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November 30, 2010

Many Instances of Denial of Justice and Violation of Human Rights were a Direct Result of Continuation of Presidential System

By C.G.Weeramantry

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(Submissions by Judge C.G. Weeramantry to the Presidential Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation 29th November 2010)

Trust and Confidence Building

There are many factors to which we should give our attention in this connection, for without confidence and trust that their rights will be upheld and guaranteed without fear or favour, there cannot be contentment and harmony, especially among minorities whose confidence in law and order needs to be built on firm foundations.

To achieve this there are some essential prerequisites among which are:

* A Constitution which shields all citizens from abuse of power and authority and guarantees them against any denial or erosion of their rights;

* The freedom of information and complete transparency, if achieved, can bring stable peace and create a united Sri Lanka which will be a model to the rest of the world;

It goes without saying that the Constitution of a country is the bedrock on which citizens build their sense of security. To build up trust and confidence among the citizens of a country, especially one which is emerging from a long and bitter conflict, it is essential that their rights and liberties be securely guaranteed by the Constitution. That is an essential prerequisite to nation building in the aftermath of conflict.

It so happens that this is a legal topic on which I have worked for over thirty years, especially in the context of countries of the developing world.

My first study of the impact of constitutional structures on equality and freedom was made in 1976 when, on the occasion of the American Bicentennial, the World Congress of Legal Philosophy held a world wide conference on the causes impairing equality and freedom in the three worlds of the time: the Western World, the Communist World and the Third World.

I was asked to make the presentation for the Third World and for this purpose I needed to study the constitutional structures in many Third World countries. What emerged was that in many of these countries their constitutional structures were such as to permit the growth of authoritarianism with a resulting denigration of basic rights and liberties.

Among the countries whose constitutions I studied, for the purpose of examining the reasons for the growth of authoritarianism, were Ghana, Lesotho, Tanzania, Kenya, Chile, Venezuela, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines;

This study necessitated an examination of the weaknesses and gaps in constitutional structures through which authoritarian power denigrating human rights, equality and freedom could grow, free of restraints, checks and balances, which the constitution should impose. In 1976 I expanded on those studies in ‘Equality and Freedom: Some Third World Perspectives’, giving details of weaknesses in the constitutional structures of many countries. This necessitated a wide ranging inquiry at both the theoretical and practical level into the- principles, concepts and structures, essential to a Constitution if it is to guarantee the equality and freedom of every citizen.

In 1978 when President Jayewardene sought to introduce the Presidential system, I realized, in the light of these studies, that the proposed constitutional structure opened up possibilities for authoritarian rule through a violation of the principle of separation of powers and a departure from the basic tenets which had thus far protected the liberty of the subject in Sri Lanka.

I was then in Australia and I requested a meeting with him to discuss this matter, which he kindly granted me. I came from Australia for this meeting and in a long interview sought to persuade him not to pursue this course. My submission to him was that Presidential power under the proposed constitution was so great as to place democratic principles in danger. I also submitted that even if he himself would not misuse his powers, he had created a dangerous concentration of Presidential power with serious implications for the future. I was not successful in convincing Mr. Jayewardene that he should desist from this course.

In light of my study of the growth of authoritarian power in many other countries, I had my fears that this could lead to an erosion of the rule of law in contradiction of the principles we had been accustomed to since independence. I believe many instances of this surfaced from time to time, especially through the weakening of the traditional independence of the administrative service.

In February 1984 when I was a Visiting Professor at the University of Florida, when the separatist problem had reached acute proportions, I wrote from Florida to President Jayewardene suggesting the implementation of a number of principles, among which were that:

* No denial of fundamental human rights is to be without appropriate and easily accessible remedies under the law;

* For this purpose, an entire range of human rights procedures and instrumentalities will be set up, in light of the latest international knowledge and experience;

* All personnel administering the human rights machinery of the state will be completely independent in the discharge of their duties.

I believe it was the Presidential system that stood in the way of the proper implementation of these proposals. Since these steps did not take place, Presidential power continued to be exercised for 5 years on the basis of the Presidential Constitution. Without the checks and balances that would have resulted from the implementation of the proposals referred to I believe that many denials of justice and violations of human rights occurred thereafter, which were a direct result of the continuation of the Presidential system.

In 2005 on the eve of the Presidential Elections I saw the need for a candid assessment of our national weaknesses and national institutions and wrote A Call for National Reawakening, listing a number of these. Among the institutional reforms which I urged was the abolition of the Presidential system, giving a number of reasons why this needed to be done.

Among the reasons given were the lack of adequate checks and balances, the possibility of abuse of power and the possibility of personality clashes if the Prime Minister and President came from opposite parties. Around the same time I was greatly reassured to note that the Mahinda Chintana of 2005 promised the drafting of a new Constitution with a promise also of the appointment of a Constitution Redrafting Commission, a Referendum on its proposals and immediate steps to implement such new Constitution.

The excessive use of power, in denial of democratic rights, which I anticipated even in 1976 when I first studied this question received strong confirmation in the Mahinda Chinthana of 2010 which said that while the present President had been particular1y careful when exercising the powers of the “Executive Presidency”, the Executive Presidency had in the past been used “to postpone elections, to topple elected governments, to disrupt the judiciary, to ban political parties, to suppress demonstrations and lead the country towards a violent culture, to sell state institutions at under-valued prices, to defend criminals and to grant concessions to unscrupulous businessmen. Agreements that betrayed the country were entered into using the powers of the Executive Presidency’.”

This categorical statement was a very strong indictment of the Presidential system, coming as it did from the President himself, with access to all the sources of information. Indeed this Presidential statement confirmed the worst fears I had entertained, when the Presidential system was conceived, of possible abuses of Presidential power. If Presidential power was capable of being used to disrupt the judiciary, to ban political parties and to betray the country, the fundamental principles of democracy were in danger and this was the strongest possible reason for subjecting it to the necessary checks and balances.

It is true President Rajapaksa gave a categorical assurance that he himself would convert the Executive Presidency into a Trusteeship, which honours the mandate given to Parliament by being accountable to Parliament, establishing equality before the law, being accountable to the judiciary and not being in conflict with the judiciary. Trusteeship is indeed a noble concept and such an assurance by His Excellency’ the President is most honourable and welcome.

Yet it still is personal to him and does not have the force of law, however noble the intention behind it. Nor does it bind any future holder of the office.

Each of the preceding items can be elaborated on at length and I only point out here that this is an aspect which assumes prime importance in the context of reconciliation and rehabilitation.

A constitution entrenching power that can be abused by other office holders in the manner described in the Mahinda Chinthana 2010 is not an institutional measure promoting confidence and reconciliation.

Since this is an institutional, administrative and legislative field which has such deep implications for the future of a united Sri Lanka living in harmony, peace and equality under the protect of the law, I trust the Commission will give it careful and considered attention.

The government need not be embarrassed by its new clothes

A Budget analysis by Eran Wickramaratne

The 2010 Budget is a departure from the Budgets that have been presented by the Mahinda Rajapakse regime in the past. Its neither Keynesian or Marxian, but explicitly committed to limiting itself to fiscal variable targets. The president is on record to limit the budget deficit to 5% of GDP over the medium term. A mainstream liberal economic policy statement with incentives for big business and little else in terms of relief for the poor. A reprioritization of the government’s economic goals to spur growth in the economy. The government need not be embarrassed by its new clothes.

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A Permanent Office of the Budget

Government targets and estimates have invariably been inaccurate over a period of time.

To improve the accuracy and transparency of data, the budget exercise should be ongoing rather than an annual presentation of information. There has also been a dangerous erosion of confidence in the information provided by the Central Bank. To re-build the confidence in the integrity of data, to estimate more accurately, and to make the data and its assumptions available to all members of parliament, I suggest the setting up of a permanent independent office of the Budget. This will also improve the quality of the Parliamentary debates as all members of Parliament will be arguing from the same set of data and assumptions, and will also strengthen accountability to financials that have been presented. For example, the government is yet to fully disclose under Head 249 of the Foreign Loans Act (Amended), the total of foreign loans taken by source, amount, interest, fees and tenors during 2010. A permanent office of the Budget set under Parliamentary jurisdiction will improve timeliness, transparency and accountability.

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Economic Model

The Government missed an opportunity to present a long term strategy. Sri Lanka is a post war country but not a post conflict country. Amongst the many challenges is the focus necessary to alleviate poverty, create employment and invest in education and health. However the government’s priority continues to be investments in infrastructure. We must not ignore the concerns raised by representatives from constituencies in the North and East, and the public making representations before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that individual’s security is paramount in rebuilding the war torn economy. With the demise of the LTTE the lack of security for individuals is unacceptable and demands the government’s attention. Investments will be made in a secure environment.

Expenditure on Defense is Rs.215 billion, an increase despite the conclusion of the war over one and a half years ago. The ratio of soldier to civilian is about 1 : 50. In a country at peacetime the ratio should improve dramatically. More than 70% of the defense budget is recurrent expenditure linked to the number of soldiers. Expenditure will come down over time, when numbers reduce. While the budget has quite rightly allocated funding for the welfare of soldiers, it would be necessary to invest over the next few years in providing opportunities to develop alternative employable skills. This would enable soldiers to make career moves contributing to national income.

The budget emphasized the importance of Agriculture through the continuation of the fertilizer subsidy, expansion in tourism, through tax incentives and expanding exports. A modern economy must benefit from economies of scale and a transfer of technology. Agriculture & Tourism would provide limited scope for expansion and transfer of technology. The scope for innovation is limited.

There is a debate as to whether Sri Lanka should follow the Indian model or the Chinese model of economic expansion. India is a democratic country with a free media. Culturally it is close to us. Economic policy can only be evolved in a socio political context. The government must conduct its foreign policy in a manner that would not create war in the future. New relationships should be cultivated without alienating traditional relationships.

Some have begun to argue that economic development inevitably has a trade off with democracy and freedom. The off quoted example is the economic progress of Singapore. The Lee doctrine is the exception rather than the rule. There is no historical evidence to prove a tradeoff between economic development and democracy. The contrary is true. Most countries which have economically advanced over time have had democracy as its foundation. Nobel Economic laureate Amartya Sen not only argues for freedom as a prerequisite for growth, but redefines development as the maximization of freedom. He argues that with increased income freedom increases. But there are also cases where expanding income does not always translate into increased freedom. Sen argues that development is freedom.

The government boasts of per capita income increasing from US$ 1000 in 2005 to 2000 plus in 2010. It has also set a goal of reaching a per capita income of US$ 4000 by 2016. It is clear that a doubling of nominal income consequent to a GDP growth of 6 -7 % over 05 years does not translate into a doubling of living standards. Development is the maximization of freedom, where income is but one component. We need to be vary of any move to restrict freedom which have been secured from Colonial rulers after 500 years of occupation. As Nelson Mandela said in his famous speech on release from 26 years of imprisonment “I have fought against White domination and I will fight against Black domination”. The enemy of freedom must be resisted if our economy is to grow in a sustainable and conducive Environment.

Investment or Debt

Economic growth requires both debt and investment. Investment when compared with debt is long term, it distributes the risk between investors and applies itself to the highest return. Investors are more likely to make rational economic choices rather than governments which channel debts into grandiose projects. Domestic investment must be supplemented with foreign investment for the economy to grow. One and a half years after the end of the military conflict Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) is still very small. In 2008 it was US $ 889 Million, 2009 US$ 601 Million and only US$ 208 Million in the first half of 2010. Instead of addressing the fundamentals that would increase DFI, the government has raised debt.

The Debt service ratio which was 4.8% of GDP in 2008 rose to 6.4% in 2009. The Debt to GDP ratio which was 81.4% in 2008 rose to 86.9% in 2009. For most years from 2006 the debt service cost has exceeded the Tax revenue, with debt service cost being 133% of tax revenue in 2009. The foreign debt component of total debt has also risen from 32.8% in 2008 to 36.5% in 2009. The foreign commercial debt is rising fast from 4.4% to 23.3% in 2009. The country’s economy is being supported primarily by debt and more disturbingly by foreign debt.

The Euro 90 Billion Irish bailout has ended in a crisis. Spain and Portugal may become victims of the contagion. The European central Bank President, Jean Claude Trichet said “ Global Finance and the Global Economy is extremely fragile. This is not a European crisis - it is a repercussion on Europe” . In a globalised world Sri Lanka could soon be badly exposed if it continues development mainly based on debt. Debt must be serviced by export incomes for an economy to be healthy.

Exports

Even though the exports in 2009 reduced by 12.7% the balance of payments did not deteriorate due to the rapid fall in imports. In 2010 the steep rise in imports has led to a deterioration of the BOP. While we cannot influence global demand for our Textiles, Tea, Rubber, Tourism and Manpower, we can expect reasonable demand and prices for our exports in 2010. We have no control over the cost of oil. To make our exports globally competitive we must provide energy at competitive rates (Sri Lanka has one of the highest cost of energy in the world). We must reform our labour markets to increase productivity, and manage our exchange rate to make our exports competitive.

Energy

The debate on the alternative sources of energy is timely. The decision for the CEB to invest in mini hydro projects where private sector investment is being made would be an irrational decision for a country which has limited savings. Instead the limited investment should be channeled into priority areas where there is little or no private investment. The debate on Nuclear Energy must now be expanded beyond the expert community to include the public. Both benefits and the risk of nuclear energy generation will have a profound impact on the public and therefore they should be included in the emerging debate.

Labour Markets

Government employees amount to 1.3 million and have increased from about 700,000 in 2005. While the Government considers this as an achievement it must be noted that net employment increased by only two hundred thousand from 2005 to 2010. In effect private sector employment and the self employed reduced by four hundred thousand in the same period. During the period 2001 to 2004 employment increased by 1.2 million while there was little increase in government employment. It demonstrates that Investor friendly economic policies adopted by the Ranil Wickremesinghe government generated productive employment, income and wealth beyond any state initiative since then. The labour laws should be reformed, so that productivity and remuneration are closely correlated. The government has not demonstrated the political will to do so as yet.

In 2011 most state employees will receive a rupee five hundred increase despite the promise to increase wages by Rs.2,500/- The government is in breach of a social contract. Employment and incomes can both increase if the economy, policies, laws, and institutions are reformed.

Foreign Exchange

The US$ to Rupee rate was 102 in 2005 and 111.40 in November 2010. A strong rupee reduces the debt burden of the country, while it makes our exports less competitive. The appreciation of the rupee has been compounded by the rising foreign currency reserves which are borrowings. The rise in reserves has little to do with the growth of the real sector of the economy. To the extent that the rupee appreciation is dependent on the increase of foreign currency borrowings the value of the Sri Lanka rupee is artificial. It is a shame that our exports will be made to suffer as a result of such action.

Reforms

Along with lower energy cost, higher productivity of labour, and a more competitive exchange rate exports will grow reducing the debt burden and the possibility of a future financial crisis. A government that has embraced the liberal economy must now have the courage to reform creating the enabling environment for growth. The government need not be ashamed of its new clothes.

(Eran Wickramaratne is a UNP National List MP)

Journalist S. Sivanayagam passes away

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Subramaniam Sivanayagam(S.Siva)Founder Editor of Jaffna based English weekly"Saturday Review" passed away in Colombo after prolonged illness.

Siva who began his journalistic career on "Ceylon Daily News" later moved to the "Daily Mirror".He was also editor at the Tourist Board.

Siva also launched a magazine"Leisure". He also edited the "Sansoni Commission Evidence" an English weekly covering the Commission proceedings.

The Saturday Review" weekly was launched in January 1982 with Siva as founder Editor.It provided alternative news and views from Jaffna.

S.Sivanayagam also worked as Editor of Journals such as "Tamil Information", "Tamil International", "Tamil Nation" & "Hot Spring"

from the twitter pages of http://www.twitter.com/dbsjeyaraj

South Asian Women’s Day 2010 Celebrations @ Kirulapone

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

International campaign on Violence Against Women (VAW) is carried out from 25th November to 10th December every year.

Women from different South Asian countries decided in 2002 to celebrate 30th November as South Asian Women's Day.

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Indrani Kusumalatha & her troupe (Community Encouragement Foundation) sing & perform in Kirulapone.

Click to read & see more

November 29, 2010

Accounting specialists: Sri Lankan Accountants Lure Global Outsourcers

By Heather Timmons

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Southern China has its assembly plants. India has customer support centers, research laboratories and low-cost lawyers.

And Sri Lanka’s contribution to global outsourcing? Accountants — thousands of them, standing ready to crunch the world’s numbers.

As this tiny island nation staggers back from a bloody, decades-long civil war, one of its brightest business prospects was born from a surprising side effect of that conflict. Many Sri Lankans, for various reasons, studied accounting in such numbers during the war that this nation of about 20 million people now has an estimated 10,000 certified accountants.

An additional 30,000 students are currently enrolled in accounting programs, according to the Sri Lankan Institute of Chartered Accountants. While that ratio is lower than in developed economies like the United States, it is much greater than in Sri Lanka’s neighboring outsourcing giant, India.

Offices in Sri Lanka are doing financial work for some of the world’s biggest companies, including the international bank HSBC and the insurer Aviva. And it is not simply payroll and bookkeeping. The outsourced work includes derivatives pricing and risk management for money managers and hedge funds, stock research for investment banks and underwriting for insurance companies.

Many developing countries have “one particular competency that they do better than anyone else,” said Duminda Ariyasinghe, an executive director at Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment. “Financial accounting is that door opener for us.”

With widespread use of English and a literacy rate of over 90 percent, along with rock-bottom wages, Sri Lanka hopes to transform its postwar economy from a sleepy tea and textiles island into a tiny, high-end outsourcing powerhouse.

Already there are thousands of other Sri Lankans working in more common outsourcing fields, like information technology and software development. About 50,000 people in Sri Lanka are now employed in one form of outsourcing or another, according to Slasscom, an outsourcing trade group, and that figure is growing by 20 percent a year.

But accounting is Sri Lanka’s specialty.

During the war, Sri Lankan certified accountants would often use their skills as a springboard out of the country. That is why there are now Sri Lankans sprinkled among executive suites around the world, including the vice president of global business services at American Express and a financial controller at Standard Chartered Bank in the United Arab Emirates.

Now, though, the government and business community hope the country’s young financial whizzes will have reason to stay home instead.

Sri Lanka’s government, headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, expects revenue from so-called knowledge-based outsourcing — which includes accounting — to triple to $1 billion in revenue by 2015.

The stark wage differences between Sri Lanka and America, or even Sri Lanka and India, are a big part of the country’s drawing card.

In the United States, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors in May 2008 was $59,430, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sri Lankan workers in the accounting profession receive an average annual pay package of $5,900, according to a 2010 survey by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Wages in Sri Lanka for financial outsourcing are about one-third less than in neighboring India, and hiring educated employees is easier in Sri Lanka, according to executives who do business in both countries.

“Skilled talent is accessible,” said Dushan Soza, managing director of the Sri Lanka office of WNS Global Services, an outsourcing company with about 350 people in the country. Because Sri Lanka’s accountants are still a relatively untapped asset on the global market, Mr. Soza said, hiring is easy and turnover is minimal.

In the Indian city Mumbai, companies like his would have to go far out of the city to hire because of the level of competition, he said, but here in Colombo “two miles from my office is my hiring range.”

Many international executives also quietly admit that Colombo’s colonial architecture, excellent seafood restaurants and proximity to miles of sandy beaches make it a more alluring business travel destination than India’s outsourcing centers.

Sri Lanka’s accounting specialty is rooted in the country’s history of colonialism and conflict.

State-financed universities here have traditionally not had enough places for qualified students, and they were often closed intermittently during the war. So students who could afford to attended private schools instead — in many cases accounting schools with British origins that date to Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948.

Over time, becoming a qualified accountant has become something well-educated, business-minded people in Sri Lanka do in addition to getting a degree in, say, physics or business management.

Now, though, many students choose accounting over another degree. When Nilushika Gunasekera, secured a coveted spot at a public university, she turned it down to go to a privately run accounting school. University students do not get any exposure to a real business environment, she said, and they have several years to “take things easy.”

“I didn’t think going to the university would add value,” she said.

After accounting school, Ms. Gunasekera joined an outsourcing company doing work in cash management and banking. She now works for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in Colombo, a trade group.

If the rest of the world discovers Sri Lanka’s pool of low-cost accountants, as the government hopes, the country could lose some of its competitive edge because wages will go up and there may not be enough workers to meet the demand.

But the government is offering various other incentives — including tax breaks, subsidized telecommunications and streamlined procedures for setting up new businesses — meant to encourage international companies to come here instead of India, Eastern Europe or the Philippines.

As foreign companies ramp up their presence here, local developers are building to accommodate them. In a neighborhood thick with tea warehouses and crossed by rail tracks, Jeevan Gnanam is turning the textile mills his grandfather built into a high-tech outsourcing center.

Orion City, as the development is called, is miles from Colombo’s slick World Trade Center skyscrapers, near a canal fringed with rundown buildings and palm trees. But it has already drawn big-name clients, including a division of the publishing giant Pearson and MphasiS, a technology company partly owned by Hewlett-Packard, which has said it will hire 2,000 people here in the next three years.

“Sri Lanka offers us a rich talent base that will allow us to serve our global clients,” said Dinesh Venugopal, chief corporate development officer for MphasiS.

Ultimately, Orion City will have three million square feet of office and retail space, including a 19-story building, said Mr. Gnanam, 28, who is the chief executive of the consortium that manages the development. It was difficult to convince his father and uncle that technology, not textiles, were Sri Lanka’s future, he said, but they have come around recently. Building the industry and attracting foreign investment is crucial, he believes.

“Economic development has to take place,” he said, “for people to put the war in the past.” [courtesy: NYTimes.com]

The "Chindia" paradigm and Sri Lanka

By Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

As Asia basks in the glow of the emergence of China and India and benefits from it (economists have even coined a term, ‘CHINDIA’, for this win-win strategic perspective), opinion makers and the media in Sri Lanka are engaged in an unhealthy and needless game of polarisation. Some are apparently pro-India and anti-China, while others are anti-India and pro-China, which means that neither camp is authentically pro-Sri Lanka, still less pro-Asia.

The authentically Asian attitude which is easily glimpsed from the economic and intellectual hub that is Singapore, my vantage point this year, is one of admiration for the achievements of both Asian powers, the fostering of greater connectivity with and between both, a refusal to fuel a new cold war in Asia (which would be to the detriment of the whole continent), and the attempt to position oneself at the confluence of the growth of both powers. The architect of the Singaporean miracle, and a ‘thought leader’ in Asia, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, best put it when he said that those countries are best positioned that find a spot in the shade provided by the intertwining of the extending branches of the two giant trees, China and India.

Astute Asian policy intellectuals hook up the Chindia perspective to two larger ones, so that concentric circles form. These are the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and now the BRIICS (Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, and South Africa). Discerning analysts have added another state to the list of designated ‘Pivotal Powers’: Turkey.

The ‘Chindia’ perspective is something that Sri Lanka’s professional economists and corporate sector certainly seem to comprehend, going by the recent symposium organised by the Ceylon Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the excellent presentation there by the Chairman of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Dr Anura Ekanayake (my senior and foe in ‘far left’ student politics, when he led a Trotskyite faction at Peradeniya) and the proceedings of the forum of young South Asian Economists recently held in Colombo.

Sadly, Sri Lanka’s chattering classes, or should I say, speculating strata, are not of this view. At one extreme are the majoritarian ultranationalists who strive to use the state as a ‘human shield’ for their visceral anti-Indianism, which is linked to their antipathy towards devolution and secularism. The irony is that in their ideology, values, social support profile, networking and tactics, these elements most closely resemble an Indian ‘model’ of the most negative sort: the RSS, Shiv Sena and the ‘sangh parivar’.

That this xenophobia is not the perspective of the Sri Lankan state itself is best evidenced in the Joint Indo-Lankan Commission statement piloted by Prof GL Peiris on the GoSL side of the equation, and articulated even more explicitly by Dr Sarath Amunugama to The Nation’s Rohan Abeywardena last Sunday:

"Day by day most of our people are seeing the advantage of utilising the Indian market.

Today it is one of the biggest markets. All top businessmen are rushing to India. Why are leaders like Obama, Sarkozy, Merkel and all the heads of industrialised countries coming to India? Is it because they love India? No. It is because they see India as one of the powerhouses of growth. They have 500 million people with buying power beyond subsistence. Here we have an advantage of being so close to India and we must make full use of it...We cannot build a protective wall around Sri Lanka. Then they will build a protective wall against our goods." (‘Amunugama Upbeat About Future’, The Nation, Nov 28, 2010)

In the other corner of the Lankan debate are the (anti-Mahinda, mostly UNP or pro-UNP) ideologues who are anti-China and seemingly pro-India. This is reflected in remarks made in the ongoing budget debate and in newspaper columns. The ultranationalists believe that China can be leveraged to ward off devolution and India, while the UNP and the Tamil Diaspora believe that India and the US can be used to roll back China’s support which they believe props up President Rajapakse’s power.

Both these factions have it wrong. On the one hand, big powers tend to concede to each other, a preponderance of influence on their respective rims or perimeters and are never drawn into excessive competition which threatens the other’s geostrategic sphere of influence. Those are the mutually beneficial rules of the game that big boys play (and India is today, more powerful than she has ever been since the days of the Asokan Empire). On the other hand big powers know the importance of good relations with smaller neighbours on their periphery and the need to avoid rekindling ancient atavisms among ethno-religious or ethno-lingual majorities along that periphery. This is not to encourage sly, silly references to the IPKF experience as a deterrent to Delhi. It is the Tigers, i.e. elements of the Tamil community and not the Sinhalese, who fought the Indians—and aren’t around to or won’t repeat their folly.

It is those who refuse to unfurl the protective umbrella of state, nationhood and citizenship equally over all the peoples of a country and prefer instead to protect the soil rather than the inhabitants under that umbrella; those who worship territorial security to the exclusion of human security; who render it likely that some citizens will seek shelter under a neighbour’s umbrella instead,or that a neighbour will seek to unfurl such an umbrella over ethnic kin of a segment of its own citizens.

For Sri Lankans there is much to respect, acclaim, welcome, benefit and learn from, in the emergence (or "re-emergence" as Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Dr George Yeo puts it) of both China and India.

President Rajapaksa must be safeguarded from servile sycophants

By Gomin Dayasri

The government, having sliced off large tracts of opposition MPs, represents most every party in Parliament other than the ITAK. Mahinda Rajapaksa purchased the purchasable MP’s from the UNP, the reliable and regular supplier to the government of MPs’ as the need arises. It’s an eternal spring that does not appear to run dry with Ranil Wickremasinghe being the source of the running water that needs no tapping.

The President has temporary closed that leaky tap and instead searched for the economic powerhouses in the Grand Old Party. He threw a fly in the line to catch the big fish. Sure, they bit the bait and came on board to be served alive as a tasty dish and provide him with in-flight entertainment on long flights.

For those fat cats any crumb is sufficient to surface for a bite having survived for years in troubled waters without sighting a cape of good hope in the green zone. It’s a room for rent in government quarters occupying until UNP regains, to go home.

Rajapaksa is set to enter any space the UNP leaves bare. It is the hard rock bottom of the UNP constituents the President is unable to drill. The loyalty of the faithful is such they keep turning at the polling booths to keep the party alive knowing well another defeat is beckoning, only to see the voted deserting for benefits. There lies the floating foundation of the UNP edifice. The budget perhaps the most innovative in recent years is more to attract the investors than the inhabitants.

The greatness lies in the Rajapaksa’s flexibility and maneuverability to take a Right turn, keeping the Left in a secure corner.

The Left has caused itself to be left behind by accepting occupational therapy in the transit lounge by Tissa, DEW and Vasu. The fire brands have been loyal palace guards in the royal household holding the honors of Ministers and Presidential Advisors - those wild fires of the Left did not require a fire extinguisher to be tamed, it came spontaneously on offer of office.

Across seas, across borders the final resting place of the Old Left is the Old Right. With the principled becoming unprincipled, the Left before demise sure disgraces itself.

Never before has a SLFP led budget served the affluent so handsomely. For them to remain in a divided UNP becomes meaningless. As President descends on UNP territory, its home base erodes without anything to offer. As life becomes harder for the less affluent, UNP lacks the magnetic force to attract them. Mahinda closer to elections probably would move to win them back.

SLFP suffers from a permanent inferiority complex having being an off - shoot of the UNP at its origins. Any rubbish from the UNP is more valued than its own home products. For upward mobility within the party and to get on the fast lane, entrance from the UNP enclosure is more rewarding. Naturally discomfort is felt in layers of the SLFP that marches to the tune of a Left/Right staccato never keeping to the centre road. In hard times in the Opposition it turns leftwards, in office enjoying comforts it moves rightwards and always mocks itself as a Centre Party.

Mahinda Phenomenon is phenomenal in splitting political parties that are with him and against him- easiest prey is the Old and New Left that has nowhere to turn but rightwards with its leaders cocooned in the comforts of the by products of neo- liberalism, which it denounces. In the UPFA the monolith lies with the President’s SLFP pivoting pirouetting and parroting the Mahinda Chinthanaya. More a Party splinters, to stand-alone become hazardous as the memberships dwindle and the proximity to the President and his Party becomes a necessity for survival, causing more multiple splits.

In the SLFP, Mahinda Chintanaya can become a dead dodo as rapidly as Bandaranaike Policies as the party revolves around strong personalities than sound principles. Bountiful luck has been an added value in the Presidential drive except in the hard fought war where leadership and motivation came from the Presidents office.

Nature has been kind to him without droughts and power cuts. The primary plantation produce has shone in the world market and the oil prices are not spiraling upwards. Foreign employment sources remain stable. There is foreign currency to waste in the vault. Governing without governance is a straight drive with a feeble Opposition dismembering itself to be an opposition incapable of opposing. The luck has to hold in the more difficult days ahead!

The western powers were neutered and India neutralized in the course of the war and their sounds are now mere shrieks, more sound bites than poison arrows. No Government had the Left, Right and Centre in abundance under one umbrella before it carried the Mahinda TM (trade mark). Government brings shame on itself from time to time, in the absence of any other to disgrace. The rumblings, if any, are from the docile and hostile Media - last frontier of the brave.

Mahinda Rajapaksa alone could cause his own defeat by over extending himself. Leave him alone; he knows best to look after himself. It’s the fawning toads that lead him astray.

Ranil Wickremasinghe has to be saved from his friends. Mahinda Rajapaksa has to be safeguarded from his servile sycophants.

November 28, 2010

How to become an instant traitor in the Tamil World

by A.Jathindra

I still remember that day clearly, Mr.Makendraraja allies Mathiah, the second leader of LTTE was visiting Thampalagamam; which is my native village in 1990. The people honoured and welcomed him with the traditional Hindu ritual at each and every house. I also placed a Pottu (Round mark on the forehead) on his forehead in front of my house when cour turn came. I was 14 years old when this was happening. I never heard about Tamil Nationalism and Liberation struggle or even such as words during that time.

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Prabaharan, Yogi and Makendraraja ~ file pic: courtesy: Tehelka

Later I was surprised when it was said that Mathiah was a Traitor. I asked myself how that was possible ? I don’t know what really happened in the LTTE’s jungle even now but I heard later that LTTE had announced that Mathia was close to India’s Research and Analyzing Wing (RAW) and that he attempted to conspire against LTTE.

Actually I wouldn’t want to talk about Mathaih and his politics now, but only remembered how the situation changed in my younger days. Adele Balasingam, has described, about the case of Mathiah, what he did and what was happening at the time in her book - The Will to Freedom (In Tamil Suthanthira Veadkai)

I think that the word Traitor is a most popular word like Tamil Nationalism and Liberation, within the Tamil political environment.

In the earlier phase of Tamil politics, Mr.Appapillai Amirthalingam the Tamil prominent democratic leader had used the Traitor word against their political opponents, who criticized TULF and its political journey.

Later LTTE has adopted this word – Traitor;Not only LTTE but all arms based groups like EPRLF, PLOTE, TELO and EROS adopted this word as fascinating tool for use against their opposition groups.

The LTTE was the only group which used this word against their proclaimed enemies very tactically and overwhelmingly. In the LTTE’s mandate intellectuals, journalist, writers and activists were all Traitors if they criticized or opposed them. Many of the Tamil intellectuals left the country or became so quiet and stopped involvement in public life.

Still the word Traitor is a very attractive word to marginalize the alternative viewpoints in the Tamil political platform by the so-called Tamil Nationalists. The Tamil Diaspora has been splitting based on this words after end of the LTTE story in Sri Lanka. In my view, the word Traitor is political capital for sympathizers of LTTE among Tamil Diaspora at present.

We couldn’t see any political honesty and any other respective manner on alternative views there even after sixty years of political experiences. Even now the word is used to insult those who are talking about need for meaningful political approaches and meaningful dialogue based on the ground situation.

There is another interesting point about the Tamil Marxists. The above situation I mentioned are based on arms groups but this is very different. This group is something different and they will not use this word as Traitor but they use CIA or RAW instead of Traitor, if somebody criticized their political thought. In my knowledge there is no any influential Marxist group in North and East and also among Tamil Diaspora.

Only one group has been doing something by the name of Neo- democracy with few old people in Colombo. This group has been saying that we need to organize our people for mass revolution like Nepal. Some Diasporas also support to this tip of old people as sympathizers of Maoism.

The concept of Neo- Democracy was mad by Chairman Mao Ze Dong but it was premature when Mao moved close to the Nixon government of US. China has also abandoned this idea since 1984, the People daily the Chinese official paper said clearly that the Marxism is a great thing but if we are going to follow this continually then we will be isolated from the Neo-world order.

But now few foolish people are talking about this old type of thinking pattern. Actually this type of groups are trying to mislead the people especially younger generation of Tamil society.

Recently I wrote an article about India at one of the Tamil Diaspora’s web then this type of stupid people criticized me saying t he is a Traitor. I was criticized for saying very frankly that LTTE had made a big mistake regarding India and finally India has lost her young leader.

Now very interesting things are going on based on words regarding Traitor currently. The Tamil Diaspora is having “ first night” with Traitors. The Diaspora, are collapsed themselves as investors in the LTTE after the debacle . The whole Tamil Diaspora is not sympathetic with LTTE’s idea but few hard liners there are active still; they are using this word against others who are talking about meaningful political settlement.

Another group functioning is the so-called Transnational Government; they have selected a prime minister also recently. One LTTE group is led by Nediayavan & Jayachandra who is running Tamil net, the LTTE’s media.

Transnational Government is led by Uruthirakumaran, based in US. Another third party also is trying to establish a set up through KP. I know some Diaspora activists have realized the situation and are willing to work with KPs’ line but they fear the hardliners.

I read KP’s recent interviews at www.dbsjeyaraj.com . I think that KP is right and he realizes the situation clearly but some hardcore LTTE says KP is traitor. I was thinking that who will be deciding about Traitor? Who is able to decide that?

I have raised this question myself many times when I come across this word normally. I think that those who use this word against others will be thinking about their own political benefit always.Therefore If someone opposed their political path they say those are Traitors. This is the basic history of the word of Traitors in the Tamil environment.

Now the Tamil people needs meaningful political approach and build up a good relationship with the current regime. We cant live in past history always.

The LTTE’s ideology which is based on creating enemies always. They have been creating their enemy themselves always since their birth, if they can’t accuse any one as enemy they can’t do any things. Still few hardcore LTTE ‘ers who are surviving in European countries are doing this but they are not able to do any thing for Tamil people who are affected by war.

The world is changing we also need to change but few Diasporas never ready to listen this. This is their problem too now.

One interesting question is there, that is who wants to become a Traitor, who is willing to join the team of Traitors?

The answers are very easy. Just say or write these sentences. “We need to have meaningful political approach . We need to have proper working mechanism therefore we need to talk with the government of Sri Lanka. We must consider on our affected people which is the first priority issue at this juncture.

If you say or write these lines in a few days you will instantly become a prominent Traitor in the Tamil world.

Will the DMK Survive the “Raja Gate?”

by Chakravarthy

DMKMK1128A.jpgIndia has many gates like the Gate of India in New Delhi, Gate way of India and Church Gate [a county well known for its suburban Railway station] in Mumbai, and few others. There are Raja gates in many Maharajahs’ palaces too. Of course Indians know Bill Gate and Watergate [scam]. Now what is in the main news is a different gate called “Raja Gate” or “Spectrum Gate”. Who is Raja? What is Spectrum?

Andimuthu Raja known as A.Raja and திரு.ஆ. ராசா [Mr.R.Raasaa] in DMK Tami, is a DMK member [M.P] of the Indian Loksabah representing hilly Nilgiris constituency of Tamilnadu. He resigned on the 14th November 2010, on corruption allegations, as Minister of Communications and Information Technology, the portfolio he inherited in 2007 from Dayanithy Maaran, another DMK Minister, and a grandson of DMK leader Karunanithy’s own late sister. He was withdrawn by Karunanithy himself due to in house fighting.

But A. Raja, a law graduate who struggles to speak proper English was in no way match in any sphere, except in controversy, to the Harvard educated arrogant and youthful Dayanithy. His appointment itself as Minister of Communications and Information Technology sans broadcasting was ethically wrong since he and his brother Kalanithy were partners of Southern India’s most dominant SUNTV group, that has interest in TV channels, publication of newspapers, magazines and radio channels in Tamilnadu and the neighbouring states. Though Congress party was hesitant, Karunanithi dictated terms in 2004 with his “power” and picked cherry plum portfolios. In brief, he named it - he got it.

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courtesy: Dinamani

Dayanithi used his clout to enrich SUNTV group, suppressing competitors in the media field of Tamilnadu. A notable victim was RajTV, owned by Sri Lankan Tamils of Indian origin. Though exceptionally efficient in his job, Daya was well known for his high handed attitudes. He created a controversy with the legendary Tata group, twisting their arms and threatening them to face consequences if they did not accept SUNTV group as 33% stake holders of a TV, telecom venture for which Tatas were seeking his approval.

In the mean time a family war was erupted when Kalanithi’s Tamil daily “Thinakaran” published the result of a public poll that the masses prefer “leader’s” younger son M.K.Stalin, a friend of Maaran family, and Tamilnadu’s Deputy CM, to become the next CM than the elder brother Alaghiri, current Unionl Minister of Fertilizers. In retaliation Alaghiri’s goons vandalized the newspaper office in Madurai causing death to three. The veteran politician took the side of ‘hit man’ against his grandson. As a result Dayanithi’s head was chopped from Delhi cabinet.

A rapprochement was made before the parliamentary election last year as DMK needed SUNTV group as a propaganda tool. Dayanithy won the South Madras seat again and today he is the Minister of Textiles but his attempt to regain MCIT was thrashed as the “leader” solidly backed the questionable Raja.

SUNTV group presently plays a big part in producing Tamil movies. Kalanithy who is ranked to be one of the 20 richest in India with $ 1.9 billion, has produced the most numbers for the year 2010 including the mega hit “Enthiran”, with Rajanikanth and Aiswariya Rai. Also sons of Karunanithy’s sons Alaghiri and Stalin are in the production of movies. It is not exaggeration if I say that the Tamilnadu CM’s family virtually controls cinema field in Tamilnadu. Actor turned politician Vijaykanth, a foe, right now finds no good theaters to release his movie as they are under spell of K family.

What is Spectrum?

In simple, it was a case of you selling a property in year 2008 for the assessed value of 2001 when the market is on the surge. Will you do? No, you would not but Raja did. He sold the 2G Spectrum bandwidth basing on the 2001 value in 2008 to a selected few including the big named cooperates like Tatas, Reliance and Airtel.

The deal was not done transparently as per market prices, and the final allocation was distributed with short notice on first come first served basis whereas favoured few were already in the Formula One race track with engine tuned, thus resulting in a scam that cost the government in revenue of Indian Rupees 1.70 lakh crores -US$ 40 billion. So this Spectrum gate or Raja Gate is described as the mother of all scandals in Indian history.

This scam surfaced in 2008 itself but the government denied any wrong doing and the opposition also possessed not much documentary proof in hand. Now the Comptroller and Auditor General’s [CAG] report submitted in August 2010 indicted Raja with evidence that he had personally signed and approved the majority of the questionable allocations.

The CAG had meticulously documented how Raja circumvented norms at every level and obdurately avoided scrutiny in awarding 2G licenses in January 2008 at 2001 rates. Unlike the usual scams, there is nothing secretive about Raja's Spectrum scam. He carried out the dubious 2G license awards in full public view, said to be defying the PM and senior Cabinet colleagues.

A volcano erupted in the parliament and the entire opposition wanted Raja’s head not his crown or throne. But things were put in the back seat due to the Common Wealth Games and President Obama’s visit.

Sooner America’s Air Force One took off for Indonesia from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Airport, with the weeks followed Raja and the Spectrum replaced Obama as the top news in the Indian media and the parliament was put into turbulent air pocket ever since demanding Raja’s removal. No session was conducted.

A case filed in the court by the CBI and another by Dr.Subramaniyam Swamy made matters worse for the defendants. Unlike in Sri Lanka, the judges pulled up the government and specifically the Prime Minister for administrative negligence and lethargy and asked the PM to reply. As ‘Mr.Clean’ image of Dr.Manmohan Singh was put to test, the Congress party woke up and pressurized the adamant DMK to withdraw Raja.

Raja on his part refused to resign stating his innocence and challenged to face inquiry. His stand was backed by his party and the “leader”, saying he did no wrong, he was a Dalit [low cast] and removing him would affect the prospects in the forth coming Tamilnadu state election and threatened that he would withdraw all 18 DMK MPs from the Government if Raja was sacked which added to the Congress dilemma.

Had Karunanithy done that he would have dug his own grave. Congress would withdraw support to his minority state government that would fall. AIADMK leader Jayalalitha came like a bolt from the blue and offered to give unconditional support to the centre if DMK withdraws. This was an issue that drew Karunanidhi's ire. That way the Congress might have saved the government or opted to go for election.

If Congress joins hand with AIADMK, Karunanithy would lose the state as well as the center. So he desisted. The Congress party reached the final stage whether you resign or we sack and eventually face an election.

Raja on the eve of his departure to Delhi on Sunday 14th November told reporters at Chennai airport that his resignation was out of question. When that news was on the air, landing in Delhi after three hours he drove straight to the Prime Minister’s 7, Race Course Road residence and handed over his letter of resignation.

Later he told the media "In order to avoid embarrassment to the Government and maintain peace and harmony in Parliament, my leader (DMK chief M Karunanidhi) has advised me to resign". What a drama it was? It is true politics is a stage where politicians are actors.

The all powerful-mighty Machiavellian Muthuvel Karunanithi who received defeat only in the hands of MGR, knelt down like Raja elephant before Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh for the first time, having tried all the magic in his fingers to save Raja’s head that got shaved off finally.

The episode is not over with Raja’s resignation. The opposition, still paralyzing the winter session now wants to expose Rani also. I mean Loksabha vehemently demands a Joint Parliament Commission JPC to strip Raja on the Spectrum Gate for which the government steadfastly refuses.

The reason is; as assembly elections in Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Assam are due next year, the Opposition will keep this issue alive through the JPC, and as long as a JPC probe continues, there would be leaks, insinuations and innuendos to the effect that the Congress will be on the defensive rebutting the Opposition charges all the time. Besides the government cannot be seen “surrendering” to the Opposition’s pressure on every issue.

Why did Karunathi stood like a fire wall for Raja?

Raja is a snake hanging around the neck of Lord Siva under whose command it acts or bites. The loss of revenue is estimated to be US$40 billion. No doubt the companies had a wind fall. Will Raja do such a thing for nothing? Don’t you think at least half the amount of $40 billion would have changed hand? Where did that money go? Your guess is as good as mine.

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A. Raja

Will the DMK survive the “Raja Gate”?

In a way, the DMK and its leader stands naked before the eyes of the people. Of course Dr. K has done enough to the state and people do appreciate it. But the “Raja Gate” seems to have wiped off that good will. No doubt it will affect the party’s prospects in the state election.

Though Karunanithy pleads to retain the tie with the Congress, it is unlikely if the same bitter situation prevails. With what face can the Congress go before the people with a tainted party that pushed them into a burning petrol tank? Therefore a shuffle is possible unless Raja elephant obeys the Mahout unconditionally.

Rahul Gandhi, unlike his mother, does not see eye to with Karunanithy for his arrogant political maneuvering and corrupt practices, and he openly shows his displeasure avoiding the CM whenever he visits Chennai. His youth Congress prefers to go away from the DMK. Therefore it is not possible for the DMK to survive the “Raja Gate”. In 1996 when the DMK was spritless under Jayalalitha, it was Rajanikanth and a breakaway Congress group brought to power.

If Congress decides to align with Jayalalitha now, that will bring the end of Karunanithy’s political and physical life. Is Jayalalitha, the chief beneficiary of this scandal, a holy cow? No. How can one forget the days when the media dubbed her “Bandit Queen” for her autocrat and corrupt rule? During her last tenure she demanded one million Rupees “for party fund” to meet business people for discussion.

I remember what I wrote in the early 90s ‘everybody drinks water from the river but Jayalalitha diverted the river to Poes Garden’, her residence. But now the Indian Ocean is diverted to ----- ? You know where. It is a question of whether the kettle is black or the pot is black? Both are black.

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Kanimoly

When Maaran brothers hosted a lavish dinner party to some friends and family members in Chennai on the 14th to celebrate Maharaja’s dethrone with the presence of Karunanithi’s two sons Alaghiri and Stalin - the daughter of Karunanithi, Kanimoly, from his [traditionally] unwed wife Rajathy Ammal was observing mourning. Out of the family members only she defended Raja to her best. It showed the family is diametrically divided.

A tapped taped conversation [visit http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268064] of last year released by media on the 18th November, between Ms. Niira Radia, a power broker cum owner of a consultancy firm, Raja, Kanimoly and few others, sheds some light on Spectrum links and Raja’s closeness to Kanimoly who he calls as Kani. Is she a Kani – fruit in Tamil, to him?

Chairman of the Rs 320,000 crore salt-to-software conglomerates Ratan Tata who feels the publication of intercepts of his conversation with Ms.Niira Radia, who handles corporate communication for the group, has violated his right to privacy and may move Supreme Court on Monday against the publication.

He holds that as Radia's [A British citizen] phones were tapped by government agencies [Exchange control & Income tax dept] specifically for investigating a possible offence [Forex & taxation]. Therefore the recorded conversations should have been used for that purpose alone and it has no bearing on the [Spectrum] case under investigation.

Ratanji, you know well you are wrong. It is true, but the said tape talks about Spectrum and mentions the names of telecom giants, Mukesh Ambani, Barti Mittal and you. Also Niira tells Raja that he should be neutral pointing to his friendship with Mukesh. Raja tells Niira strongly, to tell Mittal that he will have to work with him for the next five years. Are not these have bearing on the Spectrum case under investigation?

Besides, in Tamilnadu it is gossiped that twice divorced Kanimoly is a Rajathy to 47 year old Raja who is already married to Parameswwary with a daughter Mayuri. God only knows the truth. As long as people of Tamilnadu are willing to give their lives for corrupt politicians and cine stars, as Rajanikanth said once, even if God comes he cannot save Tamilnadu !.

Serious thought needs to be given to the issue of political power-sharing

by Kalana Senaratne

The most significant political achievement of President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure as President of Sri Lanka (since 2005) has been the indubitable and unprecedented leadership he gave to ensure the defeat of the LTTE terrorist group. It was a most significant and commendable achievement, and while there were many others who contributed to this in large measure, the armed conflict could not have been successfully concluded in the absence of President Rajapaksa’s leadership.

It is with reference to this fact that any assessment of President Rajapaksa should commence. In this regard, one has to agree with some of the views expressed by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka, who argued that in evaluating President Rajapaksa factors such as the context in which he assumed power, the situation he inherited and how he improved that situation need to be taken into account: i.e. "an evaluation of a political leader needs to be historically concrete" (Has record of achievement of the Rajapaksa Presidency been in the main positive or negative? -www.transcurrents.com)

Yet, our assessment of President Rajapaksa is a continuing one. It is not only about what he did, but also about what he is doing and what he intends doing, too. The story of ‘President Rajapaksa’ began in 2005, but it did not end in May 2009; and in this regard it is a mistake to imagine, as some would claim, that the single most important mandate he received during his first term was to defeat the LTTE.

Even if one is to believe in that claim, it needs to be remembered that President Rajapaksa did not stop with the defeat of the LTTE. The story that the regime tries to narrate - that President Rajapaksa’s first term was dedicated to the defeat of the LTTE, and his second term will be dedicated towards development – can be a very misleading one. Because this seems to be a subtle attempt to erase off that crucial period between the end of the armed conflict (May 2009) and the beginning of the ‘new’ term (November 2010).

It is during this ‘interim’ period that one witnessed the hasty introduction of the 18th Amendment which showed that President Rajapaksa, sadly, had got his national priorities mixed up. The 18th Amendment did not simply remove the term-limit of a President; it also introduced provisions which went against the spirit of the 17th Amendment (ways of retaining the spirit of the 17th Amendment – i.e. the need to ensure greater independence - while modifying the workability of the 17th Amendment, was what should have taken place). This was not a simple amendment to the Constitution. It meant a lot for President Rajapaksa, and it expressed (constitutionally) his true intentions, reminding us of what he once told Al-Jazeera; that he was confident of winning again.

Hence, our assessment of President Rajapaksa ought to take note of not only the supreme role he played as the leader of the nation, but also his motives and moves concerning issues relating to governance and constitutional making. Once the above perspective is factored in, one is able to form a clearer image of where we are, as a nation, as a democracy; and where we are heading. And we would also be able to see what truly lies beneath the grand swearing-in ceremony; a ‘new’ symbolic beginning of an old term, which viewed from the perspective of the innocent citizens who supported him, began somewhere in January 2010. For the people, what matters is the re-election and what he does from that day, not what the Constitution says about the date on which that re-elected President’s second term begins. Therefore, it is necessary to remember that period, between May 2009 (or Jan. 2010) and November 2010, just as much as one remembers the period between November 2005 and May 2009.

What now? Much has been written about this question ever since the armed conflict came to an end. A reiteration is not necessary. Apart from the views expressed by President Rajapaksa in his important speech of 19 November 2010 (and the importance of ensuring development of the country), it is time for President Rajapaksa to take a more statesman-like approach to issues of nation building in this ‘post-war’ era. In this regard, there is one important aspect which will define the remainder of President Rajapaksa’s second term. That concerns the way in which President Rajapaksa, during this largely non-violent era, tolerates and accommodates the non-violent expression of views and dissent within the country.

President Rajapaksa stated, admirably, that: "We have the inherited wisdom to tolerate all opinion and take mature decisions. We have a tradition of understanding our problems and conflicts and finding solutions for them." It is precisely the true nature of this "inherited wisdom to tolerate opinion" and take decisions and provide solutions acceptable to all the people within the State that will be crucial for the progressive development of Sri Lanka. Will President Rajapaksa promote, or help build a nation which tolerates, "critical questioning over mindless submission"? (as pointed out by Sanjana Hattotuwa in an article titled ‘Nation Building ‘Post-War’, Groundviews).

This question becomes most critical when considering the views expressed by many on the issue of devolution and power-sharing, especially after May 2009. The debate on power-sharing is bound to re-emerge (if it has not, already) and the nature of this debate will test whether we are a people who could tolerate the views of those who hold such divergent and opposing views, on a controversial, delicate and emotive issue (an issue which should not be so, especially after the defeat of the separatist LTTE). Statements made by President Rajapaksa (i.e. his views on devolution, expressed during the interview with N. Ram of The Hindu), and by the Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna (about the usefulness and necessity of devolution of powers for a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan problem) point out clearly that serious thought needs to be given to the issue of political power-sharing. One need not certainly rush; simply because the Indian Foreign Minister had issued a statement. But ‘devolution’ is matter which cannot be ignored.

President Rajapaksa is taking an extremely cautious approach. Yet, he does seem to accept that there needs to be a discussion on the broader topic of devolution; not only with the Tamil politicians but also the Tamil people. He has not totally rejected the relevance of devolution. That, one believes, is a positive sign. But President Rajapaksa would also realize that gauging the wishes of the people would necessary involve listening to their elected representatives. The views of those elected representatives of the people cannot be ignored.

The debate on devolution is an old debate. What is necessary is a new approach; a less antagonistic approach, and one which attempts to unite, and not divide, the people. And tolerance, here, would need to be shown by all parties; by those who do not support devolution, and those who do. That would be a hopeful beginning.

(The writer is a postgraduate research student at the University of Hong Kong)

Sri Lanka opposition like French Bourbons has forgotten nothing and learned nothing

by Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

I had not expected to speak today, so you must forgive me, Mr Chair, if I am not as polished or eloquent as the member from Matara who spoke first today. However, having heard his misleading statements, I felt they needed refutation.

Mr Chair, listening to the whole Opposition during this budget debate, one felt that they were like the Bourbon dynasty in France, in that they have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing. Indeed Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, in claiming that he had been dismissed from the Cabinet, in his strange and childish excursion into numerology, seemed to have forgotten that, far from having been dismissed, he had himself resigned, in a grand gesture of solidarity with Mr Anura Bandaranaike – who promptly went back into the cabinet, leaving his colleague out in the cold. And in criticising those who changed parties in Parliament, he has forgotten his own history.

It was also sad that he has forgotten all about the fickleness of fashion. When I first knew him, he was a very distinguished fashion designer, who rejoiced in the name of Mangala Innocence, whether appropriately or not I cannot say. He should know that fashions change, and sometimes several different styles are in fashion at the same time. Thus he spent much time in quoting from Bloomberg, as though it were the final word, without reflecting on all the different approaches that we see in other media outlets today.

We can all play quotation snap, Mr Chair, and for every negative quotation he finds, I can find a positive one, as for instance the note in the Times that ‘Senior figures in the IMF say it is broadly happy with the steps Sri Lanka is taking to start to repair public finances ravaged by 30 years of civil war’. But what I missed in the speech was actual attention to the budget itself, as though talking about what someone abroad said is more important than what is happening in Sri Lanka, more important than the reactions of our own business community.

Anyone looking through the budget itself, studying the presentation of the developments taking place and planned all over the country, will realise that this budget finally achieves the balance between the need for development and commitment to equity that has so long eluded us. It is in fact an ideal Liberal budget, as one of my colleagues who has now joined the government side, put it.

Thirty and more years ago, Mr Chair, one reason the Liberal Party was set up, apart from the attacks on constitutional freedoms and pluralism that the Jayewardene regime was engaged in, was the need to express a new economic vision. We were glad that the statist socialism of the previous government had been laid to rest. But we were also disappointed that, instead of liberalising the economy through a genuine process of privatisation and partnership, through regulations that promoted competition, President Jayewardene assumed that reducing the role of the State meant promoting profits for his friends. Of course crony capitalism was popular in those days when, with the Cold War still raging, anyone who rejected communism won the support of the international community. He counted then on continuing support, whatever he did, and indeed for a time he got it, even for his appaling referendum to postpone elections.

The UNP, and the member from Matara, in his allegiance to a leader who defended the worst excesses of those days, has forgotten that in those days there was no concern whatsoever with equity. In hearing members of the UNP bewail the blows they claim this budget gives to the working man, I wonder how they forget the treatment of the strikers of July 1980, attacks that their friends in the West then ignored, thinking this brought stability. But times have now changed, and even the international community has realised that some principles cannot be sacrificed for the sake of others. Thus, when the UNP government of 2002 asserted that political freedoms were second to economic development, it was stuck in a mindset that the world had left behind.

Similarly, Mr Chair, in criticising the loans this government has taken, the current leadership of the Opposition has forgotten the massive debts contracted by the Jayewardene regime, debts which however made sense in terms of the development that resulted. Unfortunately there was no attempt in those days at equitable growth, a deficiency that it is now clear has been overcome by the nationwide changes this government has promoted, beginning even before it was able to overcome terrorism.

Paying no heed to this, the Member from Matara insists on purveying myths about discrimination. He claims that Tamils were prevented last week in celebrating a festival. Astonishingly, this claim has not been reported in the papers which, contrary to his assertions, do not suffer from intimidation. On the contrary, anyone reading our papers will see how openly critical they are of government.

But ignoring the national press is part of a technique that his leadership perfected in carrying out propaganda against this country. I would recommend instead that he do what we did during the war, in carefully monitoring Tamilnet, so that we could show afterwards that the inflated claims about civilian casualties were all nonsense. Given the very limited allegations during the war, it was possible to show that assertions of war crimes were nonsense, indeed afterthoughts in the new form of battle the rump of the LTTE has embarked upon. Similarly, if he looked at the Tamil dailies in the last week, or the opposition press that is quick to highlight any possible deficiency, he would not find any suggestion of his outrageous claim, about a festival that he could not even identify clearly.

Again, in claiming that colonisation is taking place, through the provision of dwellings for the military, he forgets that, eighteen months ago – not two years, as he claimed in his carelessness – just after terrorism was overcome, the accusation was made that we would keep the displaced imprisoned for years, while settling Sinhalese in the North in their place. Now that almost all the displaced have been resettled, we have not heard a word of apology from those who confidently made such allegations. Now the myth is that there are going to be cantonments, whereas the government has made it clear that, while there will certainly have to be military camps, these will be confined to small areas. As I have told my friends in the former TNA, Mr Chair, instead of propagating myths, they should accept the need for a small military presence, and work together with government to ensure that that presence will not be intrusive, and that it will be based on the multiracial, multilingual truly national security force that His Excellency the President has envisioned.

That multilingualism, Mr Chair, is part of the human resources development that this government alone had the courage to embark on. One major problem about the type of capitalism President Jayewardene introduced was that it provided no opportunities for the bulk of our people. He kept our education system in the straitjacket he had first begun to impose on it when, back in the fifties, he made English medium illegal at primary level. Certainly we have an excellent system of basic education, but we know that at higher levels we must do better.

But it is only this government that has had the guts to announce a comprehensive reform of education, in accordance with the best Liberal principles. I am sorry that there is criticism now of the type of economics the UNP government of 2002 followed as being neo-Liberal, which is a misnomer, neo-Conservative being a better description. But whatever one calls that philosophy, it is very different from Liberalism, which affirms forcefully the need for the State to provide basic services for the deprived, so as to provide them with opportunities to participate fully in the social and economic life of the country – while at the same time allowing freedom to the private sector to operate so that it can act as the main engine of growth. In the field of education, which was controlled dogmatically for so long, this will mean allowing opportunities for all, with the competition that will raise standards while ensuring access to greater numbers.

But instead of celebrating this, the opposition harks back to the statism of the seventies, in simply demanding handouts, massive salary increases without any concern about the empowerment that should accompany benefits. In short, they want a country as passive as they are themselves, without the consistency of political principle that the last speaker, also from Matara, suggested was needed.

Mr Chair, this budget is about stimulation and encouragement. It is designed to produce growth in which people are partners with government, in which the private sector works along with the State. This is no time for a Nightwatchman State, nor is it time for a Nanny State, both of which the opposition seem to recommend simultaneously, not separately in its diverse components, but together in the strange rainbow coalition they have formed. This tripartite opposition, which came together in support of a common candidate for the Presidency with no common principles, seems to have abandoned all thought now , and is wanting, it seems, handouts that will limit effort, together with restrictions on capital investment as well as investment in people.

They pay no attention to facts in their assaults, as with for instance the JVP member for Gampaha, who declared that public servants had never previously been taxed. He forgets, perhaps because of his new-found allies, that it was President Jayewardene who removed taxes from public servants, precisely because he was unwilling to raise salaries, and provided this concession as compensation. Now, Mr Chair, public servants are at most levels reasonably paid, many at the higher levels have other sources of income, and in any case taxation will be imposed only on those who earn over Rs 50,000 per month.

It is a pity therefore that the opposition misleads this House and, in harking back to what they see as the golden age of President Jayewardene, ignore both the positive things he did, in avoiding statist socialism and handouts, as well as his shortcomings which plunged the country into suffering from two violent insurrections. This government will continue with the positive path he sketched out, while twinning it with the concern for equity that is essential if we are to avoid the suffering that was his legacy.

(Speech of Prof Rajiva Wijesinha in the budget debate, Nov. 27th 2010)

They can file a charge posthumously against Jawaharlal Nehru too

by Arundhati Roy

My reaction to today's court order directing the Delhi Police to file an FIR against me for waging war against the state: Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too. Here is what he said about Kashmir:

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1. In his telegram to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the state to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view.” (Telegram 402 Primin-2227 dated 27th October, 1947 to PM of Pakistan repeating telegram addressed to PM of UK).

2. In other telegram to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir's accession to India was accepted by us at the request of the Maharaja's government and the most numerously representative popular organization in the state which is predominantly Muslim. Even then it was accepted on condition that as soon as law and order had been restored, the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession. It is open to them to accede to either Dominion then.” (Telegram No. 255 dated 31 October, 1947).

3. In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on 2nd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide ------ And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir.”

4. In another broadcast to the nation on 3rd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”

5. In his letter No. 368 Primin dated 21 November, 1947 addressed to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”

6.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 25th November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “In order to establish our bona fide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organisation. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.”

7.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 5th March, 1948, Pandit Nehru said, “Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We insisted further that the Government of Kashmir must immediately become a popular government. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a Plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir.”

8.In his press-conference in London on 16th January, 1951, as reported by the daily ‘Statesman' on 18th January, 1951, Pandit Nehru stated, “India has repeatedly offered to work with the United Nations reasonable safeguards to enable the people of Kashmir to express their will and is always ready to do so. We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmir people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite. In fact, this was our proposal long before the United Nations came into the picture. Ultimately the final decision of the settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir and secondly, as between Pakistan and India directly. Of course it must be remembered that we (India and Pakistan) have reached a great deal of agreement already. What I mean is that many basic features have been thrashed out. We all agreed that it is the people of Kashmir who must decide for themselves about their future externally or internally. It is an obvious fact that even without our agreement no country is going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris.”

9.In his report to All Indian Congress Committee on 6th July, 1951 as published in the Statesman, New Delhi on 9th July, 1951, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men.”

10.In a letter dated 11th September, 1951, to the U.N. representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, “The Government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”

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11.As reported by Amrita Bazar Patrika, Calcutta, on 2nd January, 1952, while replying to Dr. Mookerji's question in the Indian Legislature as to what the Congress Government going to do about one third of territory still held by Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their Plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting. We have taken the issue to United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”

12.In his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7th August, 1952, Pandit Nehru said, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.

13.In his statement in the Lok Sabha on 31st March, 1955 as published in Hindustan Times New Delhi on Ist April, 1955, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of all these problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir.”

14.In his statement in the Security Council while taking part in debate on Kashmir in the 765th meeting of the Security Council on 24th January, 1957, the Indian representative Mr. Krishna Menon said, “So far as we are concerned, there is not one word in the statements that I have made in this council which can be interpreted to mean that we will not honour international obligations. I want to say for the purpose of the record that there is nothing that has been said on behalf of the Government of India which in the slightest degree indicates that the Government of India or the Union of India will dishonour any international obligations it has undertaken.”

The numeral eight has become a lucky number for Rajapaksa regime

by Mangala Samaraweera

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Mr. Speaker,

After indulging in a multi million dollar inauguration of his ill gotten second term 0n 19th Nov. – an extravaganza which would have made even Kim Jong Il of North Korea envious, President Rajapakse, on the 22nd presented the first budget of the ‘new era’, promising to make Sri Lanka ‘the emerging wonder of Asia.’ In order to facilitate his vision for our country, the god of the sun and the moon and the stars (naturally outshining Prabhakaran who called himself the Sun God) also appointed the worlds largest number of Ministers the same morning. Name board ministries were distributed while ensuring that over70% of the national budget remained within the family.

In an unprecedented display of arrogance and hubris, the regime subscribed experienced and able Ministers to political obscurity by calling them senior ministers while thuggish underworld elements were promoted as Cabinet Ministers. Like Emperor Caligula who appointed an ass to senate to express his contempt and disdain for the political establishment of his time, the present leaders have expressed their hatred of the traditional SLFP leadership.

