportunity to solve the burning issues of our times, this government seems to be hell bent on using the large majority at the last General Elections to create an autocracy based on family rule. The proposed constitutional reforms, instead of addressing the genuine grievances of the Tamil people and other minorities and strengthening the democratic rights of the Sinhalese and all our citizens, seems to be designed with the sole objective of meeting the not so genuine aspirations of the Rajapakse clan.

Mr. Speaker, in all due respect I am saying all this because this is a moment we cannot afford to miss – to paraphrase Shakespeare from Julius Caesar; “. not that I love Rajapakses less but I love Sri Lanka more.”

Mr. Speaker,
We are now at the cross roads of history. We have now the choice to take a turn and travel along the path which says “Utopia” – a future where we have harnessed our potential where everyone lives as equals in peace and harmony; or we can continue our journey along the path which takes us to “dystopia”; a future characterized by human misery, oppression and violence.

Today, this government has nearly a 2/3 majority and therefore has the ability to free this country from the shackles of our past and steer it along this brand new path to Utopia where the Sinhalese along with our Tamil, Muslim, Malay, Burgher brethren can forge a new Sri Lankan identity based on our diversity.

A utopia where we can achieve the economic prosperity our people richly deserve. You got your victory by hook and by crook but if you use your ill-gotten majority for the benefit of the country, history will look kindly at you. Perhaps the incumbent President will be looked upon as a modern day Dhammshoka.

If we stubbornly continue our journey in the same old path, it will not be long before the call for separation is reignited. Unlike before, the new battle for separation will not be fought in the jungles of the Vanni but in the corridors of power in Washington, in New York and Geneva, in Brussels and in London. The weapons they will be using will be Blackberrys and iPads and the cadre will be the erudite and educated members of the Diaspora along with their lobbyists. The ammunition will be supplied by the Sri Lankan government if they continue with their policy of triumphalist chauvinism and anti democratic suppression. The new nations of the 21st Century will be born, not through liberation struggles but by resolutions endorsed by the global community. We will then be a dystopia, a failed and divided nation survivng on anti western bravado and very little else like Mugabe in Zimbabwe or Basheer in Sudan.

Therefore , Mr. Speaker the moment of reckoning is before us.

The choice is now before us.

Utopia or dystopia? Dhammashoka or Mugabe?

Thank you.

(The speech made by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera MP. At the Emergency Debate in Parliament on 8th June 2010)

Tamils must work hard and seriously to win the support of India

By S. V. Kirubaharan, France

The President of the US, Abraham Lincoln once said, “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Likewise, “we can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but we cannot please all the people all the time.” I would like to share my views regarding various ground realities and facts which are not seriously considered by some.

Well, today what is the position of the Tamils in Sri Lanka? A few years, even months back, it was said with conviction that the North East is the ‘homeland’ of ‘Eelam Tamils’. In the island of Sri Lanka, there are two nations –Tamil and Sinhala. This is a historical fact and the living proof was visible until 19 May 2009. This reality was not only acknowledged by the people in the North and East but also by many others who visited those areas.

Where do we stand today? Some say, all thirty years of struggle brought nothing other than disaster to the Tamils. Others say that even though the Indo-Lanka accord in 1987 was not a good solution and didn’t have the majority support from Tamils and Singhalese – today there is not even ten percent of what was stated and implemented through this accord. Furthermore, take into account the merger of Tamil homeland – North and East and the Tamil Chief Minister, as well as the fact that the Secretariat of the North East Provincial council was in Trincomalee, considered the capital of the homeland of Tamils.

Fighting and branding each other

Today where are those who were leading the struggle? Not seen, not heard, but of course Tom, Dick and Harry in the diaspora make use of their names for their own benefit. In fact, the structure of the people who were leading the struggle was massive and it had a huge support. But today, what we see among the diaspora is a few tiny groups, fighting and branding each other as ‘traitors’. This makes the task easy for the oppressor. This is not the path to find any political solution for the oppressed people. Maybe even for some individuals, this is simply a leisure time entertainment.

How can one get out of this pathetic situation? Every minute we delay, we are losing each inch – not only of our hereditary land, but also our economic, social, cultural and political rights. Some don’t realise that the oppressor is a state. Whatever oppressed people do internationally should be superior to, or at least equal to that of the oppressor. All other tasks will be a waste of time and for the name and fame of some individuals.

We proudly say that there is a massive population of Tamils in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia, South Africa and a few other countries. But what have we achieved through those brothers and sisters? The outcome is the opposite of what we hoped for. Countries like India, Malaysia and South Africa, listen more to the oppressor than to the oppressed. This convinced other states to follow the same path.

Now what can we do to follow the right path? Firstly, we all will have to unite and stop fighting and slinging mud at each other. Each one should realise that fighting among us is not going to bring anything productive. All those who do not want to be united are working either for the oppressor or other actors. Secondly, we will have to set our priorities in a proper manner. The IDPs and the political prisoners should be given priority. Thirdly we should seriously work on a durable political settlement, at least as a preliminary step. Fourthly, in the future, all these three cannot be worked on by us alone. We need to be backed by a state, at least behind the scenes. Otherwise, there will be a negative impact once more.

This is the best time for us to go back in history to the 1950s. On 26 July 1957, an agreement known as “Banda-Chelva” was signed between Prime Minister S. W. R., D. Bandaranayake and the Tamil leader Chelvanayagam. This agreement was based on a quasi federal system devolving certain powers to the Tamils in the North and Eastern provinces. On 4 October 1957 the opposition, United National Party – UNP headed by J. R. Jayewardene and Dudley Senanayake, went on a procession from Colombo to Kandy, in opposition to this agreement. Anyhow the participants were forced to give up this procession in Gampaha.

J. R. Jayewardene speech in 1987

Interestingly, the same J. R. Jayewardene was President in 1987 and signed the Indo-Lanka accord, merging the North and Eastern provinces, accepting a Tamil as a Chief Minister. When this accord was signed, then opposition political parties in the South were protesting against it and the JVP members were setting fire to buses and buildings, staging their protest.

During this time, J. R. Jayewardene said in a speech to the people in the South that “it’s me who went on a procession against the Banda-Chelva agreement in 1956, but today the situation is not same as before. In the recent past, we requested for help from many of our friendly countries. They want to know the position of India. They are refusing to help us and insist that we should seek the help of India. Therefore I am compelled to sign this agreement, considering long term benefit for Sri Lanka”. This shows how difficult it is for a State to do business ignoring neighbouring India! If that is so…..

Also, don’t forget that the Indian Prime Minister Rajivi Gandhi who visited Sri Lanka to sign the accord in 1987 was assaulted in a guard of honour with a gun by a naval soldier. In fact, this was a manipulation by top politicians who were against this accord. Nevertheless clever politicians from the South played their diplomacy in the right direction and earned the support of India, which was ultimately a serious cause of disaster to the Tamils.

Therefore, this is the right time for the Tamils to think whether we are going to continue with a wrong political approach lacking diplomacy. This will lead to earning increased animosity of India and face further consequences. Rather than making someone a life time enemy, it is better to use polite language and to manage the future. For example rather than we analyse one-sidedly what India did to the Tamils, why not analyse impartially?

Last March, when the President of East Timor, Mr José Manuel Ramos-Horta was speaking to members of civil society in the UN in Geneva, he said “we never claimed that we defeated the Indonesian forces. We maintained that Indonesian forces left East Timor. This made the Indonesian President to participate in our first Independence Day celebration on 19 May 2002.” This is a good example of matured politics and good diplomacy.

Renewal of relationship

The LTTE leader Pirabaharan said in his annual Heroes’ day speech on 27 November 2008 that, “Our freedom movement, as well as our people, has always wished to maintain cordiality with the international community as well as neighbouring India. With this in view, we wish to create a viable environment and enhance friendship. We wish to express our goodwill and are looking forward to the opportunity to build a constructive relationship. ……….Today, there are great changes taking place in India…………The positive change in environment gives us courage to seek renewal of our relationship with the Indian super power……"

What can the Tamils do with neighbouring India? It is well known that Sri Lanka has signed security agreements with India and China and is going to sign another with Pakistan. What does this mean? Sri Lanka is an Island. Is there really a threat to it from any other country? It is obvious that these security agreements are intended to suppress the voice and the rights of the Tamils.