In the classic ‘newspeak’ of the Rajapakse regime, the President painted a rosy picture of our country while presenting us with a collection of statistics during the budget while conveniently forgetting almost all the promises given to the people during the last Presidential and General elections. Many statistics given to Parliament in the budget speech, directly contradicts figures put out by other arms of this very government. The budget speech claims that ‘the per capita income this year is expected to be around US$2,375 in comparison to US$ 1,000 five years ago.’

However the Household Income and Expenditure Survey 0f July 2010, put out by the Department of Census and Statistics claims that per capita income in 2009 was RS.8931 per month which is 107,172 per year which is US$ 952 – a far cry from the touted $2,375. Who is telling the truth and who is misleading Parliament? Perhaps the Secretary to the treasury – who obviously wrote the budget speech- must be charged for misleading Parliament and the President.

Mr. Speaker,

Although the budget speech is full of such lies or to be more Parliamentary, full of such inexactitudes, many of which would have been dealt with by my colleagues here in the house, I would now like to move onto to the central theme of the budget which the state media has called an ‘investor friendly budget.’

In fact, in the budget speech, the President says, “we need to reformulate our strategies and the institutional mechanism to improve our investment climate.” In the new global order of the 21stCentaury where both the investors and the consumers they cater to, have become more politically conscious and more politically correct, improving our investment climate does not only mean economic incentives or a skilled labor force. The investment climate of a country is today determined by the political climate there; democracy, human rights and the rule of law been the key indicators of a country’s suitability and the perceived level of corruption in the country.

After the war ended nearly two years, Sri Lanka should have been the preferred destination for foreign investors given the experienced and skilled labor force we have and the other economic incentives extended. In fact, Bloomberg website expresses some of these concerns in a news item published on 23rd Nov., the day after the budget, captioned ‘ Sri Lanka’s post war boom misses investors weary of corruption’. It says that ‘overseas investors remain concerned about corruption and red tape. Foreign direct investment fell to $208m in the first six months from $253m for the same period in 2009.’

Also, this news item goes onto say,

‘Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International ranked Sri Lanka 91st out of 178 countries on Oct. 26 in terms of corruption 90 places below Singapore.’

and

“In July the European Union rescinded Sri Lanka’s preferential trade access because of the country’s human rights record, particularly due to violence in the final weeks of the war that killed as many as 15,000 civilians.”

And that

‘Some investors are concerned by the growing power of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. After Rajapaksa was elected to a second term in January and his party swept elections in April, parliament lifted the two-term limit for the presidency. Three of Rajapaksa’s brothers hold top government posts and his 24- year-old son is in parliament.’

Mr. Speaker,

Today, Sri Lanka’s international reputation stands at an all time low and now, Asia’s oldest democracy is perceived as a country well on the path to dictatorship and oligarchy. Despite the democratic trimmings and slogans, since the passage of the notorious 18th Amendment on the 8th of Sept. Sri Lanka has become a constitutional autocracy.

Incidentally, this regime’s lucky number seems to be 8. Presidential elections in 2005 were on a 17th and on a 26th. Both numbers add up to 8! I was removed from the cabinet on an 8th and Sarah Fonseka was arrested on the 8th February this year and the General Elections were on the 8th April. Strangely, Lasantha Wickrametunge was killed on an 8th and Sripathi Sooriarachchi’s fatal high-speed accident on an 8th. Our leaders seems to have a lot in common with Prabhakharan, the former son god who was also a firm believer in numerology and planned most of his mayhem according to it.

Getting back to more serious stuff, Mr. Speaker,

This new Amendment has now passed into law, killing the progressive 17th amendment, a historic piece of legislation endorsed unanimously by parliament in 2001. While protecting the presidency and keeping it in the hands of the Rajapaksa family, the 18th Amendment also ensures that all appointments to the public service, judiciary and the appointment of the elections commission or commissioner fall under the writ of an almighty executive president. In short, the 18th amendment is a piece of Rajapaksa legislation that ensures that the Rajapaksa writ holds sway over every single area of governance and public life, exactly that which the 17th Amendment sought to prevent by way of de-politicizing the public service, judiciary, police and ensuring independence during elections.

While all those of us in the political firmament has been determined to redefine the Sri Lankan constitution that would make the presidency more accountable to the people, This regime has checkmated the nation by this constitutional coup or power grab to increase its powers and ensure that the first family remain at the helm of this country for an indefinite time to come. In short the Sri Lankan presidency has now being transformed into the office of an all-powerful dictator.

For those who tell us that the President was re-elected by a popular mandate, it should be recalled that some of the worst dictators the world has ever seen have tried to legitimize their positions by conducting nominal elections. Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein held an election every five years where he was the only candidate. So does Mugabe of Zimbabwe.Adolf Hitler too obtained a 2/3 majority in the Reichstag on 23rd March 1933 to pass the Enabling Act.

Within 12 months of passing this bill empowering Hitler’s cabinet to take over the functions of Parliament, Hitler banned all political parties but his own, wiped out the labor unions, stamped out democratic associations of any kind, abolished freedom of speech and of the press and stifled the independence of the courts.

Without exaggeration, Sri Lanka is now traveling on the same path. Today, this government is trying to ruthlessly destroy the democratic opposition.

Within a fortnight of the Presidential Elections, the common candidate for the opposition, General Sarath Fonseka was dragged out of his office by armed thugs and the most shocking political witch-hunt Sri Lanka has ever seen began. After trial by a kangaroo court, he is today serving 30 months of rigorous imprisonment.

Almost all political parties have been divided and weakened. This governments numbers have been achieved by using the full might of the government’s financial strength, to bribe and entice opposition members to sign over a country’s democratic rights. Where financial enticement failed, the Rajapaksas employed tactics of terror, blackmail and intimidation, threatening lawsuits and trumped up charges against those they needed to pass the 18th Amendment into law.

Democratic activity of any kind is becoming increasingly difficult; posters of the opposition are now banned; the printer of a poster protesting against the 18th Amendment was held for 9 days under Emergency regulations while his wife and family were taken in lieu of the printer until he produced himself at the police. I was also questioned for nearly four hours in the notorious 4th floor of the CID as the head of the communications unit of the UNP.On the 6th of Sept. all cutouts of the leader of the opposition and decorations for the ‘Grama Charika’ in Matara town were destroyed by goon squads using state vehicles with police and army protection. The orders to do so were given by the SecretaryDefense.

Student leaders are rounded up and arrested; even at he moment Udul Premaratne, convener of the Inter University Students and many others are in custody. Nearly 11000 students, youth and others are languishing in jails in the north and their identities are yet to be revealed. Fellow Parliamentarian Sunil Handhunetti was assaulted by armed goon squads, reportedly coming under the Secretary of Defense when he went toJaffna to collect information about these prisoners.

Today, the media has been totally stifled and the fear psychosis is so much, that most if not all journalists subject their articles and reports to self-censorship. Each time I mention any member of the Rajapakse name in a critical manner in any interview, it is discreetly left out in the publication. The general response when I query the omission ‘ I travel by bus and live alone with my wife and family. We don’t want to be killed like Lasantha, we don’t want to be beaten up like Poddhala, we don’t want to disappear into thin air like Ekneligoda nor do we want to live as refugees abroad like many of our colleagues.’

Mr. Speaker,

Another important influence on economic development in developing and emerging markets –applies to emerging miracles as well – is the rule of law. No country has ever achieved economic prosperity for the people by suppressing the rule of law. All those who tried to do so have only brought economic ruin to their people and their country like Zimbabwe, Burma and N. Korea.

In September 2005, the Council of the International Bar Association passed resolution which said;

“The rule of law is the foundation of a civilized society. It establishes a transparent process accessible and equal to all. It ensures adherence to principles that both liberate and protect….”

With this resolution, it listed certain components of the rule of law, among them an independent, impartial judiciary; the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and public trial without undue delay. It described as ‘unacceptable’ arbitrary arrests, indefinite detention without trial, cruel or degrading treatment or punishment and intimidation and corruption in the electoral process.

Unfortunately for us in Sri Lanka what has been described as unacceptable by the CIBA has now become part and parcel of our society.

Mr. Speaker,

The declaration on the rule of law made by the International Commission of Jurists at Athens in 1955 emphasised that “the state is subject to the law” and declared that “judges should be guided by the rule of law, protect it and enforce it without fear or favour and resist any encroachments by governments or political parties in their independence as judges.”

As I said at the last budget debate in June, the most serious assault against the rule of law today in Sri Lanka is the encroachment of the judiciary by the executive in the most unscrupulous manner. If I may quote from my own speech –

“Although the lower level of judges and magistrates are putting up a valiant and courageous front to preserve their independence, many judges from the higher echelons of the judiciary have compromised their independence and their integrity in the most shocking manner. Plum positions for spouses and offspring’s have been doled out, the promise of promotions {including the promise of promotion to the Supreme Court while others are being tempted with the prospect of been appointed CJ} are used as bait and some are being tempted with diplomatic postings after retirement. Judges are summoned and instructed by the executive himself and lawyers who appear against the interests of the government are threatened and labelled as terrorists by the defence ministry. In fact the defence ministry seems to be gradually replacing the judiciary as judge and executioner.”

In fact, in the same speech made in June, I warned of the consequences if the constitutional amendments are passed.

“This culture of impunity and the rape of the rule of law will be total and complete if the government is allowed to carry out the proposed constitutional amendments giving the executive the ultimate power of appointing the constitutional council. Any semblance of independence these commissions may have had will be stifled and the Police, the judiciary and the elections commission will become mere extensions of the executive dropping any pretences to impartiality they may still have.”

In fact some judges of the court of appeal and the Supreme court seems to have done just that by dropping any pretences to impartiality they may have had prior to the 18th Amendment.

For example the court of appeal is divided into two camps; the pro government group consisting of those who are expecting promotions to the Supreme Court and the independent group who want to carry out their duties in a non-partisan manner. As a result, these judges have lost the respect of the bar and I understand that even General Sarath Fonseka has instructed his lawyers in writing to object to this judge (a nominee of the executive who was initially turned down by the now defunct Constitutional Council) on grounds of bias.

Last week the Supreme Court took an unprecedented step of giving a stay order before a stay order be given by a lower court.

In fact, lawyers are complaining bitterly of another SC judge aspiring to be the next CJ, whose spouse is holding a top appointment in the state sector directly under the purview of the President, who also seems to have dropped any pretences to being impartial.

In the race to become the next CJ, many are now desperately trying to impress the appointing authority. For the first time in history, lawyers and the public were treated to the spectacle of seeing the AG of our country seated in the high court when General Sarath Fonseka’s white flag case was being heard on 23/11.

Despite the obvious bias of certain over ambitious judges, we must also note that the minor judiciary which consists of Magistrates, District Judges, labour tribunal judges, Primary court judges and even high court judges and some of the court of appeal judges have shown impartiality even at the risk of losing perks and promotions.

Even in the Supreme Court, there are some courageous judges who are true to their conscience but such individuals are not put to benches of cases of a political nature whose outcome is crucial to the government.

In fact, many lawyers have spoken to me from Colombo as well as outstations to express their dismay at the current situation and the mood is for all to unite to safeguard the independence of the judiciary from the corrupt few. This emerging mood became very clear at the Bar Association Elections in February when the government sponsored candidate, Palitha Kumarasinghe was defeated resoundingly by the independent candidate, Mr. Shibli Azis.

Mr. Speaker,

The sine qua non for a positive investor climate is a durable peace. However, despite defeating the LTTE nearly two years ago, the government has yet to win the peace by winning the hearts and minds of the Tamil people. The government resorted to In a vulgar and crude display of chauvinistic triumphalism of the Rajapakse regime has alienated the long suffering people of the north and east even more and many of them are finding themselves in a “frying pan into the fire situation” despite being ‘liberated’ from the clutches of the LTTE.

The President in his budget speech talks about “ connecting hearts and minds of our multi ethnic and multi cultural society”. Yet he has not set aside a cent for the nearly 23000 IDPs who are still languishing in Internment camps. Nor is the government concerned about the over hundred thousand displaced families in the north; presently they are only getting 4 poles and 8 corrugated sheets from the government. The last budget set aside a measly RS. 350 per head but this time around that has been suspended. This is in stark contrast to the Defense Ministry increasing its vote by Rs. 13b in spite of the fact that the war is over.

Not only has the government given step-motherly treatment to the Tamils in this country, they are provoking them by many of their actions today.

Last Sunday 21st November was “Thipam day”, a holy festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, celebrated by Hindus throughout the world. However, the people in Jaffna and Killinochchi were banned from lighting lamps and candles and in Jaffna some people, including a lawyer was arrested for doing so.

The government is also following a policy of shameless discrimination in state recruitment. Recently, the government recruited minor staff for the divisional secretariats in Amparai, Batticloa and Vavuniya where the locals were shockingly overlooked. In Amparai, out of 30 minor staff recruited only one was Tamil – 29 were Sinhalese from the south; Ratnapura etc. In Batticloa out 0f 21 recruited, 17 were Sinhalese and only 4 were Tamil. In Vavuniya, out of 21 recruited, 19 were Sinhala, 1 Tamil and one Muslim.

What is equally worrying is the governments plan to change the demography of the north and the east, which would culminate in west bank type of situation in time to come. Although the government continues to deny such claims in public, the army is giving land and creating permanent settlements for army personnel and their families in the North. Already 1000 army families have been given land in Murugandy off the A9 in Killinochchi. Chinese pre fabricated houses are been put up and there are unconfirmed reports that some retired Israeli Military types are here to advice the Defense Ministry on putting up armed Kibbutz type settlements in the North.

Instead of utilizing the great window of opportunity our country got on the 19th May 2009 to win the peace our people are crying out for and ensure that the face of terrorism never raises its ugly head, ever again in our country, the Mahida Rajapakse regime, intoxicated with power is paving the way for yet another uprising in our country with its foolish and short sighted policies.

Although the regime talks about the emerging wonder of Asia, all signs are that we have become the emerging rogue state of Asia.

(Full Text of Parliamentary Speech made by Mr. Mangala Samaraweera on November 27th 2010)

World economic power shifting back to Asia from the West

by Ranil Wickremesinghe

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By the 4th century BC, Asia had begun its first cycle of economic growth and power. This was the reason why Alexander the Great decided to travel eastward to establish an empire. At that time there was nothing worthwhile to the west of Greece. On the othr hand, to the east of Greece was Persia, and beyond were rich kingdoms in India and China. A Roman Emperor once complained Rome had to import all its luxuries from India and China; but had nothing to offer these Asian countries. Until the 1820s, Asia was responsible for 60% to 75% of the world’s GDP.

Asia is not a continent that can be brought together like the European Union. Historically, culturally and climatically we fall into five distinct categories: East Asia, Indo-China, Central Asia, West Asia and the Indian Ocean region. In the past these regions were all integrated by the Silk Route. This is why I have titled this speech ‘The Return of the Asians’ - because contrary to common opinion what we are witnessing today is not the rise of Asia but the return of Asian countries to recapture the global economy.

The first cycle of Asian dominance was crushed by the rampant forces of European colonialism, and by the Industrial Revolution which led European manufacturers to look to Asian markets for their goods. Thereafter, for the greater part of the 19th and 20th centuries, Asia was turned into captive markets for European industry.

No Asian country, other than Japan benefited from the Industrial Revolution. As a result by 1940, Asia accounted for only 20% of the world’s GDP. In a reversal of fortunes the affluent western consumers of the seventies enabled Japan and the four Asian Tiger economies, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan to emerge as low-wage manufacturing bases for consumer goods. The story of the return of the Asians begins here.

The next phase was in 1979; the year which ushered in the Thatcherite revolution. I remember listening to Mrs. Thatcher at the Commonwealth summit of 1979 explaining to us her policies for promoting economic competitiveness. That same year Jiang Zemin - the successor to Deng - visited Singapore and Sri Lanka to study our free trade zones. This was the start of the migration of industries to China.

Thereafter, China became the workshop of the world. China, which barely produced a few thousand air conditioners in 1978, today, manufactures nearly 50 million air conditioners, half of the world’s microwave ovens, 1/3 of its television sets, 70% of its toys and 60% of its bicycles are manufactured in China. Chinese exports in 2005 were 1.15 trillion US$.

Today, as much as China is the centre of global manufacturing, India has become the international hub for global service industries. India’s IT and outsourcing exports amount to over 40 billion US$. The economic resurgence of China and India has also made way for the emergence of Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam as manufacturing bases.

This shift of world economic power from the west back to Asia is highlighted in the Asian Development Bank Key Indicators (for Asia and the Pacific) for 2010.

Today, the Asia Pacific accounts for 36% of the world economy. Europe comes second, and North America, third. Within Asia over 65% of the GDP comes from three countries - China, India and Japan. It is predicted that Asia will be the main driver of global growth over the next two decades with a newly emerging Asian middle class of nearly 1.5 billion. Since 1980, 400 million Chinese people have transcended poverty lines. By 2030 the Chinese middle class is expected to exceed 600 million. In numbers - this will be the largest middle class in the world; and the world’s third largest consumer market. India will be the fifth largest in the world with 520 million consumers. It is this demographic transformation of 1.5 billion Asian consumers which will fuel global economic growth.

This trend has been evident from my visits to India during the last two years; as there is a channelling of new products specifically aimed at the Indian domestic market on the part of Indian entrepreneurs. The best example of this is the Nano-car or the one-lakh car that targets the lower middle class – the Indian version of the model T Ford. This is what I call the return of the Asians. The Asia of 2050 will be similar to the Asia of the mid 17th Century which dominated the world in total wealth – what we call the GDP today – despite the fact that some of the European countries had a higher per capita GDP. Similarly, in 2050, most of Asia will be middle income economies while the west will constitute high income economies.

However, the return of the Asians will not be an automatic phenomenon. Nor can it be allowed to be confined to economic growth only. The success of the region depends on correct political decisions and appropriate action being taken by governments and civil society – if it is not to be a flash in the pan. In the remaining half of my speech I propose to speak on the key issues that will require our attention in the years to come.
At one time the regions of the Indian Ocean were the richest in the world – even richer than East Asia. This was the reason that compelled Elizabeth I of England to send an Ambassador to the Court of the Mogul Emperor Akbar the Great in the 16th century. The wealth of Nizam of Hyderabad in the 19th Century (valued according to the present day) would be 200 billion dollars, four times the wealth of Bill Gates.

Once the sailors had mastered the Asian monsoons, the merchants wove a web of trade across the seas. It was a maritime crossroads bringing together traders from the Mediterranean, Arabia, South Asia and China. The kingdoms of South India, Sri Lanka and Sri Wijaya rose to prominence due to two reasons, due to merchandise exports, and as a centre for trans-shipment from East to West.

By 2030, not only will India become the world’s third largest economy, it will also be the world’s fastest growing major economy. Indonesia – the successor to Sri Wijaya, will become the fifth largest economy – overtaking Russia. By then the combined GDP of India and Indonesia will be US dollars 39 trillion – the same as the predictions for the US during this time. Add to this, the fast growing economies of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Uganda on the one hand together with the Gulf oil economies, Singapore, Brunei, Iran, Myanmar, South Africa, Kenya and Australia and you have a cocktail of rapid growth.

Unlike East Asia and the Pacific which has APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation), the Indian Ocean has no regional mechanism for trade and economic cooperation. Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC) is a non-starter. One reason for this is the predicted increase in its population by an additional 500 M. by 2050. Furthermore, the lower income levels of the Indian Ocean - compared to East Asia - gives a natural advantage to Indian enterprises who have already commenced designing low price products and services to reach the lower income rural consumers. The ADB calls this ‘frugal innovations’; and foretells its prospects of reaching the east African coasts, creating new trade linkages.

It is time that SAARC, ASEAN, OAU, and the Commonwealth which has 19 members in this region initiate discussions to seriously consider this new alignment of trading nations; and create a formal mechanism to bring together the three continents – Africa, Asia and Australia which border the Indian Ocean. Those of you who are part of civil society can make people to people contact within this region and thereby complement regional level economic cooperation. Rotary International should take the lead in bridging the continents of the Indian Ocean.

The return of the Asians will not be without adverse effects and strains on the region; particularly on the demand for global energy and food. Finding an appropriate food – energy – water nexus is an immense challenge. For example, by 2025, the world oil consumption will increase to 120 million barrels, 80 per cent of which will be to supply the demands of the Asian economies. Since the bulk of these oil supplies have to pass through the Straits of Malacca and Straits of Hormuz Asia’s strategic importance will be tremendous. 50,000 ships pass annually through the Straits of Malacca which is only 2.5 kilo metres wide at its narrowest point; and the Straits of Hormuz (between Iran and Oman) through which the Gulf oil passes is only 89 kilo metres wide. The vulnerability of these straits to terrorist attack is of grave concern to economic and military planners.

The surge in economic growth has led to the swell in the demand for other commodities and minerals - such as uranium, iron, and coal. In 2009 alone, China accounted for 39% of the world consumption of aluminium, copper, iron and nickel. Thus resource rich countries will be the natural beneficiaries; and as the demand for energy and minerals keep augmenting many poor countries in Africa and Latin America will also develop alongside Asia.

The global food balance will be determined by Asia’s economic and population growth. There will be additional numbers to feed. Asia will dominate both demand and supply. Two things are certain by mid century: much higher food prices and a greater stress and strain on the already limited water resources. We are already aware of the intensifying problem of water scarcity - since the availability of per capita water is limited in the West, South, and South East Asia. The Indian Network of Climate Change Assessment (INCC) says that India could get warmer by 2 degrees Celsius by 2030 - leading to changes in rainfall patterns, and vulnerability to more severe floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

Already, periodic floods hit South and South East Asia; cyclic droughts have intensified due to widespread weather changes; while rising sea levels continue to threaten both the Maldives and the Mekong Delta.

North China including Beijing and the Hai River basin have experienced wells and rivers drying up, and groundwater levels falling two metres per year. While all Asian countries need to take heed of these predictions, the regional giants of China and India have a singular responsibility to safeguard the climate security of the region; as in the long run it will be the energy, de-carbonization and the emission targets of China and India that will determine the success or failure of this effort. This is why many of us were disappointed with the stand taken by India and China at the Copenhagen summit of last year.

On the other hand, Japan has shown the region how to tackle climate change – as the Japanese have achieved an appropriate balance of meeting demand and de-carbonizing. The media and civil societies in many of our countries have taken the lead in creating awareness of climate change. The time has come to exert greater pressure on governments to ensure that the impulse for economic growth does not compromise on other imperatives.

When I visited India last week, my Indian friends jokingly referred to their country as the Scam Raj. This was in reference to the two big corruption scandals dominating local news. One is the 2G spectrum issue where the Indian government’s loss of revenue in the allocation of telecom spectrums is deemed to be Rs. 176,379 Crores (US$ 38.6 billion). This comes two months after another scandal where Rs. 7,000 Crores (US$ 1.5 billion) were alleged to have been misappropriated during the Commonwealth Games. Being an open society, the Indians are able to discuss these corruption scandals freely, while the Indian media is able to report their views fearlessly. Unfortunately, this is not so in many of our countries.

Yet, the challenge of human greed - corruption - is not limited to India. Corruption is also unchecked in China where Party cadre and bureaucrats make so much money that it is today called ‘a predatory state’.

The following doggerel by Chinese peasants from The Blue Book:

Seven hands, eight hands, everybody extends hands to the peasants
You collect, I collect, he collects, and peasants are distraught;
You solicit, I solicit, he solicits, and peasants are upset.
Demand grain, demand money, and demand life;
Guard against fire, guard against theft, and guard against cadres.

In my own country, political power has become the quickest avenue to amass wealth. On the other hand, in many Asian countries there is a new development; that of the countries’ leading business enterprises seeking to capture political power. In this context, civil society needs to take its responsibilities more seriously; and become more strident and effective in demanding the right to information laws and their strict enforcement by Parliament. Corruption touches all of us as it delays, detracts and destroys human development and promotes inequity.

This brings me to the next critical side-effect of the current economic system of growth – social inequity. We are all aware of marked income disparities between the industrial urban areas and the backward rural areas; the large pockets of poor migrant workers living in slums in big cities, the poverty of female-headed households, the neglect of street children, and those who have regressed into poverty due to the global economic recession.

After decades of ineffective welfare and poverty alleviation schemes and scams, how should Asia address this issue so that it can make a real difference in the lives of people? One example can be from the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Though micro-credit shemes sometimes take a generation or so to bear fruit, the GrammenPhone empowered the poor in Bangladesh to purchase cellular phones. This sparked a revolution as people utilized cellular phones in their daily life and business to become more productive. A case in point is the Philippines. In the 1980s the Philippines government offered low-interest housing loans to the poor – well below the market rates.

While on the surface the programme seemed to be a success, a World Bank evaluation found it had been hijacked by the rich and middle-income households - with only 21 per cent of the beneficiaries being from the poor. Meeting the aspirations and frustrations, hope and despair of the poor in Asia remain a massive challenge particularly as recent reductions in government spending have affected health and education services - the two sectors the poor have always been able to access. Thus it is doubtful that many Asian countries will reach the targets set by the Millennium Development Goals.

There is a common stereotype in the West that Asians are submissive animals due to our past histories; a myth that Asia will accept the inequalities that have arisen due to market predominance. I seriously doubt this as being the case.

Already, there are social protests taking place in China, the growth of the Naxalite movement in India and the Maoists in Nepal. Moreover, we in Asia have shown our opposition to inequality in alternative ways for thousands of years. The spread of Buddhism in India, the dispersion of Theravada Buddhism in South East Asia, the expansion of Islam in both these regions were basic responses to social and economic inequalities existing at that time.

Today, however, in the midst of a system that has resulted in sharp divisions in wealth we need a remedy that will satisfy the basic needs of the underprivileged. There is no other way than for the winners to look after the losers and the marginalized. In other words, the Asians have to take the leadership in ensuring that socio-economic systems are in place that can take care of those in need. Examples can be found in the Nordic countries and the Japanese who have developed such fallback systems to care for the sick, the homeless, the poor and the disabled.

This is imperative, especially that the IMF has failed us – first in the Asian crisis of the late 1990s and then in the global economic meltdown of the last couple of years. The bottom line then - a system in which the market punishes the poor and the middle class for mistakes they are not responsible for and rewards the wrongdoers is abominable.

The G20 – the self-appointed global leadership committee has so far not advocated reforms. Nor have the Asian leaders within the G20 displayed any boldness in suggesting reforms; rather they have merely perpetuated the existing system of inequity. In contrast, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has shown singular courage when she stated last Tuesday ‘that the primacy of politics over the markets should be enforced’. The need of the hour is not the additional voting power in the IMF that seems to be the focus of the G20 but far-reaching restructuring of the global financial architecture.

The time has come for Asian leaders to capitalize on the shift in global political power that accompanies the shift in global economic power so as to wrest control of our future. Today, as we face the promise of an Asian resurgence we cannot afford to ignore the warning signs of inequity and social dissent, environmental degradation and depleting resources.

Kishore Mahbubani in his book The New Asian Hemisphere, refers to a remark by Larry Summers that during the Industrial Revolution living standards in Europe improved by 50% in one life time. The super cycle boom driven by Asia will increase our living standards not by 50%, nor by 100%, but by a 100 fold - in one life time. If this occurs, then the return of the Asians will indeed be one of the biggest revolutions in history.

(Speech made by Ranil Wickremesinghe - leader of the opposition, Sri Lanka at the Rotary International South Asia conference in Bangkok on November 27th 2010)

November 27, 2010

Tamil Civilians bore the brunt of war during its last stages

By Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

Father Rohan Silva is a respected senior Catholic priest who has been actively involved in building bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka through the Centre for Society and Religion, a Catholic charity which he heads. His work has seen him play a role in assisting Tamil civilians recover from the impact of the civil war. In this context, he told Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe earlier in June this year, about the impact of the final months of the war on Tamil civilians who were caught in the crossfire, the conditions in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and the factors leading to the flight of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.

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War zone file pic., Mar 2009

Civilian Predicament

In the final phase of Sri Lanka’s separatist civil war, it was the Tamil civilian population that bore the brunt of the carnage that characterised the war’s last months, which in addition to being caught in the crossfire, saw Tamil civilians shot when trying to flee to government controlled territory and forced by the LTTE to act as either human shields or forcibly recruited conscripts. The actual number of civilian deaths is yet to be accurately estimated though it is generally believed to be several thousand or possibly more.

Father Rohan Silva: “Very interestingly there has been no resurgence of the LTTE. So people have the feeling that the war is over. For over a whole year we haven’t heard anything. So one definitely would say there was a reason to fight them and now at least people can get on a bus and travel without fear without looking at every other person’s bag, and when a Tamil person gets in he isn’t under immediate suspicion. People are more relaxed and that’s a credit to the government. One would say terrorists are to be fought. We don’t justify that, but the government has to handle that.”

“I think even to the last day on May 18, the LTTE expected a change. Even that late, the LTTE actually thought the international community might intervene because there was no other way. Precisely because of that fact, the government had declared that there were not 300,000 odd people there, otherwise it would have been an international issue. They were playing with statistics. They said it’s a matter of 100,000-150,000 people which was not true because when the whole bulk moved out they did not know where to put them.

It ended up with 280,000 finally. That is when you add up the others who had come earlier. These are only those that survived. How many died nobody knows, but actually we will find out soon. At least from a Christian point of view, the churches have their records. Normally the parish priest knows how many people are in his parish. When the parishes are rebuilt they will know how many are missing.

Conditions in IDP Camps

The conditions in IDP camps have been the subject of much speculation when the Sri Lankan authorities were in crisis mode attempting to deal with over 240,000 IDPs who were extracted from the combat zone in the final four weeks of the civil war (excluding the 40,000 plus civilians who arrived previously in the months from January to April 2009). In this context, Father Rohan Silva’s personal experience in attending to the plight of civilians in the IDP camps is illustrative of the complexity of such a huge humanitarian relief operation.

Father Rohan Silva: “Firstly they were moved to schools and wherever else possible, but when the IDP numbers increased they had to clear up more areas and create new camps. But of course they didn’t expect such a big group. They were not ready. At the beginning they provided the most basic things, but it took them almost three months or so to make it a settlement with water, food and medical facilities. Many NGOs were not allowed to go in, although church organisations were allowed in — which is why we got the chance to go in.
“Since the beginning we were permitted entry, but we could only talk to the people. Work wise it was Caritas that got permission, but only for certain things like giving supplementary items and later, because of the number of children, they were given permission to begin small schools.

But later they needed support, so they phoned the churches and that’s how the church got involved. The parishes got organised, they cooked their meals and took them to the camps, but of course they had to go through the military. Then gradually the government and the World Food Programme got involved; the UN got involved. Then they needed other things like vegetables (which Caritas had to provide), utensils, water and so on. There were several needs the government couldn’t handle, so they invited in other groups that had the capacity to do that.

“There were people who were coming out on the last days — both the 17th and 18th of May. It’s a long distance from Killinochchi, which was where they were all brought to and then along the A9 road because that was the safest to travel on. Zone numbers four and five was where the last batches of IDPs were sent into. There was a lot happening at the time and even the army was not very sure who had LTTE affiliations among the IDPs who arrived. The government was very sure towards the end that within this group there would be LTTE operatives and with that restrictions were imposed.”

“When they were brought into the final zone there were many restrictions and as they came in and they were put into a ‘no access’ special zone. What happened was that the facilities were acceptable for the first group, the second and third groups they could manage, but the fourth and fifth groups took time to organise. But as the months passed by, the IDP camps developed.

“It was from May until the end of July or so that zones four and five weren’t given full access. Access meaning there were many restrictions but outsiders were allowed to go inside and help. Not just anybody could walk in. Only certain groups who have been registered and acquired prior permission could go in and sometimes it was only up to a particular point. Those were the restrictions, but of course if the officer was kind enough sometimes you were allowed to go further. Once you’re inside nobody knows where you are. It was a huge area and we visited people in that way. Conditions in the IDP camps improved month by month. There were some sicknesses at the very beginning, but later it improved. Thank god there were no serious sicknesses.

“The IDPs wouldn’t divulge anything unless they knew who you were. They were very silent. As a group that went in regularly, it took us almost three to four months to hear something against the LTTE. I suppose the government was right in that sense because some of the famous Mahaveera (great hero) family members would have been in the final group. Also they didn’t wish to openly criticise the LTTE (although now some have opened up and spoken of how they struggled to live there); because you see their main concern was to protect their children.

“I’m sure there are many NGOs that are willing to help just like during the aftermath of the tsunami. Although many embassies have money, they were not allowed access because the government is very careful about restrictions. Everything is scrutinised. Caritas, the Catholic organisation is allowed to build houses and so forth, but they are given a structure to work within, they need to account for money spent and the people there.

“The resettlement process is hugely monitored. At first people said, ‘Let us go home and within three months we’ll be up again.’ But it is only once they got there that they saw the destruction and realised that they would have to begin from scratch. The resettlement process is very slow. The government will always say there is demining to be done therefore they cannot send people back. Then of course when people are taken there, they find nothing to live. They were given some money and rations and are expected to find their own way. They say other facilities are not there and added to it all is the heavy presence of the armed personnel around.”

Asylum Seekers

The view purported by Father Rohan Silva about the departure of thousands of Tamil asylum seekers from the IDP camps in Sri Lanka provides revealing insights into the complexity of the problem and the varied motivational factors that led to the growing incidents of asylum seeker arrivals from Sri Lanka to countries overseas.

Father Rohan Silva: “I don’t think the numbers of those who ran away can be that high. I know a whole family escaped, very interestingly through the fence and they have gone abroad as well. There was also someone, an LTTE big-shot, who left and the following day they said he phoned from India. But I feel that those who thought of escaping these camps also thought of leaving the country because they feared that at some point they will be caught. Many of them could have been affiliated or connected to the LTTE through family or something like that. Maybe about 1000 or 2000 would have left in that way. But I’m very sure that they were mostly people who had money or influence. All those people left in the camps are those who cannot do anything. Those who had the power to do something are probably long gone.

“Those who are really connected to the LTTE had to get out of Sri Lanka. If not, they would’ve been tried. There are so many LTTE members in detention camps because you could be put in for the slightest suspicion for years. They know their fate, so their best option is to leave the country. Of course once they do go out, they say they have been threatened and their lives have been threatened. That’s what everyone says. The top-rankers would have tried to escape. Unless they had international connections, if you were a normal fighter you couldn’t have gone overseas. We don’t have proof, but we heard that all these Tamil political groups that visited the IDP camps knew who was LTTE as they came from the same areas, so they could identify those connected to the LTTE. They probably offered them a deal, ‘If you want to get out then this is the price. If you can give us this amount you will be definitely put outside the shore.’”

“But some would have thought that if they left the country it would have been better for both parties, rather than them being around. I think the general scenario at that stage was to escape from the camps. So the moment they got a chance to get out of the place, they did so. Those that remain are ones who want to go back and start their lives again. They can’t go abroad because they have nobody to support them. If someone sponsored them they would undoubtedly take the chance. Those with a possibility of being sponsored would have left by now."

The primary evidence and first-hand account illustrated by Father Rohan Silva provides a valuable and much needed insight on controversial issues in Sri Lanka’s post-conflict environment, which have continually received widespread and often either misleading or sensationalised coverage in the global media. Such accounts serve to broaden the understanding of the difficulties faced by the IDPs and the complexities of managing a humanitarian crisis that characterised the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

(Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe is an analyst who specialises in South Asian and Indian Ocean Region politics and security.)

"Dr.Jekyll" Mahinda presents budget while "Mr.Hyde" Rajapaksa appoints jumbo cabinet

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

Basil Rajapaksa is unabashed in claiming that in Sri Lanka an era of ‘ruler kings’ has begun. Western ideas of transparency, he claims, along with limits of presidential power and accountability, are not relevant to ‘Asian Culture’.” (The Economist – November 2011)

The second term of President Rajapaksa (or the ‘Mihindu Era’, as a sycophantic warbler termed it) began on an apposite note. Hours before Dr. Jekyll-Mahinda presented his ‘development budget’, Mr. Hyde-Rajapaksa appointed an anti-development cabinet, hyperinflationary in size, labyrinthine in contours and revelatory in composition.

The new cabinet (with portfolios such as Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation or Minister of Private Transport Services, and with Mervyn Silva as Minister of Public Relations and Public Affairs) demonstrates the contempt with which the Rajapaksas hold the Lankan people. That contempt, however jarring, is not undeserved; it is wages for our acquiescence in the face of persistent abuse and gross injustice.

A democracy cannot be, without elections, but elections alone do not make a democracy. Our responsibilities as citizens do not begin on the polling day nor end at the polling booth. If we voluntarily reduce our role to that of voters and nothing but voters, we will embolden our elected representatives (of all hues) to interpret their mandate as a carte blanche to abuse power or to engage in blatant self-advancement (including ‘party-hopping’). In such an insalubrious environ democracy would erode, even when it is not deliberately asphyxiated. Such abdication of democratic responsibility by the citizenry becomes of far greater concern and consequence, when rulers have despotic impulses or – worse still – harbour tyrannical agendas.

Absurdities are as much a hallmark of a tyranny as atrocities. “Among his many presents, the President should have received a crown”, opines Minister Basil Rajapaksa. (The Economist – 18.11.2010). The official slogan for the Second Inauguration hailed President Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s Sun and Moon; at the swearing-in drama, the President made his grand entrance emerging from a mammoth anthropomorphic sun, painted in the traditional Sinhala manner (that grotesquerie contained several books-worth of analyses of the Rajapaksa Chinthanaya).

The Rajapaksas intend not to govern as democratic leaders but to rule as de facto monarchs. They are impatient of (if not inimical to) democratic traditions and safeguards, such as separation of powers, transparency and accountability. In a move of symbolic import, the Prime Minister’s seat in parliament has been set aside for the President. That step, enabled by the 18th Amendment, signifies the spreading of executive tentacles over the legislature; it is yet another nail in the coffin of democracy.

Dissent is a criminal-sin in a country of (divinely mandated) ruler-kings. The UNP leadership is safe from Rajapaksa-wrath because it cannot challenge the Ruling Family. The moment the opposition acts a little less supinely, the Rajapaksas isolate the agent/s of efficacy and suppress them, as evidenced by the jailing of Sarath Fonseka and the attack on JVPers visiting Jaffna. Even leading Buddhist monks are menaced with Rajapaksa-thunderbolts, when they attempt dissent. The US State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report chronicles how the regime bludgeoned the Asgiriya and Malwatte Mahanayakes into ditching a planned Sangha Council to protest the incarceration of Sarath Fonseka: “….a delegation of government ministers met with the Mahanayakes to discourage them from holding the assembly. There were reports from a wide range of contacts that local temples across the country received anonymous threats that any busses carrying Buddhist monks to attend the assembly would be bombed, and the Mahanayakes called off the sessions indefinitely. Contacts reported that the Mahanayake of Malwatte who had organised the call for the assembly, was threatened with government action, which would split the Chapter and significantly reduce its influence, if he attempted to speak out on political issues again.”

Tyranny can be conjunctural or structural. Conjunctural tyranny can exist within a democracy because it is episodic and incidental, and therefore reversible. Structural tyranny can germinate in a democracy but it cannot come into fruition without fatally damaging its democratic-host. Until the 18th Amendment, Sri Lanka remained a conjunctural tyranny; had Mahinda Rajapaksa retired at the end of his second term (as his two predecessors with despotic inclinations did) his Dynastic Project would have crumbled and Sri Lanka could have returned to being a flawed democracy.

That democratic possibility was killed by the 18th Amendment; it removed presidential term-limits and rendered electoral justice impossible by placing the Elections Commissioner and the IGP, key players in any election, under the thumb of the President. It was the first great-leap in a process aimed at transforming the constitution into an impregnable rampart protecting Rajapaksa Rule.

Barring some fortuitous accident, the Rajapaksas are here to stay. Faced with this unpalatable reality, driven to un-hope by the UNP’s shenanigans, even opponents of the Dynastic Project may feel the urge to disengage, to wait behind a wall of indifference for better times. The opposition is weak and fractured and Ranil Wickremesinghe is a by-word for disaster; precisely why we, as citizens, must remain engaged, intra-elections. If we fail to defend our rights or to oppose wrong done in our name, we will be the losers.

Though regime-change is not a realistic option for now, opposing the abuses and impeding the excesses of the Rajapaksas are both necessary and (still) possible. Indeed, outside of the traditional oppositional space, many citizens (of all political hues and none) attempt to defend themselves, when victimised by Rajapaksa governance or threatened by the ‘developmental war’. The successful protest by fishermen and their families, against a plan by the Navy to land sea-planes in the Negombo lagoon (to ‘promote development through tourism’) is an excellent case in point.

Just as abuses breed more abuses, resistance can breed more resistance. The UDA “now functioning under the Defence Ministry, has drawn up a mass eviction plan for both residents in possession of valid deeds and those occupying state land in Colombo city….. Residents in Slave Island, most of them holding valid deeds for their houses and living in the area for more than five decades, have been told to be prepared to move out…..” (The Sunday Times – 21.11.2010). The UNP may be too engrossed in its internal imbroglios to assist these 60,000 families, a key component of its own vote base; but the intended victims have formed the Colombo Residents’ Protection Organisation to fight this monstrous injustice. Such spontaneous mass initiatives are important in impeding, however minutely, the Rajapaksa Juggernaut; they also provide alternate spaces for political engagements for those who are opposed to Rajapaksa Rule but tired of the traditional opposition.

Political resistance to Rajapaksa deeds would be impossible without psychological resistance to the Rajapaksa Chinthanaya, that grotesque dogma which promotes injustice, impunity and intolerance in the name of ‘patriotism’ and ‘nation’.

In contradistinction to this anti-democratic and retrogressive worldview, we need to create a vision of a Lankan future which is democratic and humane, accepts economic rights of the poor, political rights of the minorities and human rights of all and refuses to countenance ruler-kings. Resisting the Rajapaksa commonsense by developing an alternative worldview is perhaps a sine-qua-non for the creation of an alternative political project, in this Mihindu Era.

Evaluating President Mahinda Rajapaksa: His strengths and limitations

By Victor Ivan

The swearing in ceremony of President Mahinda Rajapaksa following his second successive victory at the presidential elections was held on November 19.

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pic: sundaytimes.lk

President Rajapaksa cannot be considered as a state leader who has been subjected to a just evaluation. Either we hear loud praises being sung about him or vicious and furious allegations hurled against him. This article seeks to weigh the strengths and limitations unique to President Mahinda Rajapaksa as a state leader.

He can be considered as a leader who is the most powerful and colourful among those state leaders who emerged since Sri Lanka’s (SL) Independence. He can be identified as different from other state leaders on two factors : Hitherto every state leader was from Colombo and primarily Colombo oriented, whereas Mahinda Rajapaksa is the first state leader who is from a village and village oriented. The other important reason which makes him stand out from other state leaders is the role of saviour he had to play in his field. No other present state leader of Sri Lanka was afforded the opportunity to play this saviour role. He is the first and only leader who was saddled with that challenge.

He is not received well among the urban liberal middle class intellectuals. Even during the period when he gained power, they were puzzled but in respect of him. Who is he? What does he know? Those were the questions mostly asked by the sceptic middle class. The principal reason for this doubt being, he was not from the city and not from the urban elite. Such a doubt assailed this society even in relation to President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Decision making ability

Mahinda Rajapaksa is not an individual who had arrived on the political scene by accident or by chance. He can be reckoned as a leader with the same experience as President Ranasinghe Premadasa and one who has gone through the mill. He nursed the feeling for a long time that he would some day become the leader of this country. Like Premadasa, Mahinda Rajapaksa too aimed at that goal. He had in him the experience and incisive knowledge in regard to the country’s affairs. He was a leader who waited patiently until he got the opportunity. Even on occasions when he was sidelined or demeaned within the SLFP he bore them with patience and stuck with the party. He never deserted it. That trait of his goes to confirm his determination and political ambition.

He proved his mettle as a leader not after the war, but even before. When a number of previous state leaders avoided the implementation of projects owing to opposition and protests, Mahinda Rajapaksa pursuing an unswerving and strong policy, not only went ahead, but also implemented the Norochcholai coal power project opposed by the church, and the upper Kotmale power project which was stalled because of the opposition mounted by Thondaman.

Even before the war ended, he announced his interest to develop infrastructure facilities. He introduced new road projects while also improving roads in the rural areas in a manner never undertaken by anyone hitherto. What was most striking and special about it all is even after the war erupted, the infrastructure plans which were commenced and the programmes launched based on them were continued uninterrupted side by side with the raging war. From this it is evident that he is a leader with an exclusive vision for development that was peculiar only to himself. Prior to this, two leaders emerged in modern Sri Lanka who had grandiose visions. They were President J.R. Jayewardene and President Ranasinghe Premadasa. President Mahinda can also be considered as a leader who is on par with them in that respect.

His painful decision to fight the war against the LTTE to the end can be considered as the most difficult and arduous task undertaken by him. Previously, all state leaders nursed the belief that the LTTE is a cruel organisation which cannot be defeated. The international community too entertained the same view. The state leaders harboured fears in respect of the monumental problems they may have to confront if they are to engage in a decisive war against the LTTE. Every other leader fought the war against the LTTE not with the aim of defeating it, but rather as a means of compelling them to come to the negotiating table.

Unlike his predecessors, in relation to this complex issue, Mahinda was exceptional for he was determined to defeat the LTTE at war with grit and determination without yielding to the international pressures brought to bear on him. Finally the LTTE was annihilated in a manner which no one could believe. His political opponents pinned their hopes on the war to take advantage of his failures and debacles in that engagement. But on the contrary, they were driven to defeat with Mahinda successfully vanquishing the invincible Prabhakaran and emerging victor.

It was the view of Mahinda’s political opponents that Mahinda’s decision to fight the war and his subsequent efforts in pursuit of the war against the LTTE stemmed from his Sinhala extremist perspective. It cannot however be said, at that juncture the President had no option except wage war against the LTTE.

What the LTTE aimed at was, if a separate state cannot be achieved, at least secure a confederation status. They never had any idea of accepting anything less than that. The LTTE had created a situation where it was impossible to resolve the issue by discussion because of their stern and inflexible stance. Moreover they never took an innocent position where they could say they aggressed only when aggressed upon. They were always the aggressors attacking at every opportunity using the weapons in the most destructive manner. In the circumstances, the President was compelled to opt for war and nothing else.

In case the President had not taken this momentous decision, there was room for the situation to turn detrimental not only to the President but even to the whole country.

The Anti War Front

While the government was at war against the LTTE, there arose an anti government political campaign. These Anti War Fronts lodged their protests on the pretext that they were anti war and anti government on the government’s war policy. It can be said that these complicated political developments based on these anti war and anti government fronts were the outcome of a number of factors. Mingled with them were the UNP and those of the Sinhala society who are opponents of Mahinda. Minority parties and LTTE sympathisers were also among them. There were also individuals and organisations who believed that this issue can be resolved by dialogue alone. The NGOs receiving foreign funding and carrying on projects with this end in view also harboured that notion.

This front became anti war, anti government and anti Mahinda. Their whole political objective was to see the government’s war campaign founder and Rajapaksa government crash or be devastated. They never believed that the war will be won. They were of the opinion that due to the war, the Rajapaksa government will be plunged into deep trouble thus paving the way for the opposition to regain power. Based on this conviction, they did everything possible using all the resources at their command to tarnish the image of the government internationally.

Their actions did grave harm to the government and the security forces internationally. The counter measures taken by the government and the forces against them also did a lot of damage to them in return. This conflict between these two parties was reflected in the acrimony and bitter hostilities during the final phase of the war. Consequently, the external image of Sri Lanka was torn down owing to this. The Anti War Front portrayed the government’s war effort as a campaign against the Tamil race. While the Front tried to justify their extremist policies through this portrayal, the government on the other hand sought to justify its action by pointing out the traitorous trait characterising the Front.

Giving the war an anti Tamil complexion

The Anti War Front campaigners interpreted the war as a genocide war against the Tamil people. They were of the view that every arrest made and every attack was an act of taking revenge against the Tamils. This wrong analysis did not stop even after the war was won. It was alleged that the government’s plan was to prolong the detention of the Tamils in the camps when delays occurred to release them. When army families were being settled in the North and East they claimed that there was a programme to create an Army colony.

There is no doubt that the war affected the Tamils. But it cannot be presumed that the war operations were intended to harm the Tamils as a race or with atrocious aims against them. During the JVP insurgency devastation earlier on, there had been worse incidents in the Sinhala dominated South. After the defeat of the LTTE there were no incidents where the Tamils were targeted for killing or taking revenge. At the moment of victory, before and after, the restraint and skill shown during the controlling of racial hatred, and the administration of the refugees and the prisoners, by the Rajapaksa government which have yet to be noticed or appraised, are monumental triumphs achieved by this government.

Managing racial hatred

There were so many factors which contributed during the war to arouse ethnic hatred. The LTTE targeting the civil population brutally attacked them with the objective of provoking ethnic vengeance and violence. Yet, no racial riots erupted meaning that there was appropriate administration in place to stave off such provocative situations.

Eventhough the people were allowed to celebrate ecstatically and enthusiastically as soon as the war was won, they were not permitted to turn the celebrations into ethnic violence. The manner in which the thousands of displaced refugees in the camps, the large number of LTTE supporters who were arrested and those who surrendered were treated was most humane.

The manner in which the LTTE child soldiers were treated and rehabilitated were exemplary so much so that they were considered as model methods which other countries could follow. Among the voluntary workers who were serving in the refugee camps was a sister of the President, and her husband who was a medical Doctor. The humane treatment meted out to the LTTE prisoners by the government can be considered as much better than the treatment that was given by the government at that time to the JVP prisoners of the 1971 insurgency.

The proposal brought forward by Gen. Fonseka after the conclusion of the war to increase the cadres of the army by some hundreds of thousands of soldiers was rejected by the President without any hesitation. If the President had at that moment consented to the proposal taking into account the popularity and power wielded by the army, there was room for Sri Lanka to turn into another Burma.

No such changes in the ratio on the ethnic distribution in the North and East occurred in the way Mahinda’s critics expected. No Sinhala people were settled in those areas. The government had agreed to reduce the extent of the high security zones step by step and release those lands to the first settlers. It should be acknowledged that the government is also engaged in a special programme in order to improve the infrastructure facilities and standard of living of those who are being resettled.

Of course divergent opinions have emerged. Yet, in the North and East there is a general feeling of goodwill. The lives of those people are gradually returning to normal. Eventhough a political solution has not been found as yet, the people of the North and East are visibly enjoying more freedom than what they had during the LTTE administration. The economic development which was never there during that time is now in progress. Despite all this the Tamil people are still suspicious and feeling hurt — and that should come as no surprise; those who have lost their family members cannot erase those memories that easily.

Be that as it may, now they have their own active Parliamentary MPs representing the North and East. Earlier their people’s representatives were confined only to Colombo and could not go to their electorates, but now these representatives are able to go to their electorates and look into the woes of the people and are able to attend district development meetings. In both the East and the North there is an administration system with their representatives in the Provincial Councils (PCs). While the PC in the East is already existing, the PC elections in the North ought to be held very shortly. In the North and East the politics of the bullet is being replaced by politics of the ballot.

If every aspect is justly and reasonably examined, it is under the Rajapaksa administration era that the bilingual policy in regard to government servants was followed best and successfully. This was not implemented only after the war but pursued even before the conflict began. Most number of government servants sat the Sinhala – Tamil proficiency exams only during the Rajapaksa regime. Today in every area where Tamils are living, there are police officers who can work in Tamil. Perhaps the number of officers are inadequate but the foundation laid is strong enough to move ahead.

I may deem myself as a monitor on the war and the issues springing up from it. The political opponents portrayed Mahinda Rajapaksa as a Sinhala Chauvinist leader. There is absolutely no truth in that. He was not only a leader who won the confidence of the majority community but also one who respected the views of all other communities with the ability to give due consideration to the just needs and identities of the other communities. He is a compassionate political leader who laid a strong foundation for the building up of a single Sri Lankan Nation bringing together all races.

He did not have the Oxford University education from Britain of Bandaranaike, yet he can be reckoned as a progressive leader who has the power and the knowledge to manage various communities of people. He broke away from Bandaranaike’s misguided policies. In all probability, he is the leader who can make the dream of a united Sri Lankan Nation a reality.

Shortcomings and limitations

No leader is entirely without blemish. The emergence of a perfect leader is impossible. Good and bad are always mixed, even Mahatma Gandhi had faults and shortcomings. In the governance of Mahinda too there are flaws and shortfalls in his style and system of administration. The policy pursued in relation to Sarath Fonseka is unwelcome. He might be an individual who had committed a wrong for which he deserves punishment. There may be reasons to justify the rage of the President against him. But he was an opposition presidential candidate who contested the President.

Looking at the policy followed in respect of him, it seems that it is wreaking revenge on an opposition presidential candidate. The signals given out based on this series of events do not augur well for the President or the government.

A government which nurtures nepotism and shows favoritism is reprehensible in the modern context. Since Independence, every ruler had this trait except that it was more in some and less in others. The UNP which ruled after Independence also governed while leaning more towards its family members. From time to time in every government which ruled these family roots persisted. After S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, the SLFP was nurtured under Sirima Bandaranaike with greater weight being attached to one family. Every government that sprung to power from this party had these family roots embedded in it. It must be acknowledged that this is more manifest in the Rajapaksa administration.

The impact of this trend was evident especially when the leaders of the SLFP changed owing to opposition to this trend.

MR was not an individual who inspired the confidence of Chandrika and during that time Mahinda was not treated fairly. This situation also militated against the other leaders of the SLFP. Among them there were some leaders who wished to please and pamper Chandrika while ignoring Mahinda. In 2005, Mahinda contested the presidential election not as a party leader but from a rung below. During that election the SLFP party leader extended support to Ranil. At that juncture the issues which surfaced inside the party turned detrimental to the other leaders in a small or great measure.

Even after the presidential election victory, there was a campaign to entice a group of members of the government to the opposition party backed by the former President, and to topple the government. This led the present President to lean heavily on his family members and those whom he trusted. When the war began again, he got pushed deeper into this situation, and when the war raged he strengthened himself on these lines.

Among the individuals who were close to him, his brothers in the family, Gotabaya and Basil showed immense dedication and performed a number of tasks. They were an asset to the government and not a liability.

Though Mahinda’s relationship as a brother imparted strength to them, they had a special aptitude and ability towards work. Yet the same cannot be said in regard to the others. Every leader is biased towards his family and family relations. But the danger in that bias is when positions are granted considering only the family affiliations and affinities without giving due regard to their efficiency and abilities. In such circumstances reaching the leader’s desired goals become only a dream and not a reality, not to mention they becoming a burden to the country.

The other reason which exposes the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to justifiable criticism is the pursuit of the policy of continuing with the corrupt political system without effecting fundamental changes. If among the systems of reforms available, the Executive Presidency system is the most favoured, then that system shall be amended to win the confidence and reverence of the people. Unlike earlier, if necessary, it can be accomplished now as never before, as there exists no fear of courting instability.

There is no doubt that grave complicated issues were inherent in the 17th Amendment . But the measures formulated to overcome this cannot be accepted as an appropriate solution. Any state leader prefers to choose people whom he wishes for state appointments. There is nothing wrong in that. The state leader should have the prerogative to choose individuals to important positions. But that becomes a problem when incompetent and unqualified people are given appointments to those positions. A state leader who has the right to choose must have a system whereby he can preclude the appointment of unsuitable candidates to those positions.

The biggest challenge to steering ahead is the power and practice of corruption. Corruption eats into the revenue of the country and militates against the government’s capacity to provide the necessary facilities and welfare for the people. If the law of assets and liabilities could be amended appropriately and that law can be tightened, a great deal of corruption can be curbed and controlled. The President must seriously focus his attention on this important issue.

When it comes to electing himself as the type of leader he ought to be , Mahinda Rajapaksa has a number of options. He can follow Lee Kwan Yu or Muhammed Mahathir’s path and by that he can ensure the country’s prosperous future. But in both those countries while there is economic prosperity they are poor in democracy.

Though democracy in Sri Lanka had always been lacking maturity and was riddled with complications, the people of the country have always had an innate and inordinate passion for democracy unlike in Singapore and Malaysia. That was why former President Jayewardene’s dream of creating a single party system in Sri Lanka could not be realised . Mahinda’s importance as a statesmen will be fully recognised once he makes this country an economically successful democracy. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Leader ~

The creative intelligence of Lalith Athulathmudali: A Birthday (Nov 26th) Tribute

by Kesaralal Gunasekera

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The late Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali was best known in the public domain as a great politician, a skillful orator and a pragmatic leader. One thing known only to those who had close interactions with him is the unique ability he had in dealing with people. The skill and competence he had to work with people, is what is now called ‘emotional intelligence’ by the human resource experts. I write this primarily as a tribute to him on his 74th birth anniversary which fell on Friday. If any of the present day politicians could take at least a single lesson from his life as a true people’s representative, it would be a great good fortune to our country.

Having worked closely with him, I can vouch that he was a true people’s representative – and not just a mere politician. He had his own way of dealing with and helping his constituents to resolve their problems. He had set apart three days of the week - Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for people to meet him at his political office in Ratmalana. His office was open from 6 am and his staff required to arrive before him. This alone is indicative of his dedication to the people who elected him to parliament.

These public days had clear objectives - to meet the individual, give a patient hearing and send the person off with a satisfactory answer. In order to achieve these objectives, time management was the key. He wanted people with major problems to come the day before and I was tasked to meet them and get all the necessary information. The following day, in the presence of the person concerned I had to present the case to Mr. Athulathmudali, who wasted no time in taking action.

His services to people did not stop at those who voted for him. I remember that once he had recommended that the daughter of an LSSP stalwart be trained as a nurse. This upset some local politicians from the branch organizations who said she was unsuitable. Mr. Athulathmudali, as usual, kept his calm. He showed no signs of being upset that his staff was questioning his judgment and decision. One day he summoned the girl to his office asking her to bring her curriculum vitae and certificates. Keeping the girl in one office, he called in the local politicians who were having problems with the selection and asked them to interview the girl and go through her certificates to see if she is really suitable. They were embarrassed and were quick to realize that their complaints were based solely on the girl’s political background and not on her real qualifications. The matter ended there. It was interesting how Mr. Athulathmudali, instead of defending his decision, made them realize the importance of being impartial.

There were many other occasions where Mr. Athulathmudali was approached by party people to advise him on certain appointments. Once someone told him that Mr. Lakshman de Mel, a highly respected civil servant, was a leftist. This was cited as a barrier for him to be appointed into a high position in Mr. Athulathmudali’s ministry. Mr. Athulathmudali’s response was; ‘ I do not mind if he follows any other political ideology as long as he can do the work’. A similar concern was raised when Mr. T S Silva was to be appointed as principal of Hena Vidyalaya. A message was sent to Mr. Athulathmudali that Silva was a ‘blue eyed boy’ of late MP Vivienne Goonewardene. Mr. Athulathmudali’s reaction was the same; that irrespective of political affiliations, if the person can do the job, that is all that matters. Frankly, Mr. Athulathmudali had no fear of other political ideologies. Neither did he favour his own party . He never worked thinking that only those who voted for him or in his party are most suited to take up jobs. We truly miss the days of Mr. Athulathmudali where his vision was clear - right person for the right job.

He always led by example. His way of driving a message home was interesting and entertaining. During his time as the Minister for Education, he sent out a circular to all schools stating how a school prize giving should be conducted and the maximum time duration for it. Subsequent to this circular, he was invited by a leading girls’ school in Galle to be the chief guest at their annual prize giving. The function began with a welcome song, a dance and long and elaborate speech by the principal. I noticed that he was checking his watch constantly. Knowing what was in the circular, I was waiting to see a reaction from him as the prize giving ceremony was bound to exceed the allocated time. He called the girl who was compering the event and whispered something in her ear. The principal and teachers were curious to find out what it was all about. The girl announced the awarding of prizes on the instruction given by Mr. Athulathmudali. This, which was the last item on the agenda, was thus moved up. He distributed the prizes.

Then he was called to deliver his address. At the podium, his speech was brief. He said that his circular on school prize giving ceremonies gives a specific time frame and this time will be up in a few minutes. ``I cannot break my own rules" he said and wished all the prize winners all success and ended his speech. I was amazed. It was important that he distributed the prizes within the stipulated time and did not embarrass the principal and staff publicly. What was most important was that following the event, he spent over 45 minutes talking to the teachers and having tea with them. He simply delivered his speech informally during the tea break and also made sure that the principal and staff understood the circular on prize givings.

Mr. Athulathmudali is someone from whom we can learn about professionalism. He was also fortunate to have very professional and knowledgeable civil servants in his team. One such person that comes to my mind is late Mr. Gaya Cumaranatunga, Additional Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Shipping, who was one of the finest officials who worked under him. They had a unique understanding and a way of working. When it came to high confidential and sensitive matters, Mr. Cumaranatunga would make his recommendations in Latin. Mr. Athulathmudali would also respond in Latin. This way, both maintained a high level of confidentiality when it was required and left no room for leaks. Mr. Athulathmudali was a scrupulously honest leader and those who were in his top team were equally honest and dedicated to public service.

Although in today’s context politicians are hesitant about decentralizing, Mr. Athulathmudali was an expert in the matter. This is one reason why he was so efficient in multi-tasking. He trusted his team to do the best on his behalf. I remember one day when a Buddhist monk came to his office with a problem. The monk was narrating a long tale of woe. I knew that time was of utmost importance to Mr. Athulathmudali. But he was not willing to tell the priest that he was getting late. He would never make any person feel that their problems are not important. Honestly, their problems were very important to him. He listened to the monk and said ‘The ideal person to handle this is Lal Gunasekera’ and called me in. He handed over the monk and the problem to me and instructed me to find the best solution. I attended to the problem and resolved it before long.

Two weeks following the incident, I attended a ‘bana’ sermon at a friend’s place and the same priest attended. He mentioned the incident and thanked Mr. Athulathmudali for his prompt action. This shows that decentralizing authority and tasks only made him more popular and not otherwise. Mr. Athulathmudali carried only his diary and a pen. The pen was his weapon. He did not need to carry piles of files with him. His ability to resolve issues was such that he only needed to write what action to take. With one stroke of the pen he would give instructions to one of his competent staff. He knew how competent the staff was and made sure that they knew it too.

I believe that all his staff enjoyed working for him as much as I did. Shyamila Perera was his Co-ordinating Secretary and Legal Officer. She was one of the most trusted persons of the minister. Mrs Preethi Jayaratne was his Senior Assistant Secretary who also wrote his speeches. One day the minister arrived early and none of the members of his personal staff including Preethi and Shyamila were around. The minister declared ‘ Tell all of them that they are sacked’. We all arrived and heard this news and waited. We knew that we would be required to be at his service before long. He was such a team player and he would be lost without the team. Around 11 am, the minister called his private secretary, Upali Gooneratne, and said ‘ Please tell Preethi to attend to this speech, I need it by afternoon’. This was conveyed to Preethi who very casually stated that since she has been sacked, she is unable to perform the given duty. Mr. Gooneratne conveyed this to Mr. Athulathmudali .‘ All right,All right’ said the Minister, ‘ tell them that all are now reinstated!’. It was a pleasure to work with him. In this situation both the sacking and refusal to work was done in jest and that is the culture that prevailed in his office. The staff was also free to make jokes.

It goes without saying that there was none to beat his wit. Even today I cannot think of a single politician who can even come close to, in terms of his wit. At a Heads of Departments meeting at the Ports Authority I can still recall a conversation he had. Mr. Leslie Fernando who was a working director at the Ports Authority and a veteran trade unionist, exclaimed that the identity cards worn by staff were undecipharable due to the small print. Since it was a time where the Port was under threat, all staff were required to wear ID tags in order to be identified at sight. "Sir," Leslie said, "Even when you come bosom to bosom, it is difficult to read the name." The quick response from the Minister was," Leslie, you must understand that when you come bosom to bosom, the name is immaterial." Everyone present were in fits of laughter, including Leslie.