The last parliamentary election has taught a few good lessons! Firstly, the people in the North and East have rejected the politicians who scared them with extreme political ideology. Secondly, certain candidates for their own political mileage said that the Tamil National Alliance – TNA is pro-India. But the voters have overwhelmingly voted for TNA. Does this mean that those voters prefer a party which is pro-India or are they giving the green light for Indian involvement? Thirdly, as said by many politicians, Tamils prefer the merger of the North and East which is one of the positive clauses in the Indo-Lanka accord.

Whether one likes it or not, let us seriously analyse the possibility of an armed struggle emerging in the future! Firstly, the people in the ground are not ready to support it for obvious reasons. Secondly, when militancy was born in the 1970s, then there were only two or three Army camps, one Navy camp and a few Police stations in the Jaffna peninsula. It was the same throughout the North and East. Presently, there are hundreds of Army camps, sentry points everywhere. Thirdly, at that time militancy had the full support of India. Now what is the reality? There is no way of entering neighbouring India as before. Fourthly, in those days, there were only a few government informants in the North and East but now there are Tamil paramilitary groups operating with heavy weapons. Under these conditions, is it possible for an armed struggle to be re-born? Therefore, only the involvement of India will make anything possible for the Tamils to find a durable political solution.

Presently the Sri Lankan government has rejected many clauses in the Indo-Lanka accord but the Indian government has a duty to answer the Tamils, at least about the merger of the North East.

The latest development in Sri Lanka is that now the Sri Lankan President and his cabinet ministers are saying that there are no minorities, all are Sri Lankans – we don’t want to talk about Tamil people! In a recent interview given by Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, he said that, “we need to win the hearts and minds of the people. You know, I don’t want to talk about Tamil people. They all are Sri Lankan now!” At the same time the Ministry for human rights has been scrapped in the new cabinet. Not that the human rights ministry in the past has done a wonderful job! But anyway there was a ministry where foreign dignitaries and institutions could raise their concerns about the violations of human rights. These things are casting a shadow on the future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka!

JVP leaders were killed in 1989

There may be a reason for some Tamils to be suspicious of Indian involvement. But we should learn something from the past rather than making things worse for the future. At this juncture, take the JVP as an example. During their first attempt to overthrow the government in 1971, it was India which helped Sri Lanka. In their second attempt in 1987, it was purely on the pretext of being against the Indo-Lanka accord. With all these ups and downs, when all the JVP leaders were killed in November 1989, one of their leaders escaped to Europe via India. Presumably this was with the full knowledge of the Indian government.

Tamils should not be the losers any more. Therefore the Tamils’ strategy should start right now. There are obvious, positive and good reasons for this approach.

Presently with so much of pressure from VVIPs around the world, nothing is moving even on human rights, humanitarian affairs and accountability process on Sri Lanka. Why?

Whether one likes it or not, we should insist on India’s responsibility for the merger of the North and East under the accord signed in 1987. Even though this is only a part of the solution, this may be the way forward. The day Sri Lanka refuses to merge the North and East, India will be compelled to take this case to the International Court of Justice in Hague.

When one talks about a political solution, it is worth considering Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is obvious that the Scottish people are moving in the right direction. One should not forget that the World order has been changed since new countries like Eritrea and East Timor were born. In the 1990s the autonomous republics of the USSR – Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics were able to achieve their independence, because of the political structure in the USSR. Also those states had indirect support of another super power. Tamils haven’t reached any of these stages and don’t have any support of any state. Hope you all know what has happened and what is happening to the people of Kosovo! Therefore rather than making many more mistakes, it is the right time for every Tamil to call for the support of neighbouring India.

Please don’t jump to conclusions that I am trying to divert your political ideology. You have your freedom of choice, thought and expression. A journalist friend in Europe told me that, presently there are certain trains of thought along the lines that “let us be without any cloth until we find a suit or a sari”, which may or may not be possible for another couple of decades. These individuals should realise that we have already lost even the underpants that we had in the 60s, and since July 1987 – merger of the North East. After May last year, it has become a question of looking for piece of cloth and it is a question of survival, for the people in the North and East.

The only way out

Since the formation of the new cabinet in Sri Lanka – following the changes that Sri Lanka has brought in to impress the international community, a general Amnesty was given to Journalist Tissanayagam, and certain elements of the Emergency Regulations (ER) were relaxed and so on. This is to satisfy the international community and also an attempt to gain the GSP plus.

If we continue to fight among us, in a few years time, we will lose our identity in Sri Lanka. At the moment Tamils are not in a strong enough position even to call for negotiation. Therefore we should be united to be strong and need a friendly state that will support the right to self-determination.

I have personally witnessed a few ugly incidents carried out by the Indian Peace Keeping Forces – IPKF in Jaffna. In the recent past maybe many worse incidents have taken place. But if we continue to antagonise each other and take revenge, this will only bring ultimate disaster to the Tamils. As we are focussed on one single oppressor, can’t afford to have any other hostile countries.

These are realities – so this is the best time for all the Tamils, from every nook and corner of the globe to work hard and seriously earn the support of India. This is the only way out, for a durable solution. All other acts will be a waste of time and cause more disaster to the future generations as well.

Presently the right to self-determination of the Tamils is caught up into geo-politics. Therefore without making any more mistakes, we will have to look at the countries which have achieved their right to self-determination in the past. Bangladesh had the support of India. Before the cold war, Eritrea was supported by Iraq and Syria and also had the support of US and USSR in different stages. East Timor was supported by Portugal and so on.

The longer we delay our approach to India; the oppressor will benefit the maximum from India and do more damage internally and externally to us. Let us be wise and move in the right direction.

Football World Cup 2010 can be used to combat Racism and Discrimination Globally

by Navi Pillay

The Football World Cup kicks off on June 11. This is an opportune occasion to reflect on the fact that sport is meant to foster social cohesion, bring different cultures together in a celebration of healthy competition, and to overcome the diffidence and even contempt that all too often divide countries and communities in the political and social arenas.

FIFA610TC.jpg

The movie “ Invictus” on how Nelson Mandela used rugby to defuse potential strife and build a common national identity was one such reflection. And the choice of South Africa, a country that renounced the institutionalised racism of Apartheid, as the host venue of the 2010 World Cup provides both a perfect opportunity and a platform to renew our efforts to combat discrimination in all its forms.

As a victim of racism and a sports fan, I urge all who play or simply watch sport to use the World Cup as a catalyst to call for global action against intolerance and racism. These are scourges that affect countless women, men and children around the world and that must be challenged at every turn.

Ability to join millions

Indeed, fear, intolerance and xenophobia can all be combated with diametrically opposed values of fair play and cooperation that are so central to team sports such as football. The World Cup is perhaps the highest expression of football's ability to join millions of people from all regions of the world in a common and joyous pursuit.

Undoubtedly, we all have our favourite team and wish it victorious, but let us not forget that the World Cup allows us to connect with others whose different history, culture and traditions we might otherwise never be exposed to. As a result of these contacts, we are all enriched. Our common passion for football reinforces the bonds of community pride, makes explicit our shared aspiration for excellence, and channels and elevates our instinct of competition.

But let us also be vigilant about racism and other manifestations of intolerance that poison sport — particularly football— that undermine its positive message and that bring it into disrepute. This happens all too often when the supporters of competing teams use intolerant slurs and even violence to vilify and attack their opponents.

Regrettably, even the players themselves have at times been prone to such despicable behaviour. Professional footballers are rightly obliged to uphold the highest standards of sportsmanship, both ethically and under FIFA's code of conduct, which includes provisions on non-discrimination. Yet on occasions, rich clubs and rich national bodies have escaped more severe sanction by paying derisory fines after serious racist incidents during matches.

National football authorities everywhere must back their strong rhetoric with serious and consistent disincentives. Manifestations of racism or intolerance in or around the stadiums during the World Cup should be swiftly addressed and the perpetrators isolated.

The clear message of the World Cup must be that there is no place for racism and intolerance in sport. I welcome the stand taken against racism by FIFA and UEFA — both organisations continue to build programmes which promote tolerance and campaign against racism. FIFA plans to use the four quarter final matches of the World Cup, in particular, to make an unequivocal statement against racism to millions of people around the world. Before those matches, the captains of each team will read a declaration encouraging players, officials and fans around the world to say “no” to any and all forms of racism.

Pathway out of exclusion

The Football World Cup presents a unique opportunity to maximise the potential of this sport to educate ever-expanding constituencies and attract talent irrespective of social status and position in life. For many poor athletes, football has offered a pathway out of seemingly endless exclusion. Their accomplishments have inspired others to follow suit. In every society, successful sports men and women are role models whose behaviour is closely scrutinised and even emulated. Young minds are especially influenced by both positive and negative messages received from those they respect, particularly their sports heroes.

Ultimately, the real winners of this year's World Cup will be those who celebrate and uphold both in words and in deeds its values of fair play, honest competition, respect and tolerance both on and off the field. Let's kick discrimination off the field. Let's tackle exclusion. Let's put racism offside.


( Navi Pillay is U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.— Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre )

Suicide Bombers of Sri Lanka

by Dr.Daya Somasundaram
University of Jaffna

Abstract

The phenomena of suicide bombers in Sri Lanka share some similarities with but also have some marked differences with what is seen in other parts of world today. Increasing discrimination, state humiliation and violence against the minority Tamils brought out a militancy and the phenomena of suicide bombers. The underlying socio-political and economical factors in the North and East of Sri Lanka that caused the militancy at the onset are examined.

Some of these factors that were the cause of or consequent to the conflict include: extrajudicial killing of one or both parents or relations by the state; separations, destruction of home and belongings during the war; displacement; lack of adequate or nutritious food; ill health; economic difficulties;

lack of access to education; not seeing any avenues for future employment and advancement; social and political oppression; and facing harassment, detention and death. At the same time, the Tamil militants have used various psychological methods to entice youth, children and women to join and become suicide bombers. Public displays of war paraphernalia, posters of fallen heroes, speeches and video, particularly in schools and community gatherings, heroic songs and stories, public funeral rites and annual remembrance ceremonies draw out feelings of patriotism and create a martyr cult. The religio-cultural context of the Tamils has provided meaning and symbols for the creation and maintenance of this cult, while the LTTE has provided the organisational capacity to train and indoctrinate a special elite as suicide bombers. Whether the crushing of the LTTE militarily by the state brings to an end the phenomena of suicide bombers or whether it will re-emerge in other forms if underlying grievances are not resolved remains to be seen.

The decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Thamil Eelam (LTTE), its top leadership (including Prabhakaran), their supporters, and over 20,000 Tamil civilians by the Sri Lanka state in May 2009 (University Teachers for Human Rights, 2009) could have put an end to the phenomena of suicide attacks in Lanka. The successful crushing of a till-then powerful separatist movement by military means has profound implications for modern counter-insurgency strategy the world over. Already countries like Pakistan are seeking to emulate the ‘Lanka model’ to address their own local insurgencies (BBC, 2009). The Sri Lankan state also feels justified in continuing with the Malaysian ‘Bhumiputra’ model of governance in dealing with minorities whereby the majority, ‘sons of the soil’, are given privileged status. The discriminatory state policies and repression of minority rights may have been one of the original causes of the ethnic conflict (Hoole, 2001) and subsequent evolution of suicide terror tactics by the weaker rebels. Thus, it is not only of historical and academic interest, but of paramount importance in designing counter-insurgency strategies and solutions to try to understand what happened.

The Black Tiger suicide cadres of the LTTE shared similarities with other suicide bombers across the globe but also had significant differences (Gunaratna, 2000; Chandran, 2001a, 2001b; Bloom, 2005; Hassan, 2008a). The Black Tiger suicide attacks evolved as one of several militant strategies of the LTTE. The first suicide truck bombing was carried out by ‘Captain’ Miller of the LTTE who drove a truck packed with explosives into a Lankan army camp at a Nelliaddy school on 5 July 1987, reportedly killing over 100 soldiers. Apparently Miller was deeply upset by the LTTE pulling out of Vadamarachy, the northern part of the Jaffna Peninsula, under the onslaught of the state forces and personally instigated this course of action. Miller became a folk hero and 5 July has ever since been publically celebrated in a grand way as Black Tiger Day by the LTTE. The military effectiveness, emotional repercussion among the cadre and public, and spectacular media and propaganda value may have led the LTTE to adopt the same strategy. Some of the original militants are said to have undergone training in the Middle East and the leaders would have at least been acutely aware of what was happening there in terms of the use of suicide bombers.

Thus, it is said that suicide terror ‘outbids’ other methods available to a weaker, non-state guerrilla force. Subsequently over 300 (see Table 1) mostly successful suicide attacks have been carried out by the LTTE (SATP, 2009) making it the most prolific in the world! Like Hizbullah, Hamas and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Black Tigers are an elite, highly trained and indoctrinated, specialised unit within the overall militant organisation that also included such conventional wings as air, sea, anti-aircraft, anti-tank, artillery, demolition, women, young, special units, political, and other units. Unlike many Islamist jihadi groups with multiple, smaller, semi-autonomous, ‘home-grown’ origins, the Black Tigers are found only within the monolithic LTTE in Sri Lanka.

They have only carried out one attack overseas in India, killing former prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi. The targets have been carefully chosen with alleged military, political, economic or symbolic value (see Table 1). Military and political leaders, including Tamil leaders considered by the LTTE to be against them (‘throhi’ or traitors), military, strategic, political, symbolic and economic institutions or infrastructure, pre-emptive strikes and plain military objectives have been targeted by a variety of suicide methods. These have included vehicles, such as trucks, motorbikes, bicycles, boats and planes with explosives, and people with explosives strapped to them. There is intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, meticulous planning, rehearsals, compartmentalised cells with support teams and, where possible, dry runs before the actual mission. According to the LTTE, civilians have never been targeted directly but are so called collateral damage.

There have been warnings to the public not to go close to possible targets. Sometimes ‘sleepers’ have lived in the target area for years as ordinary civilians with economic resources, amidst alluring temptations, cultivating social relationships without raising suspicion before carrying out their mission. Very rarely has there been any wavering, fear, signs of doubt, misgiving or uncertainty and the attacks have been carried out with extraordinary precision. This shows a high degree of commitment, singleness of purpose, devotion to cause, allegiance to the leader, motivation, clarity of mind about day-to-day functioning, skill and loyalty maintained over long periods of time (over three years in the case of President Premadasa) in adverse environments and without the need for regular support, ritualistic practices or encouragement. Only in more recent times has the state managed to ‘harden’ potential targets with increased security measures and thwart intended aims.

In joining the Tamil Tigers, the cadres commit themselves to die and wear a cyanide capsule (usually on a necklace) at all times to be used in the event of imminent capture, ostensibly to avoid giving information under torture. This pattern of suicide is similar to what the sociologist Emilie Durkheim (1951) called ‘altruistic suicide,’ in which the individual feels so closely identified with a group and committed to the cause, that he is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, or ‘fatalistic suicide’ where there is high degree of control and indoctrination. An estimated one-third of the LTTE’s combat deaths up to 1992 can be attributed to these forms of suicides (Schalk, 2003). Thus, they could be technically considered suicide cadres. Among the veteran cadres that I have interviewed or treated over the years (admittedly those with psychological problems), there is a strong death wish (perhaps a result of the harsh realities of battle, death of comrades, and hopelessness of fatal outcome). Almost all of them have a strong desire to join the elite Black Tigers; in fact, it is seen as an honour and opportunity to be worthy and useful. The recruiters are looking for able and skilled combatants to be used as instruments in the war, precision weapons of high effectiveness by the weaker party in an asymmetrical war fight.

SBT1.jpg click on Table for larger image ~ Table 1: Suicide attacks by LTTE — some illustrative examples

Female suicide bombers do not arouse suspicion and are less often checked thoroughly for cultural reasons, blend in more easily with civilian populations, and are able to conceal the explosive devices within their clothes and body. Thus, they are said to be able to penetrate and gain access to their targets more easily; however, this changed with increased intelligence, enhanced security measures and the ‘hardening’ of targets. They also tend to be more committed and purposeful in carrying out their missions. According to Nelfouer De Mel, the phenomena of female suicide bombers has raised issues of ‘autonomous choice, agency, feminist politics, cultural role models, and the gendered nature of sacrifice/martyrdom’ (Bloom, 2005) within a more general female emancipation or empowerment through militancy in a traditional, patriarchal society (Hellmann-Rajanayagam, 2008).

The Tamils of Sri Lanka have traditionally been a relatively peaceful society.