Mr. Athulatmudali never carried a purse or money with him. One day a group of students walked into his office on a flag day to sell some flags. He called me in and asked me, " Lal do you have any money?’ I reached into my pocket. I too did not carry a purse. But I had some money. I pulled everything out; both notes and coins, and handed over a 100 rupee note to him. ‘What’s this?’ Don’t you have a purse?’ He asked me. "Sir, you need a purse only if you have a lot of money. I do not have a lot of money and that is why I keep everything in my pocket’ I explained. He took the 100 rupee note and put it in the till. That, I thought was the end of the story. After about three weeks he went on an overseas trip and upon his return handed over a beautiful leather purse to me. I was truly surprised that he actually remembered. I still have that purse. It is more a souvenir now than ever before. To me it is a symbol of how much he cared for his staff.

Moving on to yet another story about his interactions with staff I recall this. We all knew he never carried any money with him. Mr. Jayasena Perera, his coordinating officer, once said in jest ‘ Sir langa rupiyal dekak wath ne athey.’ Although this was said in his absence, the news has reached Mr. Athulathmudali. One day, Mr. Athulathmudali called Jayasena and gave him a two rupee note. Jayasena was non-plussed and asked why? "I heard that you said that I don’t even have two rupees with me’. Jayasena quickly took the two rupees and said thank you. Then he said ‘Sir, can you give me another two rupees?’. Mr. Athulathmudali could not help laughing, for he did not have any more money with him. Jayasena also laughed. He has proved his point.

Another quality that I and many others who worked with him truly admired is the fact that he NEVER reprimands or humiliates his staff in public. He never had to shout at people or publicly humiliate them to show that he was the boss. Everyone knew it and everyone respected him for the way he treated staff. Some days when I knew that he would get late to reach office, I would be late too. One day I was late and found that he has already arrived and started work. Not only that, he has given instructions to his chief security officer Mr. Muthu Banda not to allow anyone in. So I had to wait outside with his security men.

He was meeting members of his constituency that day and I knew that before long he would need me because I knew the background to all the issues that were being presented to him. "Where’s Lal? Where’s Lal?" I heard his voice. Someone may have itold him that I was waiting outside, he said ‘ Enna Kiyanna, Enna Kiyanna’(Tell him to come) as if nothing was wrong. I was summoned immediately and without any questioning I was allowed to perform my duties. However, by keeping me locked out of the office, he sent a subtle message that I needed to arrive before him EVERY DAY. He never spoke about it. But I still do, because he was such a great boss to work for.

On another day I was late for a meeting. I decided to take a side entrance, so that he would not notice me walking in late. I was wrong. He had noticed me walking in stealthily like a rogue. I was expecting some kind of remark. To my sheer humiliation, he just looked at his watch. I could have sunk in my seat. But by not pulling me up in front of a crowd, he taught me to be punctual.

Mr. Athulathmudali was someone who could relate to people from all walks of life. During the time he and Mr. Gamini Dissanayake created the Democratic United National Front, there was a huge following behind them. Once we were travelling to Polonnaruwa for a meeting and stopped on the way to get diesel for the jeep. Mr. Athulathmudali got off the vehicle and spoke to about two people. Within two to three minutes, there was a crowd of over 100 people around him. That was the charisma he had and to this day; people remember him for being a true representative of the people.

I want to end this tribute with two stories which are both hilarious and also show the wisdom he had in dealing with people. A gentleman from Ratmalana (I wiil not reveal his identity), once came to see him. It was very clear that the person was drunk and was looking for an argument with the minister. The issue was real but Mr. Athulathmudali did not want to argue because he did not want to reveal certain facts which could be damaging to other persons concerned. But most of all he did not want to argue with someone who was drunk. He told the gentleman: "Today is not a good day for me, because I am drunk. So I am not in a position to argue or resolve this issue today. So, why don’t you come tomorrow?" Since the minister was not willing to have an argument, the gentleman was compelled to leave. He never returned. Mr. Athulathmudali did not hurt his feelings either.

This happened when Mr. Athulathmudali held the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Shipping and his office was located on the seventh floor of Rakshana Mandiraya. His faithful office aide, the late Sasana Perera, had accidentally left the tap in his office toilet half open on a Friday. When we came to office on Monday the whole place was flooded and the minister was compelled to operate from his secretary’s office. The carpets had to be removed and cleaned. The cost was high. The enquiry revealed that since it was Sasana Perera’s responsibility, the cost of cleaning should be deducted from his salary. The cost would have been a few thousand rupees which was a huge amount at the time. When this was communicated to Sasana, he was upset and angry and stormed in to Mr. Athulathmudali’s office saying;

‘Sir, mage padi kappanna hadanawa’ ( sir they are trying to cut my salary)

Mr. Athulathmudali, as if he knew nothing about the incident, enquiry and the final decision, retorted:

‘Apo! Padi kapanna denna behe. Eheme karanna kaatawath behe" ( Cannot allow salary to be cut. No one can do that)

Sasana then explained what has happened and whined that the Secretary has made a decision to recover the cost from his salary. Mr. Athulathmudali still pretending not to know the issue, asked the enquiry file to be brought. He read it carefully and told Sasana:

‘Sasana, you must go and thank the Secretary for only deducting the cost from your salary, because according to the inquiry recommendations, you must be sacked. So the Secretary Sir has been very kind to you and has reversed that decision. Isn’t it better to have a salary cut than to lose your job?'

Sasana was more than happy to pay the cost of damage from his salary, than to lose his job. To this day, I marvel at the way he handled people. Such creative intelligence! A friend of mine who listened to all these stories said, ‘ You are a very fortunate person to have worked with such a great man.’ Indeed I am. And on his birth anniversary, all I can say is that I am truly glad that he was born in this country and allowed us to witness and learn from his great leadership qualities and leave a legacy behind as a genuine representative of the people.

May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.

(The Writer is a former Member of Parliament)

War crimes universal jurisdiction and immunity

by Maithri Wickremesinghe

Ordinarily a state exercises criminal jurisdiction only over offences which occur within its geographical boundaries. However, since the Nazi atrocities and the Nuremberg trials, international law recognises a number of offences such as war crime, torture, genocide, and crime against humanity as being international crimes. Individual states have taken jurisdiction to try these international crimes even in cases where such crimes were not committed within the geographical boundaries of such states. This jurisdiction is sometimes referred to as universal jurisdiction.

There are several statutory provisions in Britain that create a modified version of universal jurisdiction in respect of international crimes. Section 1 of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (war crime), Section 1 of the Taking of Hostages Act 1982 (hostage taking), Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (torture) and Part 5 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 (genocide, crime against humanity and war crime) are some of the principle statutory provisions in this regard.

In December 2009 a British Magistrate, on the application of some of the Palestinian victims of the fighting issued an arrest warrant for Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni over war crimes allegedly committed in Gaza that year. Ms. Livni cancelled her visit to Britain. Less than three months earlier a similar application was made by Palestinians for an arrest warrant against Ehud Barak who was the Deputy Prime Minister of Israel and its Defence Minister. He was in London and scheduled to meet the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

The court refused to issue an arrest warrant observing that allegations of war crimes had been well documented, but that it was "satisfied that under customary international law Mr. Barak had immunity from prosecution as he would not be able to perform his functions efficiently if he were the subject of criminal proceeding" in Britain. In 2005 an arrest warrant was issued against a retired Major General of the Israeli Army on the application of victims in Gaza for his alleged violation of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, a criminal offence in Britain under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957. Major General (retired) Doron Almog presumably fearing arrest, did not disembark from the airplane he had arrived in at Heathrow Airport in London.

The arrest of Senator Pinochet, the former Head of State of Chile.

The arrest of Senator Pinochet in London is the best known instance of an arrest in Britain of a foreign national for alleged war crimes committed outside Britain. The resulting litigation (indeed there were three separate applications to the House of Lords) laid down the law of England on the issue of an arrest warrant on a Head of State.

On 11th September 1973 a right wing coup evicted the left wing regime of President Allende of Chile. The coup was led by Senator (then General) Pinochet. At some stage Pinochet became Head of State and remained so until 11th March 1990. In 1998 while Senator Pinochet was in Britain for medical treatment, a Spanish Court invoking principles of universal jurisdiction issued two international arrest warrants for several crimes allegedly committed by Pinochet primarily in Chile during his tenure as Head of State. Acting on these international arrest warrants, a British Magistrates Court issued two provisional arrest warrants. On the application of Pinochet, the High Court in London by a unanimous decision quashed both warrants holding that Pinochet (as former Head of State) was entitled to state immunity in respect of the acts with which he was charged. The decision of the High Court to quash the warrants was appealed to the House of Lords.

Submissions were made on behalf of several parties including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. By a 3 to 2 majority (with Lord Hoffmann in the majority) the House of Lords in this first Pinochet case allowed the appeal and held that Senator Pinochet was not entitled to immunity. Shortly thereafter Pinochet’s lawyers brought it to the attention of the House of Lords that Lord Hoffmann was connected with Amnesty International Charitable Trust albeit in an honorary capacity and that his wife was employed by Amnesty International. The House of Lords then reviewed the matter in a second Pinochet case and held that although there was no suggestion that Lord Hoffmann was actually biased against Senator Pinochet, he had "an interest in the outcome of the proceedings", was "in effect, acting as a judge in his own cause" and that "public confidence in the integrity of the administration of justice would be shaken if his decision were allowed to stand". The House of Lords ordered a fresh hearing.

Immunity available to a serving foreign head of state and a former foreign head of state.

The opinion of the House of Lords in the fresh hearing in the third Pinochet case held by a majority of 6 to 1 that the arrest warrant was validly issued. In doing so they drew a distinction between the immunity available to a serving head of state on the one hand and a former head of state on the other. Customary international law conferred on a serving head of state immunity ratione personae. A person who has immunity ratione personae enjoys immunity by reason of his person and such immunity is absolute and inviolable by another State. Immunity ratione personae the House of Lords determined is confined to serving heads of state and heads of Diplomatic Missions, their families and servants. According to the House of Lords it is not available to serving heads of government who are not also heads of state, military commanders and those in charge of the security forces or their subordinates. It would therefore have been available to Hitler but not to Mussolini or Tojo.

Former heads of state such as Senator Pinochet, according to the House of Lords enjoyed immunity ratione materiae. A person entitled to immunity ratione materiae does not enjoy absolute immunity. His immunity must be referable to his official acts on behalf of the State while in office. In other words, he cannot be charged by a foreign state for any official act he engaged in while he was Head of State. The House of Lords held that commissions of acts of torture alleged to have been committed by Pinochet infringed jus cognes (a crime that infringed the principles of international law from which no derogation is permitted) which could not be an official act of a head of state and therefore the immunity to which Senator Pinochet is entitled to as a former head of state did not arise.

The House of Lords held unanimously that the position would have been different if Pinochet was a serving head of state. In the words of Lord Millet:

"The immunity of a serving head of state is enjoyed by reason of a special status as the holder of his state’s highest office. He is regarded as the personal embodiment of the state itself. It would be an affront to the dignity and sovereignty of the state which he personifies and a denial of equality of sovereign states to subject him to the jurisdiction of the municipal courts of another state whether in respect of his public acts or private affairs. His person is inviolable; he is not liable to be arrested or detained on any ground whatsoever."

The Law Lords however went on to hold that while a serving head of state may not be charged in a court of another State, he may be liable to be charged by an international tribunal if the instruments creating such tribunal makes express provisions to this effect. So for example, even a serving head of state was liable to be tried in terms of the Nuremberg Charter which provides that

"The official position of defendants, whether as head of state or responsible officials in Government Departments shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility or mitigating punishment."

Similar provisions are contained in Tokyo Charter of 1946, the Statute of Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Statute of the Tribunal for Rwanda and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

The decision of the International Court of Justice in Congo v Belgium.

Absolute immunity enjoyed by a serving head of state from courts of another State was confirmed in emphatic terms by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo v the Kingdom of Belgium.

Belgium issued an arrest warrant for Congo’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aboulaye Yerodia Ndombasi for crimes against humanity. Congo made an application to the ICJ claiming that Mr. Yerodia as its incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs enjoyed absolute immunity before Belgium courts and that the warrant violated such immunity. In its judgment on 14 February 2002 the ICJ emphatically held that

"in International Law it is firmly established that, as also diplomatic consular agents, certain holders of high - ranking office in a state, such as Head of State, Head of Government and Minister of Foreign Affairs, enjoy immunities from jurisdiction in other States both civil and criminal."

The ICJ went on to hold that if a minister for Foreign Affairs is arrested in another State on a criminal charge, he or she is clearly thereby prevented from exercising the functions of his or her office. The consequences of such impediment to the exercise of those official functions are equally serious, regardless of whether the minister for Foreign Affairs was, at the time of arrest, present in the territory of the arresting State on an ‘official’ visit or a ‘private’ visit."

Accordingly the ICJ held that whether on a private visit or an official visit a serving minister of foreign affairs and a fortiori a serving head of state is entitled to absolute immunity from arrest by a foreign state. The ICJ held that the warrant was unlawful and that Belgium must cancel the warrant and inform the authorities to whom it was circulated.

The ICJ like the House of Lords held that this immunity from arrest may not be available in respect of warrants issued by certain international criminal courts such as the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court where they have jurisdiction.

Arrest and prosecution in Britain of a foreign Head of State in the exercise of universal jurisdiction

Prosecutions in Britain of international crimes under its statutes creating universal jurisdiction require the consent of the Attorney-General. No private individual can institute any such prosecution without such consent. Needless to say in view of international law, whatever are the merits of the matter, it is inconceivable that the Attorney General of Britain would grant approval for the prosecution of a serving foreign head of state, and even if he did, such head of state will enjoy immunity ratione personae.

However, no consent of the Attorney-General is required to obtain an arrest warrant in view of section 25 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. It is this provision that is used by private individuals to obtain arrest warrants in cases involving alleged war crimes, the prosecution of which necessarily requires the consent of the Attorney-General. Although a prosecution of such crimes cannot be successfully maintained without the consent of the Attorney-General, an arrest warrant may be obtained pending the grant or refusal of consent to prosecute, on the basis that there is no time to obtain such consent before the suspect leaves the territory of Britain. However, in the case of a serving head of state customary international law would preclude the issue of even an arrest warrant.

Can a foreign Head of State visiting the United Kingdom be arrested on an International Warrant issued by the International Criminal Court?

An instance in which a serving head of state of another State may be lawfully arrested in Britain is where the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an International Warrant for his arrest and surrender alleging that he has committed an ICC crime, or been convicted by the ICC. Part 2 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 (ICC Act) makes such warrant executable in Britain. In terms of the ICC Act (Section 23) if the warrant is with regard to a head of state of a state which is a party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998 (Rome Statute) no immunity would attach to such Head of State but a head of state of a state which is not a state party to the Rome Statute will have immunity unless a waiver of immunity is obtained by the ICC in relation to a request for the surrender of such Head of State. In effect then, while the Head of State of a state party to the Rome Statute may be arrested in Britain on an International Warrant issued by the ICC, the Head of State of a non State Party to the Rome Statute such as the President of the USA, India, Russia or Sri Lanka cannot be so arrested unless a waiver of immunity has been obtained by the ICC.

(The writer is a practicing Attorney-at-Law and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants of the UK. He has previously lectured at the Faculty of Laws of the University of Colombo and at the Kotalawela Defence Academy)

The big lie: Framing the Sinhalese as fascists

by Dr. Dayan Jayatillake

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Marx once said that "in all ideology"... "men and their circumstances appear upside down as in a camera obscura". Professor Charles P. Sarvan thinks that the Sinhalese are fascists or pro-fascist. Writing in a Colombo paper last Sunday (‘The Sinhalese: Blasé!’ Nov 21st, 2010), and earlier in a British publication called Confluence last May, Sarvan explicitly attempts to portray the Sinhala people as similar to the Germans who supported Nazism. Though the choice of the photograph accompanying last Sunday’s article may not have been the good professor’s personal pick, the piece is aptly illustrated — given the content and argument- with but a single picture, that of Adolf Hitler. Get the picture? (Or as Tarzie Vittachi’s quip went, "get the poto"?)

There may be much wrong with Sinhala society, but if any community on the island bears a resemblance to German society in its compliance with fascism it is surely not the Sinhalese. The editor of the Penguin/Pelican Reader’s Guide to Fascism, a standard text on the subject, Emeritus Professor Walter Laqueur, wrote of the Tamil Tigers in ‘The New Terrorism’, that "in respect of its ruthlessness and fanaticism,[he] could find only one parallel: the fascist movements of Europe in the 1920s and 30s". John Burns, the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist described Prabhakaran as "the Pol Pot of South Asia". Several months ago, The Economist referred to the LTTE as "almost classically fascist". Robert D Kaplan refers to the "Tamil Tigers, among the post World War II era’s most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations".

Each one of these characterisations may be contested, but the cumulative conclusion is unavoidable, namely that the Tigers were the closest that the island came to a fascist, fascistic or fascistoid movement, and in so far as the preponderant tendency within Tamil society, both in Sri Lanka and the Diaspora was to support or excuse them, then it is that society that most closely approximated German society at the time it fell under the sway of the Nazis. As bad as Colombo administrations can get, I have yet to read of a single one described by any analyst of international repute as "among the post World War II era’s most ruthless and bloody" or as paralleled only by the European fascist movements of the 1920s and 30s"!

It certainly wasn’t the Sinhalese who supported this monstrosity, and made excuses for it even when it murdered Nehru’s grandson or M. Tiruchelvam’s Harvard educated son. It is not the Sinhalese who displayed such collective delusion and blind hubris as to think that a movement which murdered a former Indian Prime Minister, several Sri Lankan leaders and hijacked a Chinese ship killing several Chinese sailors, would not have to pay a terrible price at the end of the day. It was however the Sinhalese who defeated this fascist movement. It was also the Sinhalese who defeated a Southern equivalent, Wijeweera. If Professor Sarvan wishes to preach to any collective which resembles Germany marching in the wake of a fascist movement, he should look much closer home.

None of this means though, that the Tamil people should be treated oppressively, unequally, unjustly or ungenerously. In the first place there were those who courageously dissented in different ways against the pro-fascist loyalties of the bulk of Tamil society. While some, like K. Pathmanabha, Rajani Tiranagama and Kethesh Loganathan have been murdered by the Tigers, others are still around, ranging from Devananda, Siddharthan, Sritharan, Karuna and Pillaiyan to Prof Ratnajeevan Hoole and Dr Mutukrishna Sarvanandan. More importantly, as Judge Christie Weeramantry, one the most distinguished and enlightened Sri Lankans of our time, wrote in a two part piece as the war ended, the Tamil people should be treated not in the unwise manner that the Germans were after World War 1, but in the humane, generous and sagacious manner that they were after WW2 (the Marshall Plan etc). There was no question however, of who was playing the defeated Germans who had supported fascism and lost.

Whatever is wrong with Sri Lankan society today, it is neither a matter of ‘fascism’ nor the lesser offense of Mahinda Rajapaksa being a Sinhala replay of Prabhakaran. No serious analyst can equate the Tigers, still less Nazism, with the Lankan State or southern society at any level: system or process, formation or project. Rajapaksa hasn’t declared the Tamils a disease that has vitiated the majority race, as did Hitler in Mein Kampf, torched the local Reichstag, shattered the opposition through lethal violence and murdered his political opponents (as Prabhakaran did his). The silly syllogism seems to go like this: "Adolf Hitler was a moustachioed leader who assumed power through the electoral path, Mahinda is a moustachioed elected leader, ergo Mahinda is an Adolf Hitler (or is Hitlerian)". It is accompanied by a sister syllogism: "the Germans supported Hitler, the Sinhalese support Mahinda whom we have deemed a Hitler, ergo the Sinhalese are akin to the Germans who supported Hitler fascism".

The main negatives and problems in Sri Lanka today reside in the domains of political culture and discourse. Here too, aesthetic aversion cannot substitute for comparative evaluation and comprehension of content. Historicism, antiquarianism and quasi-monarchic references in the political culture and dominant ideology did not originate with the Tigers or the war: merely recall JR Jayewardene’s ascent to the Pattirippuwa and his claim to be the latest in an unbroken line of Sinhala monarchs. Premadasa received the credentials of ambassadors while seated on a gold painted mock throne gifted by a well wisher, and at the time of his assassination a giant ‘mock up’ (or ‘cut out)’ of his, created by the State Engineering Corporation (not at his suggestion) towered over the Galle Face Hotel.

This strain in Southern political culture metastasized with the war of secession, the ethnic aggression of the Tigers and the abdication by the more pluralist or (neo) liberal Sri Lankan leaders of the duty to defeat them. I didn’t judge the role and content of the Premadasa presidency by its aesthetic form and style, and not having done so, I haven’t become sufficiently hypocritical in the intervening years to judge Mahinda Rajapaksa’s primarily by his sense of political theatre and taste in stage props.

One of the downsides of waging an ethnic war to dismember a country and carve out a separate state, is that it automatically rekindles historical memories or (if I may bow in memory of Prof Leslie Gunawardena) lends itself to the reactivation of ‘constructed’ historical memories.

If the bulk of the Tamil people had supported the PLOTE or the EPRLF instead of the LTTE, they would have had a resonance in the South and the fight-back by State and society would not have had the aspect of a Sinhala backlash. But this was not to be. When Tamil society had several chances- with options such as the PLOTE and EPRLF or personalities like Neelan Tiruchelvam, with exits such as the Indo-Lanka accord, with guarantors like the IPKF, with opportunities like the dialogues with Premadasa and Chandrika – it chose to stick with Prabhakaran and the Tigers, i.e. the most purely ultranationalist and ethno-terrorist option.

The character of the Tigers, their politico-military behaviour and the discourse of the Tigers and the pro-Tiger Diaspora reactivated memories and fears of ancient struggles inscribed in the ancient Sinhala chronicles and buried deep in the collective southern psyche. The backlash was therefore steeped in historicism and archaicism. The thing about wars is that they have an afterlife; their effects last a long time. Once a historicist mindset is awakened, it takes hold, settles in, at least for a period. Simply put, if someone chooses to wage a war which reminds the Sinhalese or any other community anywhere in the world for that matter, of ancient challenges and threats, even the modern response is garbed in ancient robes and references. Such a throwback, a journey on a time machine, is not automatically and instantly reversible. Imagined continuities take time to subside. ~ courtesy: The Island ~

Related: The Sinhalese: Blasé! by By Charles Sarvan

The Sinhalese: Blasé!

By Charles Sarvan

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When Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power, the existence of an ethnic problem was an accepted fact; five years later its non-existence has become an accepted fact. The ethnic problem not only perished, it freed the Sinhala psyche from memories of past errors and crimes, from the Sinhala Only Language Act to the Black July massacres. After all, if the only problem was Tiger terrorism, then what we did or did not do would be irrelevant.

The Rajapaksas saved the Sinhalese from the burden of regret and guilt – and not having any responsibility for the plight of the Tamils, rendered pity and sympathy over their condition unnecessary.

This mindset enabled us to look on with indifference not only at the suffering of civilian Tamils during the war but even afterwards, when more than 300,000 Tamils were kept in camps. Our perception, and therefore our definition, of these camps could have been various and contentious, but that need not have been a bar to sympathy, to a sense of human solidarity. The absence of any empathy was particularly outstanding in the South’s reaction to the plight of the Northern displaced. There was a wild rush [...] to visit the North, but not to help the homeless in the North. We worshipped and sea bathed and engaged in sightseeing but failed to be touched by the human misery around us. The regime’s very effective propaganda about happy welfare villages and rich Tamil refugees may have contributed to this near total absence of human solidarity – but that does not explain it. The blasé attitude came primarily from the belief of our own sinlessness, not just in the conduct of the war but also in creating conditions for it. We are the innocent; they are the guilty. And the guilty must bear the pain of retribution unalloyed by the balm of sympathy or pity. That is their karma.”

(Tisaranee Gunasekara, The Anatomy Of Rajapaksa Rule, in Dissenting Dialogue, Issue No. 1 November 2010)

The above words reminded me of von Stauffenberg, and the German Resistance Memorial Centre, Berlin: for a few years, I happened to live in the continuation of the road now named after him. (Stauffenberg attempted to kill Hitler, failed and was executed the next day, 21 July 1944. A terrible revenge was exacted not only on the “conspirators” but on their families.)

There’s no doubt that, particularly at the start, the majority of Germans were supporters of Hitler, with an enthusiasm that passed into adulation. But there were a few who thought independently, and recognised Nazi fascism for what it was: an evil based on racism and a callous contempt for what one would see as human and humane decencies – in short, as civilised conduct. Having recognised the true nature of the state and its political leaders; having grasped the terrible and tragic consequences on others, they refused to look the other way; declined to be afraid and silent, resigned and passive.

Reading the testimony of these individuals (most written shortly before they went to their death) one of their concerns becomes clear, namely, that when in the future German history comes to be read and spoken about, it will also be acknowledged that at least a few Germans stood up and opposed injustice and cruelty; that not all were callous; that not in all Germans was consideration for others swept aside; that some were ashamed, rather than proud, to be racists.

They acted despite danger and obloquy; though the chance of success was very slim. The witness they bore is remembered and honoured. The courage and integrity of those few redeem today (albeit to a small degree) the reputation of an entire people. Only Germans could attempt to wash away some of the stain of German cruelty, and the resulting shame on Germany. Only a Sinhalese like Tisaranee Gunasekara (and a rare individual at that) could have written the lines quoted above. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Leader ~

Related: The big lie: Framing the Sinhalese as fascists ~ By Dayan Jayatillake

Ninety three men and three women will make Sri Lanka Asia's miracle

by Namini Wijedasa

The government printer said Friday that the gazette outlining subjects and functions of the new cabinet of ministers will not be released before this week. It was sent for printing on Wednesday night but things subsequently kept getting added to it -- like a new ministry here and there -- so the department couldn’t finalise it.

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pic by: Bharat KV

Meanwhile, phones at the department of government printing rang off the hook. (This isn’t confirmed but we hear that ministers were among the most eager to find out if they were assigned any duties other than brazenly sponging off the public).

Typesetters and proofreaders kept getting fresh drafts. The department’s website was continuously jammed. An employee from the internet division said it was probably due to too many people checking whether the gazette was online yet.

But, really, this delay should surprise nobody with a smidgeon of good sense. Because if you had thought splintering a cabinet into 62 was hard, let President Mahinda Rajapaksa tell you that it’s infinitely more difficult to find actual use for the whole caboodle. (Especially when you know that any subject or function worth its weight in salt must regretfully stay in the inner circle).

Still, kudos to the Einstein that designed President Rajapaksa’s new cabinet! What a masterpiece of governance. What political skill and adroitness. What imagination, flair and creativity. Every aspect of our life is now neatly parcelled into 62 packages, each of them as essential to our well-being as loo paper is to the West. Or so we are told.

Now, I can’t speak for those cantankerous sceptics and deplorable cynics that whinge about everything this government does. I am personally grateful that Mervyn Silva has earned the ministry of public coordination and public affairs. No doubt he is the best man to coordinate the public and to manage its affairs, whatever those may be. He does have a proven record in that vague sphere.

I am also glad that we now have a separate bunch of nine ‘senior’ ministers. Some people (notably worthless UNPers) claim they are only figureheads whose appointments have no legal basis. Seems they won’t even have institutions under them -- we just have to keep them watered, fed and in good spirits.

I don’t mind. I’m chuffed to have to fork out money for the maintenance and upkeep of these distinguished political tokens -- particularly Tissa Vitharana and D.E.W. Gunasekara who prostituted their Leftist principles to help pass the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.

I am happy that Mervyn will coordinate the public and that W.D.J. Seneviratne will administer the public. I’m delighted that Piyasena Gamage will deal with something called national assets, the abuse of which during election campaigns has proved exceedingly advantageous to the ruling alliance. In the meantime, Dayasritha Tissera is in charge of state assets, which is no doubt distinct in some way from national assets.

I’m satisfied that Athauda Seneviratne will sort out our rural affairs while A.H.M. Fowzie will ensure that our urban affairs are in order. In the meantime, Armugam Thondaman will look after rural community development which obviously does not fall into the category of rural affairs that Seneviratne is managing. Because that’s rural community development and this is rural affairs. Get it?

The president is the minister of finance but he has fortunately deployed Sarath Amunugama to tackle international monetary cooperation. The president is also minister of ports and aviation but Priyankara Jayaratna is minister of civil aviation. (Any fool can tell the difference).

While Tissa Vitharana will be senior minister for scientific affairs, Pavithra Wanniarachchi will look after technology and research. Kumara Welgama, I’m pleased to observe, is still transport minister while C.B. Ratanayake will sort out private transport services.

Vasudeva Nanayakkara also sang for his supper by voting for the 18th Amendment and has been rewarded for it with the national languages and social integration portfolio. It is a commendable appointment that offers him the opportunity to now perfect the art of duping people in all tongues. He may have to share social integration with Milroy Fernando, who is state minister for social welfare, and with Felix Perera who is minister for social services. All the better for society, I say.

Mahinda Samarasinghe will support the plantations sector while Jagath Pushpakumara will ensure that state plantations are in order. And the list goes on. We delightfully also have 34 deputy ministers to guarantee that nothing goes awry as Sri Lanka hurtles towards the goal of becoming Asia’s miracle. That is in the long term. The immediate miracle would be to figure out who is doing what while staying sane.

Meanwhile, let us dig deep into our pockets and take out as much money as possible to ensure that our large and benevolent cabinet wants for nothing. We must generously foot their rent payments for homes and offices, emoluments for numerous personal staff and advisors, allowances, education expenses for their children, vehicles and fuel, security and backup, stationery, sustenance, foreign travel, utility bills, telephone bills and absolutely everything else that we know nothing about.

These 93 men and three women are going to make us Asia’s miracle… one way or the other. It’s the least we can do for them.

India wants "Structured Dialogue Mechansim" to achieve a political solution in Sri Lanka

(Remarks by India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to the media after the Signing of Agreed Minutes of the 7th Meeting of the Joint Commission)

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External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and his Sri Lankan counterpart Gamini Lakshman Peiris arrive on a special helicopter at a defence base in Colombo on Thursday. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is seen alighting from the chopper-pic: PTI

“I have just concluded very useful and productive discussions with Hon’ble Minister Peiris on the various items on the agenda of the seventh session of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission. Let me, at the very outset, express my sincere gratitude to Minister Peiris and his government for the warmth and gracious hospitality that has been extended to me and to my colleagues and the excellent arrangements made for my visit.

“The Joint Commission discussions covered all areas of bilateral relevance, including trade, services and investment, development cooperation, science and technology, culture and education. The sheer breadth of our engagement today, as is reflected in the Joint Commission discussions, is testimony to the fact that our relations have greatly diversified with the passage of time. The visits of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2008 and His Excellency President Rajapaksa in June and October this year have undoubtedly given our relations a fillip. Our relations are poised to develop further in an all round manner.

“Earlier this morning, I was honoured to meet His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We witnessed the signing of the credit agreement for $416.39 million for the Northern Railway construction project. I am also happy to announce that work on the Northern Railway Line will commence soon with the inauguration scheduled for tomorrow

“Prof. Peiris and I have also just witnessed the exchange of Instruments of Ratification of the Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners and of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. This brings into effect these two important agreements between our two countries.

“To build on the vibrant and multi-faceted partnership between our two countries, it is important that we leverage our common strategic interests, further enhance connectivity and economic engagement, and promote people-to-people contacts. “The opening of our Consulates in Hambantota and Jaffna, which will take place over today and tomorrow, is a significant milestone in this quest. In this connection, we also expect to resume ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and Talaimannar and Rameswaram soon, an agreement on which has been finalized.

“The project for the construction of 50,000 houses for IDPs in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and also for estate workers in the Central Provinces will be an enduring symbol of India-Sri Lanka partnership. This morning, we witnessed an Exchange of Letters on the pilot phase of this project, which also took place in the presence of His Excellency President Rajapaksa. Tomorrow, through a ground-breaking ceremony in Jaffna, we will be signalling the commencement of this project.

“The cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka in May last year provides a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues related to rehabilitation as well as a political settlement in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation. It is our hope that a structured dialogue mechanism to work towards this end will be launched soon. We have been assured that it is the intention of the Sri Lankan Government to resettle the Internally Displaced Persons by the end of this year.

“I also took this opportunity to emphasise on the need to adhere to the October 2008 understanding on fishing arrangements arrived at between the two countries, which has had a salutary effect on the incidence of fishermen’s arrests and on their safety. We agreed that the joint Working Group on Fishing should meet soon.

With the tone that has been set in my discussions today, I have no doubt that India-Sri Lanka relations are poised the fully take advantage of the opportunities open before us. I have told Minister Peiris that I look forward to receiving him in New Delhi at his convenience to take forward our bilateral discussions."

7th Session of the Sri Lanka India Joint Commission 26 November 2010 Colombo

Agreed Minutes

The seventh session of the Sri Lanka-India Joint Commission was held on 26th November 2010 in Colombo. It was co-chaired by His Excellency, Shri S.M. Krishna, Minister of External Affairs of India and Hon'ble G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka.

The agreed agenda of the meeting is at Annexure-1. The lists of the Indian and Sri Lankan delegations are, respectively, at Annexure-2 and Annexure-3.

2. The discussions at the Joint Commission were marked by friendship, mutual respect and understanding. The two Ministers agreed that the shared cultural and civilizational heritage of India and Sri Lanka, the extensive people-to-people interaction and their common strategic concerns and interests provided the foundation to build a vibrant and multi-faceted partnership. India-Sri Lanka relations have 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. Today, with the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka, these relations are poised to develop further in an all-round manner.

3. The Joint Commission reviewed developments in bilateral relations since the visit to India in June 2010 of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and noted with satisfaction that the visit had laid a strong foundation for the future development of India-Sri Lanka relations. The Joint Statement issued during the visit embodies the vision of the two leaders for harnessing the enormous potential available for consolidating and strengthening the bilateral partnership. This can be achieved by building on shared values and principles of democracy and pluralism, leveraging common strategic concerns and interests, enhancing connectivity and economic engagement, and reinforcing institutional frameworks for a comprehensive partnership in all areas of bilateral endeavour. In this context, the two sides welcomed the opening of the Consulate General of India in Hambantota on 26 November and of the Consulate General of India in Jaffna on 27 November. The Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of the Joint Commission mechanism to monitor implementation of bilateral understandings.

Economic & Development Cooperation, Trade, Finance & Investment

4. The Joint Commission reiterated the need to substantially enhance the range and depth of the India-Sri Lanka bilateral relationship through greater 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. The meeting noted with satisfaction that bilateral trade, despite the downturn in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown, has shown a healthy recovery in 2010. The two sides reviewed investment proposals being considered by companies in both countries and expressed satisfaction at the growing interest of Indian and Sri Lankan companies to invest further in each other's markets. In this context, the two sides agreed to cooperate closely to nurture a favourable environment to forge closer economic and trade linkages.

FTA/CEPA

5. Recognizing the considerable benefits from greater economic cooperation between the two countries, the Joint Commission noted the significant progress achieved under the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA). It reaffirmed the understanding contained in the bilateral Joint Declaration of June 9, 2010 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, it expressed satisfaction with the recent discussions between the officials of the Departments of Commerce of the two countries. The Joint Commission also took note of the stakeholders’ consultations carried out by the Sri Lankan side on the draft framework text of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). It welcomed also the agreement between the officials of the Departments of Commerce of the two countries following their recent talks that, in keeping with the instructions of their respective leaders to hold intensive consultations towards a more comprehensive framework for economic cooperation, a delegation from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India would visit Sri Lanka on mutually convenient dates in December 2010 to resume discussions on such a framework from where they had been left in July 2008.

CEOs' Forum

6. The Joint Commission welcomed the constitution of the India-Sri Lanka bilateral CEOs' Forum. It expressed its hope that the Forum would prove to be a valuable mechanism in bringing together 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.

Credit Lines

7. The Joint Commission reviewed the utilization of the existing Lines of Credit (LOC) offered by the Government of India to the Government of Sri Lanka, especially those pertaining to the rehabilitation of the Southern Railway corridor (US$ 167.4 million). The two sides also reviewed the status of the LOC for Northern Railway Reconstruction and the LOC of US $200 million offered by India for the construction of a jetty at Sampur and of a transmission line from Sampur to Habarana, and financial support for equity contribution of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) for setting up the joint venture with NTPC to develop a coal power plant at Sampur.

Railway Projects

8. The Joint Commission reviewed progress on the Northern Railway projects being implemented by IRCON. It expressed satisfaction that contracts for Omanthai-Pallai, Madu Road-Talaimannar and Medawachchiya-Madu Road had been signed. The Ministers witnessed the signing of the credit agreement for $416.39 million for these three projects in the presence of His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka and welcomed the fact that work on the Northern Railway Line was commencing with the inauguration scheduled for 27 November, 2010.

Both sides agreed to facilitate the work for its timely completion. Further, in keeping with the understanding contained in the Joint Declaration of June 9, 2010, the Joint Commission took note of the finalization of the negotiations pertaining to the agreement on signaling and telecommunication and agreed that the contract for the Pallai-KKS line, to be implemented jointly by IRCON and Sri Lanka Railway would be concluded soon. The Joint Commission noted that the procurement of rolling stock from India would take place in a phased manner. The Joint Commission agreed on the need for early completion of all these negotiations. Both Ministers expressed their satisfaction at the progress of work on the Colombo-Matara railway line being constructed with Indian assistance.

Tourism and Civil Aviation

9. The Joint Commission noted the immense potential that exists in the two countries in the tourism sector, given the fact that India contributes the largest number of tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka and the latter is among the top ten tourist sources for India. The last year has seen a significant revival in tourist traffic between the two countries. The Ministers noted that an MoU on cooperation in the field of tourism was signed in January 2004, while the Joint Working Group set up under the MoU is yet to meet. They accordingly directed the concerned officials on both sides to meet at an early date to identify potential areas of cooperation.

10. The two sides noted that Sri Lanka enjoys a very special relationship with India in the field of civil aviation with Sri Lankan Airlines being the largest foreign airline in India. The Joint Commission took note of the interest of Sri Lankan Airlines to increase its services to Delhi and Chennai and agreed that the civil aviation authorities of both countries would meet bilaterally.

Development Cooperation

11. The Government of Sri Lanka thanked the Government of India for the substantial development assistance being provided through a wide variety of projects. The range of assistance being received from the Government of India for Resettlement and Rehabilitation of the Northern and Eastern Provinces includes, inter alia, the following:

1. Housing - 50,000 houses for IDPs;
2. Supply of 7200 MT of Roofing Sheets for IDPs in the Northern Province;
3. Supply of 400,000 Cement Bags to IDPs;
4. Supply of 70,000 Agriculture Tool Kits to IDPs;
5. Provision of Seven de-mining teams;
6. Supply of 500 Four-Wheeled Tractors and agricultural equipment;
7. Supply of Seeds;
8. Assistance in the Fishing sector;
9. Limb Fitment Project;
10. Rehabilitation of Duraiappa Stadium;
11. Construction of Vocational Training Centres;
12. Construction of Jaffna Cultural Centre;
13. Railway infrastructure;
14. Rehabilitation of Palaly Airport;
15. Rehabilitation of Kankesanthurai Harbour;
16. Supply of equipment to Jaffna Teaching Hospital;
17. Supply of books to Jaffna Library and Jaffna University;
18. Project for war widows by SEWA;
19. Assistance to rehabilitation of Micro and SMEs;
20. Assistance for Schools and Universities; and
21. Assistance for rehabilitation of hospitals.

12. A substantial amount of this assistance has been directed towards humanitarian relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in northern Sri Lanka. Following the initial assistance directed at humanitarian relief in the areas of food, clothing, medicine and shelter, the Joint Commission welcomed Indian project assistance in the areas of de-mining, restoration of agricultural livelihood, vocational training, repair of schools and other public facilities. In particular, the two sides reviewed the ongoing preparatory work on the project for the construction of 50,000 houses for IDPs in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and also for estate workers in the Central Provinces with the support of India and welcomed the proposed commencement of work on this project on 27th November, 2010.

13. The Joint Commission also welcomed the signing of the contract with Hindustan Prefab Limited by the Government of India for commencement of construction of 1000 houses as a "Pilot Project" in the Northern Province. The two Ministers also witnessed the Exchange of Letters with regard to the Housing Pilot Project, which took place in the presence of His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka.

Agriculture

14. The Joint Commission agreed that there was great potential for the further 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. The two sides reiterated that collaborative research and development programmes would further contribute to agricultural cooperation. It was agreed that the Agreement on Agricultural Cooperation would be signed soon and the Government of Sri Lanka would propose a draft work programme for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2011-2012.

Energy

15. The Joint Commission noted with satisfaction that all negotiations between the National Thermal Power Corporation of India and the Ceylon Electricity Board of Sri Lanka on the establishment of a joint venture for building a 500 MW coal-fired power plant at Sampur (Trincomalee) had been completed and the various Agreements in this regard, including the Joint Venture Agreement, the Power Purchase Agreement, the Agreement with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, the Implementation Agreement and other relevant arrangements had also been agreed upon. These agreements would be signed in the near future. The Sri Lankan side expressed its appreciation for the US $200 million concessionary line of credit offered by the Government of India to enable Sri Lanka to fulfill its commitments under the Implementation Agreement.

16. The two sides noted the presence of Indian suppliers in the Sri Lankan wind and solar energy sectors and agreed to explore cooperation in other fields of new and renewable forms of energy, including through greater cooperation between the public and private sector entities of the two countries.

17. The Joint Commission also recalled the signing of the agreement on conducting a feasibility study for the interconnection of the Indian and Sri Lankan electricity grids and noted that the concerned officials are in touch to convene a meeting of the Steering Committee in this regard. Both Governments have already committed their respective share of financial support for the study.

Ferry Services

18. The Joint Commission noted the importance of speedily restoring the traditional transport links between the two countries. In this connection, it welcomed the finalization of the agreement to resume ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and Talaimannar and Rameswaram and directed the concerned officials to put in place the mechanisms to start these services as soon as the agreement is signed.

Health Sector

19. The Joint Commission reviewed the projects being implemented in the health sector in Sri Lanka with the assistance of the Government of India. It welcomed the finalization of implementation mechanisms for the 150-bed Base Hospital at Dickoya. It also noted the ongoing implementation by India of projects to supply equipment for upgradation of the facilities at the Intensive Care Unit, Eye Ward and Operation Theatre of the Jaffna Teaching Hospital. The Sri Lankan side also thanked the Government of India for agreeing to donate a Bhabhatron - II (a Cobalt 60 teletherapy machine) for cancer treatment to the Hambantota General Hospital. The Sri Lankan side requested for enlargement of coverage of the ‘Jaipur Foot’ Limb Fitment camp conducted earlier by India through Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti.

Fishing

20. The Joint Commission expressed satisfaction that the Fishing Arrangements agreed earlier had helped decrease incidents on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). Both sides agreed to explore ways to strengthen the safety and security of fishermen and, in this context, welcomed the decision to revive the meetings of the bilateral Joint Working Group on Fishing.

Social, Cultural, & Educational Matters

Education

21. The Joint Commission took note of the recent high-level contacts between the two sides in the field of education. In this context, it welcomed the proposal of the Government of India to significantly expand its scholarship programme for Sri Lankan nationals as part of the "India Sri Lanka Knowledge Initiative". It also took note of the signing of an MoU between the University of Colombo and the Government of India on the establishment of a Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies. The two sides also directed their concerned officials to expedite discussions on the setting up of regional and provincial Centres of English Language Training and the design of the "10 Year Presidential Initiative to Steer Sri Lanka towards a Trilingual Society by 2020". The need to train in Sinhalese and Tamil languages to support the Presidential initiative was also noted.

22. The Joint Commission took note as well of the concept paper presented during its 7th Session by the Ministry of Higher Education of Sri Lanka, on the establishment of Agriculture and Engineering Faculties in the University of Jaffna.

23. The Joint Commission also took note of the collaborative initiatives in the field of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) between the two sides. In this context, it welcomed the support extended by the Government of India towards expanding the network of Nenasalas (Telecentres) across the country.

24. The Joint Commission noted with satisfaction the ongoing cooperation in the field of strengthening public administration, based on the Memorandum of Understanding between the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) of India and the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA) of Sri Lanka. The Joint Commission encouraged the two institutions to intensify their collaboration, including in the exchange of staff, researchers and graduate students/trainees, engagement in joint research activities and participation in seminars and academic meetings.

25. Given the dynamism of the younger generations in both countries and the need to invest in their future, the two Ministers decided to promote a programme of annual youth exchanges between the two countries. To begin with, it was decided to organize and exchange programme consisting of one hundred youth from both countries in the year 2011.

26. The two Ministers also agreed that both countries would jointly commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore during the year-long celebrations which will take place in 2011-12.

Cultural Activities

27. The Joint Commission welcomed the growing cultural engagement between the two countries in keeping with their shared cultural and civilizational links, which provided the bedrock of bilateral relations. In this context, the two Ministers directed the concerned officials to carry forward discussions to facilitate the organization of the proposed International Buddhist Conference in Kandy with the support of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations as part of the activities to commemorate the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha (Sambuddhatva Jayanthi).

28. The Joint Commission also welcomed the proposal for the restoration of Tiruketheeswaram temple at Mannar to be undertaken with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India and the College of Architecture and Sculpture, Mamallapuram, with the involvement of the Department of Archaeology of Sri Lanka.

29. The two Ministers also reviewed the progress in the preparatory work on renovating the Duraiappah Stadium and constructing a Cultural Centre in Jaffna with Indian assistance.

India Sri Lanka Foundation

30. The Joint Commission welcomed the significant contributions of and the important role played by the India Sri Lanka Foundation in forging deeper links between civil society actors in the two countries and contributing to closer relations in the economic, scientific, educational, technical and cultural arenas. It noted the recent augmentation of the corpus fund of the Foundation on the basis of a grant made by the Government of India and welcomed the expansion of the activities of the Foundation into new areas as agreed to by the last meeting of its Board.

Science and Technology

31. The Joint Commission agreed upon the urgent need to develop a Programme for Cooperation under the Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology signed in September 2008 between the two countries. It recalled that the visit to Sri Lanka in March 2010 of Secretary, Department of Science and Technology had led to the identification of certain areas for cooperation. The Indian side agreed to propose a draft programme of cooperation for the period 2011-2012 for the consideration of the Sri Lankan side.

32. Both sides agreed to identify specific areas of cooperation in using space technology for a variety of societal services using Indian satellites.

Tamil Parties Forum submits eight point memorandum to President Rajapaksa

(Given below is the full text of the Memorandum submitted directly by Tamil Parties’ Forum to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa)

His Excellency Mahinda Rajapakse,
President of the Republic of Sri Lanka.

Your Excellency,

We wish to thank Your Excellency for the opportunity afforded to us to meet with you despite your tight schedule.

We, the Tamil political parties have come to an understanding and constituted a common forum to strive for a permanent political solution to the ethnic problem and also to work towards solving the immediate issues faced by the Tamil people.

In this context, we have initiated discussions with the other concerned political parties with a view to forge a consensus on the question of a political solution.

We believe that the political solution to the ethnic problem should be found within the frame work of a united Sri Lanka thus enabling the Tamil people to participate fully in their own governance in the North – East. The implementation of the 13th amendment in full will be a positive beginning of the political process in this regard.

Having won a massive mandate in both the last presidential election and the parliamentary election and enjoying a two –third majority in parliament, we have no doubt whatsoever that, Your Excellency have an unprecedented opportunity to solve the ethnic problem once and for all.

Among many issues identified by us, we list below some of them which need your kind and urgent attention and remedial action to redress the grievances of the Tamil people.

1. Meaningful Resettlement

Although majority of the Internally Displaced Persons have been sent back to their former places of habitation, they have not been settled with adequate basic facilities.

a) They are living in temporary shelters and tents.

b) Some of the IDP’s have not been allowed to access their houses and properties on different grounds including the objection that they do not possess documents in proof of their claim.

2. Providing adequate compensation for the people who lost their limbs, bread winners, family members and properties

Many of the people affected by the war have not been given any compensation for their losses.

We recommend the setting up of a suitable mechanism to compensate them at the earliest.

3. Inadequate support and assistance to the affected people

We request that more support and assistance from local as well as international communities and agencies be encouraged and facilitated to reach and benefit the affected people towards their resettlement and rehabilitation.

4. Tamil Detainees

There are a large number of Tamil prisoners detained either under the Emergency Regulations or the Prevention of Terrorism Act without their being indicted for the last several years.

We request that all these detainees be released.

In respect of those detainees who have been indicted and those on whom indictments have been ordered, we request that they be released on bail pending trial.

We suggest that toward the achievement of national reconciliation, a General amnesty for all those who surrendered or were taken into custody during the war be granted.

5. Missing Persons

Hundreds of Tamil families are still searching for their dear and near ones whom they believe are still in the custody of the Government.

We request the release of a full and complete list of all those Tamils who are in custody on account of their having been arrested or surrendered during the military conflict that lasted for several years till it was over in May 2009, so that the agony and anguish of these families would be ended.

6. Reduction of the excessive presence of the security forces

Since the war had been over eighteen months ago, the continuing presence of the security forces at the same level as it was during the war is creating inconvenience to the public in their leading a normal life.

i. High Security Zones prevent people from generating their income from sources such as farming, cultivation and fishing. However, there are reports of many isolated incidents that people from outside the North – East are accessing these areas for farming and fishing.

ii. Control exercised by the security forces in some areas prevent the free movement of the public and inconvenience them in their day to day activities.

iii. Involvement of the security forces in civil administration and public affairs at different levels creates impediment in the resumption of an effective and vibrant civil administration.

Therefore, we request the establishment of a full and complete civil administration without any involvement of the security forces.

7. Steps taken to disturb the demographic composition and thereby national reconciliation

One of the main reasons for the discontent between the communities was the state sponsored colonization by successive governments in the past with the motive of altering the demographic composition in the North – East. Even today attempts are being made to do the same that obstructs the reconciliation between the communities.

We are concerned that the proposal to establish settlements of the members of the security forces and their families numbering many thousands will drastically alter the demographic composition in the Northern and Eastern provinces of the country. We are of the view that nothing should be done to disturb the demographic composition and cause disruption of the process of national reconciliation.

Therefore, we request that the said proposal be reconsidered.

8. Government Appointments in the North – East

We find that local Tamil youths have been totally ignored in several appointments including the posts of minor employees in various Government departments and institutions in the North – East in recent times.

We request that their grievances be redressed at the earliest.

We assure our cooperation in and support to every effort that Your Excellency may take to achieve national reconciliation through a just resolution of the ethnic problem, the implementation of the three languages policy and development projects.

Thanking You,

Yours Sincerely,

V. Anandasangaree TULF
K.N. Douglus Devananda EPDP
S.C. Chandrahasan TPF
S. Chandrakanthan TMVP
N. Kumaraguruparan DPF
P. Uthayarajah Sri-TELO
T. Sritharan P-EPRLF
M.K. Shivajilingam TNLA
D. Siddharthan PLOTE

Sinhala, Tamil, English: Moving towards a trilingual Sri Lanka

by Lucien Rajakarunanayake

If the Address to the Nation by President Mahinda Rajapaksa last Friday gave a strong message on the need for national unity, and common cause across ethnic divides in the tasks of development, what preceded his swearing in was a clear demonstration of this commitment to unity through the most moving symbol of language.

It was seen in the proclamations and announcements read out in Sinhala, Tamil and English by the Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga. Time was when senior Tamil public servants, such as the late Mr. K. Alvapillai, read out the Tamil translations of the proclamation at such events.

This had also been done by official translators, and regrettably there were times when the use of Tamil was completely forgotten or ignored.

The trilingual reading of these proclamations by the Secretary to the President himself, done with perfect command of all three languages and impeccable diction, was a practical example of how national unity could be forged through giving due recognition to the languages of the people.

Divisive factor

His performance that day was a goal that every public servant should seek to achieve, in a tri-lingual society.

Language issues have been a divisive factor since before independence. Language policies introduced in the post 1956 era, jointly supported by the ruling SLFP dominated MEP led by the late SWRD Bandaranaike and the UNP, played a major role in the emergence of the ethnic crisis that in turn led to the thirty year long armed conflict with the forces of separatism and terrorism.

Although the position and use of Sinhala and Tamil have been the most spoken of, and at times a highly politically charged issue in the debates on language policy, English has also played a very significant role, being a force of division from the time of its introduction. There always remained a huge majority, among the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims who had no access to English, thus leading to the demand for the national languages to replace English in both education and administration.

The more politically popular response to this, of Sinhala Only - did not solve the major problem, although it gave a greater opportunity to the Sinhalese, to a limited scale.
It led to the marginalization of the Tamil people on the one hand, and helped the continued dominance of the English educated on the other.

It also kept out the vast majority in the country without a language for access to the world and the knowledge that keeps growing outside Sri Lanka, as well as losing in employment opportunities at home and abroad.

Trilingual policy

It is to the end these divisions that President Mahinda Rajapaksa launched the Year of English and IT in February 2009, where he visualized the policy of a tri-lingual Sri Lanka, with the knowledge of English being rapidly expanded as a “Life Skill” - essential for employment and economic advancement of individuals and society.

Launching the Year of English and IT in February 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said: “English, on the other hand, will be our language to reach out to the world and access the global pool of knowledge and technology.

As the national initiative on English gathers momentum and achieves desired results, I visualize, in fact, a tri-lingual Sri Lankan society in the long run.

To the people of my country, Sinhala and Tamil are not mere tools of communication.

Distinct identity

They encapsulate our values and world-views, give expression to our inner feelings and define our cultural categories. They embody the soul of our people. They confer to us our distinct identity.

Therefore, the Presidential Task Force on English and IT will ensure that the national initiative should be designed in such a way that English is delivered purely as a ‘Life Skill’ that is desired for its utility value, as a vital tool of communication with the outside world of knowledge, and a skill that is required for employment.

We will ensure that there will be a complete break with the past, where in our country English was rolled out as a vehicle for creating disaffection towards our national cultures, national ethos and national identity, for alienating our people from their roots and for creating social and cultural divisions among them.

The declaration of the Year of English and IT today is thus a benchmark which coincides with the end of terrorism and the clearing of the political space for the expression of the resolve of the Sri Lankan people to march together as one proud people towards a future of peace and prosperity.

In the global environment of today, English and IT are two essential tools for the achievement of our goal” In presenting the Budget for 2011, President Rajapaksa gave special emphasis to the progress towards a trilingual society. He said: “English as a Life Skill” initiative that was commenced in 2009 will be formally expanded in 2011 by the Ministry of Education. For this, I propose an allocation of Rs. 750 million in 2011.”

He then said: I propose to launch a “Trilingual Sri Lanka” initiative in 2011 under a ten year action plan.

Skilled workforce

This plan is designed to ensure the rights of every citizen to liaise with any government institution in Sinhala, Tamil or English. It will evolve an integrated society with a skilled workforce that is capable of employment in any part of Sri Lanka.” Rs. 100 million was allocated in 2011 to support programs under the relevant line ministries for this initiative. The President has clearly underscored the importance of language in national unity, in our relations with the world outside, as well as its contribution to national development.

He has broken away from the insular and divisive thinking of the past. The task now moves on to Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara, a known champion of genuine language rights, and key players in the education and public sectors to give full meaning to this pledge and move rapidly towards the goal of a trilingual Sri Lanka.

November 26, 2010

Second wave of flooding strikes Sri Lanka

by IRIN News

More than 16,000 people have been affected in Sri Lanka following a second wave of flooding to strike the island nation this month. "At the moment the situation is under control, but we are keeping an eye on the rains and possibly more displacements," Pradeep Koddipilli, assistant director of the country's Disaster Management Centre (DMC) [ http://www.dmc.gov.lk ] told IRIN on 25 November, one day after the floods occurred.

The hardest hit areas were the northwestern districts of Puttalam (11,708 affected) and Kurunegala (over 2,565 affected), with 248 people currently in shelters, the DMC said.

Sri Lanka's Meteorological Department warns of further rains in the coming days. "There is an atmospheric disturbance over the island that is likely to increase the rainfall during the afternoons," Ranjith Jayasekera, the department's deputy said.

On 10 November unusually heavy rains affected 315,000 and left two dead in areas around the capital Colombo.

Earlier this year in May, over 670,000 people in the western and southern provinces were affected in flooding that killed 22.

Sri Lanka and tea: Headed for a bountiful new beginning

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports from Dickoya, the island's ancient tea industry could be one way of reviving the country's fortunes:

Sri Lanka's president is pledging to spend billions on defence and on rebuilding infrastructure, since the war with the rebel Tamil Tigers ended a year and a half ago.

Interpol “Red Notice” issued for new LTTE leader Vinayakam

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Sri Lankan defence authorities moved quickly last week to target the self-styled new leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) organization who is operating in Europe under the nom de guerre Vinayakam.

SV1126IP.jpg

A team of Police and intelligence officials sought and obtained on November 24th, a warrant for the arrest of Sekarapillai Vinayakamoorthy alias Vinayakam from the Chief Magistrates Courts in Colombo. [click to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

Contribution of the Northern and Estaern provinces towards the national economy of Sri Lanka

By Dr.Laksiri Fernando

(Text of DA Rajapaksa Memorial Address)

National development is not merely about the economy but the economy is central. It entails economic, social, political, cultural and even moral aspects. The contribution of the North and the East during the last three decades or so was hampered in all these spheres by the separatist and the terrorist war.

It is necessary to emphasize not only the terrorist character of the war but also the separatist aspect. One cannot be separated from the other. If terrorism was the symptom, as some people argue, separatism was the cause.[1] However, as the war is over and peace is established, prospects are high for the people, the institutions and organizations of these provinces to participate in the processes of national development and contribute to its progress.

This paper as the basis for the ‘2010 Memorial Oration of DA Rajapaksa,’ one of the most illustrious and committed national leaders of Sri Lanka, highlights both prospects and challenges of the north-east participation in the national development. It takes Mahinda Chinthana as the main framework of analysis which outlines not only the directions but also various projects and plans for the national development in the ongoing future

Present Context

Sri Lanka has entered the category of the middle income countries with over 42 billion economy and little above a population of 20 million people. This means that the country is still at the lower level of the middle income countries with a per capita income of around USD 2,085. There are vast disparities in the income distribution in the world today and Sri Lanka’s per capita income is 17 times lower than the United Kingdom, the country’s former colonial master. When Britain left Sri Lanka in 1948, the gap was wider. Sri Lanka has managed to catch up to an extent, but not to the extent of people’s aspirations or country’s capacity.

Sri Lanka was a typical ‘export-import’ economy at the beginning of independence with the agricultural sector contributing over half of the GDP.[2] The exports and thus the foreign exchange earnings depended primarily on three main products of tea, rubber and coconut. The situation has drastically changed by now the sectoral composition shows the following picture in Table 1 in contrast to 1950.

It is mainly the expansion of services and industries that has changed the composition. Although the plantation agriculture has contracted, the food producing domestic agriculture has expanded and increased. It is believed that the present composition is akin to a ‘modern economy,’ the service sector taking the lead in the economy.[3] While the spread of infrastructure and services is uneven between the provinces and districts, the overall availability of facilities is conducive to domestic development and foreign direct investment (FDI).

The most important is the growth that Sri Lanka could sustain during the last five years irrespective of the war, Asian Tsunami and the international economic/financial crisis. Sri Lanka could maintain 7.6, 6.8, 4.2 and 3.5 growth rates respectively in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. While the growth rates were only 1.6 and 2.1 for the first two quarters of 2009, when the war culminated, after the defeat of the LTTE in May that year the growth picked up by 4.2 and 6.2 respectively in the last two quarters. The growth rate rose to 7.1 in the first quarter of this year followed by 8.5 in the second quarter. This figure is higher than what prevailed before the Eelam War IV that broke out in mid 2006.

The other main index of economic performance after the war is the Stock Market. There are two indexes, All Shares Price Index (ASPI) for all stocks listed in the market and the special index called Milanka[4] Price Index (MPI) for blue chip companies. The market was extremely sluggish throughout the war. In May 2009, both indexes were just above the 2,000 mark. By the end of the year ASPI exceeded the 3,000 mark while MPI recording 3,500. Together this was over a 50 percent growth; since then MPI performing always better than the ASPI as could be anticipated. So far since the beginning of this year growth has been around 100 percent. By the end of 2009 Sri Lanka was considered the best performing stock market.[5]

There are other economic fundamentals that indicate that Sri Lanka could ‘take off’ for a higher growth and development making the economy elevated to the upper range of the middle income countries. One objective of Mahinda Chinthana is to increase the present per capita income to the level of around USD 4,000 by the year 2016. Sri Lanka appears well into that direction.

For an efficient market, supervised by the state, both the inflation rate and the interest rates are maintained low. Low interest rates are an inducement for the small and medium scale enterprises (SME); which is mainly the nature of the Sri Lankan economy. The unemployment rate is all time low within the range of 5-6 percent of the labor force. The gross official reserves now stand at their highest level of USD 6.1 billion, which is equivalent to six months of imports. Following the successful completion of the fourth review of the Stand-by-Arrangement, the IMF has released the fifth tranche to the value of USD 212.5 million. This shows to the confidence that the IMF has placed on the Sri Lankan economy

Three rating agencies, Standard and Poor’s, Fitch and the Moody’s, upgraded Sri Lanka’s rating standards primarily in capital markets from B to B+, from Stable to Positive and from B to B1 respectively in September 2010. When Sri Lanka made its third global debt issue aiming at USD 1 billion, it was oversubscribed by more than 6 times within 14 hours. Between January and June this year, Sri Lanka’s exports improved by 13.7 percent and internal remittances by 13.5, compared to the same period last year. The balance of trade, however, shows a 108 percent deficit due to the heavy import of investment and infrastructure material including motor vehicles.

Although the FDI inflows are still sluggish due mainly to the world decline by 29 percent in 2009, for example, it is estimated that the situation would improve after the favorable international ratings and confidence. So far this year, USD 124.2 million flowed into the infrastructure sector, USD 55.6 million to the manufacturing sector and USD 25.9 to the service sector. A reason for the FDI reluctance into the country could be the prevailing fiscal deficit which might be improved or corrected after the new budget for 2011.

North and East

Traditionally, the East was considered the granary of the country.[6] Rebellions often came from the Vanni, the central part of the North. The North and the East are two distinct and important portions of the Sri Lanka’s national economy that became obliterated by the war for nearly three decades. As the Governor of the Eastern Province, Mohan Wijewickrama, sated at the inauguration of the new provincial assembly in June 2008, after liberating the East,

The Eastern Province contributed around 14 % to the national GDP in the early eighties which declined to about 8 % thereafter because of the unsettled conditions in the Province.[7]

The above is to highlight the problem of this paper in nutshell from before going into some description of the two provinces under discussion.

The present provincial demarcations were first devised by the British for revenue and administrative purposes in 1887 and later abandoned considering the importance of the district for both purposes. As a result, the district was the main focus of analysis before the provinces again became a major unit under devolution of governance in 1987.

In terms of total area, the Eastern Province is the second largest province (9,996 km2) after the North Central (10,472 km2); and North is the third largest (8,884 km2) in the country. However, in terms of land area, the North becomes third to Uva because of high inland water area (594 km2). When considered the population percentage or population density, the North and East stand two of the lowest in the country with North Central and Uva. The relative land area of the East constitutes 15.2 percent of Sri Lanka’s total and the North 13.5 percent. In contrast, while the northern population is 5.8 percent of the country’s total, the East constitutes 7.5 percent. These population figures and land areas should be taken into consideration in estimating and generating possible contribution by these provinces to the national economy in the foreseeable future.