Although there has been considerable internal violence, for example, in terms of domestic violence, child abuse, caste violence, and suicide, the incidence of external aggression, killings and large-scale civil violence were not seen. In fact, only a few decades ago, before the onset of the current civil or ethnic war, a single homicide would bring on a general paralysis, rumours, extreme fear and apprehension, so much so that people would stay indoors for weeks or even months on end (Somasundaram, 1998).

A single killing would become a major issue, discussed in the media and people would talk about it for weeks. The war brought about a gradual habituation to violence and killing that became part of the day-to-day social climate.

The Tamils had often been stereotyped as somewhat submissive. Thus, the term, ‘Demala,’ used by Sinhalese to describe Tamils had a derogatory tone to it. The 1983 pogrom (Piyadasa, 1984; Roberts, 2003) can be seen as an attempt to teach the ‘Tamils’ a lesson, to send them running with their tails between their legs. Indeed, I believe the Sanskrit root of the term Dravidian, means ‘to run.’ It is only more recently, after the militant reaction to the violent suppression that the term ‘kotiya’ has replaced this stereotype and with it some grudging respect! So the question arises how the Tamils, youth in particular, could have become militant so quickly; even how the notorious Black Tiger suicide cadres developed. It would appear that social sanction for a group to behave violently can bring out aggressive acts they had learned or seen, for example, in the media.

Although it is generally accepted that certain ethnic groups have special martial abilities (in the Indian subcontinent, the Gurkhas, Sikhs and Rajputs are famed for their fighting prowess), this may as well be a sub-cultural influence, depending on how the males are brought up in the community, their expectations and training. Thus, it is significant that an overtly peaceful society, the Tamils of Sri Lanka, have been able, when provoked, to develop quite competent (a competency artificially bolstered by modern easy to use light weaponry) military capacities so quickly, capacities able to stand up to the aforementioned regiments during the ill-fated Indian intervention in Sri Lanka (Hoole et al., 1988). In the final analysis, the outcome of this historical confrontation may well have proven that between two well-trained and equipped fighting units, the decisive factor is their motivation.

The defeat of the LTTE by the Sinhala state from 2006 to 2009 may also be due to the crucial difference in motivation and moral — a deterioration in the LTTE and an upsurge among the state forces (UTHR-J, 2009). The development of the Tamil militancy and the LTTE suicide bombers can only be understood in terms of the socio-cultural and political contexts. I would like to look at the motivation for the militancy in general, and the elite suicide cadres among them in particular, as arising from the confluence of several push and pull factors. The use of push-pull categorisation has been used more recently in relation to child labour by the International Labour Organisation’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour 1 and, more specifically, child soldiers 2 (Somasundaram, 2001).

In reality, the causative factors will not fall neatly into dichotomous categories, but show overlaps and exceptions. The suicide cadres are chosen from among the ordinary LTTE who show extreme capacity, commitment and, particularly, aptitude for these types of operations. They are in a sense the creme de la creme.

The organisational character of the LTTE and their martyr cult would have then moulded, indoctrinated, trained and honed them into the elite Black Tigers (Arnestad & Daae, 2007). The causes were more clear and valid at the beginning of war; the complex picture has changed with time and the same factors may not be operative now. Towards the end of the fighting, recruitment became more coercive, and selection and choice minimal.

Push Factors Social Jaffna Hindu society before the war was very much under the caste system and the lower castes were suppressed by the higher, mainly the Vellala caste who held the authority. The caste system has been responsible for considerable covert violence throughout history. For many from the lower castes, joining the militant movement became a way out of this oppressive system. Similarly, for the younger women who experience widespread socio-cultural oppression

1
See their website: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/stanards/ipec/child/2tour.htm.

2
See: http://www.child-soldiers.org/conference/confreport_asiawgc.html.

against their sex, it is a means of escape and ‘liberation’ (Trawick, 1999; Hellmann-Rajanayagam, 2008). The LTTE cadres, particularly the leadership, have been drawn particularly from the Karaiyar caste (traditionally fisherman living along the coast but have a reputation of being seafarers, warriors, mercenaries and smugglers). It is noteworthy that the LTTE developed a fairly powerful naval wing, Sea Tigers, and suicide Black Sea Tigers who would ram their explosive laden crafts into the bigger Lankan Navy boats.

Economical

Many of the youth and children who joined the militant forces are from the lower socio-economical classes. Economical pressures within the family and lack of opportunities in the wider society drove many youth to join. Many youth felt their avenues for advancement blocked by the discriminatory acts of the state, with many not able to find employment, opportunity for higher education or vocational training, economical assistance in the form of loans or schemes, or other openings that they saw youths from the majority ethnic group exploiting to their benefit.

Under the dowry system, some parents having female children for whom they could not provide encouraged them to join. Thus, looking from a socioeconomic perspective, the vast majority of the youth who joined the militancy were from the lower disadvantaged socio-economic class. It is ironic that the vast majority of the state forces involved in the direct fighting were also from the same disadvantaged socio-economic class. However, there was a noticeable difference in their motivation, particularly under the duress of battle or rigours of training. This may well show that fanatical belief in a cause or perceived threat to group identity (to be discussed later) can override economic motivations.

Food

Lack of food, especially nutritious food, is another important indirect stressor but perhaps not a direct motivating factor. Studies in the Jaffna General Hospital show that there has been a statistically significant increase in Low Birth Weight (below 2.5 kg) babies from 19% in 1989 to 23% in 1991 and even 25% in 1992. The cause for this can be found in the malnutrition of pregnant mothers. In 1987, Theivendran 3 found that all the pregnant mothers, as well as the lactating mothers, examined in 12 refugee camps within the Jaffna municipality, were anaemic. He also found that 41% of the infants and 73%

3
R. Theivendran, “Unpublished Study of Miscarriages among Refugees”, pers. comm. D. Somasundaram / Asian Journal of Social Science 38 (2010) 416–441 of the children of 1–5 years were below the 3rd percentile expected weight for their age, showing chronic 2nd to 3rd degree Protein Calorie Malnutrition. Similar malnutrition (68% below the 3rd percentile in 1–5 year olds) was found in the Kotpali refugee camp by the SCF (Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, 1992). Deprivation of food and chronic hunger are themselves stressors that cause apathy, listlessness, irritation and failure to thrive. Furthermore, low birth weight and malnourishment in infants increases the risk of immediate and long-term morbidity and mortality, including psychiatric disorders. Protein malnutrition in the critical period of development of the nervous system (that is, from conception to about two years after birth) leads to permanent brain damage causing Mental Subnormality.

According to the Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (1992) and Sivarajah (1993), the reasons for this widespread malnutrition are attributed to the shortage of protein due to the fall in the fishing and poultry industries and perhaps also due to poverty caused by unemployment, loss of working equipment, agricultural fields and savings; as well as shortages and high prices of food — all indirect effects of war.

Parents have been known to send one or more of their children to join when facing difficulties in feeding the family. They have expressed satisfaction that at least that child will have enough to eat. The LTTE has also used their ability to feed their cadres with good food in their propaganda for recruitment and were mindful of the regular diet of their cadres.

Health

Another stressor, again not a direct motivating cause, is ill health due to reduced resistance as a consequence of malnourishment and psychological stress, poor sanitation and overcrowding in the refugee camps, epidemic spread of communicable diseases, poor health services, shortage of drugs, and uncontrolled multiplication of disease vectors, like mosquitoes, due to a lack of spraying. Diseases on the increase in children included respiratory tract infections, gastroenteritis, dysentery, typhoid, resistant cerebral malaria, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever and craditis, and the so-called fatal ‘septicaemia.’

Lack of quality healthcare in the North and East is appalling (Somasundaram, 2005a). The lack of access to health and malnutrition may produce a milieu of deprivation, a perception of inequity that could turn into a direct motivating factor.

Displacement

Displacement is the source of several stresses, as described by Prof. Raphael (1986): D. Somasundaram / Asian Journal of Social Science 38 (2010) 416–441 The loss of home, a strange environment, the breakdown of family ritual, separation from parents, from familiar neighbourhood and environment, and from school and friends, the loss of toys and treasures, and crowded and strange accommodation are all likely to be stressful for the child.

Almost all families were displaced during the 1995 exodus (UTHR-J, 1995b), and a high proportion had been displaced at other times, particularly during the Indian intervention in October of 1987 (Hoole et al. 1988). All the indices of psychological disturbances are more marked in the displaced students (Arunagirinathan et al., 1993). Refugee camps become breeding grounds for recruitment.

Education

Disruption in regular schooling and education has been a prominent stressor in this war (inability to attend schools due to: displacements; unavailability of schools due to destruction or use as camps); indefiniteness about national exams; lack of a secure, calm, lighted (no electricity), quiet environment for learning; irregular attendance due to transport difficulties and disturbed situation, students being detained, conscripted, indoctrinated or forced to partake in political activities; seeing the emigration of fellow students; lack of opportunity to continue their education (refugee children being unable to go to school due to a lack of uniforms, exercise books and the like); and shortages and delays in receiving school text books and materials; etc.

The beginnings of Tamil militancy were a reaction to the discriminatory state policy in education, particularly changes in university admission procedures favouring the majority community. Unfortunately, recent developments in the educational system have turned this once cherished endeavour into an area of deprivation. The non-attendance and dropout rates increased dramatically in the North in the late 1990’s, becoming the highest on the island (Save the Children, 1998). A recent study of the performance of students in basic skills, such as in language and mathematics, shows the north-east coming last in the island (National Education Research and Evaluation Centre, 2004). Ironically, what started out as a struggle for better educational opportunities has had the opposite effect, even to point of being classified as a ‘deprived’ district. Under these circumstances, militancy has become an alluring alternative to education.

Death of Parent(s) and/or Relatives

Death or disappearance of one or both parents have left many children orphaned or as members of one-parent families. Some left to join when they directly witnessed the brutal killing of their parent(s) by the state, others left later when pressures built up in the family. Some reported a burning desire for revenge as a reason for joining.

Destruction

During the fighting, many structures were destroyed, including homes, schools, temples, churches and other social institutions. Seeing the destruction of a till then permanent structure, his or her home, and/or social and religious institutions can be the collapse of everything secure and strong of the child’s known world, creating a vacuum that can never be filled. A variety of emotions can result: From anger, resentment and devastation, to hopelessness and indignation.

Humiliation, Harassment, Detention, Death

Tamil youth are specifically targeted by the state security forces in their checking, and cordon and search operations, and generally detained for interrogation, detention, torture, execution or even rape. During the so-called ‘Operation Liberation’ in 1987, the youth were either summarily shot (Hoole et al., 1988) or shipped off in chains to the Boosa camp in the South by the army en mass. So, when faced with the possible entry of the army, many youth will rather join than face, in their eyes, certain detention and death.

Fifteen per cent of the 600 disappearances in 1996 within Jaffna were children. In a more recent example of direct cause-and-effect, in May 1999, a senior school prefect of a leading school in Jaffna was detained when his parents had taken him to the camp. When he was not released in the subsequent days, all the schools in the Jaffna district went on strike. Finally, he was released without any charges. Contusions and abrasions were found on his body. While he was in detention, five other students from the same area left to join the movement.

In addition to the pogrom of 1983 against the Tamil minority ethnic group (Piyadasa, 1984; Roberts, 2003), it was the continuing deaths, destruction and violence by the state that was perceived as being directed against the Tamils that lent legitimacy to the militancy that attracted the allegiance and blind loyalty to whichever movement that was at hand. Many were humiliated in the way they or their families were treated at check-points, search operations, or in dealings with state officials. This left a burning resentment just below the surface. In some drama workshops in the North, skilled practitioners of the Theatre Action Group (TAC) brought out these emotions from disgruntled youth and paved the way for their easiy recruitment into the militancy.

Once recruited, the LTTE could harness and direct this emotion against a perceived enemy through indoctrination and training to create the Black Tigers. The cynical manipulation of cadres by the LTTE leadership was seen in the final battle, where waves of suicide squads were sent to slow down the inevitable advance of the Lankan army while the leaders were looking and negotiating for terms of surrender (UTHR-J, 2009).

Traumatisation

In the civil war that has been in progress in north-east Sri Lanka for almost two decades, children have been traumatised by such common experiences as frequent shelling, bombing, helicopter strafing, round-ups, cordoning-off and search operations, deaths, injury, destruction, mass arrests, detention, shootings, grenade explosions and landmines. A recent study in the Vanni found that over 90% of the students have undergone a direct war experience (VIVO, 2003). Studies focusing on children in war situations, for example, in Mozambique (Richman et al., 1988) and the Philippines (Children’s Rehabilitation Center, 1986) report considerable psychological sequelae. A detailed Canadian study of children in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, in addition to their studies in Yugoslavia, Palestine and Iraq, found considerable more exposure to war trauma and psychological sequelae in the ethnic minority Tamil children (Health Reach, 1996). In northern Sri Lanka, extensive epidemiological surveys in 1993 of 12 Vaddukoddai cluster schools (Arunakirinathan et al., 1993), adolescents in Jaffna (Geevathasan, 1993), and Killinochchi schools (Somasundaram, 1998) showed widespread war stressors (Table 2).

SBT2.jpg

Table 2: War Stress in Adolescents; n=613 (percentages)

Type of War Stress Number (percentage)

Direct war stress

Threat to life 154 (25%)
Injury 45 (7%)
Detention 39 ( 6.%)
Torture 23 ( 4%)
War death of relation 195 (32%)
Witnessing violence 156 (25%)

Indirect War Stress

Displacement (before 1995) 241 (39%)
Lack of Food 92 (15%)
Economic problems 208 (34%)
Mean number of stresses (per child)

SBT3.jpg

Table 3: Common Symptoms in School Children (Vaddukodai) (n=305)

Symptoms Percentages

Sleep disturbances 270 (77%)
Separation anxiety 122 (40%)
Hyper-alertness 152 (50%)
Sadness 131 (43%)
Clinging 137 (45%)
Withdrawal 76 (25%)
Decline in school performance 183 (60%)
Irritability 223 (73%)

Brutalisation

Aggressiveness 140 (46%)
Cruelty 92 (30%)
Anti-social behaviour 134 (44%)
War games 165 (54%)
War vocabulary 195 (64%)

SBT4.jpg

Table 4: Psychosocial Problems in Adolescents; n=625 (percentages)

Psychosocial Problems Numbers (percentages)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 194 (31%)
Somatisation 200 (32%)
Anxiety 211 (34%)
Depression 179 (29%)
Hostility 279 (45%)
Relationships problems 210 (34%)
Alcohol and drug abuse 41 (7%)
Functional disability 220 (35%)
Cognitive Impairment
Loss of memory 275 (44%)
Loss of concentration 297 (48%)
Loss of motivation 201 (33%)

The impact of the war on their growing minds (Tables 3 and 4) and the resulting traumatisation and brutalisation will be the primary motivating factors for their future militancy.

Future (Employment and Education)

SBT5.jpg

As mentioned, opportunities for and access to further education, sports, foreign scholarships, or jobs in the state sector (Table 5) have been progressively restricted by successive Sinhalese governments, despite the lip-service paid to maintaining ethnic ratios.

Political

One example of an outstanding grievance, the use of the Tamil language, remains unimplemented. The Report on the Abused Child and the Legal Process of Sri Lanka submitted to the National Monitoring Committee on the Children’s Charter by Samaraweera (1997), says, ‘The legal process operates virtually entirely, certainly in the texts we examined, in Sinhala or in Sinhala and English. When a child who speaks only Tamil encounters the law, as we were able to observe on numerous occasions during our research, s/he is at a considerable disadvantage, and may even be completely shut out. The Tamil-only speakers are dealt with by the legal process very much on an ad hoc basis . . .’

What is true for the legal system is similar to all other areas of public functioning in Sri Lanka today: S/he invariably faces humiliation. When a Tamil youth is checked or detained, they are often harassed, beaten or tortured. In a study of former detainees in Vavuniya, all were found to have been tortured (Doney, 1998). In addition, there are the cumulative effects of chronic civil violence and suppression on a community, described as a ‘repressive ecology’ (Baykai et al., 2004), that cause a break-up off social capital, resources, structures and functioning, called ‘collective trauma’ (Somasundaram, 2007). The greatest impact of this kind of structural violence and oppression is on the younger generation. Over time the discrimination and violence against the minority Tamils have become institutionalised, entrenched within the system, so much so that the state terror and oppression are hardly conspicuous

In these circumstances, it would be easy to understand why youth and children join. It would be much more effective in the long-term and a more permanent solution to bring pressure on the state to dismantle the socio-economic and political oppression that the particular group faces. Ultimately, militancy and dying as a Black Tiger is a political message, a signal of frustration from those without access to power; a method, however misguided, that is resorted to when other alternates appear to fail; and a message about perceived injustice and inequity.