The disparity between the area size and the population perhaps is one major factor why these provinces were relatively underdeveloped with similar provinces like the North Central and Uva. These are the predicaments of uneven development linked to climatic and other conditions which could also give rise to social unrest again and again. All these provinces by and large constitute the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Unless these areas are planned, irrigated and taken care of by proper national policies in coordination with provincial administrations, disregarding ethnic or political considerations, the lives of the people inhabited in these provinces may remain largely destitute.

North-east in Sri Lanka is not unique in underdevelopment. Like in the world at large, there are many countries where there are ‘centers and growth poles as well as peripheries and underdeveloped regions.’[8] The objective of sustainable development is to avoid them. There is the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region in India established in 2001 by the central government to take care of development planning and projects in eight states of North-east India covering Arunachal, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim. Even in England, the north-east is considered relatively underdeveloped and special attention is made to develop the areas from Northumberland to Durham and from Tydale to Middlesbrough.

However, before the separatist war began, the conditions could not be considered singularly unsatisfactory in the North or the East in overall terms compared with many other regions or provinces. For this period, national accounts or survey data was not available for provinces. Most of the data was compiled on the basis of agro-climatic zones and all the districts in the north-eat except Ampara came under Zone 3. The following Table 2 gives consumer finance survey (CFS) data for four years between 1973 and 1986 presented in index form compiled taking Zone 5 or the Colombo Municipality area as the base (100) at a previous year.

While the above data corroborates with many other data available for the period, what can be seen is the common predicament that Sri Lanka has been facing in respect of centre-periphery dichotomy. This dichotomy was significantly enlarging particularly after 1977.[9] Zone 5 was the centre and all others represented the peripheries. Zone 3 composed the districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullativu, Trincomalee and Batticaloa. This zone did not have any special disadvantage in overall terms before 1978 and by 1986 it was virtually impossible to conduct any reasonable survey to gauge the socio-economic conditions of these areas.

However, there were clear indications of significant disparities between districts within the zone, before and after, perhaps which led to unrest among the people who lived in these marginal districts. One implication of the situation is that even in the future, the allocation of resources and funding should be primarily on the basis of districts and not merely on the basis of provinces.

Prospects for Development

The major premise for the North and East contribution to the national development is peace. An extremely volatile region before, the provinces have not reported any type of disturbing violence since May 2009 and even the crime rates have gone down with the establishment of law and order.

The economic cost of the war has been estimated to be around USD 200 billion in the last decade only. This is around five times of the annual GDP estimated from the present amount.[10] Now the ‘cost of war’ has stopped except for the maintenance and payments for the armed forces. As the most successful section of the public sector in recent times, the armed forces are contributing immensely for the resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Development will be one outcome.

There was no doubt that even the ‘illusive peace’ during the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in 2002-2004 also resurrected the economy to an extent until the Asian Tsunami came.[11] However, the economy was kept apart from the national economy for the benefit of the war efforts of the LTTE. Many of the foreign funded projects and their monies also were channeled for war purposes than peace or people’s benefit. One case in point is the North East Community Restoration Project (NECORP) funded by the ADB through mainly Norwegian and Finish funding. The total amount was USD 25 million and one of the major projects was the Killinochchi General Hospital which was eventually converted into a LTTE military headquarters.

The contribution of the North to the national GDP has been the lowest for a very long period. It was around 2.5 percent in 1999 which went only up to 2.9 percent in 2004. While the contribution of the East has been double of the North, yet it was around 5 percent in 1999 which went up to 5.4 percent in 2004. One reason attributed to the low contribution was the informal or the LTTE war economy which has completely ended with the end of the war in May 2009. In 2009, the contribution of the East was around 8 percent and hope that it would go up to at least 14 percent this year as it was the pre-war contribution in early 1980s. Likewise, the contribution from the North is expected to be around at least 5 percent this year.

What would matter is not so much the percentage contribution in the short term. Since some of the other provinces (particularly the Western Province) are on a rapid growth path, obviously the contribution of the North or the East might be depressed for some time until the regional imbalances are corrected. When sectoral composition of the North and the East is compared with each other and with the national economy, there are interesting revelations.

While the Northern economy is predominantly service dominated (65 percent), the East is basically an agricultural economy (39 percent) according to 2004 figures. It might be the case that the service sector in the North appeared bigger because of the war conditions. What are clearly resuscitated at present are agriculture, fisheries and the service sector. An author from a Tamil nationalist point of view nevertheless reported the resurrection of the economy in following terms.

As for the Tamil Homeland, there is already some signs of increased economic activity in the North and East with trade booming between North East and the rest of the country and while tourism is another thriving industry. Opening of the major banks, supermarket chains in the North are signs of increased economic activity. Further more, the rise in property value over past 6 months in and around Jaffna has been phenomenal combined with the fall in property values in Tamil dominated areas in Colombo, indicating a tendency of return of the local Tamil economic ‘migrants’ to the North. This seems a clear sign of economic prosperity in the North and East in the short period.[12]

Challenges for Development

A major challenge that needs to be taken into consideration in terms of economic development in the North and the East is the vast disparities between districts.[13] This is not only in respect of population but perhaps related to that as well. In respect of population distribution, Jaffna district has more people than the rest of the other three districts of Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullativu taken together. This is very much the case at present and even before the war. In the case of population in the East, disparities are less conspicuous except between Ampara and Trincomalee.

The socio-economic disparities between districts are more significant which might impinge on development strategy. If the consumer finance surveys (CFS) of the good old days were of any indication, there were major disparities between Jaffna and rest of the three districts in the Northern Province.[14] Perhaps this has enlarged further due to the fact that Jaffna was largely liberated from the LTTE well before the other districts. This is not unusual in Sri Lanka as a whole either.

When household output, consumption, sales and stocks were surveyed for a month for non-seasonal crops, Jaffna district stood 30 times higher than Vavuniya and 90 times of Mullativu. Only Manner could compete with Jaffna yet with a 50 percent disparity. All other survey indicators on trade, transport and livestock also indicated to that direction. In the case of the Eastern Province, Ampara was similarly ahead of Batticaloa and even Trincomalee on the same indicators. There is much talk about provincial disparities after the introduction of the provincial council system, which is important. However, it should be noted that the district or even divisional disparities are equally or more important which needs priority attention.

There are other challenges which are economic as well as non-economic. When the war ended, there were over 300,000 internally displaced people. It was independently estimated that over two years might take to resettle them particularly due to the spread of landmines in areas where they had to be resettled. It is reliably estimated that almost 95 percent of the case load is now cleared, after one and half years, and only around 20,000 remain to be resettled.

This does not however mean that the resettled IDPs would automatically contribute to the economy. There are considerable social dislocation among IDPs and others. Its is estimated that over 89,000 women are widowed as a result of the war; 40,000 in the North and 49,000 in the East.[15] The most devastated is children’s education. All these might affect economic development adversely for some years to come.

The Northern Province or particularly Jaffna was well prominent for its educational and professional contribution to the national economy in yesteryears. By the time of independence, Jaffna produced around 15 percent of the key three professions of doctors, lawyers and engineers. Even by 1985, educational standards of the Jaffna community were exceptionally high, with 25 percent of the age group of 15-60 years having GCE (O/L) and 10 percent of the same age group attaining GCE (A/L). There were 1,411 degree holders, with 140 of them having postgraduate degrees. Irrespective of the war, the educational standards of Jaffna have not deteriorated. Thanks to the functioning of the University of Jaffna under trying conditions, there are more graduates today than anytime in the history. This is a welcome sign for the resurrection of the economy in the North and their contribution to economic planning. The situation in the East is not dissimilar with having two universities functioning under similar circumstances

In considering the North and East contribution to the national economy or national development, the ethnic challenge cannot be ignored or overlooked. As there had been open discontent from these provinces in the past three decades, a political reconciliation is in order. As President Rajapaksa stated before the UN General Assembly on 26 September 2010, ‘economic development and political reconciliation should go hand in hand.’ There are provincial structures in place under devolution to address many of the issues as the obstacles of terrorism are now eliminated.

However, two important matters have to be reconsidered under devolution. First is whether, the provincial councils have the competence or full capacity to handle all the 35 functions attributed to them under the 13th Amendment. Second is how far the present system obliterates the issues of districts or the local government system as a result of the overwhelming concentration of power in the hands of the provincial councils. There needs to be some form of rethinking about devolution, moving towards more cooperation between the central government, provincial councils and local governments. ‘Cooperate devolution’ might be the right word and the formula.

Conclusion

Sri Lanka is in a different paradigm altogether after the end of the war. There were various reasons why Sri Lanka could not progress enough compared to some other countries in the region in the past. It is an exaggeration to consider the north-east issue or the war as the only reason. The main reason was the ‘lack of a proper strategy’ in addressing the fundamental issues, including the war, in a comprehensive manner. This gulf has now been filled by Mahinda Chinthana. Connected to this issue is the question of political leadership and political will.

Sri Lanka inherited a political culture from Britain and according to this culture political plurality was overemphasized to the extent that ‘concerted national effort’ for development or social progress was almost impossible until major rethinking and changes have taken place recently. A concerted national effort is now forged through broad political coalitions of various parties and formations, minimizing divisiveness and also maintaining the main tenets of dissent, freedom and political plurality. The most important need of the hour is for the political parties and the groups representing the North and the East to participate in this ‘grand coalition’ more broadly than as at present.[16]

There are different views as to how a national economy could be constructed and developed. In economic terms, the infrastructure development is emphasized along with the importance of technology. There are other factors and sectors that need to be developed. While there is no much dispute over what appear to be technical or pure material conditions necessary for such a development, the main controversy appear to be on two directions. First is the private sector public sector mix or the role of the state.

While there are extremes of view on the matter, Mahinda Chinthana has developed a conception of a ‘developmental state’ where the market is allowed to function with public sector participation and supervision. Second is the center-provincial policy mix in the national development. Yet again there are extremes of view, the present paper argues for a mixture of national-provincial participation in development where devolution could be implemented in a cooperate fashion. It might be on that basis that ‘expected contribution from the North and the East’ could be anticipated for the ‘national development of Sri Lanka.

Footnotes

[1] This analysis does not deny ethnic grievances, real or perceived, as a breeding ground of both separatism and terrorism. However, the root causes are identified mainly in the ideological sphere rather than in the economic or social sphere.

[2] D. R. Snodgrass, Ceylon: An Export Economy in Transition, Yale University, Illinois, 1966.

[3] Sri Lanka may be called ‘post-industrial’ geared to a ‘knowledge economy.’

[4] The word Milanka is coined from Sinhala words Mila for price and Anka for index.

[5] Annual Report of Colombo Stock Exchange 2009.

[6] Thuraiappa Navaratnaraja, ‘To Make the East a Granary of Sri Lanka,’ Asian Tribune, 2 June 2008.

[7] www.ep.gov.lk 11 June 2008.

[8] W. D. Lakshman (ed.), Dilemmas of Development: Fifty Years of Economic Change in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Association of Economists, Colombo 1997, p. 189.

[9] 1977 marked the introduction of unbridled open market economy without supervision by the state.

[10] The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) estimated in 1996 the cost to be two times of the GDP at that time.

[11] Muttukrishna Sarvanathan, “Informal Economy in the Conflict Affected Regions in Sri Lanka: An Exploration,” Pathfinder Foundation, Colombo, August 2006.

[12] Yatharthan, “Economics of the Cause of War in Sri Lanka – Can be Key to Lasting Peace,” tamilweek.com, 4 March 2010.

[13] This is very much similar to other provinces as well.

[14] Department of Census and Statistics, The Survey of Household Economic Activities – 1984/85, Colombo, 1986.

[15] Daily Mirror, 30 September 2010.

HRW urges UK to take lead on pressing for authoritative Sri Lankan war crimes inquiry

The current government-led inquiry lacks independence and accountability. A whitewash won't do

by Elaine Pearson

Since the decisive end of the decades-long conflict with the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government has expended a great deal of energy and expense to prevent an international war crimes inquiry. Now the news has emerged that as part of this campaign, the government has hired the UK's premier public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, to spin its story and salvage its reputation, said to be for almost £3m a year.

An independent inquiry is anathema to the Sri Lankan government. In spite of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's promise to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon 18 months ago to examine wartime atrocities, the government has done nothing serious in that regard. Instead, government officials deploy the easy rhetoric of nationalism, claiming over and over again that they alone own the process of accountability and reconciliation.

As part of this defiant stance, in May the government established a panel of inquiry, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), charged above all else with understanding the reasons for the collapse of the 2002 ceasefire agreement, a far cry from ensuring a factual accounting of wartime atrocities. Having established the commission, Rajapaksa went on to denounce the advisory panel of experts set up by Ban Ki-moon, permitting a cabinet member to stage protests outside the UN headquarters in the capital, Colombo, and threatening to deny visas to the panel members.

At first the UK government applauded the establishment of the LLRC, even though the deficiencies in the scope of its mandate and in its processes were evident from the outset. A UK government spokesperson went so far as to say the LLRC fulfilled Rajapaksa's promise to Ban, a surprising statement given the commission's restricted mandate and highly questionable independence. Its members include people who were senior government officials during the final years of the war and who were outspoken in defence of the government's wartime conduct. Other members have worked for the Sri Lankan government.

The EU, unlike the UK, was quicker to see through this farce: it suspended Sri Lanka's preferential trade agreement in light of the country's ongoing inaction and obfuscation, specifically citing its failure to abide by its obligations under three international human rights treaties.

As the LLRC has conducted its hearings, with government officials such as the defence secretary delivering incredulous statements, misrepresentations in the press of the testimony of several independent analysts, and dozens of refusals to allow witnesses to abuses to testify, it is clearer and clearer that this process is a deeply inadequate response to the need for accountability.

Fortunately the UK's position is now shifting. Last month foreign secretary William Hague, following a meeting with Sri Lanka's foreign minister, GL Peiris, emphasised the need for an independent and credible investigation of wartime abuses. Shortly afterwards David Cameron conceded at Prime Minister's Questions that an independent investigation of the conduct of the war was needed.

Hopefully these statements mark a permanent shift away from the previous diplomatically polite policy of quiet engagement. Perhaps the UK government has realised that the LLRC is not the easy answer it had hoped for. Perhaps the Sri Lankan authorities' own belligerent actions have made the UK government realise that the questions of wartime abuses will linger, in spite of Bell Pottinger's best efforts. Perhaps it is the refusal of the international community to engage in the "forgive and forget" attitude proposed by the Rajapaksa government.

Regardless of the reasons, Cameron's words should translate into further action, beginning with immediate and full co-operation with the UN's advisory panel of experts, and leading to an independent international inquiry into abuses by all sides to the conflict. The UK has a special historical relationship with Sri Lanka, and has a sizeable Sri Lankan population who are deeply invested in these issues. As such, the UK is uniquely placed to take the lead on refusing to settle for the whitewash that the Sri Lankan government is putting forward, and to demand more.

(Elaine Pearson is deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division. This OPED first appeared on The Guardian, UK)

November 24, 2010

India ups Lanka aid to offset China presence

by Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: Days after Sri Lanka president Mahinda Rajapaksa opened the Chinese-built port in Hambantota for business, India will be opening its consulate in the southern Lankan city. Foreign minister S M Krishna will be in Sri Lanka over the weekend to do a couple of things — open consulates not just in Hambantota but in Jaffna as well — and send a message that with India's expanding presence in the island nation, it's not playing second fiddle to the Chinese.

With two massive infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka, Hambantota and Colombo port, China had posed a direct challenge to India's influence in its strategic backyard. But with the Lanka conflict behind them, India is trying to regain its act in the island nation. Most importantly, India is reviving talks on a defence agreement with Sri Lanka, an agreement that was essentially in limbo when the conflict was underway. In July, the Indian Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma was in Sri Lanka and his counterpart returned the visit recently, a sign senior officials interpreted to mean as reviving the defence ties.

It's unlikely India will be able to match the scale and efficiency of the infrastructure projects that China can execute — for unlike China, India cannot command its companies to undertake "strategic interest" projects in foreign countries, and the public sector does not have the capability. Nevertheless, India is financing the construction of the northern railway in Sri Lanka from Omanthai to Palali and from Medawachchiya to Mannar through Medu, as well as developing the port of Kankesanthurai.

But India's footprint is more in the reconstruction effort in northern Sri Lanka. It's in helping to demine acres and acres of thickly forested land in Mullaitivu, which helps the internally displaced people (IDPs) (seven teams are at work there), helping them rebuild their lives with seeds, tractors, agri implements, housing materials — basically, all the elements needed to restart lives in the erstwhile LTTE strongholds, now recovering from the war. However, LTTE remains on the banned list of the Indian government. In a sign that India continues to consider it a threat, the home ministry recently renewed its ban in the country. ~ courtesy: Times of India ~

Pointing out white students spend as much time partying as they do studying, while Asian students tend not to party with white students is not racist

"An article in a major Canadian magazine simply pointing out certain trends in our society need not be accused of racism and fear mongering."

"The 'too Asian' controversy is unwarranted"

by Amarnath Amarasingam

I must admit that I learned about the criticism of the "Too Asian" article in Maclean's before I actually read it. I received emails asking me to write letters of protest to universities that were warning of an "Asian invasion," help with community outreach, and was later invited to two "Youth Coalition Against Maclean's ‘Too Asian'" meeting in Toronto and Waterloo.

The Chinese Canadian National Council also condemned the article for fostering an "us versus them" mentality. In other words, when I finally sat down to read the article I was ready to read about how university administrators trapped under an avalanche of Asian enrollment were asking governments for help, or, at the very least, interviews with professors and students stating that white students, all things being equal, were being given preferential treatment over Asian students because the universities were already too Asian. I was primed to be enraged.

After reading the article, I suspected that many of the critics had not bothered to read past the title before concluding that Maclean's was engaging in moral panic, fear mongering, irresponsible journalism and racism. The article, in essence, tackles two main issues. First, white students, who apparently want to party as much as they want to study don't go to certain universities because they are too much of a "study school." These white students, the article concludes through interviews, do not want to compete with studious Asian students, and want to party at university, so they choose other schools. This first argument, if one wants to venture into racial territory, is likely more, or just as, racist towards white students as Asian ones. The article states plainly that Asian students tend to be "high achievers" and states that white students care more about "social interaction" and "alcohol."

Second, the article points out that campus life is becoming too skewed in one direction -- the social or the academic. It is true that these camps are often highly racialized. But, pointing out that white students spend as much time partying as they do studying, while Asian students tend not to party with white students is, again, not racist. Research does support the argument that minority students in general are more academically studious. As sociologists have pointed out for years, this does create a facile multiculturalism in which student of different backgrounds attend the same university, but rarely talk to one another. University administrators may be spending time, as the article suggests, worrying about how they can get everybody to "hang out" with each other, but that is their prerogative. Racism it is not.

The Maclean's article also notes that the impact of high admissions rates for Asian students has created much controversy in the United States. As the article points out, some studies support the idea that "Ivy League schools have taken the issue of Asian academic prowess so seriously that they've operated with secret quotas for decades to maintain their WASP credentials." If similar secret quotas were being implemented in Canada, then that would indeed be despicable. At that point, we should be organizing Youth Coalition meetings, letter-writing campaigns, and protests. An article in a major Canadian magazine simply pointing out certain trends in our society need not be accused of racism and fear mongering.

The Youth Coalition meeting to which I was invited states that "we need to mobilize a Youth Coalition to form a unified stance against the article's attempt to instill a panic of an ‘Asian Invasion' of universities, reinforce racial stereotypes and irresponsible journalism." It does not seem to matter much that the words "Asian invasion" do not appear even once in the Maclean's article, nor is the overall tone of the article suggesting anything of the sort. In accusing Maclean's of fear mongering, critics have begun to do the same. Based on interviews with Chinese, Korean, and Japanese students in several Canadian universities, the article only attempted to explore some of the sociological trends that these communities are undergoing.

I suspect that if the article was entitled "Asian students working hard at Canadian universities" instead of "‘Too Asian'?" it would not have incited much controversy. This is not to say that students from minority populations do not experience challenges, racism or otherwise, at universities. In fact, this is precisely my point. There are enough real issues that should be occupying the time of anti-racism campaigners. They do not need to invent new ones.

Amarnath Amarasingam is a doctoral candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University, and is currently completing his dissertation entitled, Pain, Pride, and Politics: Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism in Canada. He can be reached at: amar2556@wlu.ca ~ This article first appeared in rabble.ca

Sinhala Catholic Priest Seeks Justice for Nine Missing Tamil Priests

Father Reid Shelton Fernando testifies before the commission

A Sinhalese Catholic priest is calling for justice for nine Tamil priests who were killed or have disappeared during the civil war which ended last year.

“Catholics and the priests’ relatives have the right to know the priests’ whereabouts or their final resting grounds…If they are dead, please do issue death certificates, if it is not done yet,” said Father Reid Shelton Fernando, coordinator of the Young Christian Workers movement in Colombo.

Father Fernando, a rights activist, submitted a list of the disappeared priests’ names when he appeared before the Commission for Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation on Nov. 19. “So far there are no inquiries or acceptable explanations. Are they to be considered disappeared or killed?” he asked.

The priest added that the Tamils who survived the war have been affected mentally and physically. However, they are denied proper psychological treatment and counseling.

The post-war situation saw people urging the government to investigate all enforced disappearances and killings of thousands of people including Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist priests. All these crimes were witnessed or reported by numerous Sri Lankans.

State president Mahinda Rajapakse had appointed an eight-member Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission to report on the aftermath of the civil war that ended in May 2009.

Father Fernando argued that more Tamils would have come forth before the commission if there was a promise of witness protection.

According to International Red Cross reports in 2003, it had received 20,000 complaints of disappearances, 9,000 of which had been resolved and the remaining still under investigation.

The priests who have either been killed or have disappeared include:

• Father George M. Jeyarajasingham, a Methodist priest, killed with his Muslim driver in 1984.
• Father Mary Bastian, allegedly shot dead in 1985.
• Father Eugene John Herbert SJ, disappeared in 1990.
• Father S.Selvaraja, abducted and killed in 1997.
• Father Thiruchelvam Nihal Jimbrown, disappeared in 2006
• Father Pakiaranjith, killed by a claymore mine in 2007.
• Father Xavier Karunaratnam, killed in 2008.
• Father Francis Joseph, missing since 2009.

COURTESY:UCANNEWS.COM

The military defeat of the LTTE is by no means a defeat of the Tamil people

By Prof. Gamini Keerawellla

A new dawn broke over Sri Lanka last year. There is new promise of a new era of peace and stability over the island. There is optimism in the air; optimism that the time has come to address all outstanding issues in a sprit of understanding and mutual accommodation.

There is expectation that the recent election will sow the seeds for genuine reconciliation between the various communities. At the same time, there is also apprehension that things may not quite work out the way it should and yet another opportunity may slip away. But, one thing is evident there is now a historic opportunity to shape the destiny of Sri Lanka and its people - Nirupama Rao, (10. 05. 2010)

Having defeated the LTTE one year ago, Sri Lanka currently stands at a crucial historical juncture with many opportunities and possibilities as well as problems and challenges before it. The prospects for peace and stability of post-LTTE Sri Lanka depend on the manner in which the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and other stake-holders address these problems and challenges. The transition from conflict to post-conflict society is not a simple shift or a fait accompli with the silencing of the guns. It is a long and multi-deck process that needs to be carried out assiduously with a clear vision. In order to achieve this objective the government has to carefully address many issues ranging from transitional security of political reforms. I intend to discuss some of these issues in my presentation.

Transitional Security

One of the key concerns that should receive priority attention is the transition from conflict to post-conflict environment in terms of security-building process. In the changed context the precise role and the extent of deployment of the security forces need to be decided carefully. Well trained, elitist units capable of attending emerging security concerns in a peace-building environment could be utilized. At the same time, while deviating from more coercive practices, new operational mechanisms relating to security need to be introduced as part of post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. A more subtle mechanism for security surveillance and intelligence gathering, which should not appear offensive, is needed. The analysis of security intelligence needs more sophistication.

In the changed context, the difference between dissent and subversion should be clearly identified. Dissent needs to be accepted and allowed as a healthy safety valve embedded in democracy. Subversion needs to be dealt with separately. Putting dissent and subversion in one basket would definitely be counterproductive politically and strategically in the long run. The execution of security functions must be regulated in terms of rule of law to win the trust and confidence of the people. In this context, healthy civil military relations will be a crucial factor in peace and stability in the region for some time to come. It is imperative to develop a comprehensive phenomenon of national security in which the security of the state is integrated with the security of the individual and their collective identities.

Accordingly, the Sri Lankan Government has to adjust itself from a conflict environment to a post-conflict environment. In the last analysis, sustainable security and stability can be achieved by ensuring individual security of Tamil people as well as their collective identity. A security building process with individual and collective identities as the main units is a multi dimensional process with political, economic and social aspects. Hence, transitional security constitutes an important aspect of post-conflict peace and reconciliation.

How to deal with Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism

Another crucial but complex issue is how deal with Tamil nationalism in the post-LTTE context. As a point of departure in the formulation of a proper response to Tamil nationalism is coming to grips with the reality and accepting its existence and also its diversity.

What was manifested in LTTE activities was one facet of Tamil nationalism -"Tamil Ultra-nationalism" However, the issue here is how to deal with the Tamil nationalism in the broader sense of the word. The acid test for solid statesmanship in multi-ethnic societies is the manner in which the challenge of ethno-nationalism is managed by accommodating and diverting it in order to give strength to the multiethnic polity. There are three possible policy options in this regard.

1. To ignore it as if there is no such thing called Tamil nationalism. In this line of thinking, Tamils are not a nation, without a nation there cannot be nationalism. As long as we do not recognize it and accommodate and divert it with appropriate responses, extremist and terrorist elements would come forward to direct it on a suicide course.

2. To consider Tamil nationalism as a monolithic body and put all the variations in one basket and go for a head on confrontation to defeat it politically and ideologically. In the short run, it may appear successful, but in long rum it will fail.

3. To recognize the diversity of Tamil nationalism and, while ideologically confronting ultra-Tamil nationalism, to engage in a constructive dialogue with the other elements of Tamil nationalism. This would be the correct course of action. The role that credible and democratic Tamil political and civil leadership can play in this regard is also very important.

Instead of projecting Sinhala and Tamil nationalisms in a zero-sum frame, it is essential to find a frame and mechanisms which allow projecting both from a multi-sum perspective. Both the government and the democratic Tamil leadership must not once again allow the extremist element to lead and guide a Tamil national movement by default. The political space must be created and widened to integrate it as vital part of civic nationalism and incorporate it as an urge for democracy and justice for the entire country.

Re-settlement of IDPs

The immediate and pressing issue in the post-conflict situation is definitely the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The IDP issue is not new to Sri Lanka and, since the commencement of the armed conflict Sri Lanka had to grapple with the problems people displaced by the conflict. What is unique in the post-2006 situation was the sheer magnitude and quick influx of IDPs.

The government had to face this challenge in two stages — first in the East and then in the Wanni. In the face of the influx of IPS, the first urgent task was to establish safe gathering centers. It was followed by a transitional step with the establishment of welfare centers. In the East, the Sri Lankan government relatively successfully absorbed the initial shock of avoiding a ‘grave humanitarian crisis’ with the sudden influx of IDPs.

The next task is to launch a systematic resettlement programme. The success of resettlement depended on the provision of essential facilities required for the IDPs to go and settle down in their habitual villages. The IDP challenge in the Wanni was more difficult than in the East and the destruction and land mine problem was more extensive in the Wanni.

As of September 2009, according to the statistics prepared by the Rehabilitation and Disaster Relief Services Ministry, there were a total number of 247,186 IDPs in Vavuniya ‘Welfare Centers’ while 7,379 persons were housed in Jaffna and 7,712 persons in Trincomalee. The initial shock was absorbed with the experience gained from the same situation in the East. However, compared to the situation in the East, moving from here to the next stage became far from easy and the resettlement of IPSs in Wanni could not be commenced for months due to a number of practical problems.

In addition to security related considerations, the government had to attend to the reinstallation of basic infrastructural facilities which were totally damaged due to the intense fighting. Furthermore, clearing land mines remains a time consuming task as the area had been densely mined. Under international pressure, the government lifted certain restrictions in the IDP centers and expedited the resettlement process.

It should be noted that re-settlement is an integrated process and it is not simply the provision of a makeshift dwelling and sending them to their original paces. Its economic and social dimensions must be taken into account. The full gravity of one who was earlier an organic unit of a dignified social and cultural milieu and is now an internally displaced person has to be understood.

The social and economic wellbeing of the people goes beyond the mere provision of emergency relief and the restoration of essential services. A well integrated capacity building programmes is required to promote sustained livelihood and restore their dignity. This will invariably be a long-term venture. Hence, the success of the resettlement of IDPs is ultimately linked with the progress of rehabilitation and reconstruction of the war-torn region and its people.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction

Another crucial aspect in post-conflict scenarios is proper guidance and direction of post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction. It is useful to record here that systematic discussion with the participation of government agencies and other non-governmental stake-holders commenced in order to develop a comprehensive programme for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (‘Triple R’) as far back as the 1998-9 period. However, it was only after the total military defeat of LTTE in May 2009 that post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction became a priority.

Earlier, after the flushing out of the LTTE from the East, the government launched ‘Negenahira Navodaya’. The entire Eastern province was never under the total control of the LTTE and the Government administrative apparatus functioned more or less similar to that in other parts of the country. In the Wanni area, the Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts were different as they were under LTTE control. In June 2009, the Sri Lankan government launched the ‘triple R’ programme named Uthuru Wasanthaya.

It was meant to coordinate all the government ministries and agencies, international agencies, inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations. First of all, it announced a 180 day plan to resettle the IDPs. The process of implementation involved building up basic infrastructure like houses, roads, schools, energy grid, telecommunication etc.

The real success of post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction cannot be measured only in terms of construction of new roads, bridges and buildings. It is not simply a technical or economic venture. Post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction should be carried out with a clear political vision of the direction of post-conflict Sri Lanka.

Hence, the guiding principle for post-conflict reconstruction must be a new vision of the nature of the post-conflict Sri Lankan state. The need for a clear vision on how to restructure the system of power and governance in post-conflict Sri Lanka is particularly important when a comprehensive approach towards rehabilitation and reconstruction is adopted to include

(1) security, (2) justice and reconciliation, (3) social and economic well-being, and (4) governance and participation.

The fourth element, namely governance and participation required a clear broader vision of democracy and it should be directed to achieve four main objectives:

(a) strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights; (b) developing more genuine and competitive political processes; (c) fostering the development of a politically active civil society; and (d) promoting more transparent and accountable government institutions.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction could be uses as a tool for reconciliation.

Hence it should not appear to be one imposed from above, mainly from Colombo. The people of the area must own the reconstruction process. In view of the ground situation, it is not possible at present. There should be a clear road map to transfer the ownership of the process once it is set in motion. The post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction could be used as avenues for economic, social and political empowerment of the people and local communities in the region and the construction of civil society in a post-conflict setting. Finally, if it is properly handled, post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction could develop a matrix of reconstruction, community resource building, and civil society and legitimacy reconstruction. What is essential here is a clear vision and the political will.

How to reach the Tamil People and the politics of symbols

Another important issue that needs to be addressed is how to forge an organic relationship between the Sri Lankan state and the Sri Lankan Tamil people. The alienation of the Tamils and their political leaders from the system of power and governance had created conducive conditions for separatist political projects to present their course. In this back drop, it is a high priority for the Government to reach the Tamil people in the North and the East using the new political space opened up by the military defeat of the LTTE and the collapse of its political project.

The impact of the protracted war and living under the military domination of the LTTE is profound in these dignified people with deep rooted cultural traditions. In this situation, it is a high priority of the government to reach the people in the region to empower the people not only economically but also socially and politically, in the broad sense of the word and not in the definitely narrow party political sense. In order to ‘reach’ them, a clear vision, once again, and a coordinated action plan is required.

First of all, the objective mapping of the ground situation and general perceptions of the people is essential for proper policy direction. The perception of an enemy image that the LTTE assiduously created of the Sri Lankan State and its institutional apparatus cannot be wiped out overnight. In this regard, two perceptions presently prevailing among the Tamil people should be noted;

1. It is the Sinhalese Army;

2. It is a ‘Occupied Territory’.

Practical and effective attempts are urgently needed to remove these perceptions and to convince them otherwise. There should be no room for perception of domination and subordination in social and political relations. The politics of symbols play a crucial role in the present situation. The government must be more conscious of the sensitivities of the Tamil psyche.

The defeat of the LTTE was by no means of a defeat the Tamil people. Just statements by the Government to that effect are not sufficient. To convince Tamil people of it, lots of practical measures have to be initiated including reactivation of the democratic political process and empowerment of civil society. The significance of the dialogue between the Government and the TNA could be viewed in this perspective. Constitutional and political reforms based on devolution to widen the democratic space to incorporate ‘other’ ethnic/political forces are needed more than ever today.

Reconciliation

Moving from conflict to post-conflict is not a simple passage; many scars left by the war in the collective psyche of the people on both sides linger for some time and sustain mutual fear and suspicion in every step in accommodation. The importance of reconciliation in the post-conflict recovery and rebuilding process could be understood in this background. Reconciliation is of course a broader phenomenon that covers various aspects. The main element of reconciliation is healing hearts and minds and restoring healthy social relations in the post-conflict environment.

The role of ‘Truth’ Commissions has been brought into focus by the high profile Truth Commissions in post-Apartheid South Africa, Chile and Argentina and especially the Iraq inquiry in Britain. The issue here is what model of reconciliation Sri Lanka could follow. President Mahinda Rajapaksa expressed his intention to appoint a Post-conflict Study and Reconciliation Commission on 10 May 2010 when he addressed the Diplomatic Corps in Colombo.

An eight member ‘Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission’ was formally constituted by President Mahinda Rajapkasa on 15 May 2010, a few days prior to the first anniversary of the ‘V Day’

The establishment of the LLRC has not generated much enthusiasm in the domestic sphere. The mandate, timing and the composition of the Commission were partly responsible for this lukewarm response. There is no doubt that a truth commission is a welcome move if its real intention is true reconciliation. What is more important in such initiatives is that it must have credibility and legitimacy from the very outset in order to proceed on rough terrain with wide acceptance. The LLRC should not appear as a hurried response to Western pressures.

No satisfactory explanation has been given for limiting it only to the post-Ceasefire Agreement phase either. The true intentions in constituting the LLRC Commission came to be questioned due to very timing of the Government move. In the face of mounting international calls for some action relating to alleged violations of International Humanitarian Law, the LLRC can be interpreted as just a safety valve vis-a-vis the growing international pressure. Reconciliation is a broader process and restorative justice constitutes only one aspect of it. Apology and forgiveness is the main goal of a truth commission which may pave the way for attitudinal change. First of all, the initiative in that direction should be taken by the government and it should be reflected in its actions and behaviour.

Role of the Tamil Diaspora

In the post-LTTE political situation in Sri Lanka, another key issue that the government needs to address carefully in order to transform a potential challenge and vulnerability to an actual resource base for post-conflict reconstruction, peace and stability is the activities of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora. In the light of its power and influence, the Tamil diaspora constitutes a very important aspect of the political equation in relation to the post-conflict peace-building process. The impact of the collapse of the LTTE on the Tamil diaspora should be studied carefully.

It is important to note that even prior to the collapse of the LTTE, the earlier influence enjoyed by the LTTE in the diaspora was gradually declining. The second generation of Tamil expatriates had become less interested in the ideology and activities of the LTTE. It is not realistic to view the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora as a pro-LTTE entity and put them all in the same basket. Internal heterogeneity and divisions should be taken into account to understand the politics of the Tamil Diaspora.

The main issue that the government is to address in the present context would be how to get the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora to be partners in the post-war peace building process. For that, the government needs a clear perspective, direction and work plan with a realistic assessment of the strength as well as the limitations of the Tamil diaspora. At this point, the present role of KP, who is still technically under the detention of the government, is interesting to watch. The Sunday Observer 20th June reported that a delegation of former militants domiciled in Canada, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Australia met Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaka and Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris in Colombo with Regard to the Sri Lankan Government’s peace building efforts".

It further reported that "Pathmanathan (KP) who played a key ole in bringing down the nine-member delegation to Colombo was also present at the meeting held with the Defence Secretary and the Minister of External Affairs.... Pathmanathen said that an understanding has been reached to set up a NGO to streamline financial assistance for the post-conflict humanitarian programmes from abroad". This NGO is expected to be called North and East Development Programme (NEDP). It would be interesting to observe the diverse future implications of the Government-KP link.

Handling International Actors and Situations

Within a year after the defeat of the LTTE, the Mahinda Rajapkasa regime was able to establish its hold firmly in domestic politics, reaping victories in both the Presidential and Parliamentary polls. The main challenges that the government is confronting presently are those coming from the international sphere. Immediately the government has to address carefully and confidently the issue of the demand for an international probe of the alleged misconduct of the war and other human rights issues.

In the broader canvass the important issue is how to build a wider trust and confidence between the government and an array of international actors whose role is crucial in shaping international public opinion. International trust and confidence is also very important not only for averting unacceptable external probes, with very serious implications, but also for promoting the stability and progress of the post-war peace building process.

In order to achieve this objective the government needs a different set of tools and language. In order to be equipped with these tools the policy-makers need to understand the link between trust and confidence and the legitimacy and credibility.

The importance of having a clear vision and mechanism to handle international actors and situations should be understood against the background of two factors; first, the past internationalization of the Sri Lankan ethnic problem; second, the changes that have taken place in international politics where, in addition to the states, other non-state international actors have also come forward to play a key role. The Sri Lankan foreign policy-making process has to take these changes in international politics into due consideration and design its approach accordingly. Foreign policy is not simple management of state to state relations.

It seems that Sri Lankan foreign policy is still governed by the old thinking based on the assumption that as long as state to state relations in key capitals (New Delhi, Washington, Brussels, London, Beijing and Tokyo) are managed satisfactorily every thing would be all right. A notable development in foreign policy under Mahinda Rajapaksa is the turn towards Asian powers. So far, Sri Lanka played this balancing game nicely in promoting national interests as far as state-to-state relations are concerned. The balancing strategy paid handsome dividends to Sri Lanka as Russia and China came forward to back Sri Lanka by blocking Western diplomatic maneouvering against Sri Lanka at the Security Council and other UN instruments. China prevented the UN Security Council from putting Sri Lanka on its agenda.

However, in view of the geo-political realities of Sri Lanka’s location in South Asia and also of the ascendency of India as a global power in the changed constellation of world powers, the prime concern of Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is how to handle the India factor. The importance of repeated undertakings given by Colombo to New Delhi relating to a political settlement to the ethnic problem lies in this backdrop. By the same token, the importance of Sri Lanka’s relations with the European powers cannot be underestimated. The network of LTTE overseas activities was concentrated mainly in the western world. It should be noted that after the proscription of the LTTE as terrorist organization by the European Union in December 2008, European states have taken firm action against the LTTE activists operating on their soil. In this context, the EU peace conditionality to the Sri Lankan government cannot be simply viewed as pro-LTTE moves.

Another key issue in international dimension is how to deal with the new actors in international politics, namely, advocacy groups and INGOs. The International Crisis Group Report is a case in point. The main issue is how to handle the situation. In the light of this, a person of international stature such as Louise Arbour, the chairperson of the ICG, branding the ICG a ‘mouthpiece of the vendors of terror’ is only good for domestic political consumption. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report observation in this regard is striking: "the Government’s paranoia about criticism and the way some government officials equate criticism with support for the LTTE complicates efforts to move forward. Strikingly, the whole Rajapaksa Government strategy seems to be still driven by security concerns".

The Rajapkasa Government is yet to learn the gravity of the impact of some domestic political moves taken to ensure short-term political stability in Sri Lanka’s international environment. In this context, the international implications of mishandling of the Sarath Fonseka factor by the Government should be noted. By portraying Sarath Fonseka as enemy number-one of the state, the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime would be able to discredit its main contestant in the domestic political sphere. What would be international implication of charging him for revealing ‘War Secrets’? What is important is that the Government needs to address smartly the real challenges, such as one involved with the ICG report, with moral high ground, equipped with the same political language along with a different set of tools, not by bravado within the house.

In order to achieve the moral high ground to deal with actual challenges and to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the government, it is essential to take concrete steps in three spheres: firstly, strengthening independent national human rights agencies and the practices and mechanisms promoting good governance and participation, secondly, speedy and satisfactory attention to the problems of IDPs, re-establishment of their livelihood, and promotion of their economic and social well being, and thirdly and more importantly, embarking on political reforms in the direction of establishing, inter alia, viable structures for devolution of power and regional autonomy to make the people partners in the post-war rebuilding process.

Political reforms

Finally, the central element of the post-war peace building process that determines the long-term stability and peace of the country is political reforms and constitutional revision widening the democratic political space in the country. The ultimate success of post-war rehabilitation and reconciliation will be determined by the progress of the political process. The ethnic conflict is mainly a manifestation of the political crisis of the post-colonial Sri Lankan state, a conflict over arrangement of power. The key issue is who owns the Sri Lankan state. The answer to this question needs to be reflected in the ideology of the state, in the constitution and the institutional apparatus of the state. In the present context, far-reaching political reforms and constitutional revision is the requirement of the day.

The people responded positively to the government’s plea at the parliamentary polls and the government was able to secure a near two thirds majority, which is truly unprecedented under the proportional electoral system. It is not possible to avoid the issue anymore. The credibility and legitimacy of the government is closely linked with its willingness to go forward with the devolution of power and widespread distribution of political power. During President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s four day state visit to India in June 2010 the Indian prime minister harped on a meaningful devolution package and that building on the 13th amendment would provide suitable conditions for reconciliation. In view of the enormous trust and confidence that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is presently enjoying, especially among Sinhala people, it is now high time for him to take the initiative. Those ‘paper lions’ that were earlier very vocal against devolution of power are now caged in ministerial cells or in the corridors of power.

It is the duty of the political leadership not to allow another opportunity to slip away. If the main objective of constitutional reform is only to get rid of the constitutional barrier for the incumbent president to hold office more then twice, and other revisions are mere cosmetic, the entire constitutional revision would become a farce.

Conclusion: The Political Will

In the last twenty five years Sri Lanka suffered enormously in many respects due to the war. The bleeding in war has now come to an end and the period of sweating in peace has begun. Sri Lankan people have an enormous capacity and inner resilience to bounce back after calamities. The long history of Sri Lanka is replete with such examples of bouncing back after dire calamities under the direction of sound leadership with a clear vision and commitment.

The historical task before the country is to go forward in the direction of achieving reconciliation and positive peace with a clear vision and commitment. The Archimedean screw of the entire post-war peace building process in the true sense of the word is political will. Nelson Mandela in his Long Walk to Freedom stated "that there are times when a leader must move ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, feeling sure that he is leading his people down the right road". There is no more opportune time for this than the present.

(Lecture delivered by Prof. Gamini Keerawella, Senior Professor of History of the University of Peradeniya at the symposium organized jointly the Center for Security Analysis, Chennai and the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies Sri Lanka in Colombo on October27, 2010. He was also the former Secretary of the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and National Integration)

November 23, 2010

'As the situation of the entire country changes, ICRC's work and responsibilities also have to change'

ICRC1123.jpgBy IRIN News

COLOMBO, 23 November 2010 (IRIN) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) looks set to close its doors for good in northern Sri Lanka following a government statement that the organization's mandate in Sri Lanka had changed since the war ended.

"The ICRC's work and responsibilities have changed totally today. This is not something new," government spokesman, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, told the media on 20 November. "We are of the opinion that as the situation of the entire country changes, their [the ICRC's] work and responsibilities also have to change."

Rambukwella said that since the conflict ended in May 2009, the Foreign Ministry had informed that ICRC of the government's position.

The ICRC said it was making preparations for the closures. "No firm date has been set yet," Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC spokeswoman in Colombo, the capital, told IRIN.

She said the ICRC was expecting to meet government officials soon to discuss the modalities of the phasing out and continuing its work from the Colombo office. The two regional offices in Jaffna and Vavuniya assist families to visit detainees and helped returning civilians displaced by the war, while the Jaffna office also provided prostheses to those injured in the war.

Scaling down

More than 280,000 civilians displaced by the war have since returned to their home villages or live with host families, while only about 17,000 remain in welfare centres in Vavuniya and Jaffna districts, according to the government.

The ICRC has been scaling down operations since mid-2009. By July 2009, it had closed four offices in the country's east in the Trincomalee and Ampara districts following government requests. It will also close its office in the Mannar District, in the northwest, this month. That decision was taken by the ICRC alone.

The agency has been operating in Sri Lanka since 1989. When fighting between government forces and the defeated Tamil Tigers escalated in late 2008, it was the only international agency with any kind of staff presence in the war zone following the pullout of UN and other agencies.

November 22, 2010

Mahinda VII: Machiavellian monarch from Medamulana

by Dushy Ranetunge in London

This week, a headline of the Hindustan Times screamed, “the crowning of a republican king”. Some read it as being clowning. Whether you like it or not, Mahinda VII of Sri Lanka was legitimately crowned this week.

The last time around, there were too many discrepancies, with allegations of pay offs to the LTTE to prevent the Tamils from voting and lingering doubts about “Helping Hambanthota”.

This time around, there can be no doubts, he assumes office humbling and even silencing the opposition and if there were any doubts about “helping” Hambanthota, now there are none.

The previous Mahinda VI who ruled in 1187 did not last long. He was out in under a year. Before that Mahinda V was the last king of Anuradhapura. The Indians invaded and he fled and ruled in Ruhuna around 1001 AD, before being captured by the Indians and deported in 1017AD. He died a prisoner in India in 1029.

The present Mahinda has been quite formidable. His achievements, political, economic and military are due to his clever manipulation of India and China. His rural cunning and Machiavellian manipulations are breaking new ground in Sri Lankan statecraft and governance, where the orthodox Western trained mind fails and seem dysfunctional in a rapidly changing world order.

The old value system upon which Sri Lankan functioned seems to have been completely discarded and a more authoritarian, assertive and even aggressive order has taken its place. This has instilled a certain confidence in the general population, who felt demoralised, helpless and defeated before 2005.

Mahinda VII has given the rural Sri Lankan something that perhaps SWRD gave them in the 1950’s, a certain “je ne sais qua” which the old fashioned UNP trapped in the Western mindset is unable to counter, so far.

The UNP is not trying to win, they are waiting for Mahinda to falter and lose. In fact, Mahinda is winning because the UNP is losing. It has lost its way and needs rejuvenation by appealing to the general population with new ideas and visions for the future to capture the imagination of the general population.

Without such a vision, the UNP will be in opposition for a generation or more.

It is indeed of concern, that the UNP seem incapable of countering the likes of “chinthanaya” and “suba Anagathayak” which are pedestrian by any standards.

Mahinda seem to have learnt from both SWRD as well as Premadasa and the same way that he went all out to defeat the LTTE, is now going all out to ensure economic revival.

Going all out to defeat the LTTE had its consequences in terms of civilian casualties and war crimes allegations. He might have got away with it a few decades back, but during an era of advanced satellite surveillance and mobile phone technology, the level of evidence as well as legal advancements has tilted the balance away from him.

Despite recent press reports that Rajapakse faces arrest in the United Kingdom under the concept of universal jurisdiction, the chances of successful legal action against him is remote and could be defended with the legal right of sovereign immunity. The maximum that war crimes legal action could achieve is temporary embarrassment.

But, once he is out of office, this immunity will be lost, and here lies the value of the 18th Amendment to ensure a long reign and indeed “god save the king”.

Similar to these consequences of the Rajapakse military doctrine, his economic doctrine has a double-edged sword. His political survival is dependent on continued economic growth. The inherent political instability in Sri Lanka, the high cost of power and land, the relatively high cost of labour etc is working against Sri Lanka. In comparison, other countries look far more attractive than Sri Lanka. Many wealthy nations are also viewing Africa as the future, where there are considerable raw materials, cheap labour, power etc.

Even the Sri Lankans are in Africa. A significant portion of the Sri Lankan Gem trade is now taking place in Madagascar, where there are greater rewards and opportunities.

These facts mean that private investments into Sri Lanka have fierce international competition and Rajapakse’s desperation for investment forces him to turn to the Chinese state. Chinese investments are in the form of loans, which is an additional debt burden on the Sri Lankan population. More debt is being mounted by selling dollar sovereign bonds on the market at exorbitant rates. In banking the interest rates, reflects the inherent risk of the transaction. A prerequisite to sustain all this mounting debt is that the economy keeps rolling forward. If it falters, there will be a concertina effect on the economy, with resultant economic and political destabilisation. The Sri Lankan economy is inherently inefficient, with large corporations operating at huge losses and dependent on the state to keep funding these inefficiencies.

His policy of re-nationalisation continues to add to this burden. A popular example is Sri Lankan airlines, re-nationalised and now operating with huge losses, which have to be funded by the taxpayer. The culture that Rajapakse brings with him, have all these inefficiencies built in. It will be politically difficult for him to shed them as it will weaken him politically and create opportunities for the UNP.

He is maintaining a huge army to deal with any civil unrest, but in other countries such as Indonesia, large armies have not saved their rulers.

These are all strategies to give him time, the expensive rolling dollar loans, the Chinese loans, the massive military presence, re-nationalisation and over employment in state enterprises etc. They are all inherently inefficient. The massive army (now larger than the British army), the loss making corporations, the renationalised entities, which invariably become loss making entities are all a drain on the economy and a burden on the taxpayer and the nation, driving up the cost of living. It is all in place to keep the king in power. As to how long this party can be kept on the road is anyone’s guess.

Considering the level of inefficiencies, the marketing of Hambanthota port competing with super efficient Singapore is somewhat amusing. The proposal of Hambanthota to service shipping travelling on the international shipping lanes from the Gulf to Singapore is as ridiculous an idea, as building an airport at Hambanthota expecting aircrafts travelling from Europe to Australia to stop over for their hamburgers.

During Rajapakse’s first presidency he was characterised by the international press as struggling while holding a Tiger by the tail. After having slain the Tiger, he is now running while holding a Lion by the tail.

The downside of all this is, when the lid blows on the Rajapakse Presidency, like it always does for all leaders, the inherent instability will throw up another leader, who will be equally destabilising. The present frontrunner is holding court from jail.

Fear of persecution does not end merely because the war is over in Sri Lanka

by Kalana Senaratne

The speech titled ‘National Conflict and Transnational Consequences’ delivered by the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister, Prof. GL Peiris contains a number of important issues relating to international law. Prof. Peiris pointed out that “the time has come to take a fresh look at the orthodox conceptions and assumptions of international law.”

Preemptive self-defence

One issue relates to the so-called right to preemptive self-defence. Prof. Peiris stresses the importance of sending an unambiguous message to terrorists anywhere in the world - that States can, and will, combat terror. This is important. Prof. Peiris refers to a speech delivered by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wherein the PM had raised a similar argument. While Prof. Peiris does not mention what that speech was, it is believed he was referring to the speech delivered by PM Singh on 22 October 2010 at the Golden Jubilee of the National Defence College, India. In that, PM Singh states the following: “We have to be prepared to deal with threats to our security from non-state actors and groups … Non-state actors are becoming increasingly fused and employing the best technologies to target open and democratic societies. We have therefore to modernize our defence doctrines to respond to new and non-traditional threats to our national security.”

Within this context, Prof. Peiris refers to the importance of the “right to preemptive action”, stating that “the right of self-defence in national law does not arise only after you have been attacked.” He seems to be arguing in favour of the right to self-defence “when there is reasonable apprehension of danger,” and argues that this principle “needs to be developed and applied in situations involving conflicts between the State and insurgent groups.” An important suggestion, undoubtedly. However, given that the ‘preemptive self-defence’ can be easily abused by any State, I believe Prof. Peiris would also stress that a State should ensure, for instance, that firstly, there needs to be convincing evidence pointing to a serious and significant threat to the people within the State and secondly, that such preemptive action will always be guided by the rule of proportionality.

However, this doctrine of preemptive self-defence is a problematic one. Prof. Peiris states that “we don’t believe in preemptive action outside our territorial borders”, which one believes is a reference to the ‘Bush doctrine’ of preemptive strikes launched against other States. Yet, there is a critical question that Sri Lanka would now need to answer. What is it?

Sri Lanka, like India, believes in the existence of dangerous and sophisticated non-State actors; a problem faced by many States in Asia. Therefore, States should have a domestic law right of preemptive self-defence, argues Prof. Peiris. Up to this point, there is no serious problem in the argument.

But, a State that believes in the existence of such sophisticated non-State actors would also need to agree that such groups would have the capacity to carry out dangerous cross-border attacks. And here one confronts a controversial question. If the threat posed by non-State actors is such, and if a State has a right to preemptive self-defence as a matter of domestic law, what will Sri Lanka’s position be under the following situation, whereby terrorist group ‘X’ which is based in State ‘A’ tries to launch an attack on State ‘B’ and State ‘A’ is seen to be unwilling or unable to take any action against group ‘X’? (This is a problem that States such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan face, in particular).

In such situations, would Sri Lanka need to support the controversial right to preemptive self-defence as a right in international law too? Sri Lanka would need to take a firm stance on this difficult and controversial question, now that it is seen to be strongly promoting the domestic law right of preemptive self-defence. Under the above type of extreme case, would Sri Lanka consider anticipatory self-defence lawful, as long as a State follows certain strict conditions (eg. compelling evidence of an imminent and inevitable attack, proportionality, the non-pursuance of territorial occupation, immediate reporting to the Security Council etc., noted by Prof. Antonio Cassese for instance)? Also, what would Sri Lanka’s position be as a member of the NAM group which rejects this notion of preemptive self-defence in general?

Refugees

Another area of the law which needs a fresh outlook, according to Prof Peiris, is the international law governing the reception of refugees. He believes that the “traditional corpus of international law does not work and does not adequately serve the international community at this time.” The problem that is worrying Prof Peiris is the problem of refugees; i.e. people belonging to the Tamil community, in particular, fleeing the country, “claiming that they feared for their lives or their safety”, especially since the end of the war.

Prof. Peiris fears that such people are in fact “economic refugees” who were “going to improve their lot in life” on a “fictitious basis.” Prof. Peiris raises a very important point when he states that while Sri Lanka does not have any quarrel with people going to improve their lot, what Sri Lanka rejects is that fictitious allegation made by such people – that there is systemic discrimination against them and even violence and intimidation which makes their lives impossible.

On the one hand, these are very valid issues. States do need to think hard before accepting such people, since blind acceptance without thorough scrutiny of the background of some of those people claiming refugee status, could create enormous social problems within those States; especially if they have been clearly involved in illegal and/or terrorist activity. States should realize that this is one way in which the spread of terrorism and other criminal activity associated with those involved in terrorist activity could take place. The law generally tends to view those claiming refugee status with some sympathy and rightfully so (if they are genuine cases), but there are dangers involved if the laws are blind to problems emanating from refugees too.

On the other hand, it is believed that the Government of Sri Lanka should be equally, or more, concerned about the allegations leveled against it, and seek ways of improving the lot of these people; by protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of people, resettlement, etc. Where people are made to feel, for instance, that proper investigations and inquiries are not been conducted when human rights violations take place (in the form of abductions and disappearances etc.), a sense of hopelessness creeps in, and people start to lose faith in the ability and willingness of the government and the State to protect its own people. One only needs to take note of the recent LLRC sessions held in Jaffna, and the problems, concerns and grievances raised by the people. The Government should be seriously able to provide meaningful solutions to the problems of the people.

Unless there is a strong commitment to protect the rights of people, and unless there is strong and irrefutable evidence to suggest that there is a significant improvement in terms of protecting the rights of its citizens, Sri Lanka will continue to witness people leaving the country, seeking refugee status. The fear of being persecuted does not simply disappear with the end of the war. Persecution could take place for a number of reasons, for holding dissenting political opinion for instance. Such fears could trouble people belonging to any ethnic community, in any part of the country (The protection of journalists, in this regard, is a crucial issue).

It is the very discipline, then, which is sought to be modified and developed – international law – that could be utilized to address some of these problems. A very serious effort needs to be made by the government to ensure that Sri Lanka respects its international obligations arising as a consequence of being a State Party to a number of very important international conventions (especially human rights conventions). It needs to be stressed here that while the effort made to develop and modify the existing body of rules and principles of international law is praiseworthy, a more genuine and determined effort needs to be made to ensure that there is domestic implementation of relevant conventions and other international instruments (through the enactment of implementing legislation which give effect to those international laws within the domestic legal system, when and where necessary).

Trying to modernize the current body of international law is an important endeavor, but implementing the existing principles and rules of international law which are aimed at protecting the lives of people is absolutely essential. Prof. Peiris, as an eminent legal scholar/foreign minister, therefore has an important task before him: to ensure that Sri Lanka not only plays a significant role in modifying international law, but it modifies its own image and stands out as a responsible State which respects and promotes the implementation of international law; a State which is far more serious about its responsibility to protect its own people.

(Kalana Senaratne is a postgraduate research student at the University of Hong Kong)

"When we Appointed Fonseka as Army Commander we did not know his son in law was an Arms Dealer" - Mahinda

An Interview with President Rajapaksa by N.Ram of "The Hindu" - 2

In this second and concluding part of a one-hour interview given to N. Ram at ‘Temple Trees' in Colombo, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's President, responds to questions about his ambitious initiative for a trilingual Sri Lanka, the role of the English language, the contentious 18th constitutional amendment, the jailing and conviction of General Sarath Fonseka, the status and future of 11,000 hard-core LTTE cadres and supporters, and relations with India.

You have taken a special interest in language policy. You have announced a Ten Year Presidential Initiative for a Trilingual Sri Lanka and before that the initiative to promote English. This seems to have been thought out over the long term. How do you see this going?

Last year was the Year of English and Information Technology. With that the people started spoken English, they started learning English. So I thought the best thing was that all Sinhalese must learn Tamil now, the Tamils must learn Sinhala, and they must all learn English and acquire knowledge, international knowledge. We thought the best thing was to launch this three-language initiative. We have set the target of 2020 and I think we can achieve it. One issue is teachers; we have to train the teachers. But we have to meet that challenge.

The coordinator of this initiative, Sunimal Fernando, told me about the findings of a socio-linguistic survey in Sri Lanka; it showed a surprising amount of support, even enthusiasm, among both Sinhalese and Tamils for learning each other's language. This must have come as a surprise even to you.

Yes but I have seen some of this. Government servants get from [SL Rs] 10,000 to [SL Rs] 25,000, depending on the level of competency, for learning a second language, Sinhalese learning Tamil or Tamils learning Sinhala. We pay them; I don't think any other country pays government servants like this. We are serious about this.

In your address in 2009 during the launch of the Year of English and IT, you made an interesting statement. First about Sinhala and Tamil, not merely as tools of communication but as encapsulating values and worldviews. And English is to be delivered purely as a “life skill” for its “utility value,” as “a vital tool of communication with the outside world of knowledge” and as a skill that is required for employment.

Then you go on to say something very interesting: “We will ensure that there will be a complete break with the past where in our country English was rolled out as a vehicle for creating disaffection towards our national cultures, national ethos and national identity.” So you make a qualitative distinction between learning Sinhala and Tamil by people belonging to the other community and English as a life skill — but breaking with the past. So it was a real problem in Sri Lanka, the separation of the English-knowing elite and the people?

Yes. Because everybody thought that English was for the elite. And the elite used it as a sword — in Sinhala it is “kaduva.” The elite used knowledge of English as a kaduva to cut down the others from the villages. This was very prominent in high society, especially in Colombo; they thought the people who didn't know English must be somebody to be looked down upon. Now it has changed and we want to change this attitude.

And if this Trilingual Initiative really takes off and achieves its target, it will really be a unique achievement. Very few countries would have done anything like this.

Yes.

Can you tell us about your thinking behind the removal, through a constitutional amendment, of the two-term bar on holding presidential office? There has been international comment on, and criticism of this change.

The thing is I have seen the second term of various leaders, not only in Sri Lanka but also in many other countries. Because in the first year [of the second term] you can work. Yes, you make promises, you can work in the first year. When it comes to the second year, from the beginning the party is fighting within to find the next leader. Government servants will be looking out to see who will be the next leader and they will not work. And the President would be a lame duck President from the second year [of the second term]. See what happened during the last term to [President] Chandrika [Kumaratunga], what happened to J.R. [Jayewardena], what happened to others. I've seen that, so I'm not going to walk into that trap! So I thought the best thing – whether you contest or not, that is a different thing – would be to be free from that [constraint]. Because during the second term of six years that the people have given me because I have achieved during the first term, I must have that freedom, without conspiracies, without pulling you down among your people, among the government servants especially.

The second term is very important. To achieve development for the people — that was the mandate they have given me. That's why I did that. It doesn't mean … whether I'm going to contest a third term or fourth term, it's not like that. Generally, this [two-term limit] had made our leaders lame ducks during the second term.

You have told me on more than one occasion that one of the problems with the constitutional structure in Sri Lanka was that the President was away from Parliament, and that you had grown up in the parliamentary tradition and you wanted to overcome or narrow that gap. Have you been able to do that?

Yes. Now it's compulsory, after the 18th Amendment, for the President to go to Parliament, at least once in three months.

This will solve that problem?

I think so. Because then when I have the right to go there, at least once in three months, I can use it at any time when I think it is necessary or useful. Even that they criticise, saying I am trying to control Parliament! I don't want to do that; that's why I said once in three months was enough. I don't want to go and mess around with the parliamentary system. I want to be there to feel the pulse of the people, to hear the Opposition, to find out. I will give you an example. Recently, when Ranil Wickremasinghe, Leader of the Opposition, raised an issue on casinos, that somebody had started a casino on government land, I issued orders and found out it was a true story. I immediately called Ranil and thanked him for raising that. The Opposition's duty is to show us these things and if I am there, in Parliament, I will be better informed about these things. Where something wrong has happened, we can always rectify it. It is very important that I should be very close to Parliament.

The other issue that is commented upon and criticised is the jailing and conviction of your former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka. Neither he nor any member of his family has asked for a presidential pardon. Is it a political problem in Sri Lanka?

No, it's not a political problem. The law is for all; everybody is equal before the law. Whatever wrong things they have done, they have to face it. People understand this. Some Opposition MPs, thinking they can use this as a platform to gain political advantage, are using his name. But I don't think it's a matter over which people are excited. They are not interested.

Neither the UNP nor even the JVP seems to have taken this up in a serious way.

No. When they want to say something or do something, they bring this up.

One is the rule of law and the President's role. But there is also a personal side. He was your Army Commander, you knew him personally. How do these two sides interact?

Yes, it's really difficult. But whether you are the Army Commander or not, if you do something wrong, you will have to face it. We never thought he was a man like that, we didn't know. When he came forward as a candidate, somebody informed and said his son-in-law was an arms dealer. We never knew about this. He didn't admit it either. He should have informed us. He sat as chairman of the tender board; no Army Commander had done that earlier. We made a man who was supposed to retire in a little while the Army Commander. If I had known that his son-in-law was an arms dealer, I would have warned him or tried to correct him.

There are, I'm told, about 11,000 self-confessed LTTE cadres or supporters in custody, hardcore elements and maybe some others. How do you resolve this issue?

Some of them have already been rehabilitated. Four thousand have already gone home. We have released the children and the old people. Some of them don't want to go; they are with us, for their own sake.

In your U.N. address, you extended an open invitation to all Tamil expatriate citizens of Sri Lanka who wished to come and join the development of the country. Has there been a good response to this?

Yes, there has been a lot of response, including from those expatriates who want dual citizenship. But there are also those who went away for other reasons, but showing the conflict as the reason. Many Sri Lankans have gone and settled down abroad and taken the citizenship of other countries.

You have been in close touch with Indian leaders. You have come to India; you were the chief guest at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games; you have maintained continuous contact. Are you satisfied with the level and quality of India's contribution to this process, after the war ended?

Yes. Yes. Relations have been excellent, after the war, and before the war ended. We have been in close touch, the leaders of the two countries.