Pull Factors

Beliefs

In the beginning, youth joined the militant movements out of altruistic beliefs to safeguard their threatened ethnic identity (Somasundaram, 1998). For example, when in the 1983 riots Tamils as a group were humiliated, the youth took up arms to prevent a complete eclipse of the group’s identity. They joined whichever Tamil militant group was available. That they did so in the thousands with complete dedication, determination and resourcefulness is a mark of the deep threat that was felt at the core of their beings, a fear for their identity as a group. It was left to the youth to redeem the Tamil identity and honour, to take up the mantle and meet the challenge for group survival with a violent defiance. It could be said that this was the prime motivating factor at the beginning of the Tamil militancy.

Konrad Lorenz (1963) described such strong motivation as ‘militant enthusiasm.’

Due to the powerful emotional charge involved, challenges to group identity often end in confrontation and conflict, particularly when obstructed or suppressed violently in situations of inter-group tensions, perceived injustices and inequities. Unfortunately, leaders are well versed in the art of cleverly exploiting this reservoir of energy and turning it to their own purpose by appealing to patriotism, language, religion and such mystical concepts as soil and blood. Such appeals have the power to strike deep chords in one’s being, evoking ultimate loyalties and emotive passions. With time, the early motivating factors changed to more mundane ones.

After they eliminated the other Tamil militant groups taking complete totalitarian control, together with the subsequent Indian intervention in 1987, the Tamil Tigers started using children and women as older men were no longer joining. In time, the older youths matured enough to become disillusioned with the way the struggle was being directed. The intra- and inter-group internecine warfare soon disenchanted most. The vast majority of youth have been fleeing aboard, using complex routes and all their family resources and ingenuity to find asylum in foreign countries, choosing assimilation to the margins of their host culture. However, this widespread Tamil diaspora continued to support financially, vocally and even emotionally the violent nationalist project back in their erstwhile homeland. Yet, neither they, nor their children ever came back to join the militancy and sacrifice themselves for the cause.

To a large extent, under the Tigers, recruitment had been ‘voluntary’ until the situation became desperate towards the end of the fighting in 2008–2009.

Earlier, for a very short transient period, the Indian Army-backed EPRLF (another Tamil militant group) forcefully conscripted youth for their makeshift Tamil National Army, many of whom were later killed by the Tigers. Child recruitment by the Tamil Tigers became institutionalised after 1990. The Tigers themselves deny that they used child soldiers, but it has been variously estimated that 50% may be women and 20–40% may be children (UTHR-J, 1995a; Unicef and SCF, 2000). Methods of recruitment have changed more recently with conscription and abductions being reported from the last days in the Vanni (UTHR-J, 2009). It is among those who are unable to find a way to flee aboard, those of the lower socio-economic class trapped in the North and East with no other avenue of escape that have become the catchment population for the militants. Once in the LTTE, the atmosphere within the group, trauma from repeated battles, and a heightened sense of dedication may result in some volunteering to become Black Tigers.

Psychological Methods

Youth and children, because of their age, immaturity, curiosity and love for adventure, are susceptible to ‘‘Pied Piper’ enticement through a variety of psychological methods. Public displays of war paraphernalia, funerals and posters of fallen heroes; speeches and videos, particularly in schools; and heroic, melodious songs, poems and stories, drawing out feelings of patriotism and creating a martyr cult, have all created a compelling milieu. Following the 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom, a whole subculture has grown up around the Tamil militancy, in particular the LTTE which claimed to take up arms to defend the Tamils, their honour, dignity, homeland ( Eelam) or Tamil motherland (Tami thaiyaham) and culture. The LTTE cadres swore an allegiance to the leader, Prabhakaran, with their life, with the cyanide capsule (kuppi) worn around their neck as a symbol of their complete sacrifice (thiyaham).

When they died in battle or in service, they were eulogised as ‘ Mavirar’ (great heroes), bodies taken in state by vehicles all over the region with funeral music wailing over loudspeakers in street corners and buried (vithaikapaduthal,sowed as seeds) in special cemeteries called Thuyilam Illams (sleeping homes) as memory stones (natukal or ninaivukal when their bodies were not available). Their pictures appeared in posters pasted all over the north-east, in the media (including daily papers, periodicals, publications and internet sites), and glorified in songs, poems, stories, drawings, dramas, videos, statues, loudspeakers and speeches.

Mavirar families were also given special status in LTTE controlled (‘uncleared’) 4 areas with privileges in accessing services, respect at ceremonies and exemption from giving further children to the LTTE (increasingly ignored in the final months). Annual commemoration celebrations were held all over the north-east with massive public participation and abroad among the Tamil diaspora on special days, such as Mavirar Nal (27 November, when the first martyr died) and 5 July (Black Tiger Day) with ritualistic practices and cultural performances. Pictures of the Mavirar are posted all over the media, on walls, as cut-outs, in special pandals erected for this purpose with decorations (in red and yellow). LTTE songs are played over loudspeakers and flames ( theepam, signifying the flame of the eternal spirit or soul) are lit at auspicious times. A pride of place is given to acknowledged Black Tiger martyrs at these ceremonies and on the day specially reserved for them, 5 July.

This is a great public honour and spectacle that obviously helps in the LTTE propaganda, their public image, control over the populace, and recruitment. Prabhakaran himself is reported to have a last supper with the cadres before their mission, a picture of which is released posthumously. It is said that meeting the reclusive leader who inspires awe and reverence befitting a living god can itself be motive enough for volunteering for such missions. Although the LTTE claim to be secular, there is a ‘sacralisation of the national.’ All these ceremonies and manifestation contain rich cultural, religious and historical symbols and motifs which are a syncretism of Hindu and Christian beliefs and practices (Hellmann Rajanayagam, 2005; Roberts, 2005; Natali, 2008). This martyr cult gives inspiration, beliefs, purpose, zeal and meaning to LTTE cadres and Black Tigers which would encourage and sustain them in their sacrificial actions and death. The anticipated power of this cult is seen by the compulsion of the Sri Lankan state forces to destroy and bulldoze the Thuyilam Illams when

they capture that territory and suppress the ceremonies. However, the real In state-controlled (‘cleared) areas belonging to a Mavirar family became a liability and members had to actively hide that relationship or risk being harassed, assaulted, monitored, abducted, arrested, detained or killed. test of the long-term survival of these religio-cultural practices and beliefs would be seen by whether they revive when the grip of the state relaxes and for how long it continues.

The severe travel restrictions by the Tigers on leaving areas controlled by them, and applied particularly in the younger age group, created a feeling of entrapment, as well as ensuring that there was a continuous source of recruits.

More recently, the Tigers introduced compulsory military-type training in areas under their control, instilling a military thinking. Everyone, beginning from Grade 9, is compelled to undergo training in military drills, the use of arms, and mock battles, as well as being made to carry out military tasks, such as digging bunkers and manning sentry posts. Government rations, other benefits and travel are allowed only to those who have been trained (UTHR-J, 2000).

Paralysis of Socio-Cultural Institutions

Tamil society had prided itself as belonging to an ancient, cultured civilisation; however, when children started being used in the war, the social structures and religious institutions failed to protest. In fact, they remained silent and passive. This was in part due to the milieu created by the actions of the Sri Lankan state in its indiscriminate bombing, shelling, detention and torture.

It was also due in part to the general social deterioration due to the war, as well as due to the coercive power of totalitarian control exercised by the Tamil militants through intimidation and brutal elimination of all alternate structures and individuals. Thus, the Tamil militants were allowed to function freely within society, attracting children to their fighting units through their propaganda and psychological pressure exercised within the vacuum left by the abdication of social institutions. There was also popular and social sanction for the whole martyr cult (as described above), including the Black Tiger suicide missions. They became revered heroes. As Mia Bloom (2005) argues, it is when the suicidal terror and violence resonates with the public (for whatever reason, be it state suppression or terror) and finds social sanction, that it is likely to sustain itself successfully. However, the Tamil public and social leaders do not perceive these acts as suicide or terror perpetrated against civilians, but as the LTTE choosing ‘legitimate’ military or political targets to eliminate using a weapon of war.