For example, building 50,000 houses should take care of most of the housing needs of the displaced people in the mainland North. Then there is restoration of the collapsed railway network in the North. Palaly Airfield; KKS harbour; road development projects; a power project in Sampur in the East

So all these projects have been given to India. But still some of the papers are making a big fuss over our projects and making comparisons with what we have given China.

Did the Indian government, political leaders or officials, express concern over this?

No, no. They are much more mature. Because everything had been offered to them first. The airport, the port, Hambanthotta harbour. Even Sampur was offered four years ago. We need development, rapid development. This will greatly help the people of the North, the Tamils. People who used to support the LTTE, those who made a big fuss over these projects, including Professor [M.S.] Swaminathan's blueprint for the development of agriculture and fisheries in the North, should realise this.

As you embark on your second term, your new term, as President of Sri Lanka, what is your message to your people and to the international community? How should they respond to Sri Lanka's new situation?

The message to my people is that I am concentrating on development work. I want to make Sri Lanka a hub for the development of knowledge, energy, commerce, naval transportation, and aviation. To achieve that, our people must stay together, rally round the government and achieve it — for the people. To the international community, my message is they must understand our position. We defeated terrorists, not freedom fighters. The whole world is facing this problem. So they must realise what we have achieved and help to develop the country, develop the North-East. They must help us not to widen the gap between the communities but to bring them closer. The past is past; you don't dig into the wounds. We must think positively, not negatively. ~ courtesy: The Hindu ~

“New” LTTE leader Vinayagam exposed as a “pretender”

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Vinayagam the new leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) based in Europe has been exposed as a “pretender”!

Information has come to light that claims made by a senior tiger leader in Europe that he was “Colonel” Vinayagam the sea tiger commander are false.

[Click here to read in full ~ dbsjeyaraj.com]

November 21, 2010

Tamil Parties must realise that what we refused to give Prabhakaran cannot be given to others also

An Interview with President Mahinda Rajapaksa by N.Ram of "The Hindu"

During his first term, Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa, underestimated by his political opponents and the outside world, achieved overwhelming political dominance after his politico-military strategy eliminated the LTTE as a military force and he went on to score two big electoral victories. As he embarks on a second presidential term, which began on November 19, he reflects on the tasks and challenges ahead in an interview given to N. Ram at Temple Trees in Colombo. This is Part I of the one-hour interview:

Mr. President, you made a huge score in the first innings. As you begin your second innings, there are heightened expectations from many constituencies within Sri Lanka and outside. How do you react to these?

As for what I achieved in the first term, I have brought peace to this country. Eliminated terrorism and brought peace. Now my aim is to develop the country. After that, the priorities are the people whom we have to win over — the hearts and minds of the people. Now Sri Lanka is one country; it's not divided. So what we want is to see that the whole nation gets all the benefits, not only one area, not only one community. To develop the economy so that all the people benefit.

Earlier you spoke about the three Ds, Development, Democratisation, and Devolution. Has that changed?

No. Development is important. Without development and peace, we can't have democracy. Democracy is very important because we are a democratic country. And then devolution: we have said we must know the minds of the people. Politicians have their own theories but people, the new generation, have different views. What we want is reconfirmation of what they want. Definitely we are going to have this. To have peace, we need all this.

How do you find the response of the people of Sri Lanka when you go to the rural areas? You won two big elections, the presidential election and the parliamentary elections.

When I go to villages and talk to the people, they are warm and friendly. I feel it.

You have no worthwhile opposition, politically speaking. Of course there are opposition forces. General [Sarath] Fonseka came into the picture and there are others. But after the elimination of the LTTE and after the electoral victories, I don't see any leader in South Asia who is so well placed, so dominant politically as you are. How do you react to this? Do you sometimes feel complacent?

I must thank the people. In our democracy, people have trusted me to deliver. They know I have delivered peace to them. Now they need development and peace again. That is what the people expect from us. Now, with a two-thirds majority in Parliament, after a victory by 1.8 million — all this gives strength to me and to my party. What the people wish to have, we have to deliver.

On the Tamil question, the first challenge after the elimination of the LTTE was looking after 300,000 people who were in the camps. Now most of them have been sent back to their areas and I believe the number in the camps has come down to 18,000.

Of this 17,000 or 18,000, many of them are not in the camps; they go to the villages and come back. But at least 10,000 of them are from areas that have to be de-mined; we can't send them there yet. But by December, we expect to send back everyone other than the people who wish to stay there [in the camps].

Are you satisfied with the resources that have come internally and externally to help this process?

I'm satisfied. Because all our friends helped us. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to achieve this.

Now, there are heightened expectations about the political solution, the 13th Amendment-plus, that has been promised. The impression is that there is drift here.

As you would understand, we can discuss this only now — with all the political parties. After the elections, we have had discussions and they will continue. The solution that I have in mind might not be good enough for them; they might not accept it. Not only the political parties, the people must accept it. They want a new leadership to be built up. After we send them back to their villages, they have all these expectations and hopes. We must find out from them too. I have already had discussions with our political leaders who are in the government and who are in the opposition.

Do you have in mind a clear political solution, even if you have not revealed the specifics?

Yes, but I will first find out their views. We want to appoint a committee, from both sides and discuss all these.

Do you find the opposition reasonably cooperative, at least the main opposition, the UNP?

[ Laughs]. The problem is they have to survive. The Opposition has lost all their slogans, now they have to find new slogans. It's good in a way. But the Opposition must also remember this. They must oppose us within the country; it is their democratic duty. They must also realise that when we go out of the country, we all represent Sri Lanka. The fight is here, in Sri Lanka, but not when they go out. They must always respect the country.

This is a principle you have followed throughout in your political career, when you were in the Opposition also?

Yes. I never went and tried to stop any aid or any benefits that we got! We never went on to that. We said, ‘yes, there are human rights violations,' because I was the one who first went to Geneva and gave evidence in the Human Rights Commission. But we never tried to pressurise the governments to withdraw aid and benefits to the people of Sri Lanka.

It is notable that the Tamil National Alliance, or the people who are now the TNA, have for the first time said they would accept a devolution package within the framework of a united Sri Lanka. How do you see that?

It is a good development. Because earlier they wanted a separate state. It's a very good development. We can now start talking to them.

You expect a lot from them?

Not only from the TNA but from all the Tamil parties. We need their support and the [Tamil] people's support. This is very important. They must realise that they can't get what Prabakaran wanted — by using guns and all those weapons, by terrorism. They can't terrorise the country that way. They must also realise that what we refused to give Prabakaran, we won't give to others. So they must be realistic — and fair, in this process. They must know the feelings of the others too.

The question is also about the sequencing: before you come to this political agreement, the search for a political consensus on the devolution package, why not hold elections in the Northern Province? But even the TNA doesn't seem to be in a great hurry.

Yes, because at this juncture we have to re-settle these people first. They must be given their basic needs and provide for their livelihoods.

But they voted in the presidential and parliamentary elections even though they were in the camps. Do you have to wait for them to be completely re-settled now?

There is also the need to register all of them [in the electoral register]. We can't have elections now under the 1981 Census. You know, in the Eastern Province, we had elections as soon as we threw the LTTE out. But [in the North] I didn't want to have elections when they were in camps, because the interpretation would have been different. Now I want to have elections as soon as possible to the Northern Provincial Council. We might be able to do that by next year. People who want to criticise us will always criticise us, for the low turnout and so on. But we can't have elections under the 1981 Census!

Everybody speaks about the tremendous infrastructural development in Sri Lanka, every part of Sri Lanka except the areas where de-mining is yet to be completed. So you have a very good thing going. Can't the political process be speeded up to keep pace with this rapid development?

Unfortunately, the stakeholders were not available, some of them. When we start that [political process], the Opposition must cooperate. Everybody must agree to the solution — this is not my personal solution! It must be a solution of the people, a solution from the grassroots level — not imported, not imposed by force — it must come from them. This is the solution we want. Now they all want to be one country, one nation. I have been to the North, our young MPs also have gone. We have spent billions of rupees there. What we have spent on the Eastern Province and on the North, we have not spent on the other Provinces. If you compare that, we have invested massively in the North and the East.

Because if the political agreement happens, there will be no issue. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the LLRC, was set up to probe events from 2002 to the end of the war and fix responsibility and make recommendations. We have the successful South African model [the Truth and Reconciliation Commission]. How do you assess the progress made in this?

I would say, very good. They have already given us an interim set of recommendations. I have given it to the officials to implement. A committee has been appointed. The commission is not meeting in Colombo only; they go to the North, they go to villages. They go and meet the people; they don't wait till people come to them, they go to the masses. The difference is that. They have invited all international human rights groups to come and give evidence. They have sent invitations to the United Nations, so it can come and find out now. I think they are working very well, though some of the interested parties have their own views about the Commission.

You have the U.N. effort, the advisory panel that the Secretary General has set up despite opposition from the Sri Lankan government, and the demands of the NGOs for more investigations into alleged human rights violations. They don't seem to have got anywhere.

I understand the plight of the NGOs. They have to say something. Whatever we do, finally we won't be able to change their views — we might be able to change the views of a few of them but not all of them. They must realise that if you talk about other countries, conflicts are there, human rights issues are there. You can see the difference. For example, when all the 300,000 came this side and we started building some villages and kept them there, they said we were keeping them in ‘concentration camps'! You went there at that time, you could see for yourself whether they were concentration camps. When we re-settled them, they said ‘no permanent houses.'

Within six months, we have to build permanent houses. But without de-mining, how can we go and settle them? If we had settled them, they would have said we did this purposely to kill these people. We have seen some of these NGOs in Sri Lanka during election time. They went all out. One NGO, Transparency International, its local chapter, spent [SL Rs] 109 million in 2009, and within one month, the election month, January [2010], it spent [SL Rs] 69 million. A government department won't be able to spend so much! This is what they did – got involved in local politics. They want to change governments, they want to change leaders. They don't worry about the repercussions. Some of these NGOs are out; some of them are working.

TO BE CONTINUED

[ Part II of the interview will be published tomorrow .Courtesy:The Hindu]

“Kaarthigai Theepam”~ Triumph of Light over Dark

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

1121KT12TW.JPG

Kaarthigai” is a month of purity and devotion. Hindu devotees in Sri Lanka celebrated the festival of “Kaarthigai Theepam” in the temples and houses on 21t of November 2010 amidst a heavy downpour. It falls on IL Poya day, which coincides with Karthigai star. [click to see & read more]

"PONGU MAHINDA": The Second Inauguration of ‘The leader who conquered the world’

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Tragedy tomorrow, Comedy tonight!” — Stephen Sondheim (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum)

During the final Peace Process, the LTTE held several Pongu Tamil rallies, ostensibly to celebrate Tamil culture but actually to flex Tiger-muscles and pay obeisance to Velupillai Pirapaharan. As the LTTE monopolised the Tamil struggle, Tiger members and diaspora sycophants began hailing Pirapaharan as ‘Sun God’ and ‘The Leader of the World’. By exacerbating Pirapaharan’s belief in his own infallibility, this infantile leader-veneration would have hastened his hubris-laden march to an inglorious end (and the LTTE’s descent into an ignominious defeat).

This is our ‘Pongu Mahinda’ week, our time to celebrate the Second Inauguration of a President hailed by the state-media as ‘The Leader who conquered the World’. Sri Lanka may be cash-strapped and debt-ridden; still, an extravaganza to beat all extravaganzas cannot but be apposite for a leader who, according to an official slogan, is ‘the Sun and the Moon of a Country which overcame Terror…’! (Comparing the cost of this exercise in ‘leader-veneration’ with 2011 budget allocations for children or poverty allocation or resettlement would be instructive indeed).

The ‘simple but gallant’ celebration (as Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake characterised it) is a fascinating mishmash of the banal and the bizarre, with a pronounced tendency towards the superlative. Poster campaigns and religious ceremonies jostle with the planting of 1.1 million saplings and the spectacle of a shipload of Buddhist monks voyaging from Galle to Hambantota (Magampura) Harbour, chanting the ‘Sagara Piritha’. A military parade is sandwiched between an exhibition titled ‘Nidahasa: Suba Sanskruthiyaka Peradekma’ (Freedom: Foreseeing An Auspicious Culture) and the largest milk-rice in the world weighting 4,000kgs, cooked by 300+ chefs (including several five-star ones) with 1,200kgs of rice, 1,500 coconuts and 300kgs of cashew-nuts (and relayed live on TV).

Nothing is to interfere with this political orgy. Tuition-guru turned Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena has decreed that all school students should listen to President Rajapaksa’s ‘Address to the Nation’. The Rajapaksas, like Velupillai Pirapaharan, know the value of catching them young, while their minds are a politico-ideological tabula rasa; thus on the 19th schools must hold special assemblies and enlighten students about the importance of the Second Inauguration. There was, however, a hitch; the year-end term tests were to begin this week. Given a choice between paying obeisance to ‘The Leader who showed the Way’ and mere term-tests, the regime did not hesitate for a nanosecond; the term tests were postponed.

Any objections to this inanely arbitrary decision (on the grounds of inconveniencing students or upsetting the O/L schedule) can be dismissed as ‘educational terrorism’, because, nowadays, any spoke in the wheels of the Rajapaksa triumphal-chariot is ‘Terrorism’.

Thus we have ‘Wheat Terrorism’, courtesy Minister Wimal Weerawansa and ‘Climate Terrorism’, courtesy Minister Champika Ranawaka (incidentally, both supported the JVP during its most terroristic incarnation, the Second Insurgency). We have no ‘casino terrorism’ though; casinos are patriotic because they have Presidential blessings and the President decides what is patriotic and what is not. As Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said, no other can invoke “patriotism or dedication towards Motherland and religion because it is the President who penetrates (sic) these qualities more than any other leader” (The Daily News – 17.11.2010).

Voltaire said of Monarchy, “In this, all mankind are made for one individual: he accumulates all honours with which he chooses to decorate himself, tastes all pleasures to which he feels an inclination, and exercises a power absolutely without control; provided, let it be remembered, that he has plenty of money” (A Philosophical Dictionary). This week’s gala-celebration and the arbitrary postponing of something as crucial as year end term-tests prove it: We do have a King, in the Voltairean sense, a king who prioritises his own whims, has an insatiable appetite for honours and encomiums, jealously monopolises the credit for defeating the Tigers, regards impunity as his birthright and uses the public exchequer as his own.

When such a King, who is said to epitomise discipline and morality, tolerates asinine ministers or sets free a ‘man-of-god’ (the former Basnayake Nilame of Saman Devalaya, Ratnapura) sentenced to life-imprisonment by the courts for murder (even as he refuses to show any mercy to the war-winning army commander), his conduct indicates not hypocrisy (or vengeance) but a sensibility too esoteric for our imperfect understanding.

(Northern Tamils were subjected to incessant bombing and shelling and Colombo’s poor are to be evicted from their homes, for their own good).

Fernand Braudel in his seminal work, A History Of Civilisations explains that the word ‘civilisation’ in its plural form is used to denote ‘the characteristics common to the collective life of a period or a group’; thus one can talk of the ‘civilisation of the fifth-century Athens’ or ‘French civilisation in the century of Louis XIV’. In January, the state-owned ITN held a musical show titled Jaya Jayawe under the auspices of the Rajapaksa brothers. Delivering the guest-lecture on the occasion, Rajapaksa-intellectual J.R.P Sooriyapperuma defined the show as a symbol of the emerging ‘New Civilisation’.

It was a revealing remark, because the show, though billed as a ‘Musical Tribute to the Heroes of the Nation’, was nothing but a long panegyric to President Rajapaksa, his brother and their mother.

For instance, the show opened with a lullaby retelling the ‘heroic saga’ of ‘King Mihindu’ and ‘Chief General Gotabaya’ who defeated the ‘demons’ threatening the motherland (just them, no Gen. Fonseka; not even a cook). Reverencing the Ruling Family is the leitmotiv of the ‘New Civilisation’ of the Rajapaksa era (the PM, opening the Nidahasa exhibition, opined that more was done in the last four years than in all 2,500 years of history).
According to the official narrative, Sri Lanka is permanently imperilled, from within and without, and Rajapaksa Rule is the sole guarantee of the island’s survival as an independent nation.

Patriotic defence will thus become the foundation of the new ‘Rajapaksa civilisation’. Life and governance will be informed and determined by a permanent war with a Hydra-like ‘National Enemy’; implicit trust in and unquestioning obedience to the Rajapaksas will become dominant civic virtues.

Velupillai Pirapaharan needed the war, partly because peace would have loosened the politico-ideological shackles which held the Tamil people in thrall. In 2008, The Economist called Sri Lanka ‘the most militarised state in South Asia’ (7.2.2008). This militarisation has intensified post-war, as evidenced by budgetary allocations or the plan to garrison all districts.

The Rajapaksas need Sri Lanka to remain a ‘frightened country’ to justify the continued absence of the peace dividend and the steady erosion of democracy. There is nothing like an enemy to make a populace accept its own misery or acquiesce in its own subjugation. As the South becomes stupefied with fear, it will be easier to gloss over the ever-widening democratic and developmental deficits; and to justify Rajapaksa Rule, the only bulwark between us and an omnipresent Existential Threat.

The ploy may work, at least for a while, because there is nothing like a siege mentality to make people forget their humane instincts and enlightened self-interests, as the Tamils did, until the hour of tragic dénouement.

Has record of achievement of the Rajapaksa Presidency been in the main positive or negative?

By Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

An evaluation of a political leader must be historically concrete. What was the context in which he/she assumed power? What was the situation he/she inherited and what did he/she make of that inheritance? Did he/she improve the situation in respect of the central challenge or main problem, cause it to worsen, or remain unchanged? The evaluation must also factor in the actually available alternative to his/her leadership; how that alternative personality would have fared and at what cost.

It often takes a critical outsider to register the authentic dimensions of the achievement of a distant nation and its leader. Though they contributed negatively to the emergence of that challenge, how many of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s post-Independence predecessors prevailed over a challenge that was as formidable by any standard of contemporary world history; indeed of “the era”?

In his recently released volume Monsoon: The Indian Ocean And The Future Of American Power, Robert D. Kaplan, member of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis writes of “…the government’s gradual victory over the Tamil Tigers, among the post World War II era’s most ruthless and bloodthirsty organisations…Prabhakaran had been causing death and destruction to a much greater extent and for a much longer period than Osama bin Laden in the case of the United States. This was the kind of clear-cut, demonstrable victory that any American administration could only hope for…” (pp. 203, 210)

President Rajapaksa won his second term fairly and squarely. The debate on the 18th Amendment is irrelevant here, because that followed, not preceded his re-election and pertains to a possible third term, not the second. Is Sri Lanka in better shape in the most basic sense at the commencement of Rajapaksa’s second term than it was on the eve of his first term?

Sri Lanka, like any other country, has to be evaluated as a totality, not through the prism of its ethnic minority, though the minorities question must indubitably be part of the evaluation. Assessing Sri Lanka through the lens of the Tamil Diaspora or the Tamil question is as misleading as assessing Turkey through the lens of the Kurds, India through the Kashmiris or Nagas, the Philippines through that of the Moros, and Spain through the Basques. That would provide insights, but a partial, skewed perspective.

Things must also be classified as primary and secondary.

At this point in time, has the record of achievement of the Rajapaksa presidency been in the main, positive or negative, and is the contribution made to the country and its people by him primarily good or bad?

Mahinda Rajapaksa inherited a Sri Lankan state in grave crisis, with a powerful armed enemy rooted in a part of its soil, attempting to dismember its territory. Three previous Presidents and four previous leaders, JR, Premadasa, Wijetunga, Chandrika and Ranil failed to restore the territorial integrity and unity of the country, end the war and terminate the secessionist challenge. This, Rajapaksa accomplished. The result is that for the first time in decades, there is no deadly violence on a large or medium scale. For all this, he was freely elected to a second term. After 30 years of life in its shadow, the country and all its peoples are safe and secure from an existential threat of the most basic and awful kind.

Sri Lankan opinion and opinion on Sri Lanka are broadly divisible into two categories: those who regard Mahinda Rajapaksa’s achievement or contribution as more positive than negative and those who view it as more negative than positive. However critical or ambivalent they may be on this or that specific policy, action or inaction on his part, there is little doubt as to which side of the divide the vast majority of Sri Lankan people are. There is also little doubt in my mind as to what history’s verdict would be, given the magnitude of his historic achievement.

Critique must not be distorted by nihilistic negation, just as recognition of the positive must not be discredited with blindness towards the negative, and a defence of achievement must not be vitiated by avoidance of that which remains to be done. Sadly, most commentary by and on Sri Lanka is warped by one or the other distortion.

The analytically slipshod shows of erudition which wildly toss references to leaders who have been elected to power only to establish dictatorships, omits the vital datum that such leaders proceeded to bury representative multiparty democracy by violently smashing the main opposition. Mahinda Rajapaksa has not done so. Whatever his transgressions, he cannot be held responsible for a diminution of the competitiveness of representative democracy through the prolonged leadership debility of the Opposition and the dwarfing of that Opposition by his achievement of destroying the Tigers (something that he did not prevent his predecessors from doing themselves)!

Still more absurd is the attempt to equate Rajapaksa with Prabhakaran. This assumes that the strategic projects of the two (reunification vs. dismemberment of the country) can be equated, as can the lamentable compliance of Tamil society with a movement that decimated the political leadership of that community (burning alive the TELO youth, to name but one instance) with the democratic state and the Southern public sphere that resisted and rolled back anything that came close. Even so acerbic a Western analyst of the Rajapakse dispensation as Robert D. Kaplan does not fail to balance his observation that there is a “more severe coarsening of politics in Colombo” with the repeated definition of the country as a democracy — on which he places his bet as Sri Lanka’s ultimate salvation.

The fact that our external critics depict their excessive strictures as coming from the ‘international community’ when they reflect, if at all, only a segment of it, does not mean that the international community does not exist; it simply means that these unfair and prejudiced critics are not synonymous with it.

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence showcased Sri Lanka’s recent and ongoing achievement in the following words to an international scholarly audience attending the 6th international conference of the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore:

“…Sri Lanka has emerged from a decades-long civil war, and is enjoying an economic revival. It is currently the second-fastest growing Asian economy after China, a fact not lost upon the IMF, which recently upgraded Sri Lanka to middle income emerging market status…”

No two yardsticks are more important in assessing the state of a nation-state and the performance of its leadership than (a) war and (b) the economy. President Rajapaksa has won the first, has improved the second and seems to be laying the foundations for a stronger economy.

If Sri Lanka is positioned to benefit from the rise of Asia and the significance of the Indian Ocean region, it is because Mahinda Rajapaksa has cleared the way for it to do so by overcoming the most formidable obstacle: the secessionist enemy. The grade on Sri Lanka’s score card as given by an important Singaporean leader demonstrates that there is more than one view of Sri Lanka in the international system; that the primarily positive views do not limit themselves to those of allegedly ‘rogue’ or ‘maverick’ states, regarded as ‘anti-Western’; that there is a realist Asian or Eastern perspective on Sri Lanka.

How Mahinda Rajapaksa re-entered parliament in 1989

By Dharman Wickremaratne

I remember Mahinda Rajapaksa visiting our home in the early 1970s. It was due to the connection he had with my father Gunapala Wickremaratne, who was then Deputy Director General of Education. When I joined the Divaina in 1984 these memories were revived and the relationship was further strengthened.

Going through my old diary I came across the date March 4, 1988. Place IRED Institute, Horton place, Colombo 7. The Convenor of the event was Sunimal Fernando. There is no doubt that the discussions there laid the seeds of all the victories of the present President.

The participants were K. H. A. Godawatte, Aamarasinghe, T. Jayasinghe, Dr. Willie Gamage, Dharman Wickremaratne, SS. Sahabandu, Justin Dissanayake, K. D. Peiris and the brothers, Chamal, Mahinda and Basil. All plans were prepared for the 1989 General Election. It was Basil Rajapaksa who predicted that some day a President will emerge from the South. Basil was the brains behind all the strategies. We met every week and worked out the plans. Discussions were held sometimes in ‘Carlton’ Tangalle, Basil Rajapaksa’s residence at Jubilee Post and Mahinda Rajapaksa’s residence at Dehiwala. The outcome of these meetings was the Human Rights and Legal Aid Centre at ‘Carlton,’ human rights activities and protest demonstrations.

The JVP called for the boycott of the Presidential Election. The terror they and the government unleashed intensified. It was under these circumstances that Ranasinghe Premadasa was able to win the Presidential Election of December 19, 1988. After his victory he decided to hold the General Election on February 15, 1989. We decided to meet the new situation with renewed strength. All of us camped at Carlton, Tangalle a month before the General Election. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regularly gave advice from abroad. Chamal Rajapaksa worked from Medamulana.

But the Joint Election Campaign Centre was at Carlton. Willie Gamage handled the coordination and administration, and I directed the field operations. Promotional work was the responsibility of Ari Weeeratne, Padmasiri Rajapaksa, Disa, Keerthi Disanayaka and many others.

Among those who campaigned for Mahinda Rajapaksa in 1989 were some of those who worked for him in 1970 and 1977. They included Willie Gamage, Justin Dissanayake, A. Weeraratne, Wimalaratne, Sinha Abeygunawardena and Henry. We used to wake up at 6.00 a.m., start work at 7.30 a.m. and continue till 7.00 p.m. Due to army orders in response to JVP terror we could not work after 7.00 p.m. though we used to engage in discussions and exchange experiences till 12 midnight. Willie used to recall his days with Mahinda Rajapaksa MP at Anderson Flats in the 1970s. I recall Henry saying that he too at the time supported Mahinda who was then guiding trade unions at the Sri Jayewardenepura University.

At Carlton, Tangalle there were nearly 200 people in addition to our group to work for the campaign. All of them were the second generation of staunch supporters of the Rajapaksas. They were Mahinda’s closest associates. In fact most of them were ‘political refugees’ because the JVP had threatened to kill them. To make matters worse the UNP government ironically branded them JVP members and was trying to hunt them down.

Although they were a good ‘political investment’ for the SLFP Mahinda was totally opposed to treating them in such a way. Consequently he had to bear the responsibility for their safety. Amazingly he could remember the names of all of them and their family backgrounds. It was he who proposed that all these village youth should be insured. For this purpose we met Insurance Agent Getamanne Weerakoon, who lived near Carlton, according to my diary. His clerk was Sarath Amaraweera. It showed Mahinda’s gratitude towards his comrades.

They were all camped at Carlton, at the building where Shiranthi Rajapaksa ran a pre-school and a temporary shelter at the same premises. In addition three rooms in the nearby Tangalle Rest House were booked for them. The Rest House owner Jayasinha Ralahamy was a long-time family friend of the Rajapaksa. Next to the Rest House was the Navy camp. Bandara and Tilak provided security for Mahinda Rajapaksa.

During the 1989 election period, Mahinda Rajapaksa woke up at 5.00 a.m. every day, read some book for a few minutes and at 6.00 a.m. came to the office, which was in the same premises. In the morning he attended to various court cases and other urgent work. Every morning over 25 poor villagers of Giruwapattuwa used to meet him. He solved most of their problems as far as possible then and there by phoning the relevant officials. Some of the villagers came to see him with a bag of rice, bag of coconuts, vegetables, wood apple or other fruits. They were good natured innocent people who campaigned for him by word of mouth risking their lives in that period of terror. ‘Carlton’ was open for visitors at breakfast and lunch times any day.

Leaving home daily at 8.00 a.m. after paying homage to the Buddha Mahinda spent a few hours in courts before engaging in election campaign work till 7.00 p.m. After consuming two glasses of water he had his tea around 6.30 a.m. His favourite dish for breakfast was red rice, ‘kiri hodi’ made from coconut milk, ‘lunumiris’ and ‘embul thiyal’ fish. Concerning fish he had a taste for kelawallas and bala fish (bala maalu). He had rice for all three meals. On the table was also a jar of pickle made from a mixture of ‘lunumiris,’ papaw and vinegar.

During lunch he also had curd mixed with rice and at night he had curd and treacle as dessert. He also enjoyed treacle mixed with kurakkan. On and off he had pittu and coconut milk for dinner. But I cannot recall him having string hoppers or fish buns. During the election campaign he did not hesitate to have lunch at any villager’s house. He loved ‘kalu dodol.’ He was also fond of having melons with bee’s honey and enjoyed eating pieces of cucumber with the village folk in their ‘chenas’ or at places where they to do their purchasing and have tea.

Facing the terror of 1989 Mahinda went ahead with election campaigning and met people at weekly and daily village fairs in Vitharandeniya, Rathnawadiya, Ranna, Getamanna, Beliatta and Tangalle, where farmers and traders extended to him their maximum support. It was amazing the way he met people in fisheries villages after reaching them via Moraketiara from Mawella through the terror-ridden Kudawella in Beliatta. Although Nalagama and Vitharandeniya in the Tangalle and Beliatta seats and Ridiyagama in the Tissa-Ambalantota seat were the ‘fortresses’ of the then President Premadasa, Ari and were succeeded in building pro-Mahinda strongholds there.

The most number of villagers who at the time supported Mahinda were from Dammulla, Pallattara, Beligalla and Getamanna among a few others. We who engaged in election campaigning sometimes used to bathe in the anicut near the paddy fields of Kahawatte alongside the Beliatta-Walasmulla and the Tangalle-Weeraketiya Roads. During any break from the routine Mahinda used to visit the homes of friends nearby. He never suspected them and criticized them for their shortcomings. But he never harboured any grudges and forgot the incidents thereafter.

Election Day dawned on February 15, 1989. The auspicious time for leaving home was 6.07 a.m. The well-known astrologer from Maharagama who decided on the time, said that it was a very powerful ‘neketha’ and that the colours for the occasion should be blue, yellow, red, white and green. According to him, blue symbolized the ocean, red symbolized the people, white symbolized harmony and justice and green the land. As we stepped out of the house Shiranthi Rajapaksa met us carrying a glass of water as the traditional good omen.

The JVP had warned that they would kill the first 12 persons who cast their vote. The party had declared an unofficial curfew from 13th to 16th February Island wide. Overcoming all these obstacles Mahinda Rajapaksa met villagers in Tangalla, Vitharandeniya and Puwakdandawa from the early hours of that day. People were busy as bees at the voting centres at the Technical College, schools and other places. By daytime it was the same in all the villages of the district.

Although there were no mobile phones at the time we had some walkie-talkies by which were able to communicate between a distance of three and four kilometers. As soon as election results were announced we went to the Government Agent’s Office in Hambantota. I was one of Mahinda’s chief agents at the counting centre. The results delayed due to the prevailing tense atmosphere, were finally released 11.30 a.m. Mahinda and Chamal Rajapaksa had won and their victories was unique in the sense that they succeeded in spite of all obstacles.

We returned to Carlton. Villagers who had heard that Mahinda had won flocked to Medamulana to celebrate the victory. Mahinda joined the villagers of Giruwapattuwa in the celebration. That was the strength and support he needed to take a thousand more steps to reach the peak of success. Today it is nearly 22 years since all these events became part of our political history.

(The Writer is a senior Environmetal Journalist who was attached to "Divaina" in 1988-89)

Expensive bad taste makes Lanka's "coronation drama" a garish spectacle

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

“Among his many presents, the President should have received a crown”. Minister Basil Rajapaksa (quoted in The Economist – November 2011)

It was Bollywood’s sort of inauguration, a garish spectacle which caught the eye even as it horrified the mind. Expensive bad taste combined with technical competence made Sri Lanka’s ‘Coronation drama’ a truly memorable occasion.

The absence of a throne or a crown or the non-essential concessions to Tamil language did not detract from the true essence of the event: this was no inauguration of a democratic Lankan president; this was the de facto coronation of a Sinhala-Buddhist king, as of old.

The backdrop was formed by a gigantic painting of an anthropomorphically personified sun in the traditional Sinhala style, with a fat rotund face surrounded by curly rays. The mostly yellow monstrosity covered the graceful entrance to the former parliament building (current presidential secretariat). At the foot of the stately structure and beyond, the special invitees and the public waited in their marquees or under the sun, for the show to begin. At the auspicious moment, the painted sun parted, and the main actor of this extravaganza, Mahinda Rajapaksa, emerged, followed by his wife and three sons (including the heir-presumptive).

All in all, it was a stellar performance. The stage-setting was apposite for the occasion. The many statutes of national leaders which dotted the lawn in front of the old parliament building had been removed, plinths and all (perhaps because according to the dominating worldview, history ended in 1815, and resumed only in 2005). The symbols were solely Sinhala-Buddhist with no concession made to the minority religions or cultures. In a clear departure from past practices (instituted by President Premadasa) the show commenced with just a Buddhist religious observance and not multi-faith observances; non-Buddhists were told to reflect on their religions, while the Buddhist monks gave pansil (the Five Precepts).

The supporting cast played their roles well, especially the enthusiastic Secretary to the President, who was obviously determined to remain the Teacher’s Pet. Buddhist monks chanted pirith as the President signed on the dotted lines (there were other religious leaders too, but they were just mute-displays). Drummers drummed and dancers danced; of particular note was a charming dancing display by a bevy of school girls, who should have been studying for their year end term tests.

But the star attraction of the show was also its main actor – President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He smiled happily; he frowned portentously; he waved regally; he was joyous and solemn in turn; he exchanged greetings with the invitees and stopped the motorcade to get out and greet the public, his movements as perfectly choreographed as those of the dancers who graced the occasion. His speech was obviously crafted with an eye to the history books while his delivery was good enough to put a moderately talented actor to shame.

The spirit of the occasion and the ethos of the era it ushered in were masterly summarised by an expert: “The President’s urbane brother, Basil Rajapaksa, is unabashed in claiming that in Sri Lanka an era of ‘ruler kings’ has begun. Western ideas of transparency, he claims, along with limits of presidential power and accountability, are not relevant to ‘Asian Culture’” (The Economist – November 2011).

There is the Ruler-King: infallible and dedicated, strong and courageous, able and willing, simple and humble in spite of his manifold excellences; and there are the nameless, faceless masses, obedient, adoring, faithful and trusting. The Ruler-King addressed the willing subjects. He reminded them what he achieved and he told them what he plans to achieve. Parameters were thus set, of the past and of the future.

The war was won. There the matter ends, because, in the Rajapaksa universe, there is no ethnic problem, no special Tamil grievances. The most the Tamils can hope for are roads and ports and a modicum of economic development (and in case they did not notice, they have more development now than they ever did): “We have carried out development work in the North and East as never before in the history of these regions.

All development processes carried out in the North and East are a closure of the highways to terrorism. I strongly believe that this infrastructure to banish poverty is a major part of a political solution. The people of North were able to use their franchise in freedom at the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. In the following elections too, we will ensure their right to vote freely and elect their representatives”.

It is not as if the Sinhalese or the Muslims can expect a better deal either on the developmental front. President Rajapaksa belongs firmly to the trickle-down school of economics. According to his version of this demonstrably erroneous and oft disproven dogma, development will follow spontaneously once the physical infrastructure is in place and the cities are beautified.

The five ports are at the centre of the Rajapaksa development plan while the highways gird it. Then there are the electricity projects and the waterworks. Investment, factories and computers will follow, bringing in their wake employment and prosperity for all. No special focus on education, health, job creation of poverty alleviation is necessary, because ports and roads, with some electricity thrown in, will take care of it all.

It is a simple formula which could look beguiling to those who know little of the politico-economic history of the 20th Century, including that of Sri Lanka. For instance, this was the path followed by the Jayewardene administration from 1977 to 1988, the very path which exacerbated the Northern problem and created a Southern insurgency.
Other notable absences in the President’s speech included any mention of the need to strengthen democracy and improve human rights. Probably the President sees both as goals achieved rather than goals to be achieved.

A clear message was sent, once again, to the region and the world. We will be friendly with our friends i.e. those who are willing to help us without making demands about political solutions or human rights: “We extend our hand of friendship to those who assist us in this endeavour (development)”. The need to ensure the rule of law was reduced to fighting ‘crime’: “I am not used to abandoning a task due to difficulty or hardship. Not only in freeing our nation, we will also not hesitate to take the boldest of decisions in resolving the deep crises that many think prevail in society.

We need a land free of a lawless underworld, racketeering, extortion, and the carrying of illegal weapons or drugs; a land free of corruption and inefficiency”. In other words criminals who do not have the right political connections will be punished while criminals on the right side of the political divide and political criminals will continue to enjoy immunity. Moreover with friends in right places, even convicted criminals can look forward to freedom and total escape from punishment – as the decision by the President to free the former Basnayake Nilame of the Saman Davalaya in Ratnapura, convicted of killing his mistress and sentenced to life imprisonment amply demonstrates.

The President’s pious wish for a quite retirement in his native Medamulana would have carried more conviction if he did not rush through the 18th Amendment removing the term-limits in toto. The stanza from the Dhammapada he quoted at the end of his speech seems far more sincere, because, this is indubitably how he sees himself: “The fame of him who strives after perfection, who is mindful, pure in deed, considerate, restrained, righteous and heedful, spreads far and wide”. Like Mahinda Rajapaksa, ‘The Leader who Conquered the World’, ‘The King who does not feel like a King’, ‘The Sun and the Moon of a Country which conquered Terror’.

Most leaders would be a trifle embarrassed to be referred to as ‘High King’ or ‘The Leader who conquered the world’ or ‘The Sun and the Moon’….. Not Mr. Rajapaksa. He thinks such laudations reeking of hyperbole are nothing less than his due. In his megalomania he is beginning to resemble his vanquished foe Vellupillai Pirapaharan. Mr. Pirapaharan was hailed as ‘Sarvadesh Thalevar’ (Leader of the world) by his followers; Mr. Rajapaksa’s followers refer to him as. ‘The Leader who Conquered the World’. Mr. Pirapaharan was also hailed as ‘Surya Devan’ (the Sun God). The official slogan for the Second Inauguration refers to President Rajapaksa as Sri Lanka’s Sun (and Moon). And an image of the sun formed the backdrop for his Second Inauguration, and from this sun he emerged at the auspicious hour.

The spectacle on the 19th was preceded by many other spectacles; the weeklong party will continue till the 22nd. There was a tree planting campaign; according to official propaganda 1.1 million saplings were planted (the number of actual plantings would remain unknown). More than 250 Buddhist monks voyaged from the Galle Harbour to the new Hambantota harbour alias Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, chanting the ‘Sagara Piritha’. More than 300 chefs made a gargantuan milk-rice (kiribath) weighting 4,000kg, reportedly the world’s biggest. The weeklong celebrations will cost the Treasury dear. But then, Sri Lanka is never poor when it comes to celebrating Rajapaksa Rule and achievements.

The official inauguration contained a few interesting absences. Only four countries sent official delegations to the swearing-in of ‘The Leader who Conquered the World’ – Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and China. Though President Rajapaksa is the head of the G15, not one single member sent an official delegation. The other members of the G15 are Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Jamaica, Peru Venezuela, India, Iran, Indonesia and Malaysia, and some of these countries, such as Iran and Venezuela, are supposed to be particular friends of Sri Lanka. Yet not one sent a delegation to the second presidential inauguration of the current Chairman of the G15.

This absence demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the Chairmanship was awarded to Sri Lanka for one reason only – because the Rajapaksa regime was willing to host the summit, when all other member countries refused to do so, considering it a waste of resources.

The dearth of foreign delegations indicated our true standing in the world, that most countries for one reason or another do not care for us overmuch (obviously they have failed to notice that President Rajapaksa has conquered the entire world). We are not an international pariah; but we are not much liked either or respected. The failure of India to send a special delegate is either a studied insult or a deliberate message, or both.

Either way, in his current hubristic mood, confident of unconditional Chinese support, Mr. Rajapaksa is unlikely to care. What the Indian response is likely to be, and what options are available to India realistically, remain to be seen, if President Rajapaksa takes Sri Lanka even more firmly into the Chinese orbit, in his second term.

Assault on JVP's Sunil Handunhetti: What really happened in Jaffna?

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP Sunil Handunnetti and three others were assaulted in Jaffna last Sunday and the incident has ignited the media space. The incident which occurred during the day in a city which has a visible military presence, has raised many questions about political freedom in the North.

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JVP MP after the attack ~ pic: Sandeshaya

The JVP MP was in Jaffna to make initial preparations for a protest campaign organized by party affiliate organization ‘We are Sri Lankan.’ Their objective was to demand that government releases the names of detainees held in military controlled camps. The issue of ‘missing persons’ is a very serious and sensitive issue in Jaffna. There are thousands who would support any organization that would take a genuine interest in the issue. The attack on JVP members is also an indication of the sensitivity of the issue and the resistance of certain sections to address this very urgent humanitarian concern.

Political freedom

Handunnetti was attacked inside the premises of former Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Pathmini Sithamparanathan who told LAKBIMAnEWS that the attack was carried out while they were discussing the protest campaign and the issues of ‘missing persons.’

She said, “we were talking about the protest and why it is important. Suddenly about 10 men barged in and asked ‘who among you is Lalith Kumar?’ in Sinhala and these people did not at all look like Tamils. Lalith is the JVP leader in Jaffna.

Realizing that something was amiss, the others in the house and the JVP members asked me to go to another room. While I was leaving I heard Handunnetti saying that he is an MP and then they started attacking them. They left in minutes and we took the wounded to hospital.”

Although such incidents are not new to Jaffna, it is the first time in recent history that political representatives from the South were assaulted in Jaffna. The JVP alleged that the attack was carried out by military intelligence and said that this act proves beyond any doubt that there is no political freedom in the North. Handunnetti told the media that local police officers and hospital staff asked them to leave Jaffna immediately if they valued their lives.

“This shows that everyone is aware that it was carried out by a government/military backed group. There is a heavy military presence in Jaffna; there are armed soldiers and policemen all over the place. There is no way that any other group could pull off such a thing. The same people who attacked us came to observe the protest campaign we had organized the next day. We have proof of this.”

Meanwhile, military spokesman, Major General Udaya Medawala denied any involvement on the part of the government in the incident and claimed that military intelligence had better things to do. He added that they have no involvement in the investigation that is being carried out by Police either.

“Military Intelligence is one of the most disciplined units in the army. They are not involved. This is a civil case and the police will handle this.”

The JVP supported Ealam war IV to the maximum, and have been dubbed a ‘chauvinistic’ party by many Southern intellectuals. But since the end of the war the party has also been at the forefront protecting the rights of Tamils. The JVP and its affiliate student organization the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) were the only ones which have been agitating for the rights of the northern university students held in detention and at present it is the only mainstream political force carrying on a campaign for the rights of detained Tamil youth.

This maybe a part of the JVP’s strategy to enter northern politics, but they are addressing an important issue not hitherto properly tackled by the UNP and TNA, the two organizations which traditionally represent minority rights. Moreover, 18 months after the war the government still has not released the names of those kept in detention camps. There are thousands of parents, wives and husbands who are going from camp to camp even today looking for their sons, daughters or husbands, and the LLRC has regularly stated solving the detainee issue is a must.

“It has been 18 months and nothing has been done so far. Publishing a list of detainees is not difficult and is one of the most basic things for the healing process. It would also be a great relief for thousands. As long as the government delays doing these most basic things there will always be room for agitation.

Everyone in Jaffna, from university students to artistes still live in fear”, Sithamparanathan said.

“Everybody in Jaffna lives in fear” ---- Sunil Handunhetti, MP.

What happened in Jaffna?

We went to Jaffna as a part of a demonstration by We are Sri Lanka organization. We wanted to force the government to reveal the names of Tamil youth who are detained in various camps. We didn’t ask the government to release LTTE suspects. If they are guilty we are not against punishing them but we also want the government to inform their parents where they are. They have that right and we went there to help them stand up for their right.

I went a day before to prepare the ground work, to meet university students and lecturers, priests, journalists and artists and explain why we are doing this. I left the Uthayan office after an interview and I realized that we are being followed. To avoid confrontation we went to Padmini Sithambaranathan’s house, and since she was a former MP we thought that we will be safe in that house. But when we were in the porch around 10-15 people came around and attacked us.

We were attacked in broad daylight, in the middle of a large city which is dotted by military check points. We believe that only a set of government goons can attack us.

No political group needs to come and attack us. Why should they attack us? We went there to help them. But Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has issued a statement to Thina Murasu, the EPDP paper that the JVP has come to Jaffna to cause trouble. That’s why we say that this was done by the Defence Ministry; we saw the same people at the next day’s demonstration.

The government says that you have gone to Jaffna to get political mileage by riling up an unnecessary but sensitive issue?

It is an issue that exists, right? Otherwise we wouldn’t be there and people wouldn’t come to the protest. We have been named racists by some people in the South and the North, but even with such strong propaganda people came. Why did they come, because this is important to them, right?

In a way this attack dispelled many lies about us. Now the people in Jaffna know who we really are and that we are enemies of an oppressive regime, any oppressive regime.

It’s a very sensitive issue. Why do you think that the government has not addressed this?

This is the problem we have. The government is running a media show. Just recently they opened an office of the Ministry of Youth Affairs in Kilinochchi, but it has no roof. What’s needed is not to do stuff like that but to mend the hearts of these people. Parents want to know what happened to their children, they are looking for their loved ones just the way our mothers went from camp to camp looking for us in the 88-89 periods. That’s the first issue they should solve.

The army camps are the only buildings that look nice and developed while the general public live in tents given by NGOs. Will that ever build trust? A society that has just gone through a war, does not want further trauma. When I was in hospital one attendant told me “I lived in fear during the war and I still live in fear.” What has the government done to change this?

If this is my plight as an MP, there is no point about talking about the rights of the people. Everyone in Jaffna, from university students to artistes live in fear. One has to think the way the government wants. When Prabhakaran was alive he wanted the people to think the way he wanted; what’s the point of defeating terrorism if that has not changed?

People in the North face the same predicament as we do . Establish the freedom to live. If the government says that it has established democracy in Jaffna tell the people who are looking for their children where they are. What’s the difficulty in putting out the list of detainees and to say that these are the people who are with us?

Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this issue at ground level?

They are afraid, that’s the main thing. The government’s strategy is to suppress if they can’t intimidate. That’s why we are being suppressed.

Don’t you want to enter Northern politics?

Of course we do, we have already opened an office in Jaffna and Vavuniya. We have contested elections. This will not stop us; the only thing the attack did was to prove to the people of the North that we are not chauvinists as said by some elements ... and that we are there to support any struggle by any oppressed party. We are Marxists and a Marxist can never be a racist!

COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

November 20, 2010

Jaffna "Tesawalamai" Law: misconceptions, misunderstandings and misgivings

By: Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

Tesawalamai ('Tesam' means country and 'Walamai'means customs), are the codified laws and customs of the inhabitants of the province of Jaffna (now the Northern Province) in Sri Lanka. Tesawalamai are customs that prevailed in North Ceylon for several centuries before the advent of the Portuguese

Tesawalamai is recognized within the overall laws governing Sri Lanka, as being applicable to the inhabitants of the province of Jaffna. It is among the approximately five system of Municipal Common Law recognized in the Sri Lankan legal system, namely, Roman-Dutch law; the Tesawalamai (Jaffna); the laws and usages of the Muslims; the Mukkuwar law (Batticaloa); and the Kandyan law. It is recognition that the customs of the people of Jaffna are distinct and different from those of other peoples on the island. The same recognition has been accorded to the customary laws of the peoples of Batticaloa and Kandy, and those of the Muslims, wherever they may live in the island.

The 'Tesawalamai' laws applicable to Jaffna have been misunderstood and much maligned in the context of the demand for a separate state spearheaded by the 'Jaffna Tamils'. These customary laws have been accused of being designed to prevent the 'Other' peoples of Sri Lanka owning property in Jaffna and even creating 'Bantustans'. These laws should be understood in terms of what Hegel has beautifully summarized:

" The State, its laws, its arrangements, constitute the rights of its members; its natural features, its mountains, air, and waters, are their country, their fatherland, their outward material property; the history of this State, their deeds; what their ancestors have produced, belongs to them and lives in their memory. All is their possession, just as they are possessed by it; for it constitutes their existence, their being."(G.W.H. Hegel in his essay ' Philosophical History').

I have exclusively referred to the book 'Tesawalamai'' written in 1962 by T.Sri Ramanathan, a proctor of the Supreme Court of Ceylon and a lecturer at the Ceylon Law College, in my library. The book in my possession is the fourth edition that appeared in 1972. Sri Ramanathan had compiled this book, in his words, " For the benefit of students primarily and also of those who would like to have a knowledge of the Tesawalamai". What follows is a summary of what is pertinent to the present times, abstracted from Sri Ramanathan's book.

Tesawalamai, meaning ' Country Customs', before it was codified and promulgated by the Dutch in 1708, was the customary law applicable to the Tamils who inhabited the Jaffna district. It is very difficult for one to trace the origins of this system of law. According to Sri Ramanathan, "The code of Tesawalamai like the law of Medes and Persians remains unchanged at least on paper in spite of many changes in the customs and many repeals of statute. The world has changed. Jaffna has also changed. Early customs are in disuse now. Customs regarding adoption, mortgage of slaves, still have legal sanction although the custom has disappeared. Slavery was abolished by ordinance 20 of 1844. Still the Tesawalamai code gives legal sanction to slavery. It must be remembered that good portion of the code of Tesawalamai as it stands is obsolete and ineffective".

According to Sri Ramanathan, some of the principles of the Hindu joint family system have found a place in Tesawalamai, namely, " So long as the parents live, the son may not claim anything whatsoever; on the contrary, they are bound to bring into the common estate (and there let remain) all that they have gained or earned, during the whole time of their bachelorship excepting wrought gold and silver ornaments for their ladies, which have been worn by them and which have been acquired by themselves or given them by their parents, and that until the parents die, even if the sons have married and quitted the paternal roof". He surmises that owing to the immigration of Tamils from the Coromandel Coasts of India, the usages of those Tamils have found a place in Tesawalamai.

Sri Ramanathan quotes Justice Pereira, as having said (Chellapah vs. Kanapathy, 17 New Law reports at page 295- presumably in the early 1900s):

"It is a crude and primitive compilation, which may fittingly be described in the words of Tennyson, used with reference to another collection of law, as no other than a "wilderness of single instances"; and there is, I may add, with feeling of relief that one contemplates the fact that practically the whole of this ill-arranged and ill-expressed mass of law and custom has been recently repealed and replaced by legislation on more modern lines". The Tesawalamai laws as they stand today have been streamlined to fit requirements of modern Courts of Law.

In 1665, the Commander of Jaffnapatnam is quoted as saying," The natives are governed according to the customs of the country, if these are clear and reasonable; otherwise according to our laws". The Roman-Dutch law applied when the Tesawalamai is silent.

Tesawalamai is divided into two categories:

1. Personal laws applicable to Malabar inhabitants of the province of Jaffna.

2. Law that is applicable to all lands situated in the Northern Province.

According to legislative enactments, "Tesawalamai, or customs of the Malabar inhabitants of the province of Jaffna, as collected by order of Governor Simons, in 1706, shall be considered to be in full force". On questions that are decided according to Tesawalamai, these enactments state that all questions between Malabar inhabitants of the said province, or wherein a Malabar inhabitant is defendant, shall be decided according to the said customs.

The term 'Malabar inhabitants' of the province of Jaffna, means a person to be governed by Tesawalamai must be 'Malabar'. He/she must be an inhabitant of a particular locality, namely the province of Jaffna. 'Malabar' corresponds to the State of Travancore in Western India. To the question whether the law of Tesawalamai applies only to the inhabitants of Jaffna who came from 'Malabar' or to all Tamils having a Jaffna inhabitancy, the preface to the Tesawalamai code written by Claas Isaakz provides an answer, " A description of the established usages and institutions, according to which civil cases are decided among the 'Malabar' and Tamil inhabitants of the province of Jaffna on the Island of Ceylon". He uses the word 'Malabar' as synonymous with Tamil. The question whether 'Malabar' means 'Tamil' is settled by several judicial decisions. Justice Ennis (year?) had also made the observation that, "The Tesawalamai are not the customs of a race or religion common to all persons of that race or religion in the Island; they are the customs of a locality and apply only to Tamils of Ceylon who are inhabitants of a particular province".

The trend in case decisions show that Tesawalamai is applicable to the inhabitants of Northern Province and did not apply to Tamils of Trincomalee and Batticaloa. Further, if a person governed by Tesawalamai dies in a foreign country leaving immovable property in Sri Lanka, the law of interstate succession will be the Tesawalamai. If the immovable property is situated outside Sri Lanka, then the law of interstate succession will be the English law or the Roman-Dutch law.

Division of property according to Tesawalamai is governed by different rules, depending on whether the property is Ancestral/hereditary-patrimony inheritance (Mudusam), Ancestral/hereditary –non-patrimony inheritance (Urumai), Dowry (Chidenam), Residuary property (Thanam?) donated by a stranger or Acquired (Thediatettam). Property devolving on a person by descent at the death of his or her parents or of any other ancestor in the ascending line is Mudusam (patrimonial inheritance). Property devolving on a person by descent at the death of a relative other than a parent or an ancestor in the ascending line is called Urumai (non-patrimonial inheritance). Thediatettam (Acquired property) is property acquired by a spouse during the subsistence of the marriage for valuable consideration, such consideration not forming or representing any part of the separate estate of that spouse. It also includes profits arising during the subsistence of the marriage from the separate estate of that spouse. Chidenam, meaning dowry property is an adaptation of the matrimonial system of succession. It is a relic of the 'Marumakkattayam' law, introduced into Ceylon by its earlier Malabar settlers.

Tesawalamai code states that," Property brought by the wife was called in the Tamil language 'Chidenam' or by us as dowry. Dowry can be given at any time before marriage. It may be given even when no marriage is contemplated or even after marriage. There is a distinction between dowry property under Tesawalamai and property granted by a deed of dowry. Consideration in a deed must be given the same meaning as in the English Law. Dowry should be given as a quid pro quo to consummate the marriage".

Thediyattetam (Acquired property), consists of the profits derived from the separate properties of the spouses and all properties acquired by either of the spouses by their exertions during marriage. However, no property other than acquired by a spouse during the subsistence of the marriage for valuable consideration, such consideration not forming or representing any part of the separate estate of that spouse and profits arising during the subsistence of the marriage of that spouse , shall be deemed to be Thediyattetam. Thediyattetam should be a new acquisition, should have been acquired for a valuable consideration and should have been acquired during the subsistence of the marriage.

According to 'Tesawalamai' acquired property (Thediattetam) has been defined to include profits arising during the subsistence of marriage from the property of a husband or wife. Therefore, rent and profits from dowry property will be liable to seizure for the husband's debts, although the dowry property itself is not liable. If the dowry is diminished during marriage by the husband, it has to be replaced from the acquired property of the husband when the wife dies and the property is divided. If the wife squandered the dowry property then the loss need not be made good out of the husband's half of his acquired property. If the property of the wife or husband is improved considerably, either the husband's heirs or wife's heirs on his or her death cannot claim the expenses incurred in improving it.

The husband has the power to sell Thediattetam without joining his wife. This power to sell acquired property during the subsistence of marriage has been well recognized. However, after the death of the wife the husband has no power to alienate. In the event of death, divorce or separation, the husband cannot sell more than half the acquired property. When a husband and wife sell immovable property belonging to the wife, notice to warrant and defend title must be given to the wife separately if she is to be held liable. In such a case, notice to the husband cannot be construed as notice to the wife as well. The husband has the right to mortgage Thediattetam property during the subsistence of marriage and action can be brought against the husband alone without joining the wife. If the property mortgaged was Thediattetam and at the time of action, the wife was dead, it would be necessary to make the heirs of the wife parties to the action to bind her half of the estate. If a wife predeceases her husband, her share of the Thediattetam property passes to her children of the marriage as her heirs, to the exclusion of the husband.

The provisions in the Tesawalamai Code make it clear that gifts are regarded as the separate property of the spouse to whom the gift was made but any profits or proceeds from the subject matter of the gift was regarded as the acquired property of both spouses. If the gift is made by relatives on the father's side, then the property so gifted is regarded as father's side property. If given by the relatives of the mother, it is regarded as mother's side property.

The Jaffna Matrimonial Rights and Inheritance Ordinance apply only to those Tamils subject to the Tesawalamai. If a woman to whom Tesawalamai applies marries a man to whom it does not apply, she shall not during the marriage be subject to the Tesawalamai. However, when a woman to whom Tesawalamai does not apply marries a man to whom it applies, she shall be subject to Tesawalamai during the marriage. Further, according to Tesawalamai, property inherited by a child from its deceased mother goes on the death of the child, interstate, without brothers or sisters, but leaving its father surviving, to the mother's next of kin and not to the father.

A married woman governed by Tesawalamai, is subject to the marital power of the husband. The right of the husband to give his consent to the alienation or mortgage of the wife's immovable property is an incidence of his marital power. If a wife is given a cash dowry and if the wife uses the cash for the purchase of immovable property, such property would be termed Thediattetam (Acquired property) of the spouses.

All immovable or movable property any woman was entitled at the time of her marriage or which she may have acquired or received as inheritance, gift or conversion thereafter, belong to the woman for her separate estate, and shall not be liable for the debts or engagements of her husband, unless under specified circumstances. Similarly, all movable and immovable property belonging to the husband is his separate estate.

There is nothing in the Tesawalamai forbidding the sale of properties to outsiders, including the Sinhalese or Muslims. However, it sets certain procedures regarding the disposal of properties based on the above classifications. Examination of Title in respect of land where people are governed under Tesawalamai should be considered with great care. Sri Ramanathan recommends that when a Jaffna Tamil executes a deed it is always necessary to ascertain whether:

1. Such a person was married at the time of the execution of the deed

2. Whether he or she was married to a person governed under Teswalamai.

3. Whether the other spouse was living at the time of execution of the deed.

4. Whether the property was ancestral (Mudusam) or acquired (Thediyatettam).

5. Whether either spouse was dead at the time of alienation in which case the surviving spouse had the right to convey only one-half of the acquired property (Thediattetam).

These precautionary steps have to be taken by any person acquiring property in the Northern Province, irrespective of whether they are Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims or other. Fixed property- lands- were highly valued in Jaffna and customs dictated that these are passed within families through various devices. Jaffna is yet a village centric society. The 'Jaffna men/women' yet identify themselves by the village of origin and marriage. The locality within a village is also important, as it provides information on the person's ancestry, linkages and caste. Tesawalamai customs evolved out of an inward looking society and are losing their relevance in modern times, especially after the end of the war for separation and the mass migration (both internal and external) and deaths it involved. There was definitely no malicious intention behind these customs that evolved over time, to create 'Bantustans'.

I hope those Tamils in the legal profession, who have practiced law in Sri Lanka, and have dealt with Tesawalamai, would clarify matters further to clear misconceptions, misunderstandings and misgivings that have taken root among our Sinhala compatriots.

Court of ethnic disputes necessary to check rise of ethnic self determination

by Jonathan Power

Just before he died at the end of the twentieth century, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin said, "It was the worst century that Europe ever had. Worse, I suspect, even than the days of the Huns. And why? Because in our modern age nationalism is not resurgent; it never died. Neither did racism. They are the most powerful movements in the world today cutting across many social systems”.

In his book "Pandemonium", the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed that "there are just eight states on earth which both existed in 1914 and have not had their form of government changed by violence since then". These are the U.S., Britain, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden and New Zealand. "The defining mode of conflict in the era ahead is ethnic conflict", wrote Moynihan. "It promises to be savage. Get ready for 50 new countries in the world in the next 50 years. Most of them will be born in bloodshed".

This hypothetical gathering speed of ethnic self-determination provoked Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, to throw up his hands in despair, "If we don't find some way that different ethnic groups can live together in a country how many countries will we have? We'll have 5,000".

So what's the problem? Let a thousand flowers bloom. The difficulty is the human psych e- that makes getting from A to B without war so very difficult. The trouble is that, as in ex-Yugoslavia, neighbouring, but larger and more dominant ethnic groups, didn’t want smaller groups moving off into autonomy or independence, cutting their country down to size. And even if they succeeded in doing it would they be recognised by the rest of the world? Recognition, as we found over Kosovo, is considered one of the most difficult topics in international law.

The UN Charter recognises the "self-determination of peoples". Yet because it implies a significant erosion of the long held principle of sovereignty, applying it and accepting it has been a divisive issue among international law scholars.

By and large, in most cases, the community of nations has worked from the opinion of the League of Nations when, in 1920, it investigated the request of the Swedish-speaking inhabitants of the Aaland Islands in the Baltic to be allowed "self determination" from Finland. "To concede to minorities", the League's advisors concluded, "either of language or religion, or to any fractions of the population, the right to withdrawal from the community to which they belong, because it is their wish or their grand pleasure, would be to destroy order and stability within states and to inaugurate anarchy in international life".

This is why the British government supported, in the face of a big outcry at home, the right of Nigeria to put down the revolt in its dissident state of Biafra in the 1960s. Today it is why the Big Five on the Security Council are united in insisting on the territorial integrity of Iraq.

But there is obviously a change afoot in attitude. The US and the EU fought hard for the independence of Kosovo, despite opposition from Spain, fearful of undermining its stand for unity in the face of Basque terrorists seeking independence.

But how far will the West change its 1920 stance? Once the ball starts to roll, where does it end as Mr Christopher warned? Ethnic conflicts do not require great differences; small will do - what Freud called "the narcissism of minor differences".

Should the UN recognize the Polisario struggle against Morocco in its quest to rule West Sahara or the Chechnya rebels in Russia, the rebellion of the Shan people in Myanmar or those fighting for the independence of part of the northeast of India? The list is a long one.

My own long-held suggestion for what might be a growing problem is the establishment of an International Court of Ethnic Disputes.

A nation being rent asunder or an ethnic group under threat could come to the court and ask a ruling on whether the principles of the Declaration of Human Rights were being followed. Are the boundaries of our province fair? Are the rights of language, education and political representation given to the minority group by the majority reasonable? Are there reforms of law or administration that the court could suggest to make the situation more equitable?

In effect this is what the mediators did with the Aaland Islands dispute in the 1920s. At the time it was a big issue. Today it is not. The island remains Finnish but the rights of the islanders to use the Swedish language were reinforced.

A Court Of Ethnic Disputes could save the twenty first century much bloodshed. There is no need for 50 new disputes or 50 new countries.

COURTESY: Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Article Copyright is with Mr.Jonathan Power

Sri Lankan government detains plantation union leaders

By M. Vasanthan

In a blatant attempt by the Rajapakse government to intimidate plantation workers and the working class as a whole, the Sri Lankan police have invoked the government’s draconian emergency regulations to detain two leaders of trade unions based in the plantation estates in the country’s central hills.

The Terrorist Investigation Division arrested Up-Country People Front (UPF) youth wing leader Thalamutthu Suthaharan and Democratic Workers Congress (DWC) General Secretary L. Bharathithasan at Thalawakelle in the Nuwara-Eliya district on October 21 and 23 respectively. No charges have been laid against the men; instead they are being held under three-month detention orders.

The police have vaguely accused both of having connections with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which was crushed by the Sri Lankan military in May last year. These flimsy accusations are hardly accidental. Throughout the final years of the military assault on the LTTE, President Mahinda Rajapakse and his government branded any workers taking industrial action as “terrorist supporters,” accusing them of assisting the LTTE’s cause.

Sri Lanka’s police force is also notorious for carrying out pro-government frame-ups and victimisations. In order to justify the detention of the two union leaders, the police informed union officials and relatives that they are “under interrogation”. Yet, nearly a month after their arrest, no charges have been framed and the men have not been produced before a court.

The government’s hand in these arrests was shown during the latest parliamentary vote to extend the emergency powers. On November 9, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne told parliament: “Up country (central hills) youths were given arms training in Kilinochchi by the LTTE. Two people were arrested who had connections with it and brought arms to the up-country.”

Jayaratne did not name the two people but all indications are that he meant Suthaharan and Bharathithasan. The prime minister reported that they had been arrested with arms but did not substantiate the allegation. Jayaratne added: “Explosives and communication equipments were kept in the North, East and Central provinces and Colombo. These have to be found out. The emergency must be extended."

Jayaratne’s claims have been echoed by the Central Province Deputy Inspector General of Police Gamini Navaratne who told a DPF official there were 2,500 kilograms of explosives in the Central Province. These vague allegations indicate that a broader witch-hunt is being prepared against plantation workers in the name of “searching for explosives” and people linked to “terrorists.”

Most central hills plantation workers are Tamils, as is much of the population of the island’s north and east. During the civil war, plantation workers and youth were particularly subjected to harassment and accusations of links to the LTTE.

Suthaharan and Bharathithasan are being detained amid an intensifying climate of repression as the government prepares to implement austerity measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund. In the annual budget due to be presented next Monday, the government has pledged to slash the deficit from 10 to 8 percent of gross domestic product. Among the measures foreshadowed are tax increases, subsidy cuts that will further push up the prices of essentials, cutbacks in health and education, and privatisations.

The Rajapakse government is attempting to silence opposition parties, and pre-empt or suppress resistance by workers, slum dwellers and students to its pro-business measures. It is using the military and police-state methods developed during the civil war to impose the burden of the country’s economic crisis on working people and youth. Since September, police have arrested at least 33 students, with the government also claiming that students are planning an “insurgency”.

During the war, arbitrary detention without trial, torture and extra-judicial killings by death squads associated with the military were commonly used. After the LTTE’s collapse, the army herded more than a quarter of a million Tamil civilians—men, women and children—into military-run detention camps. Thousands of young Tamils were interrogated and dragged off to unknown centres for “LTTE suspects” where many remain in custody without trial.

The political repression only escalated after January’s presidential election, when the military detained Rajapakse’s rival presidential candidate, former Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka. Since then, despite the end of the war, Rajapakse has extended the state of emergency every month, claiming that a “terrorist threat” still remains. Under the emergency regulations, Rajapakse has sweeping powers, including to outlaw strikes and protests, censor the media, and detain individuals without trial.

The government’s real target is the working class, and the struggles that will inevitably erupt as the austerity program intensifies. Discontent is already brewing among plantation workers, who are among the most oppressed layers of the Sri Lankan working class. During the past several months, workers have taken up struggles in some estates against increasing workloads.

Last September, hundreds of thousands of plantation workers engaged in strikes and other protests to demand a 750-rupee ($US6.70) daily wage. The Ceylon Workers Congress, a member of the ruling coalition, and the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union, affiliated to the right-wing opposition United National Party (UNP), openly betrayed this struggle by signing a government-backed deal for 405 rupees.

Tens of thousands of workers continued go-slow protests for several days, refusing to accept this sell-out. However, other trade unions, including the DWC, UPF and All Ceylon Estate Workers Union, which claimed to oppose the deal, shut down the protests. The detention of Suthaharan and Bharathithasan shows that the government is desperate to head off any, even token opposition by the unions.

Last year, Bharathithasan contested the Central Provincial council election as a UPF candidate on behalf of Rajapakse’s ruling alliance. He left the UPF, however, after a tussle for its leadership in April and joined the Democratic People Front (DPF) and its trade union wing, the DWC, which are in an alliance with the opposition UNP. Bharathithasan was a DPF candidate in this April’s general election but failed to secure a seat.

DPF leader Mano Ganeshan has denied the police allegations against Bharathithasan. He told the WSWS: “The arrest of Bharathithasan is a political reprisal meted out to our party. It is one of those recent onslaughts faced by the opposition groups targeted by the government.”

The Socialist Equality Party unconditionally condemns the detention of Suthaharan and Bharathithasan and calls on all workers, students and youth to demand their immediate release. This outright attack on basic democratic rights is a warning to the entire working class that the government is preparing to escalate its repressive methods.

In making this call, we warn against the treacherous role of both the UPF and DPF. While DPF leader Ganeshan has publicly condemned the arrest of Bharathithasan, the DPF has taken no action to defend its union leader.

When the WSWS inquired yesterday, Ganeshan said his party had not yet decided on any campaign to release Bharathithasan.

For its part, the UPF has cynically washed its hands of Suthaharan.

When the WSWS inquired about his arrest, UPF general secretary Lawrence declared: “He is not our member. His activities are against UPF policy.” Lawrence refused to elaborate. Suthaharan has been the leader of the UPF’s youth wing since 2002. His father is an assistant secretary of the UPF’s workers wing. As a partner in Rajapakse’s ruling coalition, the UPF clearly does not want to antagonise the government.

In opposition to the stance of the UPF and DPF, which can only assist the government’s witch-hunt, the SEP urges plantation workers and other workers everywhere to demand the release of Suthaharan and Bharathithasan, and all other political detainees. - courtesy: WSWS.org -

November 19, 2010

‘Motherland with abundance of greatness, take it to the greatness it deserves’-Mahinda Rajapaksa

By Mahinda Rajapaksa

With an abundance of greatness who would dare to say that this is a small island?

You are well aware that you now stand on our motherland that is much greater than what was handed over to me five years ago. There can be no greater satisfaction to a leader than the humble joy of being able to address one’s people after building a much better country than before, and successfully carrying out the responsibility handed over to me by the citizens of this country.

I recall how, five years ago on November 19, 2005, I took over this country in this premises. On that 19th of November when I took over this country it was divided and the Sri Lankan nation was losing this country. Yet, we toiled day and night with patience and commitment, facing all hostile forces, unshaken in the midst of rising storms.

Subsequently, on another memorable 19th - the 19th of May - we united this country achieving a victory over terrorism that had its global echoes. Today, on this 19th of November, I take over this country again with the determination, strength and courage to raise my motherland to a position of greatness in the world.

Sri Lanka became a united nation, freeing the country in line with the Mahinda Chinthana of 2005. From this day on, we will bring this nation to a position of greatness in this world implementing the policy of Mahinda Chinthana: Vision for the future. Today, I take over this country with more courage, strength and confidence than in 2005.

Most of us, throughout our lives, have seen two destructive uprisings in the South and a thirty year long terrorist destruction in the North. I have seen efforts to globally humiliate our motherland through terrorism and separatism, and uprisings.

Our task as a nation, on the rise to be among the great nations of the world, is to prevent such bloodshed in another twenty or thirty years. Therefore, our first task is to ensure lasting national unity and sustainable, permanent peace in our motherland.

I believe that the eradication of poverty is greater than the defeat of uprisings. It requires true bravery.

In the Mahinda Chintana of 2005, we decided to develop the 16,000 villages where more than 80% of our people live. You will feel the change in cities outside Colombo and in the villages where there is a new light of progress in place of the former darkness and ruin around. When five ports are being developed the villages around them will inevitably be transformed into developed economic zones. These rural areas that were ignored from the days of imperial rule are being developed and the nation's doors open for new employment, industry, business opportunity and massive development.

We are aware that the developed countries in the world have many other cities of fame apart from their capital cities. When development spreads and the revolution of roadways expands we will have several cities that are not second in anyway to Colombo. This will inevitably lead to a completely different image of Sri Lanka that the world will see tomorrow.

The massive power projects now under construction will ensure that by 2012 every home and family in our country will have electricity. Therefore, the land that was freed from terrorism will by 2012 be a land that is freed of darkness. You will soon hear the hum of industry that is powered by this energy.

In keeping with the exhortation of our former kings that not a drop of water should flow to the sea without first serving the people, we are today harnessing the water in all our great reservoirs for the task of development. All reservoirs must be used without letting them idle. This will lead to the filling up of our barns, providing drinking water to the people.

When we have enough food for our bodies, our minds will be filled with the comfort of freedom.

What lies ahead is a period when all of us will have to work hard for our country. Our expectation is to modernize all areas of employment as to make them more productive and provide more revenue. The work of our people should be regarded as an asset and not the result of hiring or slavery. Our labour is an asset of dignity. It is by increasing the quality of work that my country can be made the Wonder of Asia.

We have great hope for our younger generation. We will forever remember the way our young men joined the combined forces and brought victory to the nation, which bewildered the world. I lay trust in our beloved sons and daughters while remembering those unparalleled heroes of war who rest in this soil.

We must move towards a future generation that is trilingual. It is my hope to raise the level of computer literacy to 75% in the near future and make our future generation true heroes of technology in the modern world. The name of Sri Lankan youth must top the list of those employed in the fields of science and technology. Our generation can achieve this victory by making our country the knowledge hub we intend it to be.

What I seek is a country where we can travel from one end to another in a few hours; an era which provides a good income for our people. We must rise by making this country the hub of development in the five-fold areas of naval, aviation, commerce and trade, power and energy, and knowledge. We must make this country one among those with the best quality of life.

There is no room for hatred on politics, community, caste or religion when our children are brought up in a life that is replete with all facilities, has shelter and security, and is rich in love and friendship.

Development does not mean living in isolation surrounded by concrete structures while abandoning great humanitarian values, distancing oneself from the greenery of
trees, nature and other species around us. We should move towards development while safeguarding the great humanitarian traditions that exist among our people. Nature as seen in the trees, vegetation and animals in our habitat should also obtain the benefits of the development we achieve.

Remember this!

We are not a miniature of a developed country. We are Sri Lanka. Our motherland is Sri Lanka.

We have the inherited wisdom to tolerate all opinion and take mature decisions. We have a tradition of understanding our problems and conflicts and finding solutions for them.

We understand our problems with perceived wisdom, based on realities. The expectations of the people are not those of the terrorists.

We have carried out development work in the North and East as never before in the history of these regions. All development processes carried out in the North and East, are a closure of the highways to terrorism. I strongly believe that this infrastructure to banish poverty is a major part of a political solution.

The people of the North were able to use their franchise in freedom at the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. In the forthcoming elections too, we will ensure their right to vote freely and elect their representatives.

Our policy is one of non-alignment. We do not have enemy states or such groups or blocs. During the last era, we worked with many nations in agreement and friendship for national security. We now step into the development era. We extend our hand of friendship to those who assist us in this endeavour. There will be no development in the absence of peace, nor peace in the absence of development. Therefore, we will strengthen already existing relations between nations and are ready to establish new relations for national security and development.

I am not used to abandoning a task due to difficulty or hardship. Not only in freeing our nation, we will also not hesitate to take the boldest of decisions in resolving the deep crises that many think prevail in society. We need a land free of a lawless underworld, racketeering, extortion and the carrying of illegal weapons or drugs; a
land free of corruption and inefficiency.

We received a huge majority in all regions of this country in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The people of this country gave us a huge mandate which cannot be possible through proportional representation. We wish to see everyone in this land become a stakeholder in the future victories that will flow from this great victory, regardless of political differences.

There is no higher position you could elevate me to. I too do not see any higher position I could achieve in our motherland. There is only one place I can think of. It is my home at Medamulana where I will retire to. If when I go there, the people of this country who meet me tell me with gratitude, ‘You have done your duty by the country’; that shall be my greatest satisfaction. I value the joy and contentment of my people more than my own.

Never in any of my speeches have I referred to my motherland as a small country. I have never called the land of my birth, ‘small Sri Lanka’ or ‘small Island’. This is a land with a great history of many centuries, where the Kalawewa, Ruwanweliseya, Sigiriya, Yoda Ela, Lovamahapaya stand; a land where the Buddha has trod thrice. A land that won our freedom from the world’s most powerful imperialism from struggles that lasted nearly four centuries; and, has defeated the most ruthless and savage terrorist of the world. It is where people who follow four different faiths live in harmony and where today many communities live in brotherhood; and where the world’s largest habour and five other ports are being built, and the strides of development are proceeding to build airports, expressways and massive power stations. With such an abundance of greatness who would dare to say that this is a small island?

Therefore, never ever call this a small country. You too must develop your body, mind and word to match the dignity of this land of your birth and take this country to the greatness it deserves.

Utthanavato satimato – sucikammassa nisammakarino
Sannatassaca dhammajivino – appamattassa yasobhivaddhati
-Dhammapada


(The fame of him who strives after perfection, is mindful is pure indeed, considerate, is restrained, righteous and heedful spreads far and wide.)

I call on you to follow these words of the Buddha.

I wish you all a bright future!

May the Noble Triple Gem bless you!

Full text of speech by President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the swearing in of the second term of office, 19 November, 2010

AlJazeera Video: President Mahinda Rajapaksa begins a second six-year term promising economic growth

Mahinda Rajapaksa has been sworn in as president of Sri Lanka for a second six-year term in office, two months after a constitutional revamp that boosted his executive powers.

He began his new term on Friday in a strong position with his personal popularity running high, family members in key government positions, the opposition divided and his only serious political rival in prison.

However, hundreds of people led by the opposition People's Liberation Front party took to the streets of the capital, Colombo, on the eve of the inauguration to demand pay rises and to protest against the rising cost of living.

- AlJazeera not allowed to visit Northern Sri Lanka -

Rajapaksa, who turned 65 on Thursday, brushed off the concerns of countries, including the United States, that his powers pose a threat to the country’s democracy.

He insists that they are necessary to rebuild the country torn by decades of civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters.

"When I came to power I promised an honourable peace and a new Sri Lanka. I have kept my promise and built a new country," he said after opening a $1.5bn port in the southern town of Hambantota.

In addition to being president and commander-in-chief, Rajapaksa is also the finance minister, minister of ports and aviation, and highways minister.

In his pursuit of development he has shrugged off attempts by the West to link aid and investment to human rights and turned to countries like Iran, Libya and China for help.

"We will not be held back by threatened economic sanctions or withdrawn trade concessions by those who seek strategic interference in the national affairs of Sri Lanka," Rajapaksa said recently.

Rajasingham Jayadevan, from the Alliance of Peace and Reconciliation, told Al Jazeera that the president has not shows any desire to resolve the conflict politically on a much wider scale.

"He is trying to use it (the economic success of Sri Lanka) as a kind of camouflage, to not proceed with the political evolution process.

"He says that by a participating in the economic development (of the country), both Tamil and Sinhalese can live together without talking about the political processes," Jayadevan said.

The opinion was echoed by Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

"There is no sign the government has any interest in doing any of the things necessary for reconciliation between and within communities damaged by so many years of war," Alan Keenan, the group's Sri Lanka project director, said.

Tamils, who are about 12 per cent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, say they have been consistently discriminated against since independence by governments led by the Sinhalese majority.

Those grievances fuelled several armed groups including the LTTE, which eliminated its rivals and then raged a ruthless war. - courtesy: AlJazeera -

November 18, 2010

A majestic moment for an ever more powerful ruler

A coronation in Sri Lanka: Beating the drum

from THE ECONOMIST

WHAT to give a president who wants for nothing? Sri Lanka’s mustachioed ruler, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who turned 65 on November 18th, has a thriving personality cult, helped by propaganda that gives him sole credit for the crushing of Tamil rebels last year, after nearly three decades of civil war. He won a second presidential term in January. His party romped home in parliamentary polls. And he has since had the constitution rejigged to scrap term limits and make his office mightier.

Cheshire Cat, with drummer boys ~ pic courtesy via: The Economist

Though it is almost a year since his re-election, Mr Rajapaksa’s followers this week prepared for his swearing-in party in Colombo, the capital, on November 19th. Artillery pieces were hauled to the quayside to ensure things went off with a bang. Some 8,000 drummer boys and a huge honour guard will also attend. Mr Rajapaksa himself went off to his southern hometown of Hambantota, visiting a big, Chinese-built port about to receive its first ship, to be blessed by a boatload of monks.

Mr Rajapaksa has a surfeit of recent gifts. The opposition has handed itself up on a plate. Several MPs defected when ministerial posts (none powerful) were dangled. The opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, seems content to play a languid role. Meanwhile, the president’s most serious rival remains Sarath Fonseka. The former army chief oversaw the bloody end of the war and then dared to mount a presidential challenge. He has since been locked up over his supposed army conduct and will probably be behind bars for at least the next three years.

A once vibrant press has fallen mostly silent about the country’s ever more undemocratic ways, cowed by unexplained attacks on journalists. This week most editors complied with a government “request” to publish a big birthday photograph “of His Excellency on the top left hand side of the first page of your newspaper”. From billboards across Colombo the president beams like the Cheshire Cat.

Like the cat’s smile, Mr Rajapaksa will hang around a long time yet. Drive 400 kilometres (250 miles) up a bone-shaking road to the northern, Tamil-dominated town of Jaffna, and it is obvious that many Sri Lankans fiercely dislike their president, but are resigned to him. Since the Tamil rebels—widely despised for their brutal methods—were crushed, the country’s Sinhalese majority is in no mood to seek an accommodation with the minority Tamils.

Quite the reverse. Earlier plans for more regional power have been scrapped and the government seems to be using the army to help shift more Sinhalese people into Tamil-dominated regions. Tamils are too fearful to resist. Neither they nor outsiders such as the United Nations are able to force a proper inquiry into growing evidence that in the last days of the war the army killed perhaps tens of thousands of Tamil soldiers and civilians. This week the government dismissed video footage of massacres, broadcast by Al Jazeera, as fake.

The president’s urbane brother, Basil Rajapaksa, is unabashed in claiming that in Sri Lanka an era of “ruler kings” has begun. Western ideas of transparency, he claims, along with limits on presidential power and accountability, are not relevant to “Asian culture”. Sri Lanka will keep its long-running state of emergency, and reforms to the voting system will make it harder for smaller parties.

As a thunderstorm unleashes an early monsoon downpour, the brother suggests that a ruler’s worth should be judged by a traditional standard. “When the king is good,” he says, “in time the rains come.”Among his many presents, the president should really have received a crown. - courtesy: The Economist -

Internally displaced: Realities of restitution and resettlement

By Austin Fernando

In recent times there had been vast discussion on returning the displaced. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), media, Diaspora, diplomatic inquiries- especially from India- led these dialogues. When certain Tamil representatives gave evidence before the LLRC the internally displaced person’s (IDP’s) and refugees’ rights and plight became secondary to devolution, as if Kandiahs and Sundaris gave prominence to devolution than their lost children, spouses, houses etc. Whenever LLRC held sessions in the North and East the affected proved those politicians wrong by demanding return of their disappeared children and spouses and entry to their lands in High Security Zones (HSZs).

Restitution became such an important issue, the Indian Minister of External Affairs plans to visit the resettled areas and Secretary Nirupama Rao, the Indian High Commissioner, German Parliamentarians, United Nations (UN) officers, diplomats etc have visited the Provinces observing the status of restitution and resettlement. Concurrently, the Indian Minister Chidambaram reiterated President Rajapaksa’s promises of resettlement to Tamilnadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi. President Rajapaksa’s promises are not unfounded as the government has moved towards restitution guided by Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

Tamil politicians and Tamilnet demand ceasing of "state aided colonization in the North and East." It is given an ethnic twist by calling the process "Sinhalization" and "Sinhalacization" of the "homelands". Even the respected Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith re-orchestrated similar sentiment with non-venomous holy words, which earned him the wrath of Minister Keheliya Rambukwella who bluntly said that every inch of land belongs to all Sri Lankans and there are no separated areas; a truism. After defeating the "separatist war" when "homeland concepts" have been dashed to splinters, what else can one expect from the Government Media Spokesman?

LLRC’s interest

Though the interim proposals of the LLRC are not known to me, the Commission would have submitted to the President restitution proposals in similar frame of mind as mine. In my evidence before the LLRC I emphasized on the processes for restitution, based on the Handbook on Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (Pinheiro Principles).

The response of the Chairman to me was "I must on behalf of the Commission thank you for the wide canvas of views that you articulated and I think some of the views that you articulated on principles of housing and property restitution of refugees and displaced persons and reconciliation would be of immense value to the Commission in formulating our recommendations." I justifiably believe the LLRC would honour the Chairman’s utterances. Hence, I wish to summarily deal with those Principles as appearing relevant.

Realities of restitution / resettlement

There are some realities that should be reckoned in dealing with this subject.

If the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) wishes to be effective and reasonable in restitution/ resettlement, it must genuinely recognize that thousands of IDPs and refugees lived under inhuman conditions and they possess the right to voluntary return, in safety and dignity, to their original or former habitats.

Further, GOSL must recognize that in this process the rights of refugees and displaced should be respected and it need to undertake positive measures to ensure that their rights to housing, land and property restitution are guaranteed. In dealing with this there are many national and international institutions established to ensure the restitution rights of the affected for which the GOSL has concurred. Other than the multilateral obligations, bilateral agreements (e.g. Indian financial commitment for housing) have to be respected by the GOSL.

The GOSL should convince that the implementation of successful housing, land and property restitution programs is a key element of restorative justice, contributing to effectively deter future situations of displacement and building sustainable peace and can compensate loss of face on other alleged rights issues.

The should not forget that there had been previous measures and commitments made during disasters (e.g. Tsunami) and the current resource availability, which have to be compatible during post-conflict restitution.

These basic realities have to be honoured by the GOSL, other stakeholders and understood especially by those who expect heavy commitments from the GOSL for rehabilitating the IDPs and refugees.

Genuine reasons delaying restitution / resettlement

The situational analysis of displacement is clouded with past issues such as the creation of HSZs, potential for terrorist regrouping, tsunami rehabilitation experiences etc. Similarly, end of conflict and the LTTE smashed up, the affected and their spokespersons highlight lessened security threats and legal issues, requiring lawful restitution.

However, it is necessary to be practical and reasonable in dealing with HSZs. There were several communities displaced due to HSZs who will demand restitution of their properties and resettlement therein. They are:

(1) people who lived adjacent to the core HSZ areas (e.g. Palaly Air Port or KKS harbour);

(2) people whose properties were acquired (e.g. some properties near Palaly and Batticaloa Air Fields);

(3) houses "occupied forcibly without owner permission’ when the owners fled (e.g. near Chavakachcheri);

(4) other properties used by the security forces. The properties that were forcibly acquired by the LTTE in North and East are another focus area.

The (1) and (2) categories fall to the category of assets that cannot be quickly returned or ‘non-returnable’ to owners due to projected security concerns. Now with the LTTE fire-power wiped out, the GOSL can reassess the potential threats and decide on HSZs, as already done successfully to an extent, though the affected are dissatisfied.

For categories (3) and (4) it is important that releasing be examined not only by the Military, but by a tribunal making prompt realistic compensation, if the lands are un-returnable. However, the State’s need takes precedence, which fact should be understood by the affected. State too should not be obsessed with power and self-centred and act. Such behaviour invariably attracts unwarranted criticisms.

Some practical and legal difficulties faced by the affected are important for restitution and resettlement. Firstly, there is need to find documentary evidence of ownership of properties. The initiative planned in the East (Daily Mirror -November 13th) is a positive approach to overcome this problem. In case of the displaced Sinhalese in Jaffna it may be the age-old Lease / Rental Agreements. Secondly, due to Military and LTTE occupation the boundaries and landmarks have disappeared and hence shortage of surveyors to clear the confusion arises.

Thirdly, demining is an often quoted problem. Engaging rehabilitated former Tiger cadres experienced in demining may be considered to fast track demining, if acceptable. Fourthly, the recent decision to issue Death Certificates by the GOSL after a shorter period of disappearance may overcome another compensation problem. These require even changes to laws, procedures, institutional rearrangements etc because lending agencies, Local Authorities and regulatory bodies like the Urban Development Authority demand these to administer loans and approve plans. Hence, these are urgent priorities.

Pinheiro Principles

There are internationally accepted principles for restitution. Pinheiro Principles are one such. They deal with the optimum standards and hence could be adjusted as per situational demands. They have five major foci, as follows, which I explain, as ad hoc utterances by various authorities on restitution are frequently heard.

(a) The Right to Housing and Property Restitution

(b) Overarching Principles of Restitution

(c) The Right to Voluntary Return in Safety and Dignity

(d) Legal, Policy, Procedural and Institutional Implementation Mechanisms

(e) Role of the International Community, Including international Organizations

The Right to Housing and Property Restitution

Peneheiro Principles say "All refugees and displaced persons have the right to have restored to them any housing, land and/or property of which they were arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived, or to be compensated for any housing, land and/or property that is factually impossible to restore as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal.
States shall demonstrably prioritize the right to restitution as the preferred remedy to displacement and as a key element of restorative justice. The right to restitution exists as a distinct right, and is prejudiced neither by the actual return nor non-return of refugees and displaced persons entitled to housing, land and property restitution."

Whenever a disaster hit the country, GOSL has accepted the contents of Pinheiro Principles in some way. However, the sensitivity of the conflict has by its actions left room for the affected to question the government’s acceptability of the Principles. These actions were necessitated due to security concerns, which in turn are questioned due to wiping out of Tigers in 2009. However, to totally absolve any threat cannot be accepted so soon, as stated by the Ministry of Defence. This demands reconciliatory actions to build confidence between the citizens and GOSL.

Overarching Principles of Restitution

There are several principles stated in Peneheiro Principles, but some like The Right to Privacy and Respect for the Home, Right to Peaceful Enjoyment of Possessions and Right to Adequate Housing are skipped due to their lacking importance in our context. Other principles are briefly discussed here.

(a) The recognition of the Right to Non-Discrimination Principle on grounds of race, ethnicity, language etc and equality before the law are important in restitution. The complaint against GOSL, rightly or wrongly made by Tamil politicians, Diaspora, affected and pro-LTTE media is based on discrimination on ethnicity and race. For example, in November 2010 Tamilnet made six exposures on discrimination or favouritism on ethnic grounds regarding restitution, some insinuating State complicity, which may not be totally true, but even if partially true would send wrong signals. If Diaspora support is anticipated such reporting will bear negative consequences. It is heartening to note President Rajapaksa recently stating publicly (Adaderana November 15th) that there will be no ethnic discrimination in restitution. The need for an integrated approach to solve problems may still stick in such background.

(b) The Right to Equality between Men and Women- State has to ensure the equal rights of men and women to the enjoyment of housing, land and property restitution. This will be for return, inheritance, tenure rights and control of and access to housing, land and property. Recognition of joint ownership rights of both the male and female heads of the household as an explicit component of the restitution process is highlighted. Excepting the "control of and access to housing, land and property" in the HSZs there is not much serious problems submitted by the affected.

(c) The Right to be Protected from Displacement- Everyone has the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home, land or place of habitual residence. During conflict too this right stands though difficult to adhere as Sri Lanka has experienced. There had been occasional questionable situations, (though not extensive) reported especially in Tamilnet. Hence, GOSL should incorporate protections against displacement into legislation/ systems, consistent with international human rights and humanitarian law and related standards, and should extend these protections to everyone within their legal jurisdiction or effective control.

The safety issues are minimized now though there were many complaints some time back during operations. However, Tamilnet has complained of forced eviction, demolition of houses and destruction of agricultural areas and the arbitrary confiscation or expropriation of land as a "punitive measure" consequential to war. Mr. Ananda Sangaree has been at the forefront making written allegations on such to the President. The GOSL has responded with the explanation of exaggerations, possible LTTE threats of regrouping to justify its actions. Finding alternate solutions may be considered by the GOSL.

I may harp on this issue further as forced eviction and forced occupation of lands are issues bringing disrepute to the GoSL, providing ammunition to those questioning the credibility and the good name of the GoSL. I quote from Prohibition of Forced Evictions Commission on Human Rights Resolution: 2004/28, which affirmed:

(i) Forced eviction is contrary to laws that are in conformity with international human rights;

(ii) Urged governments to undertake immediate measures to eliminate forced eviction;

(iii) Urged governments to protect all who are currently threatened with forced eviction based upon effective participation, consultation and negotiation with the affected.

(iv) Recommended that all governments provide immediate restitution, compensation and/or appropriate and sufficient alternative accommodation or land to the forcibly evicted, following mutually satisfactory negotiations.

(v) Reminded all international financial, trade, development and other related agencies to take fully into account the contents of this resolution; and,

(vi) Requested the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to persuade governments to comply with relevant international standards, to prevent planned forced evictions from taking place and to ensure the provision of restitution or just and fair compensation.

Going by these, it is possible to evict IDPs and refugees only by honouring the right for adequate housing within the above-mentioned conditions. If the government’s goal is within these parameters one cannot anticipate ‘forced evictions’. Nevertheless, the issue is whether such consultation, negotiation, participation, compensation etc are or could be operationalized in a yet unstable security situation, with lacking confidence, state’s authority being challenged through "Transitional Governments" and resource constraints. Hence, all stakeholders should explore methods of acceptable restitution to suit these eventualities.

(d) The Right to Freedom of Movement- Though this is observed in the broad overview between the districts, allegations are levelled against restrictions in certain areas. However, here too national security will be of major interest but relaxations in qualified areas have to be provided, at least in stages. Defence authorities have commenced such action but the affected are more anxious. If the end of war means replacement of LTTE combatants by soldiers it will be a static human security environment. GoSL’s security personnel legality will be the only differentiation.

However, the recent statement by GA Jaffna (though challenged) indicated that the status has fast changed, which is a favourable development. I believe, the demand seems to be for the principles governing the right to choose the residence, non-execution of arbitrary or unlawful forcing to remain in specified areas, or possible arbitrary forcing to depart from certain areas, controls on livelihoods, because security requirements take precedence. The complainants highlight consistency to international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law and related standards. However, one factor that is not adequately highlighted in defence of the GoSL when responding to complaints is the authority the state has to subject citizens to restrictions that are necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others. These are issues that should be considered in a balanced manner by the GoSL, as well as by other political groups who should cooperate with the government.

Right to voluntary return

All refugees and displaced persons have the right to voluntarily return to their former homes, lands or places of habitual residence, in safety and dignity. This right cannot be abridged under conditions of state succession, nor can it be subject to arbitrary or unlawful time limitations. Refugees and displaced persons shall not be forced, or otherwise coerced, either directly or indirectly, to return to their former homes, lands or places of habitual residence. They should be able to effectively pursue durable solutions to displacement other than return, if they so wish, without prejudicing their right to the restitution of their housing, land and property. Unfortunately, all these are complaints from the North, especially with a partial political and ethnic twist, which makes exaggeration compulsory.

The safety factor in addition to return will depend on some issues like freedom of movement, non- recurrence of displacement and protection, non-discrimination etc. According to certain anti-government media these rights are violated by not permitting return and pressure brought to leave camps to suit the GoSL calendars and agendas. Rather than pressurizing in this manner, for both parties it is best that some dialogue takes place.

Dignity is not achieved by return alone. It should go hand in glove with freedom, economic rehabilitation, livelihood development, civil society activation etc, which should be promoted in the former conflict zone. The complaint is that instead of these, ’ has preceded. Special mention is quoted by critics regarding economic activities and livelihood activities, for which confidence- building measures should be promoted as 30 year old scars of war cannot be erased overnight. The contribution of politicians of both ends, clergy, genuine civilian interventions and media support should be highlighted as lubricants.

Implementation mechanisms

This is a focus area that covers most of the operational issues. It needs vast reinforcement too.

(a) National Procedures, Institutions and Mechanisms- States should establish and support equitable, timely, independent, transparent and non-discriminatory procedures, institutions and mechanisms to assess and enforce housing, land and property restitution claims (including that of tenants and collective claimants). Everyone arbitrarily or unlawfully deprived of housing, land and/or property should be able to submit a claim for restitution and/or compensation to an independent and impartial body, free of charge, gender sensitively, permitting separated and unaccompanied children’s "best interests" are ensured and to timely receive quickly disposed determinations on claims.

Do the affected consider the existing procedures, institutions and mechanisms possessing these qualities? Rightly or wrongly, from LLRC evidence by Tamil civilians and politicians, it does not appear so. Even the affected Muslims await positive performance like Tamils.

Believing the manner (Sunday Times October 31st) reported the distribution of tractors by the ICRC and the quick resettlement of Sinhalese displaced in Navathkuli (Virakesari reports on November 13th / November 14th) do not confirm such confidence in the Tamil minds. GoSL should take all appropriate administrative, legislative and judicial measures, guidelines to support and facilitate the housing, land and property restitution process and confirm apolitical and impartial responses. It is extremely difficult but essential because the causes for the 30 year conflict were mainly due to biased political / developmental interventions. Programmes should comprise of adequate consultation and participation with the affected communities.

(b) Rights of Tenants, Secondary Occupants and other Non-Owners- Within restitution programmes states should recognize the rights of tenants and other legitimate occupants or users of housing, land and property. To the maximum extent, states should ensure that such persons return to and re-possess, use their housing, land and property similar to those possessing formal owner-rights. Minister Milroy Fernando who stated recently (Mulpituwa November 15th) that he believed that the Sinhalese displaced were only tenants in Jaffna, need not consider it a disqualification for restitution / resettlement under this principle. The difficulty is that international guidelines demand ensuring the safeguards of due process extended to secondary occupants without prejudice to the rights of legitimate owners, tenants and other rights holders to repossess the housing, land and property in question. However, this may make the displaced Sinhalese families from the North happy.

(c) Legislative Measures- International requirements are for recognition of an essential component of the rule of law and legislation to ensure the right to housing, land and property restitution, including through the adoption, amendment, reform, or repeal of relevant laws, regulations and/or practices. These should be studied, and with a long list of lawyer members in the LLRC this could be dealt with. There are several state organizations that could assist restitution, e.g. National Housing Development Authority, Housing Development Finance Corporation, State Mortgage Investment Bank. More organizations (e.g. Cooperative Rural Banks, Sanasa Banks) could be authorized legally for the specific purpose of restitution and resettlement in the conflict affected areas.

They should be directed to ensure through appropriate means to respect, implement and enforce decisions and judgments made by relevant bodies regarding housing, land and property restitution. States should adopt specific measures to prevent the destruction or looting of contested or abandoned housing, land and property. Minutely such incidents are reported in the Tamilnet. In order to minimize destruction and looting, GoSL should develop procedures to inventorize the contents of claimed housing, land and property within its restitution/ resettlement programmes and may even introduce state sponsored insurance schemes as a safeguard.

(d) Compensation- All refugees and IDPs have the right to full and effective compensation as an integral component of the restitution process. Compensation may be monetary or in kind. States shall, in order to comply with the principle of restorative justice, ensure that the remedy of compensation is only used when restitution is not factually possible (e.g. when housing, land and/or property is destroyed or not in existence, as determined by an independent, impartial tribunal) or when the affected party knowingly and voluntarily accepts compensation in lieu of restitution, or when the terms of settlement provide for a combination of restitution and compensation.

Even under such circumstances the holder of the housing, land and/or property right should have the option to repair or rebuild whenever possible. In some situations, a combination of compensation and restitution may be the most appropriate remedy and form of restorative justice. Anyway, some spokespersons for the affected expect total replacement of assets after decades of devastation, but it must be noted that the GoSL is cash strapped not to abide by such demands immediately and this should be considered favourably by foreign donors too, who should maintain non-discriminatory compensation packages, to avoid criticisms of favouring.

The international community should promote and protect the right to housing, land and property restitution, as well as the right to voluntary return in safety and dignity and should take fully into account the prohibition against unlawful or arbitrary displacement and, in particular, the prohibition under international human rights law and related standards on the practice of forced evictions.

They should share expertise on the development of national housing, land and property restitution policies and programmes and help ensure their compatibility with international tools for rights protection. They should cooperate and coordinate with GOSL authorities and maintain a balanced approach of support and give their resources and experiences to the GoSL to create an effective and efficient voluntary return of the affected.

Performance

What we observe in restitution / resettlement is the demand made from the GoSL for performance under threatening pressures for time, resources, amalgamated demands for instance, such as, security and threat perceptions of the military etc. While the GoSL authorities may not be perfect, admittedly spokespersons for the affected too are not. It is proved from the haste and uncompromising demands for restitution, resettlement and compensation. Striking a balance between the government authorities and the affected is the main issue. To suit internationally acclaimed standards exactly as described here is difficult. Nevertheless, adhering to them will be an easy way to avoid reduction of accumulated fault finding and to prove GoSL’s unbiased, ethical behaviour.

Here I have tried to selectively discuss important aspects of restitution in the Pineheiro Principles. Deeper study by the GoSL and representatives of the affected will be useful to strike this balance. I wish it happens and a professional job satisfying the GoSL, affected, civil society and internationals could be found. Empty rhetoric of wilful forced eviction that could bring criticism from the affected and the internationals coining human rights violations by such action should be avoided as the country has to move towards reconciliation, and not hatred.

This cannot be achieved by such understanding by the GoSL alone. The affected and spokespersons should understand the difficulties the government faces and hence tolerance and compromise are the most appreciated qualities to strike this golden balance. LLRC is a good tool to recommend such consensual approach and it is up to the GoSL to address restitution / resettlement in a legal, professional and reasonable manner.

(The Writer is a former Defence Secretary)

Attack on JVP in Jaffna a Cowardly act of Terror

Is terrorism really over? This is the question one may ask oneself when one is made witness to cowardly attacks on the Opposition politicians and the media. Although the southern terrorism was effectively neutralised in 1989 and the Tiger terrorism laid to rest last year, another form of terrorism is prevailing.

Governments formed by the SLFP and the UNP have been taking turns to unleash violence against their opponents for the past few decades and, for the dastardly acts of terrorism being perpetrated against dissenters at present, it is the SLFP, which is in power, that must take the full responsibility.

A clear indication of the government's involvement in attacks on its opponents and critics is that they go uninvestigated or probes conducted half-heartedly into such incidents predictably draw a blank.

The latest attack on the Opposition has been reported from Jaffna. Democratic National Alliance (DNA) MP and JVP stalwart Sunil Handunneththi and three others were set upon by goons while they were taking part in a political campaign in the peninsula. The JVP has blamed the Military Intelligence for the brutal attack which left four including Handunneththi injured. The army has denied the charge. The Military Spokesman has said investigations are being conducted into the incident and the attempt to blame it on the Military Intelligence (MI) smacks of a sinister move to discredit the army.

The benefit of the doubt may be given to MI, though the possibility of some rogue elements in uniform doing 'political work' for the government cannot be ruled out. If it is true that MI had nothing to do with the attack at issue, then the outfit must be able to co-operate with the police to track down those who attacked a parliamentarian under their nose. If it claims to be unaware of the identities of the perpetrators, then it is not worth its salt.

Sunday's attack must be condemned unreservedly by one and all. This newspaper is one of the bitterest critics of the JVP and rarely misses an opportunity to haul it over the coals for university violence etc but its right to engage in democratic politics free from attacks, harassment and threats must be guaranteed.

The government has naturally become the suspect in Sunday's attack because of the statements made by some of its propagandists, who promptly claimed that MP Handunneththi had been assaulted by some of the residents of the area. If so, why doesn't the government act on that information and make arrests forthwith? Handunneththi insists that his assailants spoke Sinhala fluently. Is it that the northerners have learnt, in spite of the war, to speak better Sinhala than their southern counterparts?

Whom is the government trying to fool?

The government, it may be recalled, acted swiftly when a group of Peradeniya undergraduates booed Minister of Higher Education S. B. Dissanayake a few weeks ago. A piqued Minister Dissanayake lost no time in having some students arrested and prosecuted. It is puzzling why there is no such high octane performance on the part of the government as regards Sunday's attack.

It is incumbent upon the government to have the attack on JVP activists thoroughly probed and the perpetrators brought to book immediately. Nothing short of that will help clear the government's name. Let no lame excuses be trotted out. Now that the war is over, the onus is on the government, which, to its credit, created conditions for rekindling democracy in the North and the East by defeating terrorism, to ensure that everyone will be free to engage in democratic political work in those areas as well as in other parts of the country.

(FULL TEXT OF EDITORIAL APPEARING IN "THE ISLAND" OF NOVEMBER 16th 2010)

November 17, 2010

CaFFE condemns intimidation of witnesses and journalists in Kayts

Executive Director of the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) has issued a statement on behalf of CaFFE and Centre for Human Rights - Sri Lanka (CHR) condemning the intimidation of personswishing to give evidence before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (LLRC) during iitssessions at Kayts Island and the harassment and intimidation of P. Winslow of Yaal Thinakural by an unidentified group.

Following is the full text of the statement:

Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CaFFE) and Centre for Human Rights - Sri Lanka (CHR) strongly condemns the systematic intimidation of those who wanted to make submissions at the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (LLRC) sessions at Kaytes Island and the harassment and intimidation of P. Winslow of Yaal Thinakural by an unidentified group during the session at St. Anne’s Church, Kaytes, yesterday (November, 14, 2010.)

Kaytes Island is famous for numerous abductions, disappearances and assassinations as well as its geographic isolation. In the last two decades an armed group has dominated the political landscape of the island who continue
to intimidate its population. The scale of disappearances, abductions and assassinations in an island which was not directly impacted by Ealam War IV was obvious by the large number of individuals who came to make submissions on Sunday despite a systematic campaign to deter them. Residents of the island had been warned not to give submissions and officials were asked not to inform the dates and venues of the LLRC sessions during the days leading to the sessions on November, 14. Although the situation in the Jaffna Peninsular has somewhat improved after the end of the war, the residents of Kaytes and other islands still live under pressure by various parties.

Therefore the decision taken by the LLRC to visit Kaytes and listen to the grievances of the residents is a very commendable and necessary act. Nevertheless reliable reports from the session indicate that the people were not able to express themselves freely without fear of persecution. We have been informed that three men wrote down the names of those who gave evidence at the St. Anne’s Church and took photos of local media personnel using camera phones.

When the Yaal Thinakural photojournalist took a photo of these individuals a man who appeared to be the leader of the intimidators threatened the journalist with death. It was only after the mediation of journalists from Colombo, representatives of the several embassies and the LLRC commissioners that the Police took action. Nevertheless he was released immediately after a warning by the police.

During the next session in Mankumban Pillayar Kovil, Velani, Kaytes around 20 newly appointed Grama Sewa Niladaris, who many residents claim were members of a group well known in Kaytes, were present at the session. Due to their presence many residents were afraid to speak freely. Furthermore it’s a well known fact in Jaffna that local journalists do not visit the islands off Jaffna due to the presence of a hostile group.

The LLRC took submissions from residents of Jaffna during four days, November 11-14, and over 2000 made submissions. Only around 400 made submissions in Kaytes, a comparatively low figure, and the LLRC took oral submissions from approximately 30 individuals while others made written submissions to the LLRC Secretariat.

CaFFE and CHR - Sri Lanka while commending the LLRC stresses on the importance of ensuring an environment where people are able to express themselves freely without fear of persecution and guaranteeing the safety of those who come to give submissions and safety of the media during sessions held in areas where militant groups operate.

4,000 kilos of "Kiri Bath" for coronation of a Republican Monarch

by Sutirtho Patranobis

Even by its own standards of popularity, 4000 kilograms of kiribath, the traditional Lankan coconut milk-rice dish, sounds a bit too appetising. The ingredients: 1200 kg of white rice, 300 kg of cashew, 250 kg of jaggery, 1500 coconuts and a group of five-star chefs; enough to feed 65000 people for a couple of days beginning November 17. But then, a historical week calls for extraordinary celebrations.

Not only to relish mountains of kiribath but also to rejoice: Mahinda Rajapaksa will first turn 65 on November 18 and then will follow it up with a befitting ceremony to swear himself in for his second Presidential term till 2016.

Err, you could ask, didn’t he win the election in January? But what could Rajapaksa do if he wanted to make up for the time he lost by calling a Presidential election two years before his first term ended? Single option: delay the swearing-in.

Except a disgruntled few fretting in jails, fuming in gloomy opposition party offices and plotting in INGO glass houses, Sri Lanka is expected to erupt in staggered joy over the next few days.

Preparations are in place. The next few days will be marked by partial public and school holidays and rescheduled exams so that children could dig into kiribath.

Three ships will dock at the new Chinese-made southern harbour, one million trees will be planted and prayer meetings held. Colombo nights will lit up like diwali evenings. Cutouts and posters have been liberally plastered across the country.

Sri Lanka cricket will join in the cheer and hold programmes in Rajapaksa’s home district, Hambantota. Though it wasn’t immediately clear whether the visiting West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle’s blistering triple century was part of the celebrations.

'People’s President', 'ethnic harmony', 'Lanka flies high', and 'unique success against terrorism were headlines used to note Rajapaksa’s first term achievements in a glowing supplement brought out by a government newspaper; its 19 pages had more than 15 Rajapaksa photographs.

So, what’s in store for the second term? The demand list is long: a permanent political solution to the ethnic issue, a decrease in cost of living, freedom of speech, inalienable human rights, less nepotism etc. As for me, I want milk hoppers (appam), not kiribath, before the next swearing-in ~ courtesy: The Hindustan Times ~

November 16, 2010

The LLRC and complaints of dissappearances of persons

by M.C.M. Iqbal

It was reported in the newspapers a few days ago that nearly a thousand individuals had come forward to make representations to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission during its sessions in Jaffna . The report said that a majority of them are persons seeking the help of the LLRC to find their sons and daughters who have disappeared during and after Eelam War IV. This has been the case even during the sittings of the LLRC in other parts of the Northern Districts. It appears that this is happening because many of these people have not understood the mandate of the Commission properly.

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Relatives of abducted civilians in despair ~ file pic: IRIN

One cannot understand why the LLRC itself does not want to tell those persons who flock to them of their limitations. The Tamil media in particular, is giving wide publicity to the number of complaints of abductions and disappearances being received by the Commission. This has prompted more and more victims of the numerous abductions and disappearances that took place before, during and after the Eelam War IV, to flock to the LLRC with their complaints and ask the Commission to trace the persons who have gone missing. It would be appropriate here to take a closer look at the mandate of this Commission, which is as follows:

The LLRC is required to inquire into and report on the following:

1. The facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement operationalized (sic) on 21 February 2002 and the sequence of events that followed thereafter up to 19 May 2009.

2. Whether any person, group, or institutions directly or indirectly bear responsibility in this regard.

3. The lessons learnt from those events and their attendant concerns, in order to ensure that there will be no recurrence.

4. The methodology whereby restitution to any person affected by those events or their dependents or to heirs, can be effected.

5. The institutional administrative and legislative measures which need to be taken in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities, and to make any such other recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of this Warrant.

It should be noted that the LLRC has been authorized to look into facts or circumstances that had occurred during the period from 21st February, 2002 upto 19th May, 2009 which led to the failure of the ceasefire agreement. From the reports in the media it appears that there are more people going before the Commission to complain of the abductions and disappearances that took place in the region than to speak about the facts and circumstances that led to the failure of the Ceasefire. Perhaps, the LLRC considers disappearances falls within item 3 of the Mandate which refers to those events and their attendant concerns. If that be so, the LLRC can inquire into complaints of abductions and disappearances that took place during the period stipulated in the Mandare but cannot tentertain to ones that occurred before 21st February, 2002 or after 19th May, 2009.

It appears that most of the complaints that are being submitted to the LLRC in respect of abductions and disappearances are those that occurred after the war ended and while the people displaced from the Wanni were in the welfare centres that had been established or after they had moved out of these welfare centres and had been ‘re-settled’ . There had also been a report in the Veerakesari of 15th November, 2010 that someone had appeared before the LLRC had asked it to find those who disappeared in 1996 after the Riviresa Operations which wrested control of the Jaffna District from the LTTE.

One cannot understand why the LLRC does not want to tell such complainants that their complaints do not fall within its mandate. By not doing so, the LLRC only gives false hopes to these complainants that it would find those who disappeared or that it would be able to tell them what happened to them. a similar thing happened when the all Island Commission on Disappearances headed by Mrs. Manouri Muttetuwegama was conducting its sittings in Jaffna . More than a two hundred persons led by the Organization of Parents and Guardians of those who Disappeared in Jaffna, flocked the Commissioners and wanted complaints of about 600 persons who disappeared following the army take over of Jaffna in 1996 to be inquired into by that Commission.

They were told that the Mandate of the Commission authorizes them to inquire only into complaints of disappearances received by the Commissions appointed in 1994 and is not permit to accept new complaints. They then dispersed on being told to give a list of those who disappeared during that period with the assurance that they would be forwarded to the President with a request to make arrangements for those complaints to be inquired into at a later date. This was done later by the National Human Rights Commission which appointed a special Committee to inquire and report on those complaints. Similarly, while this Commission had its sittings in Batticaloa, Father Miller who was then the head of the Citizens Committee in Batticaloa came up with a list of 7000 persons who had disappeared from the Batticaloa District and wanted the Commission to inquire into them.

He was also given the same reply and eventually the National Human Rights Commission dealt with those complaints as well.

It cannot be presumed that the LLRC members are unaware that there had been three commissions of inquiry set up in 1994 and another in 1998 to look specifically into disappearances of persons that occurred in Sri Lanka during specific periods. These Commissions were headed by eminent legal luminaries such as Justice K. Palakidnar, Mrs. Manouri Muttetuwegama, and Justice T. Suntheralingam. The unpublished parts of the reports of these Commissions contain the names of many of the perpetrators against whom the Commissions had found ‘credible material indicative’ of their responsibility for several of the disappearances that took place during the relevant period. These Commissions have also recommended the action that should be taken against these perpetrators and have also made well-considered recommendations on what needs to be done to prevent such incidents happening in the future. Appropriate relief measures had also been recommended to the victims.

In 2002, a Committee of three headed by a senior civil service officer of renown, Dr. Devanesan Nesiah, was appointed under the section 11 (b) of the Human Rights Commission Act No. 21 of 1996 to inquire into the disappearances of persons that took place in the Jaffna District following Jaffna being taken over by the Government from the LTTE in 1996. An exhaustive investigation was done into 281 of the 327 complaints of disappearances were received by this Committee and its findings were endorsed by Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was then the Chairman of the NHRC and forwarded to the President for necessary action.

The recommendations made by the above mentioned Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances, were re-iterated by this Committee which concluded that in a large majority of the cases inquired into by the Committee there was clear evidence that the persons who had disappeared had been taken by the army and that there is no evidence whatsoever as to what happened to them thereafter.

This Committee whilst making additional recommendations also endorsed the recommendations made by the earlier Commissions on the measures that are needed to be taken to prevent the occurrence of such incidents in the future.

Even the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances has made valuable recommendations on this matter following their visits to Sri Lanka during the 1990s, many of which still remain unimplemented.

It would be naïve to think that Chairman of the LLRC who was then the Attorney General, must be unaware of these reports and the recommendations therein. These well considered recommendations made by equally eminent members of those Commissions and those made by the UN Working Group, are gathering dust in the archives of the Presidential Secretariat and the Attorney General’s Department. If only those recommendations had received due consideration and implemented, disappearances of persons in Sri Lanka would have been a thing of the past. Their non-implementation has promoted the spread of the cult of impunity among the perpetrators and has now perhaps become a standard practice to deal with those whom the authorities find to be irritants or threats to their positions. It is no wonder that the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons who were invited to Sri Lanka in 2007 to ensure that the proceedings of another Commission of Inquiry appointed during that period was following international norms and standards in conducting their inquiries, had aborted their mission and left with a statement in their report that the government does not have the will to end human rights violations.

In the circumstances, it is preposterous for the LLRC to continue to receive complaints of disappearances which do not fall within its mandate and give false hopes to the complainants. It is equally preposterous for the State to ask the LLRC to make recommendations on how to prevent the repetition of such instances in the future, while they already have well considered recommendations on this matter right before them.

Besides, in the absence of an effective witness protection mechanism it is hardly likely that the LLRC would receive any worthwhile evidence on what actually happened during the last days of the war. Therefore the LLRC may as well do something useful by listening to the submissions by learned persons on what needs to be done to bring about a reconciliation. Some eminent members of the community have already appeared before the LLRC and made representation on this and on the matters that lead to the break down of the ceasefire agreement.

The State continues to proclaim loudly that it is waiting for the recommendations of the LLRC to bring about a reconciliation. But other organs of the State are doing undesirable things that negate the declared objectives of the State and appear to be contributing further to put the communities asunder. Lets us hope the LLRC would not waste their times on issues that are irrelevant to its Mandate and make their candid observations without delay on the lessons learnt and make way for the mutual suspicion between the two important sections of the people of the country to be dispelled before it is too late to bring them together to live as equal citizens of Sri Lanka.

Maya "MIA" Arulpragasam: An outspoken advocate of Tamil peoples' rights

by Decca Aitkenhead

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MIA: 'It’s way more important for me to be ­creative and push boundaries in ­myself and for ­myself'

Frank Zappa once said that most rock journalism involves "people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read". I think I begin to see what he meant after spending an entertaining hour with MIA. The singer is perfectly beguiling, but quite baffling, and I leave wondering what on earth she has been talking about, how on earth I am going to write it up, and whether any reader will ever manage to make sense of it.

To give you an example, here she is talking about her Sri Lankan identity: "Well in the beginning no one knew where the fuck it was, so I never really talked about it. And especially to explain: 'Well, yeah, and there's the Sinhalese and the Tamils and the war. You know, by the time you got to England you were just brown. So it was like going through the sort of filtration process. And to take it back to such a minutiae thing of going, 'And then there was like this and da da da da da' – so once you're just operating on being a Paki, you know, then it wasn't about that, it was just, 'Oh well, that's obviously wrong and you're not going to go deep into that thing', and for me life was just about, you know, connecting with people through music."

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MIA at the Scream awards in October 2010. Courtesy Photograph: Matt Sayles/AP

Much of MIA's conversation is not unlike a work of abstract art; once transcribed on to the page, it can be read and re-read and parsed for meanings, of which any number might emerge. Her sentences frequently end with, "Do you know what I mean?", but I very seldom do, so I tend to have a stab and suggest an interpretation, with which she usually concurs. But whether it really was what she meant is anyone's guess, for I get the feeling that were I to propose an entirely different meaning, she'd just as easily agree with that one instead.

One thing, at least, does become clear. MIA's biography has always been fascinating, but notoriously hazy, prompting scepticism in some quarters about her authenticity. But having now met her, I doubt the confusion derives from any deliberate fabrication on her part. Instead, she just doesn't really talk in a register conducive to the banality of facts and clarity.

A summary of her life, as far as we can tell, goes like this. Born Maya Arulpragasam in 1975, in London to Sri Lankan Tamil parents, she was two months old when her father popped out "to buy a pint of milk", and disappeared off to Lebanon to train with the PLO. When he returned four months later he announced that the family was returning to Sri Lanka, where he founded a Tamil student protest movement called Eros.

Her father was almost entirely absent during her childhood, but the government believed he was close to the Tamil Tigers and so soldiers would raid her village, demanding to know where he was and beating up her mother and other relatives. By 1986 the situation had became too dangerous and the family moved back to south London, without him.

As a teenager in London she hung out with West Indian kids, falling in love with dancehall and hip-hop and fashion. "That's very rare for Sri Lankans, cos we all get taught to be doctors, so the Sri Lankans were like: 'That girl there, do not hang out with her, she's terrible.'" After A-levels she went off to visit a cousin in Los Angeles and lived as a "ghetto queen" among the gangsters and rappers of Compton, before enrolling at St Martins in London to study fine art, where she met Justine Frischmann, lead singer of Britpop group Elastica, who hired her to film the band on tour, and design its album cover. In due course she began playing around with Frischmann's old synthesiser, came up with the stage name MIA, and in 2004 released her own hit debut album, Arular, which was nominated for the Mercury prize and hailed by the rapper Nas as "the sound of the future".

It was a cleverly mongrel sound – inventive and infectious, part hip-hop, part grime, shot through with snatches of world music, but underpinned with an emphatically street aesthetic – making MIA wildly cool, if not hugely commercially successful. A reputation for edgy dissidence was reinforced by her public pronouncements on politics – chiefly, though not exclusively, about the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. But her second album, Kala, released in 2007, featured the hit single Paper Planes, which was nominated for a Grammy and remixed for the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire, pushing MIA from critical acclaim to mainstream stardom.

Admirers began to talk of her as a modern Madonna – as much an inspired editor as a musician, with a genius for poaching from the worlds of fashion, art and music to create something accessible and contemporary. Last year she got engaged to Ben Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune and son of Warner's CEO Edgar Bronfman, moved to an upscale house in LA, performed alongside Jay-Z and Kanye West at the Grammy awards, and gave birth to a baby boy three days later. Since then she has been in the studio in LA, working on a third album widely expected to consolidate her place in pop's stratosphere.

The album, /\/\ /\ Y /\ or Maya, was released this summer, and some of it is, well, it is what critics like to call "challenging", and a layperson might describe as sounding like jumbled-up industrial roadworks. My one-year-old son will dance to just about anything – even the Sky News theme tune – and when I played Maya to him he did his best, but even he soon had to concede defeat.

It's a defiantly aggressive piece of work, and yet in person the singer is petite, languid and strikingly demure, with an almost dainty bearing and a soft, sultry drawl. She is quietly watchful, rather feline, and nothing at all like the brash, gobby presence of her live performances. But at 35, MIA has been working all her life towards the fame and success her second album seemed to promise – so why did she choose to reject it by making such a difficult album now?

"Well with so many people wanting that thing," – mainstream fame – "people forget the idea of not wanting it. So it was a huge shock for everyone, including my label. I think maybe it's just that people forgot what it felt like to be punk, and punk's not this new thing that's been adopted by LA or Hoxton people with spiky hair, it was genuinely about people who didn't want it, who just saw things differently. So yeah, it was weird because people see it as a failure as opposed to something that celebrates art or champions art. People go, 'You fucked up.' But no, it's just, it's not that I thought about it, it's just how I felt. It's way more important for me to be creative and push boundaries in myself and for myself, cos it's part of my evolution and growth as an artist, you know. I needed to go here to this particular place because my personal life is that contradictory and weird and insane, and it was trying to reflect that."

Her lawyer was quoted earlier this year saying that MIA "vacillates between wanting to be huge and maintaining her artistic integrity. That's her dilemma. Because if you want to be huge you have to give up a lot." I ask if this album represents her resolution of the dilemma.

"Well it's like this. At the time when I was making the record this civil war [in Sri Lanka] came to an end, you watched all these people die on the internet, no one did shit about it, the government got away with it and they made loads of money on top of that, they got given billions of dollars on top, you know. And you can see that they're obviously really bad. If I wanted to be really rich, that's what I'd do. I'd call myself a fucking government, kill a load of people, and you get billions of dollars, you know that's the easiest way of doing it."

You don't need to spend long with MIA before Sri Lankan politics come up. She has been an outspoken advocate of the Tamil people's rights, and tireless in her determination to draw attention to the country's largely ignored civil war. As a consequence, she says, she has been branded a terrorist sympathiser by the Sri Lankan government, whose agents have contacted her fans, threatening them with prosecution under terrorism legislation if they post her music videos on the internet. She was also denied a visa to the US while making her second album, which she puts down to her political profile.

The frustration is that while everything MIA claims may very well be true, she doesn't always couch it in the most reliable of terms. For example, she has said that within months of moving to LA her house was bugged and her phone tapped, but when I ask about the evidence for this, she says:"Well my mum's still not allowed into the States. I've hired like six lawyers, and the Bronfmans have tried to help. And the only thing I've heard back is that maybe she spoke to someone she shouldn't have spoken to. Which makes me think, well, her calls are logged."

She frequently asserts that Google is funded by the CIA, but when I wonder if this might suggest an element of paranoia in her thinking, she offers casually: "Well I don't know, how do you know that it isn't funded by the CIA? How do you know that the hedgefunders didn't come ultimately with money that comes from there?"

By that token, I laugh, how does she know I'm not a CIA spy? "Well that's my, like, two years in America, where I have found out these things, cos people I sit next to at dinner parties do speak like that. Now I'm never going to be invited to dinner again." What does she mean? "Er," she offers coyly, and pretends her lips are sealed.

MIA's political statements are a fiery antidote to the anodyne culture of contemporary pop culture, but critics have dismissed them as too subjectively emotional to be taken seriously. Does she see any truth in the charge that they lack analytical weight?

"Yeah, well I would've been a politician if I wanted to discuss politics in that way, but I, yeah, I like to stick at being, you know, a person who speaks about the experiences that I experienced, like I have the right to. All I can do is when I come across people going, 'You know, in order to make music you have to be like this,' I go 'No, in order to make music you don't have to be like anything, you just have to be musical.'

"And if you happen to have this other experience it's OK, because my point is that as long as there's wars there's always going to be refugees. And as long as there's refugees there's always going to be some kid going, 'I'm shit.' And you're going to be like, 'No, you can just be whatever you fucking want to be.' And that's how I started. It's not that I bang on about: 'Hey I want to adopt white children from Hollywood, or go to Scotland and save babies, and save Aids, and, you know, Africa, and save, like, the starving people.'"

Yet she does acknowledge a certain, if not unease, then ambivalence about her shifting identity from refugee street artist to LA aristocracy. She gave birth to her son in one of America's finest hospitals, "and it cost $48,000, and it was weird like going in to have a child knowing that, you know, most of the people can't afford it." She has always, she says, wrestled with the tension between her multiple identities, ever since St Martins, when relatives were losing their lives in the Sri Lankan civil war while she was trying to make sense of the decadence of "white middle-class males" and their arty preoccupation with apathy. And now she is marrying into millions.

"My record label always says you shouldn't talk about money because it makes people extremely uncomfortable. Refugees can't talk about money. Rappers can talk about money, refugees can't talk about money. And I'm like, what the fuck? No. There's no rules to any of it. Cos yeah, this is an issue, it's a fucking dilemma, you know, I fell in love with someone who's got money." But then she adds, "I don't have that much money. Just cos you marry your fiance it doesn't mean you get your father-in-law's credit card."

I can sense that she's trying to answer a specific criticism – but I'm not sure which one. Is she, I ask, alluding to a New York Times profile earlier this year, which seemed to imply that she was living the high life while still pretending to speak from the street? At the time she was so angry about it that she published the journalist's mobile phone number on Twitter.

"No," she laughs. "I was talking about my ex-boyfriend saying that because you're exposed to your fiance's family, having loads of money, it makes you no longer care about your art. And I think that's bullshit. Cos this record was way harder for me, and it's way more personal, and I've put so much more blood and tears into it than anything else I've ever done. And it was really difficult, cos I knew every minute I spent on that record it was dividing the time I spent with my baby and on my art. And that to me is the ultimate, you know . . ."

The ultimate what? "The ultimate, like . . . The ultimate . . . I don't know. Do you know what I mean?"

We're drifting deeper into a fog of vague allusion when, suddenly, she seems to focus, and out of nowhere comes perhaps the most perfect exposition of her creative credibility.

"I don't know why it's not a celebratory thing, the fact that I just know about a lot of fucking shit. That's all. Yeah so I know how billionaires live in America, and I know how poor people live in Sri Lanka, and I know how soldiers are, and I know what it feels like for your dad to throw hand grenades out of your bedroom window, I just know that. I'm not going to be able to change any of those things, and ultimately I believe in creativity. You get out what you put in, and it's not like I only put one thing in." - courtesy: The Guardian -

Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia-HRW

By Human Rights Watch

Contributors Should Review Development Programs, Monitor Use of Funds

The Ethiopian government is using development aid to suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential government programs on support for the ruling party, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch urged foreign donors to ensure that their aid is used in an accountable and transparent manner and does not support political repression.

The 105-page report, "Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia," documents the ways in which the Ethiopian government uses donor-supported resources and aid as a tool to consolidate the power of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

"The Ethiopian government is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent," said Rona Peligal, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "If you don't play the ruling party's game, you get shut out. Yet foreign donors are rewarding this behavior with ever-larger sums of development aid."

Ethiopia is one of the world's largest recipients of development aid, more than US$3 billion in 2008 alone. The World Bank and donor nations provide direct support to district governments in Ethiopia for basic services such as health, education, agriculture, and water, and support a "food-for-work" program for some of the country's poorest people. The European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany are the largest bilateral donors.

Local officials routinely deny government support to opposition supporters and civil society activists, including rural residents in desperate need of food aid. Foreign aid-funded "capacity-building" programs to improve skills that would aid the country's development are used by the government to indoctrinate school children in party ideology, intimidate teachers, and purge the civil service of people with independent political views.

Political repression was particularly pronounced during the period leading up to parliamentary elections in May 2010, in which the ruling party won 99.6 percent of the seats.

Despite government restrictions that make independent research difficult, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 200 people in 53 villages across three regions of the country during a six-month investigation in 2009. The problems Human Rights Watch found were widespread: residents reported discrimination in many locations.