In an unequal contest where the weaker, non-state actor does not have the same resources or heavy weaponry, the LTTE sees using a human bomb as a precision instrument, as a means of delivery of the payload to inaccessible but strategic targets. Civilian victims or terror is not the intended goal. They only have admiration for the cadre who dedicate themselves as live weapons ( uyir ayutham) for this type of altruistic sacrifice (thatkodai). A potential counter D. measure then would be to look at the reasons for this popularity or sanction and work to reduce it. In the Lankan example, the state has gone after the LTTE organisation militarily and repression thereafter, rather than solving the underlying root causes. It may not be in a position to resolve the ethnic origins as it is too emotional and intractable. Thus, it becomes an intriguing question of whether given the same material conditions, that is violent repression of the Tamil minority; a denial of their legitimate rights; the religious-cultural context where there is sanction and honour for altruistic suicide; and perhaps the most vital, militant organisational capacity for training and producing such cadre, the phenomena of suicide bombers would again manifest itself ?

However unlikely, the precedence and the role models from elsewhere in the world would make one extra vigilant in taking all precautions to prevent a resurgence of similar, organised or semi-autonomous, ‘home-grown’ varieties from emerging.

Collective Trauma

Due to decades of war and the consequent destruction of social institutions, structures and processes, society faces a collective trauma or what was called ‘Loss of Communality’ by Kai Erikson (Somasundaram, 2007). The Tamil community had learned to be silent, non-involved and stay in the background. They have developed a ‘deep suspicion and mistrust.’ People have learned to simply attend to their immediate needs and survive to the next day. Any involvement or participation carried considerable risk, particularly at the frequent changes in those in power. At these shifts in power, recriminations, false accusations, revenge and so on was very common. Those with leadership qualities, those willing to challenge and argue, the intellectuals, the dissenters and those with social motivation have been weeded out. They have either been intimidated into leaving, killed or made to fall silent. Gradually people have been made very passive and submissive. These qualities have become part of the socialisation process, where children are now gradually taught to keep quiet, not to question or challenge, to accept the situation, as too-forward behaviour carries considerable risk. Thus, living and growing up in the ‘repressive ecology’ (Baykai et al., 2004), joining the militants and volunteering for suicide missions become a way out.

Collective events and consequences may have more significance in collectivistic communities than in individualistic societies. This broader, holistic perspective becomes paramount in non-Western, ‘collectivist’ cultures which have traditionally been family and community oriented, the individual tending to become submerged in the wider concerns (Hofstede, 2005). In collectivist societies, the individual becomes embedded within the family and community so much so that traumatic events are experienced through the larger unit and the impact will also manifest at that level. The family and community are part of the self, their identity and consciousness. The demarcation or boundary between the individual self and the outside becomes blurred. For example, Tamil families, due to close and strong bonds and cohesiveness in nuclear and extended families, tend to function and respond to external threat or trauma as a unit rather than as individual members.

They share the experience and perceive the event in a particular way. During times of traumatic experiences, the family will come together with solidarity to face the threat as a unit and provide mutual support and protection. In time, the family will act to define and interpret the traumatic event, give it structure and assign a common meaning, as well as evolve strategies to cope with the stress. Thus, it may be more appropriate to talk in terms of family dynamics rather than of individual personalities. Similarly, in Tamil communities, the village and its people, way of life and environment provided organic roots, a sustaining support system, nourishing environment and network of relationships. The village traditions, structures and institutions were the foundations and framework for their daily life. In Tamil tradition, a person’s identity was defined to a large extent by their village or

uur of origin

(Daniel, 1984). Their uur more or less placed the person in a particular sociocultural matrix. Durkheim’s altruistic form of suicide or self-sacrifice (thatkodai) to the greater cause of the threatened community would be better understood from a collectivistic perspective. Suicidal terror arouses feelings of aversion and horror in individualistic societies and may not be possible in individuals who value self-interest. Typically, suicide bombers are analysed in terms of individual psychopathology or as arising from ‘hate.’ The pattern of thinking and experiencing the world are radically different in individualistic, independent societies compared to collectivistic, interdependent communities (Nisbett, 2003). Altruistic suicide in the form described here may only be seen in the context of collectivistic societies (Riaz Hassan, pers. comm.).

Alternate Behaviour

At a generalised meso-level, it is said that suicide rates are remarkably constant for each society, but show a marked fall during war (Durkheim, 1951). War is said to increase social cohesion against a common enemy and this gives meaning to life. However, the drop in suicide rates may be due to war providing an alternate channel for suicidal behaviour (Burvill, 1980) or an opportunity to externalise aggression (Lyons, 1979). Suicide rates in Jaffna have shown the same trend during the war (see Figure 1) with a marked fall during periods of intense fighting (Somasundaram and Rajadurai 1995; Somasundaram, 2009).

Those who may commit suicide during normal times may die from other causes during war. Neeleman (2002) described the phenomena of ‘contextual effect modification’ within the context of war modifying the expected suicide risk by opening up other ways of dying. Thus, the drop in suicide rates could instead be due to war providing an alternate channel for suicidal behaviour (Burvill, 1980) or an opportunity to externalise aggression (Lyons, 1979).

This psychodynamic explanation describes suicide similar to depression as a form of aggression turned inwards towards the self, whereas war provides an outlet for the aggression to be turned outwards towards a common enemy (Lyons, 1979). Burvill (1980) hypothesised that war may provide an alternate opportunity for suicidal behaviour, but rejected it based on the figures from Australia. However, some support for the view that participation in war can function as an alternative to suicide comes from clinical observations during the war here. Adolescents in a mental state caused by intense frustration or interpersonal conflict that made them think of suicide and would have led to suicidal attempts in normal times often said that they would rather join the militants and die in combat where at least their lives would have been honoured on posters (a common method of commemorating dead combatants here). The director of a counselling centre in Jaffna in a seminar for medical officers described the current social ethos as one where adolescents or youth faced with severe family conflict or environmental stress will at times threaten or carry out two possible alternatives — one is suicide and the other, is joining the militants (Anandarajah, pers. comm.). The ‘cult of martyrdom’ and sacrificial devotion have become increasingly attractive to frustrated and rebellious youth in the modern world resulting in ‘suicide terrorism’
(Roberts, 2007).

Whereas suicide is common among the elderly elsewhere in the world (Durkheim, 1951), a study of suicide in Jaffna showed highest risk in the 25–34 age group (Ganesvaran et al., 1984). The authors conclude that this phenomenon may be related to ethnic violence and revolt among the youth. Dissanayake and De Silva (1974) found a similar high risk for suicide and attempted suicide among the youth (aged 15–34 years) for Sri Lanka as a whole and attributed it to unemployment and unrest among the youth as manifested in the 1971 JVP insurgency.

It is noteworthy that the suicide rate for Sri Lanka as a whole was the highest in the world, as it was in Jaffna before the war (Ganeswaran et al., 1984). Attempted suicide in Jaffna is also high among the youth and commonly follows stress (Ganesvaran & Rajarajeswaran, 1989). Our study (Somasundaram and Rajadurai, 1995) shows that the drop in the suicide rate with war is more marked for males (by 300%) than females (by 180%), and is more marked for the 15–24 age group (from 62.4 to 25.4 per 100,000) than for the 25–34 age group. Males in the adolescent 15–24 age group are an overwhelming majority among those joining the militants. This also is the age group which had the highest suicide rate before the war started.

However, if we look at the Mavirar statistics for Jaffna (Natali, 2008) and assume that one-third would be deaths by suicide, the numbers far exceed those that would be expected from the alternate hypothesis. Thus, we would have to look at additional factors discussed above for the large numbers joining the militancy and dying as Mavirar. Of these, a select number would be the Black Tigers from 1987 onwards.

Conclusion

Sri Lanka has been subject to political repression and chronic military violence for over 20 years. The rise of Tamil militancy and the phenomena of suicide bombers can be understood from the ecological context as an interaction of pull-and-push factors. By understanding the myriad of causes that motivate youth towards militancy and self-sacrifice, it should be possible to address the basic needs and issues involved so that we have a more equitable, just and peaceful society and world.

Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the illuminating discussions with Michael Roberts, Riaz Hassan, Sambasivamooorthy Sivayokan, Kulanthai Shanmugalingam, Rajan Hoole and a host of others which have clarified this sensitive subject.