Farmers described being denied access to agricultural assistance, micro-loans, seeds, and fertilizers because they did not support the ruling party. As one farmer in Amhara region told Human Rights Watch, "[Village] leaders have publicly declared that they will single out opposition members, and those identified as such will be denied 'privileges.' By that they mean that access to fertilizers, 'safety net' and even emergency aid will be denied."

Rural villagers reported that many families of opposition members were barred from participation in the food-for-work or "safety net" program, which supports 7 million of Ethiopia's most vulnerable citizens. Scores of opposition members who were denied services by local officials throughout the country reported the same response from ruling party and government officials when they complained: "Ask your own party for help."

Human Rights Watch also documented how high school students, teachers, and civil servants were forced to attend indoctrination sessions on ruling party ideology as part of the capacity-building program funded by foreign governments. Attendees at training sessions reported that they were intimidated and threatened if they did not join the ruling party. Superiors told teachers that ruling party membership was a condition for promotion and training opportunities. Education, especially schools and teacher training, is also heavily supported by donor funds.

"By dominating government at all levels, the ruling party controls all the aid programs," Peligal said. "Without effective, independent monitoring, international aid will continue to be abused to consolidate a repressive single-party state."

In 2005, the World Bank and other donors suspended direct budget support to the Ethiopian government following a post-election crackdown on demonstrators that left 200 people dead, 30,000 detained, and dozens of opposition leaders in jail. At the time, donors expressed fears of "political capture" of donor funds by the ruling party.

Yet aid was soon resumed under a new program, "Protection of Basic Services," that channeled money directly to district governments. These district governments, like the federal administration, are under ruling party control, yet are harder to monitor and more directly involved in day-to-day repression of the population.

During this period the Ethiopian government has steadily closed political space, harassed independent journalists and civil society activists into silence or exile, and violated the rights to freedom of association and expression. A new law on civil society activity, passed in 2009, bars nongovernmental organizations from working on issues related to human rights, good governance, and conflict resolution if they receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources.

"The few independent organizations that monitored human rights have been eviscerated by government harassment and a pernicious new civil society law," Peligal said. "But these groups are badly needed to ensure aid is not misused."

As Ethiopia's human rights situation has worsened, donors have ramped up assistance. Between 2004 and 2008, international development aid to Ethiopia doubled. According to Ethiopian government data, the country is making strong progress on reducing poverty, and donors are pleased to support Ethiopia's progress toward the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Yet the price of that progress has been high.

When Human Rights Watch presented its findings to donor officials, many privately acknowledged the worsening human rights situation and the ruling party's growing authoritarian rule. Donor officials from a dozen Western government agencies told Human Rights Watch that they were aware of allegations that donor-supported programs were being used for political repression, but they had no way of knowing the extent of such abuse. In Ethiopia, most monitoring of donor programs is a joint effort alongside Ethiopian government officials.

Yet few donors have been willing to raise their concerns publicly over the possible misuse of their taxpayers' funds. In a desk study and an official response to Human Rights Watch, the donor consortium Development Assistance Group stated that their monitoring mechanisms showed that their programs were working well and that aid was not being "distorted." But no donors have carried out credible, independent investigations into the problem.

Human Rights Watch called on donor country legislatures and audit institutions to examine development aid to Ethiopia to ensure that it is not supporting political repression.

"In their eagerness to show progress in Ethiopia, aid officials are shutting their eyes to the repression lurking behind the official statistics," Peligal said. "Donors who finance the Ethiopian state need to wake up to the fact that some of their aid is contributing to human rights abuses."

Background

Led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party is a coalition of ethnic-based groups that came to power in 1991 after ousting the military government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The government passed a new constitution in 1994 that incorporated fundamental human rights standards, but in practice many of these freedoms have been increasingly restricted during its 19 years in power.

Although the ruling party introduced multiparty elections soon after it came to power in 1991, opposition political parties have faced serious obstruction to their efforts to establish offices, organize, and campaign in national and local elections.

Eight-five percent of Ethiopia's population live in rural areas and, each year, 10 to 20 percent rely on international food relief to survive. Foreign development assistance to Ethiopia has steadily increased since the 1990s, with a temporary plateau during the two-year border war with Eritrea (1998-2000). Ethiopia is now the largest recipient of World Bank funds and foreign aid in Africa.

In 2008, total aid was US$3.3 billion. Of that, the United States contributes around $800 million, much of it in humanitarian and food aid; the European Union contributes $400 million; and the United Kingdom provides $300 million. Ethiopia is widely considered to be making good progress toward some of the UN Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty, but much of the data originates with the government and is not independently verified.

Quotes from the Report

"There are micro-loans, which everybody goes to take out, but it is very difficult for us, [opposition] members. They say, 'This is not from your government, it is from the government you hate. Why do you expect something from the government that you hate?'"

– A farmer from southern Ethiopia

"Yesterday in fact the kebele [village] chairman said to me, 'You are suffering so many problems, why don't you write a letter of regret and join the ruling party?'"

–A farmer with a starving child from southern Ethiopia, denied participation in the safety net food-for-work program

"The safety net is used to buy loyalty to the ruling party. That is money that comes from abroad. Democracy is being compromised by money that comes from abroad. Do those people who send the money know what it is being used for? Let them know that it is being used against democracy."

– A farmer from Amhara region

"It is clear that our money is being moved into political brainwashing."

– Consultant to a major donor, Addis Ababa

"Intimidation is all over, in every area. There is politicization of housing, business, education, agriculture. Many of the people are forced or compromised to join the party because of safety net and so on, many do not have a choice – it is imposed."

– Western donor official, Addis Ababa

"Every tool at their disposal – fertilizer, loans, safety net – is being used to crush the opposition. We know this."

– Senior Western donor official, Addis Ababa

"Which state are we building and how? It could be that we are building the capacity of the state to control and repress."

– World Bank staff member, Addis Ababa

During the embargo period, "Development without Freedom: How Aid Underwrites Repression in Ethiopia" is available at: http://hrw.org/en/embargo/node/93604?signature=6681a9c1d27503cfb6dbac8fbeca4b0f&suid=6

Upon release, it will available at: http://www.hrw.org/node/93605

ENDLF wants New Delhi govt to send "Indian Peace Making Force" to Sri Lanka

LIST OF RESOLUTIONS PASSED UNANIMOUSLY IN THE TWO DAY EXTRA ORDINARY MEETING CONDUCTED BY ENDLF ON THE 13th AND 14th NOV 2010 IN BANGALORE, INDIA

It was unanimously resolved:

1. To request the Government of India to bear in mind the fact that the E.N.D.L.F (Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front) never acted at any time against the development of India and her integration but supported the Indo-Sri Lankan pact even in the days of storm and strife and sacrificed 1700 mighty Eelam Tamils pinning their faith on the promise made by the then Prime minister Shree Rajiv Gandhi to form North East Provincial council and to do the needful to save the Eelam Tamils from the untold atrocities committed by the Sinhalese,

2. To request the Government of India to comply with the plea of E.N.D.L.F to send once again with commiseration in heart a new PEACE MAKINIG FORCE since IPKF with its 50,000 troops made unprofitable return to India in the year 1990, probe into the grave problems, find permanent solutions for them and render poetic justice to us, as we cannot live any longer in fool’s paradise hoping in vain that Sri Lankan Government will condescend to agree to give us a free and peaceful life.

3. To request the benign Government of India to do the needful to constitute a provincial council consisting of the North and East provincial council with empowerment for the benefit of the Eelam Tamils as promised in the year 1987.

4. To request the Government of India to do the needful to check the Anti Tamil attitude of the Sri Lankan Government that have cheated India and the Eelam Tamils many a time and also to put an end to the foul deed of the Sinhalese Government that is unlawfully settling their own people in the regions of the Eelam Tamils under the pretext of striving for the rehabilitation of the Tamils and the reconstruction of Sri Lanka.

5. To request the Government of India to do the needful to evict the intruding Sinhalese totally from the ancestral land of the Tamils as the Sinhalese Government made them settle down there unlawfully after they had attained independence in the year 1948 though they stopped doing so for a brief period of three years when the IPKF was there in Sri Lanka

6. To request the Government of India to do the needful to prevent the Buddhist monks from erecting Buddhist temples to spread Buddhism with the strong support of their government under the pipal trees wherever they grow in our regions and also to demolish those temples already erected with a selfish motive.

7. To request the Government of India being the biggest and the most powerful Democratic country to conduct judicial inquiry for the carnage perpetrated on the Tamils by Srilankan Government as it was beyond doubt an ethnic murder and not the anti – terrorists activities.

8. To request the Government of India to be gracious enough to do the needful to take up the responsibility of maintaining the refugee camps properly in Tamil Nadu till the refugees return to OUR Tamil Eelam very happily and proudly after finding solutions to all problems. And the Government of India to free the Sri Lankan refugees from the fear of the police especially the Q Branch who intimidate and treat the refugees as slaves for the simple reason they yearn for freedom.

9. To request the Government of India to do the needful to evict the Sinhalese fisher men colonisation in north–east coastal line that actually belongs to the Eelam Tamils as the Tamils alone have got every right to fish there.

10. If the Tamils do not get succour from India we request the government of India to constitute a higher level International committee consisting of those countries that have taken under their wings of love the Sri Lankan refugees in large numbers to render justice to us and enable us to enjoy our birth rights in the world where the DONORS COUNTRIES released fabulous funds to the blood thirsty Sri Lankan government to buy deadly armaments when the relentless riot was raging and tearing Sri Lanka.

WE ASK FOR BREAD AND FISH. WE HOPE AND TRUST WE WILL CERTAINLY BE GIVEN.

(LIST OF RESOLUTIONS PASSED UNANIMOUSLY AT THE TWO DAY EXTRA ORDINARY MEETING OF EELAM NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC LIBERATION FRONT (ENDLF) CONDUCTED ON THE 13th AND 14th NOV 2010 IN BANGALORE, INDIA)

November 15, 2010

"Sri Lanka, The Second fastest growing Asian economy after China" says Singapore's Deputy P.M. & Defence Minister

by Dayan Jayatilleka

In the run-up to the commencement of President Mahinda Rajapakse's second term, Sri Lanka's contemporary achievement received a glowing testimonial from an important political personality in the East Asian region, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Singapore, Mr Teo Chee Hean.

The Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister was delivering the keynote address as guest-of-honour at the 6th International Conference of South Asia on the theme of 'South Asia in the New Decade: Challenges and Prospects', organised by the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) which has been rated three years running by the Times Higher Educational Supplement as one of the world’s 25 top universities.

Speaking on Thursday November 12th at the Mandarin Orchard hotel in Singapore, Mr Teo Chee Hian observed:

"Sri Lanka has emerged from a decades-long civil war, and is enjoying an economic revival. It is currently the second-fastest growing Asian economy after China, a fact not lost upon the IMF, which recently upgraded Sri Lanka to middle income emerging market status.

Like Brazil, Sri Lanka enjoys an adult literacy rate of just over 90%. Sri Lanka's gross enrolment ratio, which gives an indication of school attendance, is also comparable to that of China.

What is particularly noteworthy of Sri Lanka's growth is the narrowness of its gender gap. In the Global Gender Gap Report 2010 published by the World Economic Forum, which measures gender-based disparities on economic, political, education and health-based criteria, Sri Lanka ranked within the top 20, the only South Asian country to do so. Closing the gender gap is not just an issue of gender equity; it is also one of harnessing the current human resource potential, and uplifting the potential of the next generation. The most important determinant of a country's competitiveness is its human talent – the skills, education and productivity of its workforce. In any country, women account for half of the current talent base and have a key role in nurturing the next generation."

Deputy PM Teo previously served as Singapore's Minister for Education from 1997-2003, and Minister for the Environment from 1996-97. Prior to entering politics, he served as Singapore's Chief of Navy from 1991-92.

A Road Map to resolve Muslim grievances in Sri Lanka

by M.I.M Mohideen

Muslims throughout Sri Lanka totally rejected Tamil militants’ call for the division of the country and firmly stood for territorial integrity and unity only to face death, loss of properties, livelihood and unlawful displacements. Despite all these sacrifices and sufferings Muslims remain the most discriminated community in Sri Lanka to-day.

Contrary to the common belief that the Muslims float in wealth, most of the Muslims today suffer from extreme poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and inadequate housing which have driven some Muslim youths to take to underworld activities and drug trafficking for survival.

Muslims do not have State Land, employment in state sector, adequate housing and university admissions according to our national ethnic ratio. The university entrance cut off marks for badly neglected Muslim schools are the same for the highly developed Government patronized Sinhalese schools.

The other important issues faced by the Muslims today: The vacancies of Teachers and Infrastructure Facilities in Muslim Schools, Denial of admission to Muslim students to study in Sinhala or Non-availability of teachers to teach Islam in Sinhala.

A Presidential directive for the appointment of Moulavi teachers is also not fully implemented. The right to return is denied to 11,058 Muslim families forcibly displaced by the LTTE Tamil terrorist in the North during the ethnic cleansing in October 1990. 15,000 Muslim families in the Eastern Province are denied their right to Title Deeds for the 60,000 acres of Agricultural land cultivated for more than 30 years on annual temporary permits.

The President approved prayer room for the Muslims like the Sinhalese at the Colombo National Hospital but was refused by the Health Minister. Limits of “Tsunami” buffer zones were not demarcated in the coastal Muslim villages in the Eastern Province. Non-implementation of the constitutional provision in Section 22(1) for the use of Tamil Language in Government Institutions causing immense problems for the Muslims’ island wide. Army Camp in the Mosque in Kurangupanchan village in Kinniya and the resettlement of displaced Muslims.

India, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia and many more countries generously donated billions of rupees for the resettlement activities of about 280,000 Tamil IDPs whose suffering began only after May 2009. On the eve of the defeat of LTTE, top political leaders from the West-British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon rushed to the island to show their humanitarian concern.

A few days later UN Secretary General dispatched his Deputy Lynn Pascoe on September 16, 2009 to visit the Tamil IDPs and press the government to speed up their resettlement activities. Furthermore, Head of the United Nations Refugee Agency Antonio Gutteres promised further help for caring and resettling the Tamil IDPs. Indian Government has set aside Rs. 500 crores for the resettlement of Tamil IDPs.

All these acts of Western and Indian human kindness dry up completely when it comes to the sufferings of Muslims driven out at gunpoint by the LTTE from the North in October 1990, and have been languishing in refugee camps in and around Puttalam for 20 long years.

It has become an absolute necessity for the President or to the politically conscious members of the Muslim Civil Society to set up a Special Task Force immediately to plan a quick work programme for the resolution.

November 14, 2010

Chinese Copper Mine In Afghanistan threatens 2,600-Year old Buddhist Monastery

by Heidi Vogt

MES AYNAK, Afghanistan —

It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress.

She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins.

The mine is the centerpiece of China's drive to invest in Afghanistan, a country trying to get its economy off the ground while still mired in war. Beijing's $3.5 billion stake in the mine – the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan by far – gets its foot in the door for future deals to exploit Afghanistan's largely untapped mineral wealth, including iron, gold and cobalt. The Afghan government stands to reap a potential $1.2 billion a year in revenues from the mine, as well as the creation of much-needed jobs.

But Mes Aynak is caught between Afghanistan's hopes for the future and its history. Archaeologists are rushing to salvage what they can from a major seventh century B.C. religious site along the famed Silk Road connecting Asia and the Middle East. The ruins, including the monastery and domed shrines known as "stupas," will likely be largely destroyed once work at the mine begins.

Hanging over the situation is the memory of the Buddhas of Bamiyan – statues towering up to 180 feet high in central Afghanistan that were dynamited to the ground in 2001 by the country's then-rulers, the Taliban, who considered them symbols of paganism.

No one wants to be blamed for similarly razing history at Mes Aynak, in the eastern province of Logar. The Chinese government-backed China Metallurgical Group Corp., or MCC, wanted to start building the mine by the end of 2011. But under an informal understanding with the Kabul government, it has given archaeologists three years for a salvage excavation.

Archaeologists working on the site since May say that won't be enough time for full preservation.

"That site is so massive that it's easily a 10-year campaign of archaeology," said Laura Tedesco, an archaeologist brought in by the U.S. Embassy to work on sites in Afghanistan. Three years may be enough time just to document what's there, she said.

Philippe Marquis, a French archaeologist advising the Afghans, said the salvage effort is piecemeal and "minimal," held back by lack of funds and personnel.

Around 15 Afghan archaeologists, three French advisers and a few dozen laborers are working within the 2-square-kilometer (0.77-square-mile) area – a far smaller team than the two dozen archaeologists and 100 laborers normally needed for a site of such size and richness.

"This is probably one of the most important points along the Silk Road," said Marquis. "What we have at this site, already in excavation, should be enough to fill the (Afghan) national museum."

The monastery complex has been dug out, revealing hallways and rooms decorated with frescoes and filled with clay and stone statues of standing and reclining Buddhas, some as high as 10 feet. An area that was once a courtyard is dotted with stupas standing four or five feet high.

More than 150 statues have been found so far, though many remain in place. Large ones are too heavy to be moved, and the team lacks the chemicals needed to keep small ones from disintegrating when extracted.

MCC appears to be pushing the archaeologists to finish ahead of schedule. In July, the archaeologists received a letter from the company asking that parts of the dig be wrapped up by August and the rest to be done by the end of 2010.

A copy of the letter – signed by MJAM, the acronym for the joint venture in charge of the mine, MCC-JCL Aynak Minerals Co. – was provided to The Associated Press by the head of the archaeological team. MCC and MJAM officials did not respond to requests for comment.

August has come and gone, and excavations at Mes Aynak continue. But the Afghan archaeologist overseeing the dig said he has no idea when MCC representatives might tell him his work is over. So he tries not to think about deadlines.

"We would like to work according to our principles. If we don't work according to the principles of archaeology, then we are no different from traffickers," Abdul Rauf Zakir said.

The team hopes to lift some of the larger statues and shrines out before winter sets in this month, but they still haven't procured the crane and other equipment needed.

Mes Aynak, 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Kabul, lies in a province that is still considered a major transit route for insurgents coming from Pakistan. In July, two U.S. sailors were kidnapped and killed in Logar. Around 1,500 Afghan police guard the mine site and the road.

Promised funding from foreign governments has yet to materialize. The Afghan government has allotted $2 million for the dig and is trying to find another $5 million to $10 million, said Deputy Culture Minister Omar Sultan.

The United States has promised funding but hasn't yet figured out how much, said a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman, Mireille Zieseniss.

Mes Aynak's religious sites and copper deposits have been bound together for centuries – "mes" means "copper" in the local Dari language. Throughout the site's history, artisanal miners have dug up copper to adorn statues and shrines.

Afghan archaeologists have known since the 1960s about the importance of Mes Aynak, but almost nothing had been excavated. When the Chinese won the contract to exploit the mine in 2008, there was no discussion with Kabul about the ruins – only about money, security and building a railroad to transport the copper out of Logar's dusty hills.

But a small band of Afghan and French archaeologists raised a stir and put the antiquities on the agenda.

The mine could be a major boost for the Afghan economy. According to the Afghan Mining Ministry, it holds some 6 million tons of copper (5.52 million metric tons), worth tens of billions of dollars at today's prices. Developing the mine and related transport infrastructure will generate much needed jobs and economic activity.

Waheedullah Qaderi, a Mining Ministry official working on the antiquities issue, said MCC shares the government goal of protecting heritage while starting mining as soon as possible.

A good resolution is important for MCC "because it is their first-ever project in Afghanistan," Qaderi said. MCC is expected to make an offer for another lucrative mineral prize – the Hajigak iron mine in central Afghanistan, estimated to hold 1.9 billion tons (1.8 billion metric tonnes) of iron ore. Kabul opened bidding to develop the mine in late September and is expected to award the contract late this year or in early 2011.

Still, a diplomat briefed on internal meetings says MCC has pressured Kabul to stop archaeologists from looking for new places to dig beyond the 12 sites already found. The diplomat spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Marquis said MCC has been cooperative and has helped the archaeologists, hauling dirt away and asking what more needs to be done.

Zakir, the Afghan archaeologist, laughs. "Yes, they are very helpful. They want to help so that we can finish quickly. They want us gone." ~ courtesy: The Huffington Post ~

Total of 213,292 persons (50,235 families) in four Districts affected by floods

By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 13 Nov, 2010

This final report was issued by OCHA Sri Lanka on the floods from recent rainfall. It covers the period from 12 November to 13 November.

• The coordination and response to the flash floods is under control with the leadership of the Ministry of Disaster Management and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC). With the water rapidly receding from most areas and no rainfall during the last 24 hours, the expectation is that the situation will improve quickly.

• On Nov 12, the Minister of Disaster Management, held a flood response briefing with UN Agencies and NGOs both national and international to provide an overview of the situation and the efforts so far. The floods have gradually receded and there is no request for international assistance.

• The Disaster Management Centre of Sri Lanka issued a situation report on Nov 12 as at 18.00 with a total of affected persons at 213,292 persons (50,235 families) in four Districts (Colombo, Kalutara, Gampaha and Matara). A total of 17 evacuation centres have been set up in the Colombo District (16) and Gampaha District (1) with 20,604 persons (4,030 families) unable to return immediately to their homes at present.

• On Nov 13, a needs assessment of the affected areas and the remaining persons in evacuation sites is being conducted by the DMC in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS). The SLRCS through its Colombo branches also conducted a 24-Hour Assessment since Nov 11, and will continue with the 72-Hour assessment.

• Although the effects of the rains are significant, it has not deteriorated the food security of the affected people. World Food Programme (WFP) does not foresee substantial food security problems in the immediate future. Emergency food aid distribution is not presently required, however WFP will continue to monitor the situation closely.

• The Office of the Secretary of Health are monitoring concerns for safe water supply, sanitation, prevention of outbreak of diseases and provision of health services, adequate supply of ORS, antibiotics, chlorine tablets, TCL, skin and eye ointments, continuation of ante-natal and post-natal services, support of MOH surge capacity, and securing water pumps for the cleaning of contaminated wells and drainage.

"Politicians" are most directly responsible for lack of discipline in society

by Kalana Senaratne

The lack of discipline shown by certain groups of students in universities has been a cause of great distress to many—quite naturally. The manner in which certain students behaved recently causing damage to persons and property deserves condemnation. Students who have violated the law have to be held accountable.

MSTC1114.jpg

cartoon courtesy of: sundayleader.lk

Politicians, too, are deeply worried by this lack of discipline shown by the students. The concerns raised by the politicians are understandable, for politicians ought to be seriously concerned about matters of discipline concerning the youth population.

But, one finds it quite amusing, nowadays, to hear and listen to such concerns raised by politicians, on the topic of discipline. This is because the politicians have miserably failed to set any acceptable or appreciable decent standard in that regard which others could be asked to meet or follow. Politicians are not role models that the youth can look up to in this respect; one cannot emulate them, because that might amount to emulating indiscipline.

Politicians dish out advice about the importance of proper public conduct and discipline. But who will advise them in turn? Discipline is an absolute necessity, but didn’t that genuine and sad question suddenly pop up when listening to these politicians: ‘Who are they to talk about discipline?'

The moment one is provoked to ask that question from politicians, one knows that something has gone terribly wrong in society, which needs urgent attention; for these people are the lawmakers, the rulers, and supposedly the ‘guardians’ of the State. Generally, their views ought to be taken seriously, but instead, those views are either totally disregarded or considered cynically and mockingly.

A society that does so is not a healthy one; it tells us much about the present level of discipline, but also about the future. Before proceeding any further, it should be noted that the main concern here is not about the personal lives of politicians. Rather, the concern here is about politicians needing to be more disciplined when it comes to behaving in public as responsible members of society and more importantly, as elected representatives of the people.

Take that supreme and august body which was inundated recently, the Parliament. And consider for a moment whether anyone would take the views and advice on matters of discipline coming from those inside that building with any degree of seriousness, given the way in which they have conducted parliamentary affairs in recent years. We know that on a number of occasions, the Speaker has had to remind the Parliamentarians that school children are watching the proceedings and therefore they ought to behave and conduct themselves properly and decently.

Such are the standards set by the politicians! Certain Members of Parliament are notorious for using improper language during debates. We also remember the way in which certain JHU-monks were treated (manhandled) in Parliament some years ago.

That is how some politicians behave inside Parliament. Then they come out, and show us that they haven’t changed. They continue to behave in the most horrendous manner possible (the most obvious example being the actions of a certain notorious minister who tied a man to a tree). Such abhorrent practices are then seen to be condoned by the party-hierarchy. And when certain students misbehave, the counter-response is no better.

When viewed closely, it becomes quite clear that it is the ‘politician’ who is most directly responsible for lack of discipline in society, especially in the student community today. Consider the plight of an innocent student: he is used by undisciplined politicians to further their own political agendas; then, he is being confronted and harassed in a similar way by the unruly and undisciplined politicians and their goons; and finally, the student is seen to be advised on the importance of respecting law and order by those very politicians who were seen to be condoning the lack of discipline shown by those belonging to their party. The beginning, the middle, the end; in all these stages, the role of the undisciplined politician is so palpable.

There is also advice given about ‘food discipline’, which is again good and valuable advice (i.e. concerns shown regarding the reports carried in the newspapers that around 1800 doughnuts were being sold every thirty minutes in certain schools). But here again, on this issue of the health risks related to the intake of doughnuts and Indian/Chinese food, one needs to question whether politicians themselves have given thought to such advice. So while the school children are deprived of such food, how sure are we, the public, that the food these politicians eat especially in the Parliamentary cafeteria is only healthy local food and what they drink is fresh fruit juice!

Cleaning up the school cafeteria is a healthy move, but if school children are to take these ‘political uncles and aunties’ more seriously, may be one also needs to clean up the Parliamentary cafeteria which one hears is not such a healthy place after all.

These are only two ‘disciplinary’ issues which were highlighted most recently. Much more remains to be said about this topic, of course. Yet, what is clear is that lack of discipline is a major problem. As Judge Weeramantry noted in his book titled, ‘A Call for National Reawakening’, ‘lack of discipline’ is a national weakness; a weakness that we, as well as those visiting the country, are exposed to.

This is seen in a number of places and Judge Weeramantry highlights a few: littered streets, the conduct of motorists and bus drivers, lack of respect for the ‘queue system’, "shaping" any matter on questions of law and order at government institutions by speaking to someone in authority, the "do you know who I am?" syndrome, etc. Lack of discipline is "a habit of mind which is carried over into nearly all activities" and this "element of discipline is increasingly relegated to a position of insignificance."

This is what seems to have happened and what seems to be happening today. And in many of this, lack of discipline and the uninspiring role of the politician has been a very significant and debilitating one. But, alas, we should ask ourselves the question: do we have to wait until the politicians discipline themselves? I believe we shouldn’t. Firstly, that is because we wouldn’t know who would be able to discipline them. Secondly, it’s because that wait will be a very long one.

(Kalana Senaratne is a postgraduate research student at the Law Faculty, University of Hong Kong)

November 13, 2010

Mistrust, discontent and anger at LLRC North sessions

By Rathindra Kuruwita in Jaffna

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) sessions in Jaffna were a stark contrast to those held in Colombo. While the gallantry of the security forces, commendability of the government’s attempts at rehabilitation and resettlement and the importance of tri-lingual education for better understanding policy dominate the Colombo sessions, hostility, hundreds of mothers and widows cornering the commissioners to complain about lost family members and accusations of colonizationthe foremost features of Jaffna sessions.

The mistrust, discontent and anger of the ordinary citizens were shared by Jaffna intellectuals who gave evidence on November 12, accused the government of entrusting Tamil ministers of menial portfolios like law and welfare. When the panel mentioned late Lakshman Kadiragamar a former lecturer of the Jaffna University quipped back ‘he was never popular with the Tamils’.

The LLRC began taking submissions from November 11, and nearly 1000 individuals had come forward to hand over submissions in the first two days. The Commissioners visited Ariyalai and Kopai on the first day while another session was held in Alavetti, Sithankerney, Jaffna Kachcheri and Karainagar on the second day. During both days, the majority of the witnesses asked the LLRC Commissioners to help them find their sons and daughters who have disappeared during the latter part of Ealam War IV.

1000 tales of loss

During the session in Ariyalai, many witnesses were present at the meeting by 7 am and waited till 7pm to give evidence. Most of the stories have a similar story line, sudden abductions by white vans if the incident occurred in an area not directly affected by the Ealam War IV or families splitting up on their way to enter Army controlled areas.

Many accuse the Army and the EPDP of arresting or abducting family members and complain about lukewarm attitude of the authorities in handling of such complaints. The slow reaction of the authorities add to the Tamil peoples suspicion of the security forces and their allies.

Nitiyanandan Sivarubi of Alavetti told the Commission that her husband was abducted on July, 15, 2007 allegedly by army personnel travelling in a white van. She added that two day before the abduction that Army personnel have questioned her husband at the market.

“They have asked him whether he is a LTTE cadre and he has denied saying that he married and is the father of five. That’s why we think he may have been arrested by the army, so please try to help me find him,” she implored the Commissioners who probed deeply into the matter only to discover that a third party pretending to be attached to the Defense Ministry has taken Rs. 200, 000 each from seven such families promising the release of detainees.

“Few months after the abduction the Grama Niladari came and gave me the number of ‘Major Selan’ who could help me arrange the release of my husband. Six other families also contacted Major Selan who demanded Rs 200, 000 to secure the release of our loved once and we gave money to an individual who disappeared from the face of the earth after that,” she said.

Balachandran Annalakshmi was another person who paid Rs 200, 000 to save her brother, Ayyasami Shanmugamalei, who she alleged was abducted by the EPDP. She added that he went to the kovil for the pooja and was abducted by an EPDP cadre named Arivu. Clutching at straws her family also eked out the money that they thought would secure Ayyasami’s freedom.

Commissioners pledged that they would inform the defense secretary and the military establishment about such individuals who operate through/with the supports of state administrators.

Wives of LTTE leaders

Meanwhile, several mothers and widows of former LTTE cadres and leaders also appeared before the commissioners to seek assistance in determining whether they are dead or alive. Wives of Puthuvai Raththinathurai, Head of LTTE’s cultural wing, Yogaratnam Yogi, LTTE military advisor in Vanni and Vijidaran, Deputy of LTTE Political Chief Nadesan appeared before the LLRC to request the commissioners to tell them how their husbands met their ends.

“At Pudumatalan, I was injured by shells fire and I was taken away by the ICRC in May, 2009. After the end of the war, my husband who was Nadesan’s deputy surrendered to the army at Omanthei. I have no news of him ever since and I hear that all the political wing leaders were killed. I don’t know what to believe, can you please tell me whether he is dead or alive,” asked R. Arivoli, Vijidaran’s wife.

In almost all the sessions, the commissioners were not able to listen to all who had lost their family members and had to request the people to hand over their written submissions to the LLRC Secretariat. The extent of the scale of disappearances can be gauged by the fact that over 350 individuals in Sithankerney, which only has 3500 families, were gathered to complain about the loss of family members. Commissioner WMGS Palihakkara had to meet over 300 women who were determined to talk to a commissioner about the disappearance of their family members. Overall in the first two days, over 1000 such requests were submitted in areas of Jaffna which felt relatively little impact of the Ealam War IV.

Another main complaint was resettlement and ownership of land. This has been one of the much discussed topics of the LLRC and an issue of contention between all three main communities. While Muslim and Sinhala communities who were expelled by the LTTE want to return, Tamil community leaders complain that priority should always be given to the Tamils.

A large number of people who had formed societies to press for their issues told the Commissioners that the resettlement process in the High Security Zones (HSZ) were painstakingly slow despite the assurances given by President Rajapaksa and his brother Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Gerald Yesudasan, Chairman of the Maruthankerny Fishermen’s Cooperative told the LLRC that although the government had claimed some areas of the Jaffna HSZ has been relaxed for resettlement the military officers are refusing them entry into the area. He added that there are no mines in the area where he originally comes from.

“We can’t even fish in our traditional fishing grounds and we have to move into other areas and the fisherman of those areas don’t like it, for obvious reasons. On one hand the government said it will relax the HSZ but their ground level administrators refuse to let us near our own homes,” he said.

Access

Muttuthumai Wenayagamurthi, Chairman of the Displaced Association of Vel North requested the LLRC to allow them access to their traditional places of worship. He added that a large number of people are worried that the gods might punish them for not carrying out the prescribed rituals. Although Vel North area is cleared, the ground level military commander has only given them permission to visit the Kovil only once a year.

“We are not allowed to go near the temple but the Army has allowed other vandals to enter our villages and destroy houses and temples. When the owners can’t go in, why is the army allowing others to enter the area?” they quipped.

The much publicized return of 100 Sinhalese families were criticized by many individuals who claim that priority in the resettlement process should be given to the Tamils. The Sinhala families from the South are now camping in a state land in Nawatikudi. Government Agent of Jaffna, Emelda Shukumar told the aggravated citizens that these people have not been resettled yet and the administrators are waiting for the orders of higher ups.

The LLRC extended its tenure by another six months in order to accommodate ever growing numbers of individuals willing to testify before them. An important step considering the response from Jaffna residents which indicate at the troubling undercurrents of discontent and mistrust which flow beneath the fa‡ade of alleged progress made in winning the hearts and minds of the Tamils. COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

TNA MP Vinayagamurthi to be questioned by Vavuniya police over money scam

By Gayan Kumara Weerasinghe

Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP A.Vinayagamurthi is currently been sought by the Vavuniya police for questioning regarding a money scam allegedly carried out by him in the guise of locating disappeared persons from the North.

TNA MP has been summoned in this connection to the Vavuniya police, requiring him to be present by November 16, a senior policeman told this newspaper.

He said that currently the scam is in operation in the North where large amounts of money has been taken from gullible persons on the pretext of locating their long-lost relatives or kith and kin during the height of the war.

Our police source stated that from information received the TNA MP in question is alleged to have provided a cellular phone number of aan impersonator having described him as major of the Sri Lanka Army.

This MP had then allegedly told many families of missing persons that they could contact this Major and locate their relatives, while the bogus character is said to have acquired lakhs of rupees through the scam.

The police is said to have received two complaints in this regard and around Rs.75,000 to Rs.300,000 had been obtained from the families of missing persons under the assurance that loved ones will be found.

The complainants have told the police that a person who had arrived in a motor cycle sans any number plates had obtained the money from them in Vavunia and that the suspect has already disconnected his cellular phone.

Meanwhile, a person in Mannar who had dialed the phone number before it had been disconnected with the aim of locating one of the relatives had been advised to deposit a sum of money in a bank account.

That bank account is supposed to have been operated by the wife of a reputed underworld kingpin in Borella, the police have revealed.

This woman is now said to have disappeared after the police had blown the lid on the scam.

Vavunia District DIG Prasanna Nanayakkara noted that this scam had been in operation for some time with help from the politicians and advised the public not to fall prey, and if contacted by the operators of the scam, to inform the nearest police station.

He added that there was no need to throw valuable money in their efforts to locate missing or disappeared persons and the best course of action was to leave that task to the police and not be taken for a ride by racketeers and swindlers. When contacted TNA MP A Vinayagamurthi acknowledged that he has been ordered summoned to the Vavuniya police station on November 16.

He pointed out that he had forwarded the cellular phone number not with the intention of asking families of missing persons to pay money and that he had only come to know about that later.

The TNA MP insisted that he had played no role in the money being paid by people to dubious characters and that the person in question had contacted him several times posing as a soldier.

This shady character had told the TNA MP that he was in a position to release several LTTE suspects in police custody and had demanded a sum of 50 lakhs of rupees to release Elilan and a further sum of 30 lakhs to release Sudakaran.

MP Vinayagamurthi added that certain members from the families of missing persons had been constantly inquiring from him about their disappeared relatives when he was in the Jaffna district.

When he had inquired from the soldier, he had provided some information to him, which had prompted him to hand his mobile phone to the concerned family members, he explained. COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

Mahinda Rajapaksa Presidency: First term report card

by Namini Wijedasa

He tried to talk peace. When it failed, he gave leadership to a military campaign that defeated one of the most organised, ruthless, thriving and criminal terrorist organisations in the world. Not everyone is happy at the manner in which the battle was conducted. Allegations of war crimes keep dogging his footsteps, and those of his military. But Mahinda Rajapaksa is today a hero to millions of Sri Lankans that will forgive him anything — even barefaced nepotism and the obvious erosion of their civil liberties.

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Pic courtesy of: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times

On November 19, Mahinda Rajapaksa will take oaths for his second term as president. The ostentatious ceremony that is planned will mark an end to a first term that was such a complex mix of good and bad that it is impossible conclude whether the former outweighs the latter.

As a politician, Rajapaksa has proved himself astute, suave, focused, and strategic. He could charm the whiskers off a cat. Judging by the manner in which he manoeuvred his way to the top (nobody had imagined that he would one day be president and a war-winning one at that), Machiavelli isn’t a patch on him. Once he got there, he gathered his family around him like a protective cloak and decimated the opposition with a cunning that has left political analysts reeling. Sri Lanka no longer has a viable opposition.

First term

The pluses of President Rajapaksa’s first term are well documented, not least his defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The Tigers facilitated his victory over Ranil Wickremesinghe at the 2005 presidential election by instigating a boycott of the poll in the North and East. It was a move Velupillai Prabhakaran lived — and later died — to regret.

President Rajapaksa made his brother, Gotabhaya, his defence secretary, injected resources into the military like never before, gathered some efficient commanders around him, fended off international criticism and obliterated the LTTE. For the first time in thirty years, the sceptre of the suicide bomb was gone.

But the final stages of the war also left with it burning questions about civilian casualties caused by the use of heavy weaponry. While the LTTE had inarguably directed heavy weapons against advancing troops, the military maintained they were not firing artillery or mortar shells into areas with civilian populations — particularly the designated ‘no fire’ zones.

The end of the war then threw up new challenges. The government’s treatment of the Tamil displaced came into question. The president was criticised for incarcerating thousands of civilians in ‘concentration camps’; of blocking media and international aid organisations from these camps; and of an uncaring attitude towards Tamils. For many months, the government was on collision course with NGOs, global media, aid organisations and the West.

Today, however, the majority of displaced Tamils have been returned to the North and East and only a few thousand remain in camps. There is much to be done. De-mining is still ongoing; local economies are yet to be resuscitated; the displaced may have been taken to their villages but many live in rudimentary housing while others have none; schools, hospitals, transport, road networks and other government institutions have to be rebuilt; NGOs, aid organisations and even multilateral agencies continue to face inexplicable access restrictions; and the military must get out and leave civil administration to civilians.

The North is particularly far from returning to its pre-war past or from matching development in the South. And the funds are not enough. Still, nobody said it would be easy to rebuild a country after 30 years of war.

Sharing power

There is no discussion today on sharing power with Tamils or other minorities. President Rajapaksa staged an elaborate show of an All Party Representatives Conference and then dumped all reports pertaining to devolution in the proverbial dustbin. Critics maintain that the president has still not won the hearts and minds of Tamils in the North. It is an area he must work on.

One of the hallmarks of President Rajapaksa’s post-war development plan is the rebuilding of infrastructure. Roads are being reconstructed in the North and East at a speed not witnessed in recent times. Bridges are whole again, causeways are replacing ferries and many government institutions, including police stations, in those areas are housed in new buildings. Many tertiary roads are now made of concrete. Agriculture has taken off, there is no restriction on fishing, high security zones in limited areas are dismantled and there is a promise that checkpoints will be removed.

In other parts of the country, projects that were blocked for years are near completion or well on their way. The Upper Kotmale Hydro Power Project and the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant are among them. An airport will come up at Mattala and Hambantota has a new port. Highways are being built and railway tracks extended. Cities in all parts of the country are getting facelifts. Even Moneragala, commented a friend recently, is like Nugegoda. There are gleaming tarred roads now in Ampara, Hambantota, Moneragala and Badulla, to name a few. There is a tunnel at Ramboda and roads in Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, Mahiyangana, Puttalam and Anuradhapura are also being rehabilitated.

Social infrastructure

But while there is heavy investment in physical infrastructure, the money injected into social infrastructure is low. The health and education sectors are floundering. The funds allocated to them are insufficient or less than before while defence, even after the end of the war, gets a lion’s share.

In short, a villager can take a nice road to a rural hospital and get turned away because the institution does not have the necessary drugs. Private television stations still highlight the plight of students who have shacks for school buildings. School textbooks are riddled with errors. Teachers need training and examiners need training. All levels of government officials need training and there are serious questions about the capacity of the public sector. Fancy roads and sturdy bridges can’t fix that.

Yes, agriculture has taken off. No, it hasn’t led to lower consumer prices or decent income for producers who continue to remain poor. Instead, the middlemen are more powerful than ever. Paddy production is high but the government cannot buy the produce. Neither have they devised a system to reduce the vast difference between the prices that producers get and the prices that consumers pay. Despite encouraging macro economic indicators, the cost of living is prohibitive.

RIGHTS/WRONGS

Then, there is the question of civil liberties. Why, in this day and age, does President Rajapaksa maintain the Emergency Regulations? The only plausible reason would be that he wishes to invoke them against his ‘enemies’ and unfortunately he has not shied from doing so. He once nurtured the media in his rise to power. But President Rajapaksa has today lost the inclination to tolerate criticism of his policies. Self-censorship is the norm among journalists because that is the way he wants it. Others are happy to sing along to the many ditties dedicated to the president.

Through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, President Rajapaksa did away with the two-term limit imposed on the executive presidency, a vital check on power. The legislation also effectively ensures that there isn’t a single independent oversight institution in this country. It is something that Sri Lankans will one day rue.

Everything — from the elections and police commission to the auditor general and bribery commission — now falls now under the control of the president. So do hundreds of other government institutions that are either under his purview or under the purview of one of his brothers.

Anybody who is anybody in the government today either belongs or is closely allied with the ruling family. President Rajapaksa has a sprawling cabinet but hardly any other ministers get publicity. The state media, which has the widest reach, is dominated by a few people. The president has also been criticised for appointing henchmen and ‘yes men’ as advisors and to key posts.

Still, President Rajapaksa today is well on his way to achieving cult status among Sri Lankans. He promotes this through well-targeted campaigns that serve to enhance his image. The elaborate ceremonies planned for his swearing-in next week are an example of how this happens.

The future of President Rajapaksa is successfully equated with the future of Sri Lanka. The message is that if he fails, Sri Lanka fails too — and one of the president’s greatest achievements is that an entire nation willingly believes this. COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

Can Tamil diaspora efforts to get President Rajapaksa arrested as a war crminal succeed?

An Interview with Prof.Lakshman Marasinghe by Namini Wijedasa

Pro-LTTE diaspora groups recently succeeded in planting a story in local and international media that President Mahinda Rajapaksa cancelled a trip to the UK since he feared arrest over war crimes. This has reopened a debate on whether a head of state has unqualified immunity from arrest in another country. What does international law say on this?

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Prof.Lakshman Marasinghe

The traditional view is that international law becomes a part of the domestic law of a state when that state has decided to legislate the international law rules through the parliament of that state. The UK parliament in 1708 legislated the international law rules so as to provide immunity to certain categories of foreign state dignitaries. Thus, a head of state was entitled to immunity from all legal processes before the foreign court. This privilege is ancient and the courts recognized this as a legal fact in 1844 in the decision of the House of Lords in The Duke of Brunswick v The King of Hanover.

However, the granting of immunity is a sovereign act of the receiving state. I don’t think there is any doubt the president would be granted immunity by UK. He will not travel to the UK like any one of us. He would no doubt have his visit recognized by the UK government, a matter which his foreign minister would do through the UK High Commission.

But on October 4, 2001, the UK became a signatory to the Rome Treaty which established an International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague giving each of the signatories what in fact amounts to universal jurisdiction over four categories of universal wrongs characterized under the Rome Treaty. These are crime of genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes and crime of aggression.

Article 27 reads that, “the Statute apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity as a Head of State or Government, a member of a Government or Parliament, an elected representative or a government official shall in no case exempt a person from criminal responsibility under this statute, nor shall it, in and of itself, constitute a ground for reduction of sentence.”

Article 27 of the Rome Statute quite clearly cuts the very basis upon which diplomatic immunity was conceived as fundamental to sovereign intercourse among nations. The UK by being a signatory to the Rome Treaty placed upon itself an obligation not to award immunity to whomever may have committed any one of the four crimes. That obligation is one that the UK courts are empowered to apply.

A report in UK’s The Independent newspaper said that immunity for heads of state is only active if the person allegedly responsible for offences is in the UK on an official capacity and not on a private trip like the one that President Rajapaksa was due to make. Is this true?

If the head of state is visiting another state, the question of sovereign immunity must be established before he enters that state. The receiving state has a right to refuse the award of immunity to that person which means he will not be covered by immunity. Immunity for a private visit must be first established. But then for certain crimes such as violation of human rights, war crimes — at least in the UK law — aggrieved parties could go to courts and claim that the visiting dignitary be arrested and charged under its own law notwithstanding the immunity. That was what happened to Pinochet. Now under the Rome Statute there is no prospect of immunity at all.

The same report said: “...but there is apprehension among some abroad that one may be vulnerable even during official visits because the law is not sufficiently clear”. Is this correct?

I believe that is correct. The problem is that in the UK there are two sets of laws operating in this area — the domestic law and the provisions of the Rome Treaty. The UK is bound by both and therefore the uncertainty.

The Global Tamil Forum has been trying to get proceedings instituted against President Rajapaksa and other Sri Lankan officials or military on allegations of war crimes. The government has asked them to substantiate their claims. Could they succeed?

At the beginning of this year Canada arrested a Canadian national of former Rwandese nationality who had committed war crimes in Rwanda on an application made to the Canadian courts by other Rwandese nationals of the Hutu ethnic group. He had participated in the ethnic killings of Tutsis. Canada decided to hold the trial before the Canadian courts without submitting him to the International Criminal Court, with the consent of the all powerful ICC ‘prosecutor-general’. The danger is therefore of the diaspora moving the UK courts to issue an arrest warrant. This was what happened to Pinochet. Such an application for arrest could be made by anyone, who may not even reside in the UK. In the Pinochet case, the application was made by a judge of a magistrate’s court in Spain based on the right of universal jurisdiction which the UK courts have, UK being a signatory to the Rome Treaty.

The government has asked pro-LTTE groups to substantiate their allegations of war crimes. How much information would these groups have to furnish to a court in the UK to get a Sri Lankan head of state or official indicted?

These are normally heard before the Bow Street Magistrate. In the Pinochet second decision before the House of Lords, Lord Goff made the point that “the courts of this country must remain conscious of the fact that a foreign dignitary should not be impleaded in our courts unless there are compelling reasons to do so”. As recently as last week, Prime Minister Cameron informed the Government of Israel that he will propose to the UK Parliament legislation to protect visiting foreign dignitaries from being arrested against charges detailed under Article 5 of the Rome Treaty, unless they themselves had personally committed such wrongs.

At the end of the day it is a question of burden of proof. The two levels of proof known to the Law of England are beyond reasonable doubt and a balance of probabilities.

We have only the House of Lords decision in the second hearing of Pinochet to go with. It certainly cannot be a mere balance of probabilities or what is referred to as the Carr-Bryant Rule. It must go much beyond that. The evidence must be so compelling that the court should have no alternative but to issue the warrant of arrest. In Pinochet’s case there was overwhelming evidence against him.

So, the chances of an indictment are slim?

However, I might mention a matter which greatly disturbs some of us who deal with this area of the law. Article 13 of the Rome Treaty mentions three sources from which the exercise of jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court could be aroused. First, by any one of the state parties that has signed the Treaty, such as the UK. Second, by way of a resolution passed in the Security Council invoking the powers vested in that Council under Chapter VII. That was the route taken to implead President Omar Bashir of Sudan. Third is a most disturbing aspect where, by a combination of Article 13 (c) and 15 (1), the prosecutor may himself proprio motu initiate proceedings.

This appears to make the prosecutor a very powerful person. Of course, he must under Article 57 seek an authorization from the “pre-trial chamber” and thereafter under Article 58 have a writ of arrest issued. The iniquitous nature of such a power is all too obvious. A warrant thus issued under Article 58 at the behest of one person - the prosecutor - would now become enforceable in Timbuktu against and unsuspecting head of state on a visit to view ancient African artefacts!

This matter regarding the prosecutor’s powers may come before the Appeals Chamber, taken from Kenya where the present prosecutor obtained a writ of arrest against some of the state functionaries there — including the president and prime minister — over the election riots of yesteryear.

What are the latest developments that might indicate that heads of state may not be granted immunity in future?

The two very latest are of the president of the Sudan and the president and prime minister of Kenya. Many African leaders have been previously charged, particularly from the Congo, and President Charles Taylor of Sierra Leone is presently before the court. Then, what of the Yugoslavian duo?

Do you think international law will be amended to favour heads of state on the argument that diplomacy cannot function with threat of arrest hanging over national leaders?

I don’t see a trend towards re-establishing the immunity for heads of state for such crimes. Particularly after Charles Taylor and those charged with war crimes in Yugoslavia, the world community is in no mood to be charitable towards persons of that ilk and including Omar Bashir of Sudan.

My belief is that the question of immunity to heads of state and others who have participated in committing crimes catalogued in Article 5 of the Rome Treaty have evoked not sympathy but universal revulsion. To consider providing immunity to those heads of state and those of their ilk, who had thus far gone before the ICC, simply boggles the mind and may not in reality be considered by the international community... at least not in the present day and time.

(Prof Marasinghe is Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Windsor, Windsor Ontario Canada and Attorney-at-Law of the Inner Temple, Barrister-at-Law. He is also Visiting Professor of Law, University of Colombo.This interview appears in Lakbima News of November 14th 2010)

How President Mahinda Rajapaksa has transformed Sri Lanka

by Tisaranee Gunasekara

"Mother, are your watching from heaven, as the Son, who the gods and the Brahmas sent to your womb from golden palaces, is protecting the Nation?” (From a song dedicated to President Rajapaksa’s mother)

Admire him or detest him, support him or decry him, the indubitable fact is that in five short years Mahinda Rajapaksa has transformed Sri Lanka, almost beyond recognition.

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pic: namalrajapaksa.com

Some of President Rajapaksa’s achievements are glaringly evident. He (together with his brother Gotabaya and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka) ended a nearly three-decade war in less than three years. The LTTE, thought by many to be invincible, was comprehensively defeated and top Tiger leaders, including Velupillai Pirapaharan, decimated.

The wish-list of the irrationals on the ultra-Sinhala fringe has been turned into the official policy of Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa denied the very existence of an ethnic problem, removed the task of achieving a political solution from the national agenda and even effaced the very terms ‘ethnic problem’, ‘political solution’ and ‘devolution’ from the political lexicon. The APRC is dead and plans to change the demographics of the North and the East via state-aided colonisation drives is continuing apace.

A recent cabinet paper ordered provincial councils to seek permission from relevant line ministries before issuing any circulars, thereby making a mockery of the 13th Amendment.

The 18th Amendment axed the presidential term-limit clause, the sole really-existing obstacle to long term Rajapaksa Rule and turned the Independent Commissions into Presidential appendages. The consequent transformation of top public officials (especially the Elections Commissioner and the IGP) into mere presidential ciphers has immeasurably enhanced the possibility of future elections becoming stage-managed exercises with predetermined outcomes, like the electoral black-comedy in Myanmar.

The politically motivated trial and incarceration of defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka is having on the democratic opposition the same stunning effect the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge had on the non-state media.

Both deeds demonstrate how deadly dangerous it is to seriously challenge Rajapaksa rule. The point is driven home consistently in diverse ways, from the harassment of the aged mother of the press-owner who printed a poster comparing President Rajapaksa and Herr Hitler to the sudden escalation of deaths in police custody.

Post-war, the militarization of Sri Lanka continues. Defence expenditure dwarfs all other items in the 2011 budget. The military controls the civil administration of the North while plans are afoot to garrison even the Sinhala majority districts. A new intelligence service is to be set up.

The defence establishment persists in imposing restrictions on the rights of citizens, the most recent case in point being the limiting of the number of SIM-cards an individual can own, arbitrarily, without even informing the Telecommunication Regulation Authority.

The Emergency and the PTA continue to be in force while the Defence Ministry is making ever deeper inroads into civil administration; for instance, the Ministry recently took over the management of public bill-boards in Colombo and ordered foreign and local aid workers to register with it. Sri Lanka is being moved rapidly into the Chinese sphere of influence, possibly as a counter to future pressures from India and the West.

The Rajapaksas rule supreme, from Point Pedro to Point Dondra.

Democracies can be assaulted from without or undermined from within. History is littered with examples of elected leaders using the power they gained democratically to transform democracies into autocracies. Such as the Duvaliers in Haiti; Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier came to power democratically in a free and fair election.

Once in power, President Duvalier moved systematically to build personal and familial rule. He hounded his defeated rival out of politics, used terror to subdue his opponents and changed the constitution to enable his own re-election (the Haitian constitution permitted only one presidential term). Duvalier became ‘President for Life’ and nominated his son Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) as his successor, via a constitutional amendment.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa was nominated the SLFP’s Presidential candidate in 2005, he named his election manifesto Mahinda Chinthanaya, after himself (a song written for the occasion referred to Rajapaksa as a ‘King who believes in equality’). This move, unprecedented in Lankan politics, seems portentous with hindsight. As President, Rajapaksa worked diligently to create a personality cult and to gather all power into his and his siblings’ hands. The Rajapaksa brothers control key ministries as well as a lion’s share of the public funds (around 70% of the national budget).

At the last parliamentary election, his eldest son Namal formerly entered the political arena. Though only a neophyte parliamentarian, he accompanies his father on official visits abroad and plays the role of ‘heir-apparent’, casting even the Foreign Minister into shade. (Namal played the high official, unofficially, even before he entered parliament; for instance, he was a keynote speaker at the official 61st Independence Day ceremony at the Lankan Embassy in Washington, together with Ambassador Jaliya Wickremasuriya, a son of President Rajapaksa’s first cousin).

After just five years of Rajapaksa rule, the necessary line of demarcation between the First Family and the state is almost non-existent. Thraunyata Hetak (Awakening Youth), an organisation formed by Namal Rajapaksa in the 2005 Presidential election season, is planning to set up ‘Blue Villages’ (Nil Gammana) in the Kandy District to mark the upcoming swearing-in of President Rajapaksa. According to UPFA Parliamentarian Dilum Amunugama, “The purpose of this project is to develop the villages and to promote the Nil Balakaya… The project has been funded by government institutions, NGOs and through private funding” (Daily Mirror – 10.11.2010; emphasis mine). Nil Balakaya (the Blue Brigade), an affiliate of Tharunyata Hetak, emerged literally out of the blue, fully formed and generously endowed, about one year ago.

According to Namal Rajapaksa, it “has a political objective. Nil Balakaya was made cynosure to the youth (sic) who are ‘fed up’ with party politics… Nil Balakaya wants to make the youth a political being (sic)…” (The Sunday Observer – 4.4.2010). Neither Tharunyata Hetak nor Nil Balakaya is a statal or a para-statal organisation. They are political entities with partisan agendas (according to a report by Transparency International, Tharunyata Hetak placed TV and radio advertisements worth Rs. 90 million during the Presidential election, indirectly supporting Candidate Rajapaksa). And yet, they continue to receive massive state patronage.

Louis XIV of France, in a statement which symbolised the absolutist monarchist ethos, infamously equated himself with the state. In absolutist states, public funds would belong to rulers to do as they please, be it building palaces, promoting relatives or rewarding favourites. But in a democracy, public funds cannot be used to promote partisan political projects, even when they belong to a presidential offspring. The public has a right to know why its tax money is being used to fund activities by Tharunyata Hetak or to promote Nil Balakaya. This constant breaching of the essential line of demarcation between the state and the Ruling Family should cause public outrage. The fact it doesn’t indicates how far we have come in the short first-term of President Rajapaksa.

Because, the most portentous of the Rajapaksa achievements is the consensual imposition of a new commonsense on the Lankan public, turning the impossible and the inconceivable into unremarkable daily fare. We do not laugh when President Rajapaksa is hailed as High King. We have accepted the equation of Rajapaksa interests with national interests and are unmoved by the blatant creation of a ‘Familiocracy’. The notions of ‘president for life’ or ‘heirs-apparent’ would have appalled us once but do not anymore. We choose not to see the danger of the militarisation of Sri Lanka by a Rajapaksaised military and are willing to sacrifice our democratic freedoms in return for being saved from apocryphal dangers.

Perhaps the unquestioning acceptance of such abominations as ‘humanitarian offensives,’ ‘zero-casualty wars’ and ‘welfare villages’ has adapted us psychologically to accept lesser lies and outrages, with complaisance. Perhaps we are willing to be deceived because we realise that the truth is too unpleasant and frightening to be handled, and would impede our determination to continue with our daily lives as if nothing much has changed in the last five years.

For a dynastic project to be viable, it must be placed within an ideological framework which legitimises the rule of one family by making its interests coterminous with the interests of key segment/s of the populace. Using the stupendous victory over the Tigers (won without making a single political concession to the Tamils and after rolling back many progressive measures of the 1987-2005 period), the Rajapaksas have succeeded in persuading a majority of the Sinhala majority of the correctness of their Family-centric narrative.

This narrative depicts Mahinda Rajapaksa as the sole Leader-Hero-Saviour of the Nation and identifies the continuation of Rajapaksa rule as a necessary and sufficient precondition for the protection of the nation from internal and external threats.

It redefines Sri Lanka as a country of One Nation, One People, One Leader; patriotism is loyalty to the One Leader who embodies the spirit of the One Nation and expresses the will of the One People. By implicitly transferring the sovereignty of the nation and the people on to the leader, it has enabled the creation of a National Security State, with a difference.

The purpose of Sri Lanka’s nascent National Security State is not the protection of rule by an ethnic or religious group or a class; its purpose is perpetuating Rajapaksa Rule and Rajapaksa Dynastic succession. A democratic façade is used to justify what is essentially an anti-democratic monstrosity. Even the incessant invocation of national values is nothing more than a gimmick, as the passing of the Gaming Bill demonstrates.

During his first term President Rajapaksa ruled by imposing a consensual hegemony on the Sinhala majority and a non-consensual domination on the minorities. The continuation of this dualist strategy depends on his capacity to deliver the peace dividend to the Southern masses in his second term (the minorities are cowed and will remain so, until new leaderships emerge). But this political requirement runs counter to the economic strategy of the regime.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal during his recent sojourn in the United States, President Rajapaksa promoted Sri Lanka as a low-cost alternative to China. This would entail turning Sri Lanka into a ‘sweat-shop hub’ characterised by low wages, poor living conditions, low educational levels and absence of trade union rights, sustainable only under conditions of despotism.

In the context of such an anti-popular economic strategy, the Rajapaksas need to remain Sinhala heroes if they are to retain their hegemony in the South. Therefore in his second term President Rajapaksa will accelerate attempts to create a siege mentality by conjuring Northern, Southern and international enemies and Tiger, JVP and even UNP threats.

The recent hype about ‘wheat terrorism’ is indicative of the Rajapaksa willingness to invoke the most preposterous of bogeys to justify their inability to deliver economic relief to their Southern base. Where these tactics fail, naked terror will be used, selectively.

Rains and the resultant deluges permitting, the second-Rajapaksa swearing in will be celebrated with the pomp and pageantry befitting a coronation. Ranil Wickremesinghe was hailed as a harbinger of a bright new future when he took over from Gamini Dissanayake.

For two decades, Velupillai Pirapaharan was praised as a great leader and even worshipped as a living god. Yet they both turned out to be disasters for the causes they espoused. For many Sri Lankans, the encomiums which will be heaped on President Rajapaksa at the end of his first term may not seem all that excessive.

But his final legacy may turn out to be not dissimilar to that of the marginalised Wickremesinghe or the dead Pirapaharan. It is a thought to remember as we stand on the cusp between the First and Second Rajapaksa Presidential terms and look back at five transformative years; or watch the hubris-laden celebration hailing our Rajapaksa future.

Obamas Passage to India has raised Washington-New Delhi relations to new level

by Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The mass media are a mirror of society would it be correct to observe that Sri Lankan society has paradoxically become more insular as the world, and human existence itself, has become more globalised?

I pose the question not only because I did not notice a single Colombo newspaper carry a front page photograph of the important Obama visit to India, but also because I grew up with a father who as editor of the Daily News, introduced syndicated columnists of the New York Times, including the iconic James Reston, into the paper’s pages and wrote considered editorials on Nixon’s visit to China.

Obama’s passage to India may or may not prove quite as historic as that visit in 1972, but it is of enormous significance. The explicit articulation of a strategic partnership between the USA and India, its definition as a partnership of equals, the regional and global aims of that alliance, Obama’s open support for India’s Security Council aspirations and the reciprocity that would doubtless ensue in multilateral forums and India’s superb demonstration of ‘soft power’ will all have their impact in the years and possibly decades to come.

What is most interesting about the Obama–India interaction and the new levels it has taken the equation to, is precisely the combination of hard power and soft power: the convergence of strategic interests and congruency of values. Both powers, and more crucially, both societies and peoples, see themselves as secular, federal, pluralist democracies.

Since the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2005, and certainly President Bush’s visit of the next year, commentators have speculated about an Indo-US alliance, but Sri Lankan readers had been alerted to the prospect from at least one year prior to the nuclear deal, as far back as 2004, and their attention redrawn to it in the years that followed. In two articles in 2004, I wrote:

“Historically India’s Congress Party has been more comfortable with the Democrats, and Washington and Delhi will draw still closer than they are today…. An Indo-US condominium…the emerging constellation of a Democrat victory, the Congress govt. and a strengthened US-India axis…”

(‘Chandrika’s options, Ranil’s tactics, JVP’s game, Mahinda’s role’, http://www.island.lk/2004/06/06/politi04.htm)

I repeated this later in the same year:

“…Historic, ideological and personal ties make for closer convergence between Washington and Delhi under Democratic and Congress administrations… a closely congruent equation between Washington and New Delhi… an Indo-US condominium …the emerging constellation of a Democrat victory, the Congress government and a strengthened US-India axis …” ( A Kerry Win: Implications for Sri Lanka Oct 14th, 2004)
Commenting in early 2006 on President Bush’s visit to India, I wrote:

“The South Asian region affects us; more so when the development involves both the pre-eminent regional power, our giant neighbour India, and the world’s sole superpower, the United States. And yet, Sri Lankans have been notably myopic with regard to the qualitative leap in the Indo-US relationship by means of the nuclear deal, a deal, which is symptomatic of a portentous new factor in world affairs. This factor could unleash a new, history-making dynamic…The rights and wrongs of the new agreement between Washington and Delhi should not detain us here. What is more pertinent is how the Indo-US axis affects Sri Lankan interests…”
(‘America’s passage to India: Implications for Sri Lanka’, Dayan Jayatilleka www.dailynews.lk/2006/03/15/fea01.asp)

It is against this back drop that all thinking Sri Lankans must take cognisance of the chapter on Sri Lanka in a brand new book by Robert D Kaplan, entitled Monsoon: The Future Of The Indian Ocean And The Future Of American Power (2010). Kaplan, a member of the Pentagon’s Defence Policy Board and the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the US Naval Academy is an influential political writer and opinion maker in the strategic community, author of 12 books, and national correspondent for The Atlantic. Legendary former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, regarded as the author of strategy for the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan and of ‘Communism’ in Poland, describes the book as “an intellectual treat: Beautiful writing is not incompatible with geopolitical imagination and historical flair”.