Courtesy: Asian Journal of Social Science 38 (2010) 416–441

June 09, 2010

India -Sri Lanka Joint Declaration on President Rajapaksa Visit to New Delhi

A joint declaration was issued on Wednesday on the State Visit of the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, to India from 8th – 11th June 2010 on the invitation of the President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

MRPPTC69.jpg

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2nd R) shakes hands with Shiranthi (2nd L), wife of Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as Indian President Pratibha Patil (R) and her Sri Lankan counterpart Rajapaksa watch during the ceremonial reception at the presidential palace in New Delhi June 9, 2010 ~ pic courtesy: Reuters

Following is the Text of the Joint Declaration:

1. At the invitation of the President of India, Smt. Prathiba Devisingh Patil, the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, is paying a State Visit to India from 8th – 11th June 2010. The President is accompanied by Mrs. Shiranthi Rajapaksa.

2. The President of Sri Lanka was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapathi Bhavan on 9th June 2010. During the visit, the President of Sri Lanka was received by the President of India, who hosted a banquet in his honour.

3. Finance Minister Shri. Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister Shri. S.M. Krishna, Leader of Opposition Smt. Sushma Swaraj and Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance Smt. Sonia Gandhi called on President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa.

4. The President of Sri Lanka had a meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on 9th June 2010, which was followed by delegation level talks.

5. The official discussions between the two sides were marked by friendship, mutual respect and understanding. The President of Sri Lanka and the Prime Minister of India agreed that the shared cultural and civilizational heritage of India and Sri Lanka and the extensive people-to-people interaction provided the foundation to build a vibrant and multi-faceted partnership. India-Sri Lanka relations have matured and diversified with the passage of time, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance, including trade, services and investment, development cooperation, science and technology, culture and education.

6. In consonance with their vision of the future of the India-Sri Lanka relations, the two leaders agreed to further harness the enormous potential available for consolidating and strengthening the bilateral partnership by building on shared values and principles of democracy and pluralism, leveraging common strategic concerns and interests, enhancing connectivity between the two countries, increasing the integration of their economies, and reinforcing the institutional framework for cooperation.

7. The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, congratulated the President of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, on his recent electoral victories and conveyed that the recent elections, together with the cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka in May 2009, provided a historic opportunity for the country's leaders to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation and to work towards genuine national reconciliation. The Prime Minister emphasised that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement. The President of Sri Lanka reiterated his determination to evolve a political settlement acceptable to all communities that would act as a catalyst to create the necessary conditions in which all the people of Sri Lanka could lead their lives in an atmosphere of peace, justice and dignity, consistent with democracy, pluralism, equal opportunity and respect for human rights. Towards this end, the President expressed his resolve to continue to implement in particular the relevant provisions of the Constitution designed to strengthen national amity and reconciliation through empowerment. In this context, he shared his ideas on conducting a broader dialogue with all parties involved. The Prime Minister of India expressed India’s constructive support for efforts that build peace and reconciliation among all communities in Sri Lanka.

8. The President of Sri Lanka expressed appreciation for India's substantial and generous assistance including through a grant of Indian Rupees 500 crore for the humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). He noted that the steps taken by India for humanitarian assistance, including supply of family packs of food and clothing, medicines, setting up of a field hospital and an artificial limb fitment camp and for the resettlement of IDPs, including provision of shelter material, cement bags and agricultural implements and deployment of de-mining teams, were important and timely.

9. The Prime Minister of India was apprised on the measures taken by the Government of Sri Lanka to bring about a rapid and sustainable resettlement of the bulk of the IDPs. It was stated that the process of resettling the limited number still remaining in the transit facilities would be further expedited. Both leaders agreed on the urgent need for the resettlement of the remaining IDPs, along with speedy rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in the North and the East of Sri Lanka. They agreed to work closely towards this end. In this context, India’s assistance to rebuild infrastructure, including railway infrastructure, set up several Vocational Training Centres, repair and construct schools, houses, stadium and recreational facilities, supply much-needed inputs for agricultural regeneration and undertake several other projects was greatly appreciated.

10. Both leaders announced a major initiative to undertake a programme of construction of 50,000 houses for Internally Displaced Persons in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The President of Sri Lanka warmly welcomed the offer of Indian support for this programme.

11. With regard to the task of reconstruction in northern Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister of India reiterated India’s support for various infrastructure projects. In this regard, the two leaders witnessed the signing of the contract for the reconstruction of the Madu-Talaimannar railway line by IRCON. The contract for the Medawachchiya-Madu segment of the track will be signed shortly. It was also noted that the contract for the reconstruction of the Omanthai-Pallai segment of the railway track by IRCON has already been signed. The two leaders directed that the contracts for the construction of a new signalling and tele-communication network by IRCON, and for the reconstruction of the Pallai-KKS railway line, which will be undertaken by the Sri Lanka Railway in collaboration with IRCON, also be concluded at the earliest. The work on all these construction projects will commence latest by October 2010. It was also noted that the procurement of rolling stock from India would take place in a phased manner. The Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka directed that a Steering Committee be established to oversee and facilitate the timely and successful completion of the contracted work.

12. The President of Sri Lanka expressed his appreciation for the generous and concessionary credit facilities amounting to about US$ 800 million offered by India for the railway projects in Sri Lanka. The two leaders directed that the relevant agreements on the lines of credit for requisite amounts be concluded within two months, so that there is no delay in the commencement of the projects.

13. In addition, with a view to restoring physical and cultural infrastructure and promoting normalcy in northern Sri Lanka, it was also agreed that India would extend assistance for the rehabilitation of Palaly Airport and Kankesanthurai Harbour as also help in renovating the Duraiappah Stadium and constructing a Cultural Centre in Jaffna.

14. Both leaders welcomed the involvement of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in addressing the issue of rehabilitation of war widows and witnessed the signing of the MoU on Setting Up of Women’s Trade Facilitation Centre and Community Learning Centre at Batticaloa.

15. Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress of work on the Colombo-Matara railway line being constructed with Indian assistance, and directed that the project be completed in a timely manner.

16. The two leaders witnessed the signing of the MoU on Small Development Project Scheme.

17. The Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka reiterated their mutual commitment to substantially enhance the range and depth of the India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship including through greater economic integration, enhancing connectivity and other linkages and closer developmental cooperation.

18. In this context, both leaders agreed to revive the Joint Commission mechanism and hold the next meeting of the Joint Commission, co-chaired by the two Ministers of External Affairs, in the second half of 2010 in order to devise a fuller agenda of bilateral cooperation in various fields.

19. Both leaders agreed to promote dialogue on security and defence issues of relevance to their bilateral relationship, and enhance high-level military exchanges and training of military personnel as well as impart additional training in Indian institutions for the newly recruited police personnel. They agreed to institute an annual defence dialogue between the two governments.

20. Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. They also agreed to strengthen the security and legal framework of their bilateral relationship. To this end, the leaders witnessed the signing of the following Agreements:

i. Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters; and

ii. Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners.

21. Both leaders underlined their desire for closer economic integration to achieve the shared goals of alleviating poverty, creating wealth and bringing about progress and prosperity for the people of the two countries. In this context, they agreed to cooperate closely to nurture a favourable environment to forge closer economic and trade linkages.

22. Both leaders expressed satisfaction that bilateral trade, despite the downturn in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown, was already beginning to show a healthy recovery.

23. Recognizing the considerable benefits from greater economic cooperation between the two countries, the two Leaders noted the progress achieved under the India – Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. They agreed that it would be timely to build on this achievement through a more comprehensive framework of economic cooperation, best suited to the two countries. In this context, they directed the concerned officials of the two countries to hold intensive consultations towards developing a framework for sustainable economic partnership between the two countries and addressing outstanding issues.

24. The two leaders also agreed to launch a CEOs Forum to involve the public and private sectors in a dialogue to generate ideas to deepen and broaden the bilateral economic relationship in all its aspects and to help chart the future course of business and trade interaction between the two countries.

25. The Prime Minister of India and the President of Sri Lanka agreed that there was great potential for the further and rapid expansion of bilateral agricultural cooperation and collaboration in livestock development between the two countries. They noted that the MoU for Scientific and Technical cooperation between the Indian Council of Agriculture Research and the Sri Lanka Council for Agriculture Research Policy had yielded sound results, including in human resource development. They agreed that collaborative research and development programmes in areas such as livestock, biotechnology, the design and manufacture of agricultural and farm machinery and equipment, hybrid seed development and post harvest processing of perishable