It is not necessary to concur with Kaplan’s assessment of Sri Lanka. Prof Michael Roberts’ and Sergei de Silva-Ranasinghe’s critiques of his extended essay in The Atlantic on Sri Lanka as smacking of ‘Orientalist’ prejudice, resonates with me. That criticism holds true of his chapter on Sri Lanka in this book, but that is neither here nor there. What is significant is his main thesis, which the book’s dust-jacket (the hardback’s cover is illustrated with an ancient map in which Ceylon is quite centrally placed) summarises in the following terms:

“Like the monsoon itself, a cyclical weather system that is both destructive and essential for growth and prosperity, the rise of these countries (including India, Pakistan, China, Indonesia, Burma, Oman, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Tanzania) represents a shift in the global balance that cannot be ignored. The Indian Ocean area will be the true nexus of world power and conflict in the coming years. It is here that the fight for democracy, energy independence, and religious freedom will be lost or won, and it is here that American foreign policy must concentrate if America is to remain dominant in an ever changing world”.

Having opined that “Sri Lanka grows in importance in this Indian Ocean-centric world” Kaplan writes that “Sri Lanka…is the ultimate register of geopolitical trends in the Indian ocean region” (p 209).

Many Sri Lankans may find this flattering and some part of me does too, but I am far too aware of the seminal observation of the founder of realist history writing, Thucydides: “the real cause I consider to be the one which was formally most kept out of sight: the growth of the power of Athens and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon [Sparta]”.

Acutely aware as I am of the Melian Dialogue in Thucydides’ History Of The Peloponnesian Wars, and the relative unimportance of our perceptions of ‘right’ when the perceived strategic interests of the mighty are at stake, I trust that in the great power competition in the Indian Ocean region, Sri Lanka will not be misperceived as a 21st century isle of Melos.

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi Resilient Symbol of Desire for Democracy

by Daniel Schearf

Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, is the daughter of Burma's independence leader Aung San, who was assassinated when she was a child.

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Aung San Suu Kyi tries to quieten the ecstatic crowd to allow her to speak to them Photograph: EPA-more pictures-GuardianUK

But she lived abroad most of her life and despite her father's legacy, did not become involved in Burma's politics until 1988 when pro-democracy protests swept the country.

As the leader of the National League for Democracy, she led the party to victory in 1990 elections. But the military, which has ruled for five decades, ignored the results and locked up Aung San Suu Kyi for most of the past 20 years.

"Aung San Suu Kyi is an icon," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University. "She won a Nobel Peace prize. She has suffered so much. The NLD won the last election. They won the last election in 1990. So, they've been robbed for 20 years. This has been a systematic, two-decades-long usurpation."

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts to bring democracy to Burma. She was released from house arrest in 2002 and huge crowds gathered across the country to hear her speak. But one year later the government put her back in detention after a pro-military group attacked her convoy.

The government claimed the house arrest was for her protection. But it later extended her detention after convicting Aung San Suu Kyi of violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam a lake to reach her home.

Thitinan says the ruling generals have done everything in their power to harass, intimidate, coerce, and marginalize Aung San Suu Kyi. Thousands of her supporters, who simply call her "The Lady," have been imprisoned for opposing the military. But despite this, and the years of being largely cut off from the outside world, he says Aung San Suu Kyi remains a potent symbol for advocates of democracy in Burma.

"She symbolizes and personifies many of the hopes and dreams of the Burmese people, of course," added Thitinan. "And, she has earned that over the last two decades through her sufferings, through her democratic ideals, through her crusade, and through her demonstration of her personal will at the expense of her family, at the expense of her own health, and so on."

Aung San Suu Kyi studied at Oxford, married British academic Michael Aris, and had two sons. When her husband in England was sick with cancer she chose not to visit him for fear she would not be allowed back into Burma. The military would not allow him a visa to visit her. He died in 1999, having not seen his wife for several years. - Voice of America -

Related:

November 12, 2010

An island of mistrust

by Bob Rae

Excerpted with permission from Exporting Democracy: The Risks and Rewards of Pursuing a Good Idea, by Bob Rae, published in 2010 by Mc-Clelland & Stewart.

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Bob Rae MP, Liberal opposition's foreign affairs critic ~ pic: Western Law

What lessons are we to draw from the Sri Lankan conflict? Something deep in the culture of antagonism that pervades modern Sri Lanka made it impossible for a peace process leading toward genuine reconciliation to be accepted.

The hold of religious zealotry and political extremism in Sri Lanka was strong and depressingly persistent. The stubbornness of the Sinhalese majority created the conditions for a turn to violence by the Tamil minority in the 1970s, and a militant cult of personality and exclusionary nationalism on the part of the LTTE (also known as the Tamil Tigers) set the country on a course of conflict that proved irreversible.

The elimination of the voices of moderation, the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the decision to seek a military victory after the collapse of the ceasefire with the government in 2008: these decisions by the LTTE proved to be disastrous for it and for the entire Tamil community in whose name the LTTE was allegedly fighting. The degeneration of a militant cadre into a death cult is not unique to Sri Lanka, but partly explains why the end was so destructive.

The decision of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran to order the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi summed up his ruthlessness and fatal hubris. As Talleyrand might have said, it was worse than wrong, it was stupid.

Gandhi's death earned Prabhakaran the eternal enmity of the Indian government, particularly the Congress Party government. It led to his death sentence in absentia and his status as an international criminal. It meant that he could not lead a movement from armed struggle to sincere political negotiation. A high-ranking Indian diplomat told me emphatically that whatever political course was charted, "Prabhakaran is a dead man. Is that understood?" Prabhakaran would have known this. He could never become a Nelson Mandela or even a Yasser Arafat. His endgame was martyrdom.

A very different man might have separated himself from the movement in order to save it. Prabhakaran did no such thing -- he used the personality cult right to the bitter end, leading thousands of women, men and children to the slaughter with him.

Sri Lanka has now fallen into a dangerous authoritarianism with the Rajapaksa brothers and their government fully in control.

They can point to elections as the source of their legitimacy, but the evidence of a politicized judiciary, widespread corruption, and a deeply repressed and partisan media is a troubling reflection of a political agenda that is leaning far away from the respect for rights and diversity that lies at the heart of the democratic idea.

This is the terrible irony today. President Mahinda Rajapaksa won a massive majority in the presidential election in 2010, defeating General Sarath Fonseka, who had led the government forces to victory. He then promptly threw Fonseka in jail. Opinion is behind him. There are courts that sit, judges that go to work every day, and newspapers written and sold throughout the country, but none of them dare challenge the government. Anyone who does is threatened, harassed, and told they are not welcome. Dozens of journalists have been killed, and many more have left the country.

Democracy is much more than who can win an election. It is how a country is governed between elections. It is government by discussion, not by diktat and decree.

Sri Lanka was at war for half a century, and the end of the war has not reduced the demand for more money and more arms.

Instead, military spending and related racketeering have skyrocketed.

Defence now accounts for over a fifth of all government spending and shows no signs of going down. This militarization has far-reaching implications for democracy. But while the West worries, no one is prepared to do anything about it. Sri Lanka's closest allies-- China, Pakistan, Burma, and Iran -- are not going to criticize the government for its authoritarian ways or its democratic deficit. The decision by the International Monetary Fund in 2009 to authorize

US$2.6-billion in credit to Sri Lanka -- with Canada's support, but abstentions from many Western governments -- plus Sri Lanka's success at convincing the United Nations Human Rights Council that there was no merit in an international review of its conduct of the war, is a clear sign that severe repression can take place with impunity.

In 2009, the Worldwide Press Freedom Index placed Sri Lanka between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Today it would be even lower. Transparency International consistently reports corruption at the highest echelons of both the executive and legislative levels of government. A Sri Lanka where mutual respect, some autonomy for Tamils, shared governance, and an abandonment of extremist ideologies are all possible is, tragically, just a dream for now. Becoming involved in the politics of Sri Lanka has affected me deeply. I could see from the outset that peace and reconciliation were an unlikely result, but the extent of the failure, and the full dimensions of the violence involved have forced me to recognize the difficulty of "sharing experiences."

The resolution of deep conflicts isn't a matter of good ideas beating bad ones. It requires far more consistent international pressure, a willingness to punish recalcitrant bad behaviour on both sides, and awareness amongst the parties that the costs of a conflict far outweigh the price of compromise. By the time of the ceasefire in 2001, the suspicion between the parties was so deep and so entrenched that bridging the gap would have taken extraordinary acts of leadership on both sides as well as real engagement from the outside world.

But all those who might have been able to steer the talks toward a new workable constitution for the country had been silenced.

If we compare the situation in Sri Lanka to, say, Northern Ireland or South Africa, or even Canada, we begin to understand what is missing. A constitution is not just a piece of paper, crafted after a few weeks of tough discussion. It doesn't flow from rhetoric about democracy and understanding. The real constitution of any country depends on its political culture and institutions, and while those two things are not immutable, they have to be recognized for the forces they represent.

Successful constitutional change requires that the political leaders of the country set aside partisan differences in the understanding that building the framework of the country is an act of statesmanship that goes beyond day-to-day politics. In Northern Ireland it meant that Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein had to shake hands. In South Africa, it meant that Nelson Mandela and National Party leader Frederik de Klerk had to come to terms. In Canada, the partisanship and ethnic bickering that marked the young colonies for decades had to be set aside for the greater good at the Charlottetown meetings in 1867, just to get the framework right. Every colonial delegation had leaders of every party present, and that made all the difference.

That didn't happen in Sri Lanka. The two main political parties in the south were at each other's throats the whole time of the ceasefire, which left the LTTE unsure whether any agreement reached could be sustained. The LTTE's artificial status as the sole representative of the Tamils meant that no alternative voices were heard at the table. Other Tamil parties and views were stifled, and Sri Lanka's Muslims were on the margins, trying to get to the table. Partisan politics never left the room. But it has to for sound constitutional change to happen.

The fundamental values of a country have to be shared, or at least shared sufficiently so that it can survive changes in government and political leadership. For Thomas Hobbes this might be simply a matter of superior firepower ending debate. But that isn't enough, there has to be a moral basis to the consensus. The Sri Lankan majority insists that there is and that if only troublesome agitators and meddlesome outsiders would leave the game everything would be all right. But reconciliation entails accepting the legitimacy of the other, their religion, their language, their personality.

Sri Lanka is not a failed state, but it is now a deeply repressive one, and it faces some clear choices in the years ahead. There is much talk of a closer relationship between all the countries of the Indian subcontinent, of free trade zones, of sharing experience on governance and so on. Now that the LTTE has been defeated, India will become more engaged, and will continue to have concerns about both stability and the recognition of diversity by its smaller neighbour. Sri Lanka will try to encourage China, Pakistan, and even Iran to remain interested in the development of the country (it is unlikely they will be much interested in issues of governance and democracy), but India, if it chooses, can play a central role.

Meanwhile, monitoring by international institutions, public, private, and non-governmental, will continue. Democracy and human rights are not just the idle dreams of Western radicals; they speak to the aspirations of ordinary Sri Lankans in both communities, which I have seen and heard expressed. The institutions that are necessary to nurture and express these aspirations do not yet exist, but in the long term the government cannot avoid pressure from both domestic and international communities. Nor can President Rajapaksa avoid the reality that he remains the leader of an ethnically diverse country, and that oppression can work for a time but it cannot work forever.

Courtesy: http://www.nationalpost.com

Urge the King to commute the death sentence of Rizana Nafeek - Amnesty International

URGENT ACTION
Young woman at risk of execution

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Rizana Nafeek, a 22-year-old Sri Lankan domestic worker, has had her death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in Saudi Arabia for a crime she allegedly committed while under the age of 18. If the death sentence is ratified by the King, she would be at imminent risk of execution.

Rizana Nafeek was arrested in May 2005 on charges of murdering an infant in her care. She was 17 years old at the time. On 16 June 2007, she was sentenced to death by a court in Dawadmi, a town west of the capital Riyadh. The sentence was subsequently upheld by the Court of Cassation and sent for ratification by the Supreme Judicial Council. However, the Council sent it back to the lower court for further clarification. The case then went back and forth between the courts until on or around 25 October 2010, when the Supreme Court in Riyadh upheld the death sentence. The case was then sent to the King for ratification of the death sentence; if the King does ratify the death sentence, Rizana Nafeek will be at imminent risk of execution by beheading.

Rizana Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or at her first trial. She initially “confessed” to the murder during interrogation but has since retracted her confession, which she says she was forced to make under duress following a physical assault. The man who translated Rizana’s statement was not an officially recognized translator and it appears that he may not have been able adequately to translate between Tamil and Arabic. He has since left Saudi Arabia.

Rizana Nafeek arrived in Saudi Arabia in May 2005 to work as a housemaid. The passport she used to enter Saudi Arabia gives her date of birth as February 1982 but according to her birth certificate she was born six years later, in February 1988. This would make her 17 years old at the time of the murder for which she has been convicted. According to Amnesty International’s information, she was not allowed to present her birth certificate or other evidence of her age to the court, which relied instead on her passport and so considered her to be 23 years old at the time of the crime. Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which prohibits the execution of offenders for crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:

Urging the King to prevent the execution of Rizana Nafeek who is believed to have been under 18 at the time of the crime for which she has been convicted;

Calling on the King to commute this death sentence, particularly given Saudi Arabia’s obligations as a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and having regard to the uncertainty over Rizana Nafeek’s age;

Reminding the authorities that they should act in accordance with international law, particularly Article 37 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and end the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 8 DECEMBER 2010 TO:
King

His Majesty King ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)

+966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)

Salutation: Your Majesty

Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud, Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: +966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)

Salutation: Your Royal Highness

And copies to:

President, Human Rights Commission
Bandar Mohammed ‘Abdullah al- Aiban
Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 58889, King Fahad Road, Building No. 373, Riyadh 11515
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: +966 1 461 2061

Email: hrc@haq-ksa.org

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the second update of UA 175/07. Further information: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE23/026/2007 and http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE23/006/2008
URGENT ACTION

YOUNG WOMAN AT RISK OF EXECUTION

Additional Information

Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which expressly prohibits the execution of juvenile offenders – those convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18. However, Saudi Arabia does execute juvenile offenders in breach of their obligations under the CRC.

At least 158 people, including 76 foreign nationals, were executed by the Saudi Arabian authorities in 2007, and at least 102 people, including almost 40 foreign nationals, were executed in 2008. In 2009, at least 69 people are known to have been executed, including 19 foreign nationals. Since the beginning of 2010, at least 21 people have been executed, including 5 foreign nationals.

Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences. Court proceedings fall far short of international standards for fair trial. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them. They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception.

Saudi Arabia is a state party to the Convention against Torture, which prohibits the use of evidence extracted under torture or other ill-treatment. Article 15 states: "Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

In a report on the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International highlighted the extensive use of the death penalty as well as the disproportionately high number of executions of foreign nationals from developing countries. For further information please see Saudi Arabia: Affront to Justice: Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (MDE 23/027/2008), 14 October 2008:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/saudi-arabia-executions-target-foreign-nationals-20081014

The Supreme Court began to function in February 2009 as the final court of appeal. This is part of a new court system introduced by the 2007 Law of the Judiciary. The Court of Cassation, which used to handle appeals, has since been replaced by courts of appeal. The Supreme Judicial Council continues to exist and has been allocated responsibilities such as the supervision of the organization of the Judiciary, including the appointment, promotion and disciplining of judges. For more information regarding the judicial reforms, please see Saudi Arabia: Affront to Justice:

Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (Index: MDE 23/027/2008), 14 October 2008: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/saudi-arabia-executions-target-foreign-nationals-20081014

Sri Lankan journalist wins Transparency International Integrity Award

Honouring the unsung heroes of the fight against corruption

Attotage Prema Jayantha: Investigative Journalist - Sri Lanka

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Attotage Prema Jayantha is better known to Sri Lankans as Poddala Jayantha, his pen name during two decades of courageous investigative journalism.

Refusing to turn a blind eye to corruption, Jayantha dedicated his career to fearlessly exposing injustice in Sri Lanka’s health, education and transport sectors. One of his reports uncovered what some officials have called Sri Lanka’s biggest ever tax scam, involving the alleged misappropriation of RS 3.6 billion (US $37 million) in Value Added Tax.

Following numerous threats on his life, Jayantha was abducted by unidentified assailants in June 2009 and brutally beaten. He was left permanently disabled and now lives in exile. No arrests have been made and the case has since been dropped.Jayantha’s pursuit of the truth resonates with journalists in many parts of the world who encounter such challenges to their work.

[Transparency International Press release]

Vinayagam emerges in Europe as new Chief of LTTE

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Writing in these columns last week about the state of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) overseas network I noted that "the Tiger and pro-tiger structures abroad can be broadly classified into two categories".

The first category is the group consisting of organizations that are either fronts or sympathetic to the LTTE. This category about which I wrote extensively last week, consists of organizations such as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) headed by New York lawyer Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, Global Tamil Forum(GTF) umbrella group under Germany based Catholic clergyman Fr. SJ Emmanuel and the network consisting of LTTE branches/fronts controlled by Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan living in Norway. [click here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

November 11, 2010

Kantha Shashti: Celebrating the victory over evil spirit

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Sooran Por was held today (11th of November 2010) at Naattukkottai Nagaraththaar Sri Kathirvelaayuthaswamy temple (New Kathiresan temple) in Bambalapitty.

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Devotees in large numbers gathered to celebrate the victory of evil spirit

[Click to see & read more]

'Indian nationalists and government don't understand subversive strength of warm, boiled eggs'

"God bless and keep you," he said, and walked away into the dark. What greater reward could a writer want?

By Arundhati Roy
New Delhi

A WEEK before he was elected in 2008, President Obama said that solving the dispute over Kashmir’s struggle for self-determination — which has led to three wars between India and Pakistan since 1947 — would be among his “critical tasks.” His remarks were greeted with consternation in India, and he has said almost nothing about Kashmir since then.

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Arundhati Roy at Seattle Arts & Lectures March 19, 2010 in First Hill, Seattle, Washington

But on Monday, during his visit here, he pleased his hosts immensely by saying the United States would not intervene in Kashmir and announcing his support for India’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. While he spoke eloquently about threats of terrorism, he kept quiet about human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Whether Mr. Obama decides to change his position on Kashmir again depends on several factors: how the war in Afghanistan is going, how much help the United States needs from Pakistan and whether the government of India goes aircraft shopping this winter. (An order for 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, worth $5.8 billion, among other huge business deals in the pipeline, may ensure the president’s silence.) But neither Mr. Obama’s silence nor his intervention is likely to make the people in Kashmir drop the stones in their hands.

I was in Kashmir 10 days ago, in that beautiful valley on the Pakistani border, home to three great civilizations — Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist. It’s a valley of myth and history. Some believe that Jesus died there; others that Moses went there to find the lost tribe. Millions worship at the Hazratbal shrine, where a few days a year a hair of the Prophet Muhammad is displayed to believers.

Now Kashmir, caught between the influence of militant Islam from Pakistan and Afghanistan, America’s interests in the region and Indian nationalism (which is becoming increasingly aggressive and “Hinduized”), is considered a nuclear flash point. It is patrolled by more than half a million soldiers and has become the most highly militarized zone in the world.

The atmosphere on the highway between Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar, and my destination, the little apple town of Shopian in the south, was tense. Groups of soldiers were deployed along the highway, in the orchards, in the fields, on the rooftops and outside shops in the little market squares. Despite months of curfew, the “stone pelters” calling for “azadi” (freedom), inspired by the Palestinian intifada, were out again. Some stretches of the highway were covered with so many of these stones that you needed an S.U.V. to drive over them.

Fortunately the friends I was with knew alternative routes down the back lanes and village roads. The “longcut” gave me the time to listen to their stories of this year’s uprising. The youngest, still a boy, told us that when three of his friends were arrested for throwing stones, the police pulled out their fingernails — every nail, on both hands.

For three years in a row now, Kashmiris have been in the streets, protesting what they see as India’s violent occupation. But the militant uprising against the Indian government that began with the support of Pakistan 20 years ago is in retreat. The Indian Army estimates that there are fewer than 500 militants operating in the Kashmir Valley today. The war has left 70,000 dead and tens of thousands debilitated by torture. Many, many thousands have “disappeared.” More than 200,000 Kashmiri Hindus have fled the valley. Though the number of militants has come down, the number of Indian soldiers deployed remains undiminished.

But India’s military domination ought not to be confused with a political victory. Ordinary people armed with nothing but their fury have risen up against the Indian security forces. A whole generation of young people who have grown up in a grid of checkpoints, bunkers, army camps and interrogation centers, whose childhood was spent witnessing “catch and kill” operations, whose imaginations are imbued with spies, informers, “unidentified gunmen,” intelligence operatives and rigged elections, has lost its patience as well as its fear. With an almost mad courage, Kashmir’s young have faced down armed soldiers and taken back their streets.

Since April, when the army killed three civilians and then passed them off as “terrorists,” masked stone throwers, most of them students, have brought life in Kashmir to a grinding halt. The Indian government has retaliated with bullets, curfew and censorship. Just in the last few months, 111 people have been killed, most of them teenagers; more than 3,000 have been wounded and 1,000 arrested.

But still they come out, the young, and throw stones. They don’t seem to have leaders or belong to a political party. They represent themselves. And suddenly the second-largest standing army in the world doesn’t quite know what to do. The Indian government doesn’t know whom to negotiate with. And many Indians are slowly realizing they have been lied to for decades. The once solid consensus on Kashmir suddenly seems a little fragile.

I WAS in a bit of trouble the morning we drove to Shopian. A few days earlier, at a public meeting in Delhi, I said that Kashmir was disputed territory and, contrary to the Indian government’s claims, it couldn’t be called an “integral” part of India. Outraged politicians and news anchors demanded that I be arrested for sedition. The government, terrified of being seen as “soft,” issued threatening statements, and the situation escalated. Day after day, on prime-time news, I was being called a traitor, a white-collar terrorist and several other names reserved for insubordinate women. But sitting in that car on the road to Shopian, listening to my friends, I could not bring myself to regret what I had said in Delhi.

We were on our way to visit a man called Shakeel Ahmed Ahangar. The previous day he had come all the way to Srinagar, where I had been staying, to press me, with an urgency that was hard to ignore, to visit Shopian.

I first met Shakeel in June 2009, only a few weeks after the bodies of Nilofar, his 22-year-old wife, and Asiya, his 17-year-old sister, were found lying a thousand yards apart in a shallow stream in a high-security zone — a floodlit area between army and state police camps. The first postmortem report confirmed rape and murder. But then the system kicked in. New autopsy reports overturned the initial findings and, after the ugly business of exhuming the bodies, rape was ruled out. It was declared that in both cases the cause of death was drowning. Protests shut Shopian down for 47 days, and the valley was convulsed with anger for months. Eventually it looked as though the Indian government had managed to defuse the crisis. But the anger over the killings has magnified the intensity of this year’s uprising.

Shakeel wanted us to visit him in Shopian because he was being threatened by the police for speaking out, and hoped our visit would demonstrate that people even outside of Kashmir were looking out for him, that he was not alone.

It was apple season in Kashmir and as we approached Shopian we could see families in their orchards, busily packing apples into wooden crates in the slanting afternoon light. I worried that a couple of the little red-cheeked children who looked so much like apples themselves might be crated by mistake. The news of our visit had preceded us, and a small knot of people were waiting on the road.

Shakeel’s house is on the edge of the graveyard where his wife and sister are buried. It was dark by the time we arrived, and there was a power failure. We sat in a semicircle around a lantern and listened to him tell the story we all knew so well. Other people entered the room. Other terrible stories poured out, ones that are not in human rights reports, stories about what happens to women who live in remote villages where there are more soldiers than civilians. Shakeel’s young son tumbled around in the darkness, moving from lap to lap. “Soon he’ll be old enough to understand what happened to his mother,” Shakeel said more than once.

Just when we rose to leave, a messenger arrived to say that Shakeel’s father-in-law — Nilofar’s father — was expecting us at his home. We sent our regrets; it was late and if we stayed longer it would be unsafe for us to drive back.

Minutes after we said goodbye and crammed ourselves into the car, a friend’s phone rang. It was a journalist colleague of his with news for me: “The police are typing up the warrant. She’s going to be arrested tonight.” We drove in silence for a while, past truck after truck being loaded with apples. “It’s unlikely,” my friend said finally. “It’s just psy-ops.”

But then, as we picked up speed on the highway, we were overtaken by a car full of men waving us down. Two men on a motorcycle asked our driver to pull over. I steeled myself for what was coming. A man appeared at the car window. He had slanting emerald eyes and a salt-and-pepper beard that went halfway down his chest. He introduced himself as Abdul Hai, father of the murdered Nilofar.

“How could I let you go without your apples?” he said. The bikers started loading two crates of apples into the back of our car. Then Abdul Hai reached into the pockets of his worn brown cloak, and brought out an egg. He placed it in my palm and folded my fingers over it. And then he placed another in my other hand. The eggs were still warm. “God bless and keep you,” he said, and walked away into the dark. What greater reward could a writer want?

I wasn’t arrested that night. Instead, in what is becoming a common political strategy, officials outsourced their displeasure to the mob. A few days after I returned home, the women’s wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (the right-wing Hindu nationalist opposition) staged a demonstration outside my house, calling for my arrest. Television vans arrived in advance to broadcast the event live. The murderous Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu group that, in 2002, spearheaded attacks against Muslims in Gujarat in which more than a thousand people were killed, have announced that they are going to “fix” me with all the means at their disposal, including by filing criminal charges against me in different courts across the country.

Indian nationalists and the government seem to believe that they can fortify their idea of a resurgent India with a combination of bullying and Boeing airplanes. But they don’t understand the subversive strength of warm, boiled eggs.

Arundhati Roy is the author of the novel “The God of Small Things” and, most recently, the essay collection “Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers.”

[Courtesy: NYTimes.com, where this OPED first appeared under the heading Kashmir’s Fruits of Discord, on Nov 8th, 2010]

Chinese government has done far more good than harm both for China and the world over the past 30 years

By Kishore Mahbubani

SINGAPORE — In an article on Oct. 23 (“Why China is wrong about Liu Xiaobo”), Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, argued against the notion that supporting a Chinese dissident could worsen conditions for the opposition, asserting that silence undercuts the most basic tenets of human rights. Mr. Mahbubani continues the debate.

SINGAPORE Max Weber once wisely stated, “It is not true that good can only follow from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true. Anyone who says this is, indeed, a political infant.” His remarks apply equally well to good intentions. And one such Western good intention may actually end up doing more harm than good.

In the Western mind, the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, was an unmitigated good. Several Western commentaries said the prize should be given to “individuals struggling against the overwhelming force of an oppressive state or an unjust social order.” In these pages, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, compared Liu to Andrei Sakharov, another Nobel Peace Prize winner, who struggled against “human rights abuses in the Soviet Union.”

Many Chinese, however, believe that the award of the Peace Prize to Liu could well do more harm than good. Few Chinese intellectuals, inside or outside China, have celebrated the award, publicly or privately. They do not believe that a candle has been lit for freedom. Instead, this award may set back the steady progress toward more personal freedom in China. This inability of the West to understand that there may be an alternative point of view could well create a major problem for the world.

Over the past 30 years, the Chinese government has done far more good than harm both for China and the world. The largest poverty-reduction exercise in human history was achieved by the Chinese government. When Deng Xiaoping launched his famous reforms in 1978, over 800 million people lived in absolute poverty. Today, fewer than 200 million do. Over 600 million were lifted out of absolute poverty.

For this achievement alone, Deng should have earned the Nobel Peace Prize. But he did far more. He took great political risks in opening up China. He allowed foreign investment and opened up China to Western influence. He sent hundreds of thousands of young Chinese to study in Western universities. He did all this aware that they could come back with ideas that could undermine the Chinese system. It is hard to think of any other recent leader who has been as courageous as Deng. Before him, the Chinese had no freedom to leave their villages, let alone leave China. Today, over 40 million Chinese leave China freely each year. And they return to China freely each year. China today is at least one thousand times less oppressive than it used to be.

So why was Deng not considered for the Nobel Prize? One word: Tiananmen. Tiananmen was a mistake. But the West has double-standards when it comes to judging human-rights violations. It does not condemn American society because it violated every canon of human rights by being the first modern Western society to reintroduce torture. Instead, it sees Guantánamo as a blemish that should not take away from all the good that American society has done. The same judgment should apply to Deng: Tiananmen was a blemish that should not take away from all the good that Deng had done.

Equally importantly, the West needs to understand that for Deng to achieve all the good he did for China, he had to maintain social and political order even as Chinese society opened up dramatically to the world. In the Western political imagination, the march to progress is made by steadily weakening the state and enlarging individual freedom. In the Chinese political experience, the weakening of the Chinese state has inevitably led to chaos and enormous personal suffering. There can be no doubt that the past 30 years since Deng’s reforms began have been the best 30 years that the Chinese have experienced since the Opium War of 1842.

One reason for this is that the Chinese government managed to find the right balance between opening up society and maintaining order — and that in a country of 1.3 billion people.

The Nobel award to Liu could upset the delicate political balance in China by stirring up a “color revolution,” reintroducing chaos to China and setting it back 150 years. That, in turn, could lead to an overreaction by the Chinese government and a clampdown on the many personal freedoms the Chinese people have gained in recent decades. In short, the Liu award could generate less, not more, personal freedom.

Over time, China will become a democracy, especially when it develops the world’s largest middle class. However, it is likely to get there faster if the present balance of rapid economic transformation and gradual political transformation is maintained. Few Chinese believe that the West is trying to do China any good by trying to accelerate the political transformation. Indeed, most Chinese believe that the Western agenda is to unleash the same chaos in China as it did with instant democracy in Russia. When Jagland compared Liu to Sakharov, he confirmed the Chinese conviction that the goal of this prize is to destabilize China. If the West persists in its refusal to understand China’s fundamental concerns, it will do more harm than good with its good intentions.

Kishore Mahbubani is dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

[Courtesy: NYTimes.com, where this OPED first appeared under the heading An Ignoble Nobel, on Nov 11th, 2010]

UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considers report of Sri Lanka

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has considered the combined second, third and fourth periodic report of Sri Lanka on how that country is implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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Shavindra Fernando, Deputy Solicitor-General

Introducing the report, Shavindra Fernando, Deputy Solicitor-General of Sri Lanka, said that Sri Lanka was at a crossroads, having emerged from a 30-year protracted armed conflict, defeating the menace of terrorism that stood in the way for too long in achieving greater prosperity for all Sri Lankans.

UNTC1111.jpgDespite the conflict, Sri Lanka had consistently made great strides for continued improvement in the fields of health, education and socio-economic development, which ranked higher than in many other developing countries. As of today, the total number of internally displaced persons in the country had dropped to 18,380 when compared with almost 300,000 at the end of the conflict in May of last year. These numbers clearly demonstrated the unwavering commitment made by the Government to resettle these people and to assist them in bringing back normalcy to their lives. An accelerated de-mining programme was also in place, in collaboration with a number of international humanitarian agencies, to facilitate the return of the remaining internally displaced persons.

During the questions raised by Committee Experts, many comments were made on the insufficient length of the report. At only 28 pages, the report was not comprehensive enough for the Committee to fully consider. More statistics and figures were needed, including a detailed list of sources. There were also a number of questions on the independence of the judiciary. It appeared that there were arbitrary judicial decisions, which oftentimes protected the higher ranks of the military. It was inherently corrupt that in Sri Lanka, the Chief Justice, members of the Supreme Court and even judges in the Appeal Courts were appointed directly by the President. Among other issues that were touched upon were the establishment of the Human Rights Commission; housing rights; marital law differences between religions; gender discrimination in the workforce; the rehabilitation and resettlement of internally displaced persons; unemployment and the working conditions of migrant laborers.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Fernando thanked the Experts for the excellent manner in which they had conducted the dialogue. The issues that were raised made the dialogue truly interactive and the discussion was beneficial. The delegation had taken note of the Committee’s concerns and any outstanding issues would be taken up in due course. In addition, the National Action Plan would be informed of the issues and concerns raised over the last few sessions. Considering the comments that were made about the report’s length and the fact that the previous report was submitted in 1998, it could be helpful if Sri Lanka came before the Committee before the regular time, perhaps in three years time.

In concluding remarks, Jaime Marchan Romero, Committee Chairperson, said that all countries faced different challenges and appreciated the comments made by the delegation and their openness and commitment to addressing their shortcomings. The Committee was aware of the burden of preparing reports but this was the only way that the international community could fully monitor and be kept updated about the progress and problems facing individual nations. The methods of work of the Committee had not really changed but 100 to 150 pages was fairly standard in terms of length of the report. It was equally important to go through the report article by article as this was how they were treated during the review. Finally, the Committee thanked the delegation for their active cooperation and wished it the best of luck going forward.

The Sri Lankan delegation also included representatives from the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in Geneva, the Ministry of Labour Relations and Productivity Promotion, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lankan Attorney-General’s Department.

The next meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 10 November, when it will begin its consideration of the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of the Netherlands (E/C.12/NLD/4-5) and the fourth report of the Netherlands Antilles (E/C.12/NLD/4/Add.1). The Committee is scheduled to consider the reports over three meetings, concluding on Thursday, 11 November at 1 p.m.

Report of Sri Lanka

The combined second, third and fourth periodic report of Sri Lanka (E/C.12/LKA/2-4) states that important economic and social measures had been sustained in Sri Lanka, ensuring a high quality of life for all its citizens. These included the availability of basic food items, health services, educational facilities, housing and other essentials. Special programmes such as the Samurdhi Movement had enhanced the quality of life of all Sri Lankans, even those who had been in less advantageous circumstances.

State policies had also helped to reduce income disparities between different economic sectors and among different social groups in the country. The realization of the rights embodied in the Covenant had been facilitated in Sri Lanka by a multiparty democratic system. Since independence in 1948, successive Governments had followed a consistent policy of promoting social welfare among the population. The nature of the benefits had been analyzed and quantified and were reflected in consistent improvements in key indicators such as under-five mortality rate, maternal mortality, higher life expectancy at birth for both men and women, high levels of literacy, and school enrolment etc.

For nearly 25 years, Sri Lanka had been compelled to combat terrorism unleashed by a separatist terrorist organization – the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The LTTE had been designated as a terrorist organization by many United Nations Member States including the 27 countries of the European Union, India, the United States and Canada and was considered to be one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world. The LTTE had been fighting for a separate state in the northern and eastern parts of the country. In July 2007 the Government eliminated the presence of this terrorist group from the entirety of the Eastern Province and was now taking steps to harmonize the economic, social and political life of people who had lived in the conflict zone for over two decades. These efforts included the reestablishment of civil administration, short-term and long-term economic development activities and infrastructure development to sustain economic progress.

Political structures at the local level were being reinvigorated in order to safeguard and advance the democratic rights of people living in these former conflict areas. The report also took into account the grave concern expressed by the Committee about displaced persons due to the armed conflict. The internally displaced in Sri Lanka was the result of the conflict as well as the unprecedented tsunami disaster of December 2004.

The 2004 tsunami had claimed 35,322 lives, displaced over 500,000 persons and damaged or destroyed 114,000 homes. It resulted in over 150,000 persons losing their livelihood. As such, the Government of Sri Lanka had a clear resettlement plan for the Internally Displaced Persons and an official Resettlement Authority had been established by Act No. 9 in 2007.

The report also addressed a number of key issues, including anti-discrimination mechanisms in the area of employment with regard to women and minority groups, minimum age of marriage, the national Citizenship Act and the implementation of laws with respect to children. On the issue of child rights, the report stated that Sri Lanka had taken several measures to combat the problem of exploitation and the abuse of children. The Government had established the National Child Protection Authority in 1998 as a response to growing concerns regarding the escalation of child abuse cases and in recognition of the need to provide a central authority to deal with the problem.

Included in the functions of the Authority was the duty to advise the Government in the formulation of a national policy on the prevention of child abuse and the protection and treatment of children who were victims of such abuse. Moreover, the Department of Labour was the Government body dealing with all matters pertaining to child labour.

The Department of Labour had also taken measures to strengthen the enforcement of the Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children’s Act by making the officers of the Probation and Child Care Services as authorized officers under that Act. A separate division called the Women and Children’s Affairs Division had been set up in the Department of Labour to deal with all issues pertaining to the employment of women and children. The division functions as the focal point of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour of the ILO.

Presentation of Report

SHAVINDRA FERNANDO, Deputy Solicitor-General of Sri Lanka, introducing the report of Sri Lanka, said that Sri Lanka was at a crossroads, having emerged from a 30-year protracted armed conflict, defeating the menace of terrorism that stood in the way for too long in achieving greater prosperity for all Sri Lankans. Despite the conflict, Sri Lanka had consistently made great strides for continued improvement in the fields of health, education and socio-economic development, which ranked higher than many other developing countries.

As of today, the total number of internally displaced persons in the country had dropped to 18,380 when compared with almost 300,000 at the end of the conflict in May of last year. These numbers clearly demonstrated the unwavering commitment made by the Government to resettle these people and to assist them in bringing back normalcy to their lives. An accelerated de-mining programme was also in place, in collaboration with a number of international humanitarian agencies, to facilitate the return of the remaining internally displaced persons.

With the end of the conflict, Mr. Fernando said that the Government had withdrawn nearly 70 per cent of the legislative provisions related to anti-terrorism. Among those repealed were the emergency provisions pertaining to freedom of expression. In addition, there was a relaxation of provisions pertaining to publications and printing, distribution and possession of literature. All of these measures were established to protect journalists, human rights defenders and civil society at large.

In terms of rehabilitation, the Government had rehabilitated all of the 667 former child combatants and reunited them with their families. Significantly, this process was premised on these child combatants being identified as victims and not as offenders. This rehabilitation process involved psychological and social counseling, spiritual guidance and social rehabilitation, special education classes and vocational training.

Furthermore, the Government had also rehabilitated 5,221 ex-combatants and reintegrated them into society. As of November 2010, 6,475 ex-combatants who still remained in Protective Accommodation and Rehabilitation Centers were undergoing vocational training under the Government’s rehabilitation programme.

In August 2010, the Government established an independent Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, marking an important landmark for Sri Lanka as it returned to peace and stability. This Commission was part of a wider package of measures taken by the Government to further accelerate the process of peace and reconciliation and to create the conditions for a stable and prosperous future. With emphasis on restorative justice, this Commission was focused on determining responsibility regarding past events related to the conflict.

Mr. Fernando then moved on to a description of the Sri Lankan economy, which continued to experience steady growth in spite of the unprecedented natural disaster caused by the tsunami in December 2004 and the internal conflict, which ended in May of last year. This had demonstrated the resilience of the country’s economy not only to these internal factors but also to external shocks such as the global financial crisis, food and oil crises, etc.

With a GDP of 42 billion US dollars, Sri Lanka was a small, vulnerable and open economy significantly dependent on foreign trade. Over the last three decades, the Sri Lankan economy had transformed from the status of a primary product exporting economy to a manufacturing product exporting economy. In fact, annual GDP growth for the current year was expected to average above seven per cent.

The gender dimension had always been an important consideration in shaping Sri Lanka’s national economic and trade policies for the empowerment of women, especially for improvements in the livelihood of rural women. According to the Global Gender Gap report 2010, Sri Lanka was ranked in the sixteenth position, way above some developed countries. The report also stated that Sri Lanka was distinctive for being the only South Asian country in the top twenty for the fourth consecutive year.

In terms of infrastructure development, eighty-five percent of Sri Lankans had access to safe drinking water and eighty-six percent of the households had electricity. In addition, the telecommunications sector registered a significant growth in 2009. The number of mobile connections was increased by 25.9 percent, which amounted to 13.9 million mobile phones out of a population of 20 million people. This, along with other positive economic measures implemented by the Government, indicated that the country was well on track to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2015.

Questions by Experts on Articles One to Five of the Covenant

Addressing issues linked to articles one to five of the Covenant, an Expert said that while Sri Lanka was expected to average above seven percent growth in GDP, what plans did it have to reinvest some of this growth into infrastructure development. One Expert complained of the length of the report. At only 28 pages, the report was not sufficiently comprehensive for the Committee to fully consider. One Expert asked to what extent Sri Lanka was benefiting from foreign aid and assistance as an impoverished island State?

One question was raised regarding the issue of Sharia law and marriage. It seemed that in Sri Lanka it was not necessary to obtain consent from the Muslim bride nor was there a minimum age of marriage. One Expert asked why these aspects of the law had been preserved given that even in some Muslim countries, a minimum age and consent from the bride had been enshrined in their Sharia law. Given the very stark differences in marriage law between different religions and ethnicities, did the delegation not agree that there was a certain degree of legal discrimination?

On the issue of independence of the judiciary, it appeared that there were arbitrary judicial decisions, which oftentimes protected the higher ranks of the military. In this regard, some members of the military benefited from judicial immunity. The Committee Against Torture, for example, stated that justice was a rare commodity in Sri Lanka and one Expert requested an update on the situation of justice and impunity and measures taken to both monitor and better train members of the judicial system. It was inherently corrupt that in Sri Lanka, the Chief Justice, members of the Supreme Court and even judges in the Appeal Courts were appointed directly by the President. This was not an independent, transparent and balanced system of appointment. Another Expert asked the delegation to elaborate on the current status of bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka and also to provide some examples of Sri Lankan case law where corruption had been punished by law.

In the efforts to scale down emergency provisions, one Expert asked if the Government would consider implementing a Right to Information Act. On the issue of resettlement of internally displaced persons, under what conditions were these groups resettled? It was not sufficient to merely send internally displaced persons to their former homelands and Governments needed to ensure a full and sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration. Following the tsunami and the armed conflict, how many homes were destroyed and rebuilt?

While it was commendable that Sri Lanka had established a Human Rights Commission, it was not functional at this stage and Experts wondered when were they planning to revive it and appoint Human Rights Commissioners.

Further information was also requested from the delegation on whether the Government was still committed to preparing a Human Rights Charter in line with international human rights law and conventions. One of the Committee Experts also mentioned the dangers faced by human rights defenders. The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch had reported several attacks against human rights defenders in Sri Lanka and it was asked whether further information could be provided on whether these attacks took place as well as measures taken to protect this vulnerable group.

On the issue of Article One, an Expert said there were a number of alarming reports of discrimination and human rights abuses against certain marginalized groups. There continued to be discrimination against Muslim communities, Tamils and other ethnic minorities, which remained of great concern to the Committee.

One Expert pointed out that this report should not be seen as an obligation but as an opportunity to review one’s own progress and the remaining challenges in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. In this regard, one Expert asked to what extent the population of Sri Lankans knew about this report and whether or not civil society groups, non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders were consulted in the preparation of the report.

The Special Rapporteur on Sri Lanka had said that there needed to be an independent inquiry on war crimes committed during the conflict and several Experts wanted to know if that was being worked on. Another Expert asked for more information on the state of internally displaced persons who had been returning to their homes. On this issue, further information was requested on the reintegration process. Had these internally displaced persons found work upon their return, had the children returned to schools and had their homes been rebuilt?

Economically speaking, the report stated that the Sri Lankan stock exchange was currently one of the best in the world. However, the Committee was not a financial institution and as such this information was not really of real interest to a human rights committee. If anything, a strong stock exchange was frequently the cause of economic liberalization, which often came at the expense of protecting domestic human rights and social development. Along these lines, another Expert asked how Sri Lanka’s trade policies conformed to human rights standards. Moreover, while economic growth was both positive and noteworthy, what real impact did this have on the enjoyment of human rights by national citizens?

A number of Experts complained about the lack of detail and substance in the periodic report. Statements such as “fishing nets were given to fishermen” were simply too general and not useful for the review in front of the Committee. More statistics and figures were needed, including a detailed list of sources. Another Expert also expressed sincere disappointment that the questions posed to the delegation were longer than the responses. One example was the question asked by the Committee on the state of Indians of Tamil origin living in Sri Lanka. Aside from the response on providing national identity cards in some cases, it would have been helpful to have a more detailed overview on the situation of Indian Tamils living in Sri Lanka, including accurate figures. To this end, it was truly difficult to have a constructive dialogue on the basis of such a short and unsubstantial periodic report.

Response by Delegation

Answering those questions and others, the delegation apologized for the shortcomings of the report. Certainly, the fact that 12 years had transpired since the last report had made the task more difficult. The delegation took note of the numerous criticisms and assured the Committee that their answers would be more informative and comprehensive.

The delegation addressed questions regarding the National Human Rights Commission. At the time the Commission came into being, the appointment of the Commissioners was to be done by the President. Around 2007, certain legal issues came to the fore regarding which Parliamentary parties were considered minorities and which groups could make appointment suggestions. It was decided that the Parliamentary Commission would make these suggestions, rather than the President, and this would take place in the very near future. The reason for these complicated changes was that the National Human Rights Commission was an independent body and deserved to be fully independent from the current Government in Sri Lanka.

In answer to one Expert, the delegation said the breach of certain economic, social and cultural rights could be tried in a national court. However, these rights are not fully judiciable. A person could not go to a court and say that they did not have a home and that their human right to housing had been abused. However, if someone was forcefully or arbitrarily removed from their home and discriminated against in the right to housing, then that could be considered by a court of law. Any provision with regard to discrimination, whether in the private or public sector, could be brought to the attention of a district court. To this end, a number of cases had come before national courts to redress human rights abuses.

The judiciary, the legislative and the executive were all free and independent and a system of checks and balances existed to ensure that these bodies remained independent. As a proof of independence, a Parliamentary Council had replaced the Constitutional Council, which was accountable to the Parliament and members appointed by the Parliament. In response to another question on the National Action Plan, the Sri Lankan delegation reiterated the importance of human rights, which were enshrined and protected in this particular action plan.

On the issue of marriage law, the Government had chosen to not directly get involved in the decisions made by certain cultural and religious practices. The Sri Lankan Government respected a number of cultural laws and Article 16 of the Constitution enforced the protection of cultural norms and religious-based legal structures. Under national Sri Lankan law, if a woman conceived a child under the age of sixteen then the male partner could be tried for statutory rape. However, the state prosecutor or courts had the freedom to decide whether or not to prosecute following the review of the context of the case itself. Oftentimes, the male would marry the pregnant woman making any legal trial unnecessary.

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court often dealt with fundamental human rights, such as non-discrimination based on gender, the right to join trade unions and so on and so forth. The right to water was implicitly protected in Sri Lanka’s Constitution and the Supreme Court had been used to protect the rights of certain communities to access to water, which in some cases had been threatened by private companies or large infrastructure developments.

On the issue of national security, the nation’s high security zones had been largely withdrawn and in the next few weeks they would either be completely dismantled or maintained in a few key risk areas. Needless to say, after 30 years of conflict and instability, the Government had an obligation to uphold security and protect its citizens.

Questions by Experts on Articles Six to Nine of the Covenant

One Expert asked for further details on unemployment and the percentage of women and minority groups who were unemployed. On the issue of forced labour, what could the delegation say about compulsory work that had been implemented during the period of emergency during last year’s conflict and what measures had been taken to change this?

The principle of Article 7 rested on the fundamental tenet of equal pay for equal work. However, was there any national legislation that protected this concept of equal pay for equal work? In addition, the figures of minimum wage varied dramatically from one source to another and one Expert asked if the delegation could provide some insight on this. Tea workers were particularly hard hit and were paid daily rather than on a monthly basis. One Expert provided an example of a group of tea workers that had been refused a salary of 500 rupees a day, even though that was below market rate.

Finally, one Expert asked for further details on the working conditions of migrant laborers, who were more often than not women, and any legislative safeguards that had been implemented to protect them.

Response by Delegation

Responding to the issue of internally displaced persons and their resettlement, the delegation said that there were few cases where internally displaced persons were returned too quickly. The Government of Sri Lanka had been assisting, with the help of foreign aid groups, in the reconstruction of homes and the provision of basic infrastructure, which included water and sanitation facilities. On the issue of rehabilitation and livelihood creation, 2.9 billion rupees were being invested from the period of 2010-2012 into a programme of rehabilitation, which included the improvement of economic infrastructure. In 2009, the Government of Sri Lanka had spent three hundred and ten billion rupees in infrastructure development and would continue to do so going forward.

It was hoped that the remaining internally displaced persons would be returned before the end of year. There still remained some 98,000 Muslims who were displaced during the ethnic cleansing of the LTTE. These communities had moved to the North West of the country and many had established new lives and would not be forced to return to their former homelands if they preferred to stay in their new homes.

The Human Rights Commission was governed by the Sri Lankan Government, which had the primary responsibility to provide an adequate budget for its functioning. The principal role of the Human Rights Commission would be to act on directives given to it by the Supreme Court. The Commission would investigate and advise the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court would ultimately retain its power and would make legal decisions based on the recommendations of the Commission.

With regard to education, schooling from Grade 1 was paid for by the State. Recruitment into primary schools stood around 95 per cent. The ratio of boys to girls in primary schools recently reached almost 99 per cent. On the issue of public health, in a recent Government directive, it was decided that hospitals would soon run 24 hours a day and provide free health care to all. Statistically, maternal mortality was at 43 per 100,000 births, while infant mortality rates were registered at 11.3 per 100,000 births.

In response to the questions raised on the rate of unemployment, it particularly affected young people. Male unemployment had dropped one per cent from around five to four per cent from 1999 to 2009. By contrast, the female rate of unemployment went from approximately 13 per cent in 1999 to 8.6 per cent in 2009.

There was another question about whether there was a law enforcing equal pay for equal work. The main determination of wages was regulated in the public sector and in the private sector there was an enforced minimum wage and periodic Government inspections to ensure that there were no incidents of salary discrimination between men and women. The situation was not perfect but the Government was making efforts to ensure gender equality in the workforce. Minimum wage was established by sector. There were 43 different work sectors and the Government, in direct consultation with employers and trade unions, established minimum wages. In specific reference to the question on tea plantation workers, their wages were based on collective agreements made by the employers and the workers.

On the issue of domestic workers of Sri Lankan origin working abroad, the Government had established insurance schemes to repatriate domestic workers. Moreover, these domestic workers were expected to receive proper training before their departure.

In many OECD countries, the trade union density was declining. This was also the case in Sri Lanka where unionization was very much based on the work sector. In tea plantations, unionization was close to 90 per cent but it was very low in the Government sectors.

On the subject of sustainable development, the delegation said that the existence of the National Action Plan on Sustainable Development was a testament to Sri Lanka’s commitment to sustainable development. This National Action Plan was established in 2008 by almost all of the Government’s Ministries. Some of the principles of this Plan were clean air for all, protection of the coastline and ecological diversity, the establishment of green cities, responsible waste disposal, and the elimination of dumps, etc.

Sri Lanka was a common law country and was based very closely on the legal model of the United Kingdom. Sri Lanka was now considering the Freedom of Information Act, which was recently established in the United Kingdom.

With regards to Sri Lanka’s indigenous communities, they were very much integrated in Sri Lankan society. Their traditional lands had not been entrenched in any significant way but, if ever they came under threat, these indigenous communities could seek justice and redress from the national courts.

Finally, on the issue of the Citizenship Act, no complaints of discrimination had been brought to the Supreme Court. There were some complaints that the Act was outdated, as it was established soon after independence in 1945. However, there had not been a need to revise the Act and ample mechanisms existed to bring any relevant complaints to the national courts.

Follow-up Questions

One Expert asked about the Women’s Rights Act, which had been reviewed and changed. What was the progress on this particular Act and what efforts were being made to institutionalize women’s rights?

The proportion of Sri Lanka’s population that was elderly was higher than in any other South Asian nation and one Expert asked what social measures were being implemented to protect this group?

Turning to Sri Lanka’s youth, it seemed that high school students were the hardest hit by unemployment. One Expert therefore asked what programmes were being implemented to encourage employment amongst this age group, as well as encourage adolescents to remain in school and be further educated.

What efforts were being made to protect persons with disabilities, both in the private and public sectors? Did the Government have any programmes aimed at helping persons with disabilities find work and encouraging employers to provide working environments that were favorable to disabled persons?

While there was some Government emphasis on workplace safety and security, one Expert noted that there were only 400 labour inspectors for the entire country. How effective were these inspectors in monitoring the situation of worker safety and security?

On the issue of trade unions, what measures had been established to protect workers from their employers after they had lodged a formal complaint.

One Expert raised the problem of the under-representation of minority groups in the public sector, for example Tamils of Indian origin and Muslims. In this regard, what efforts were being made by the Government to address this issue and to promote a better ethnic balance in public sector jobs?

It was also indicated that the situation of female domestic migrant workers was under control but one Expert was not convinced and suspected that there was a discrepancy between theory and practice on this issue. The Expert asked the delegation to elaborate on what Sri Lanka had done to protect domestic workers abroad, especially those who were victims of domestic abuse and violence.

Response by Delegation

In terms of social security schemes, in the public sector the Government had established pension schemes that benefited some 1.2 million public sector employees. A number of private companies also had their own pension schemes and trust funds, which were covered entirely by the employer. Furthermore, workers in the formal sector were entitled to severance packages if let go.

On the question of social protection a feasibility study had been carried out by the International Labour Office on how to conduct a sustainable social protection plan. The main pillars of this social protection initiative were to provide essential health care for all, assistance to the unemployed and the poor and social welfare to the disabled and elderly. As a proof of its resolve in this area, the delegation added that one of the eight Committees of the National Action Plan was focused exclusively on economic, social and cultural rights.

In terms of persons with disabilities, the Government Cabinet was committed to helping persons with disabilities find employment, with the aim of having at least three percent of all jobs reserved for disabled persons, both in the public and private sectors. A job fair had been organized by the Government with the focus on helping disabled persons to find suitable employment. On the issue of workplace safety, the Government was increasing the amount of labour officers to address the issue made by one of the Experts.

The issue of trade unions was an important one for Sri Lanka and it had ratified ILO Convention 135. Sri Lanka had taken measures to encourage unionization but it could not force employees to join. The victimization of trade unionists was illegal and there was a national law to protect against unfair labour practices. Employers could face prosecution for unfair labour practices if they were shown to have intimidated or discriminated against a trade unionist.

Minimum wages have been increased by an average of 20 per cent in Sri Lanka in 2010. Some industries were not in a position to raise wages to the same extent based primarily on the specific conditions of the industry, many of which could not sustain such sudden and drastic increases in wages.

On the issue of the under-representation of minority groups in the public sector, the delegation refuted the allegation that there were discriminatory practices against Muslims and minority groups. The delegate who answered this question was himself a Muslim and had not witnessed any discrimination in his public sector career. Nevertheless, there were numerous mechanisms that could be used to address any issues of worker discrimination or inequity. Furthermore, since 1983, because of the armed conflict, many Sri Lankan minorities working in the public sector had emigrated from Sri Lanka, particularly Indian Tamils, many of whom returned to India.

The delegation stated that it could not prevent employment migration. Not long ago, there was a proposed Government initiative to stop women with children under five from seeking employment abroad. However, this initiative faced significant opposition inside the country.

Follow-up Questions

One Expert commended the Government for working closely with the ILO and asked if there was a time frame for this social protection initiative.

In another question, one Expert highlighted that there were no specific sexual harassment laws and, as such, what measures were being taken to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace?

Another Expert spoke out to clarify the point on the under-representation of minorities in public service. The low representation of minorities should not be confused with discrimination. In that regard, the earlier question did not imply that there was discrimination.

Response by Delegation

The delegation acknowledged that the question was focused on representation and not discrimination. Statistically, the private sector was more attractive and that was perhaps one reason why there were more members of minority groups working in the private sector.

On the issue of sexual harassment, in 1995 Sri Lanka amended its penal law and enhanced the penalties for those who were charged with sexual harassment in a position of power, for example a boss or teacher. The applicant could also go to the labour tribunal to seek redress for sexual harassment. Moreover, the labour office had a code of conduct and an official procedure that it promoted to its employees in order to prevent cases of sexual harassment before they occurred and to educate possible victims of their rights.

Questions by Experts on Articles Ten to Twelve

On the issue of health care provision, an Expert asked if a comprehensive health plan had been established for victims of the war, in order to address some of the psychological and physical trauma experienced by many during the conflict?

One Expert said that there had been a renewed outbreak of dengue fever in 2009-2010. Apparently, there were several solutions such as using other bacteria to kill the dengue bacteria and also to find ways to prevent stagnant water, where the dengue bacteria thrived. What measures were being taken to fight this disease?

On the issue of generic medication, what was the Government’s position on providing generic drugs to its civilians and what tangible efforts were being made to make generic medication available to the public?

Concerning article eleven, one Expert noted the claims made by the Government that poverty had been significantly reduced. While this was commendable, the Expert asked for further information and figures. Did Sri Lanka’s poverty reduction strategies include measures to tackle the regional disparity in poverty? From some reports, it appeared that the poverty rate was four times higher in the tea plantation sector than the national average and so one expert wanted to know what was being done to redress this problem?

Given that 30 per cent of Indian origin Tamils suffered from poverty, what poverty alleviation initiatives were being implemented to target this group in particular, and other impoverished minority groups? One Committee Expert said there was a Ministry devoted to Tamils of Indian origin, which was unfortunately shut down because of budgetary constraints. Given the impressive growth of the Sri Lankan economy, why was this Ministry shut down?

Another Committee Expert requested further information about the compensation schemes for internally displaced persons, many of whom had had their homes and livelihoods destroyed.

Regarding housing, there were about 77,000 families living in informal squatter settlements in Colombo alone. What was being done to help these slum dwellers and to protect them from forced eviction? Evictions should only be conducted with respect to the rule of law and proper compensation but there were reports that many slum dwellers were forcibly removed in order to develop the lands they were living on, without adequate redress. In just one example, in July 2008, over 300 families were forcibly removed from a slum in Colombo.

On the issue of homelessness, there were no exact figures on the number of homeless persons and it would be useful to receive clarification on the exact number of homeless persons, its root causes and solutions that were being explored by the Government.

Figures showed that thousands of children were fully employed in Sri Lanka, whether in the agricultural sector, domestic households or even sex work. Of this number, over fifty percent of child workers were under the age of fifteen. Given this situation, what was the Government doing to address this issue, including domestic child labour laws and efforts being made to promote education and programmes to rehabilitate child workers.

When it came to the right to food, the average costs per family seemed staggering. In rural areas, food expenditures averaged just over 40 per cent of household income. Given this trend, was the Government subsidizing food around the country? The Expert was also curious to know what the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) position was on subsidizing food, given that the IMF played an important role in foreign aid.

One Expert complained that there was not enough information on the effects of migration on families. In this regard, what percentage of the GDP was generated by migrant workers abroad and how much of this percentage was reinvested into Sri Lankan society?

Following the devastating effects of the tsunami, what measures had the Government taken in terms of disaster preparedness? If another natural disaster was to hit the country, was Sri Lanka prepared and did it have a post-disaster structure in place to quickly and adequately deal with the aftermath?

One Expert asked a question on marital rape and expressed disappointment that the report requested that the Committee remain culturally sensitive to the inherent difficulties in criminalizing marital rape. This was inexcusable and the Expert asked for further explanation on the perpetuation of marital rape.

Response by Delegation

Answering the question on marital rape, the delegation said that there were cultural sensitivities. If the couple was married, it was currently difficult to be tried for rape. Efforts were being made to change such laws but it could not be done overnight. The Government certainly did not promote marital rape and legal amendments had been implemented on the issue of domestic violence. That said, social and cultural traditions had a bright side as well. In Sri Lanka, for example, the elderly were often taken care of by their children.

On the issue of paternity leave, raised by one of the Experts, the State sector had taken this on board and the Government would try to encourage the private sector to follow suit.

On the right to health, in the camps for internally displaced persons, Sri Lanka provided health care workers and nutritional supplements were provided with help from some key UN agencies, especially for women and children. Furthermore, mobile dental units and radiology facilities were provided in all camps for internally displaced persons.

On the issue of internally displaced persons, the delegation stated that internally displaced persons from zone four had been returned to their homes, bringing the official figure of remaining internally displaced persons down from 18,000 to 17,183.

On the issue to health, health indicators in Sri Lanka remained around the highest amongst developing countries. Training in mental health and psychiatry was of utmost importance to the Sri Lankan Government and it was continuing to invest resources in this regard.

Regarding dengue fever, the Health Ministry established a task force to deal with the outbreak and the two areas worst hit were targeted with drugs. Measures had been taken by the Ministry to educate citizens on the risks and how to better protect themselves from the disease.

Sri Lanka’s national drug policies were established in 2005 to provide quality and affordable medication to all Sri Lankans. On the issue of generic drugs, the State pharmaceutical companies should give priority to generic medications in the Government’s mission to provide quality health care to all. Moreover, doctors in Sri Lanka’s hospitals were encouraged to prescribe generic versions of all medicines, if they were available and of equal effectiveness.

To conclude on the topic of health, the Government had dealt comprehensively with the provision of health care in camps for internally displaced persons and had sufficiently addressed the recent outbreak of dengue fever.

On disaster risk reduction and disaster management, Sri Lanka had learned a great deal from the tsunami and had implemented a forward-looking strategy. A ten-year roadmap at the national level was underway and regional partnerships were also being established to better prepare for another serious natural disaster.

The delegation also addressed the question of slum dwellers and the claims of forced removals. The Government strategy when demolishing slums was to relocate the persons into Government housings in better quality and more spacious accommodation. In cases where Government housing was not ready, the slum dwellers would be given sufficient funds for rent during the interim period. Continuing on the right to housing, the State was legally pledged to provide an adequate standard of living to all Sri Lankans and their families, including the right to housing, clothing and health care.

Maternity and paternity laws differed between the public and private sectors and the Government was working closely with private employers and trade unions to promote better maternity and paternity benefits.

With respect to the high level of unemployment amongst educated youth, the basic reason was the higher aspirations of the educated youth and the lack of employment opportunities. The Government was addressing this issue by providing career guidance as well as vocational training.

In terms of remittances, the delegation mentioned that statistics were publicly available. In 2005, $1.9 billion came from foreign remittances and this figure had increased significantly by 2009 to $3.3 billion.

On disability issues, 25 special schools had been set up to provide specialized training for children with disabilities. In addition, an autism school had been established and the Government had implemented special teacher training programmes.

The State had taken note of child labour and had strengthened legal measures and administrative steps to protect children. In all police stations, a women and children’s desk had been established and the security forces were given specific training on how to deal with cases of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Furthermore, public awareness programmes had been created and promoted around the nation, both in the media and in schools, on sexual violations against children. The State had prioritized this area and was doing a great deal to protect children from such crimes. In this regard, significant efforts had been taken to strengthen the legal and punitive measures that were taken against the perpetrators.

Follow-up Questions

One Expert had a comment on the issue of cultural sensitivity and marital rape. Culture should have nothing to do marital rape and harming another human being could not be culturally excusable. Although it may be socially complex, the State had an immediate obligation to eradicate domestic violence. Furthermore, were the victims of sexual violence really in a position to bring the perpetrators to justice? While there were claims that legal redress was made available to the victims, these were often very vulnerable and frightened persons. One Expert asked the delegation to provide examples of national case law in which aggressors had been taken to justice for sexual abuse.

Several Experts asked the delegation to elaborate on the technical and financial assistance it was receiving from foreign agencies. While it was clear that there was a strong presence of humanitarian aid agencies in the aftermath of the tsunami, to what extent was the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) able to access camps for internally displaced persons in the north and what level of cooperation did the Government currently have in rehabilitating and resettling internally displaced persons?

Following on the theme of health care, what share of the health care budget was allocated to sexual and reproductive health and educational initiatives in this regard? Furthermore, what data was available on abortion and related maternal mortality?

The Land Development Ordinance, which dated from 1935, was grossly discriminatory and needed to be repealed as it was far from being compliant with human rights. It perpetuated the male dominance of land rights and needed to be urgently addressed and repealed.

Responses by Delegation

The delegation began by saying that it had taken note of all the comments from the Experts. The delegation was trying to present its case in full transparency and candour. When the delegation said that there were cultural sensitivities, it did not excuse or validate this position but explained some of the challenges in effectuating change. Sri Lanka’s marital laws were based directly on laws from the United Kingdom. Up until very recently, even in the United Kingdom marital rape was not punishable by law and Sri Lanka was reviewing the law.

The penal code permitted abortions to take place only if the delivery was going to cause a risk to life of the mother. Efforts were being made to loosen restrictions on abortion but this received opposition from Parliament and society. The Health Ministry was working on this issue and considering other grounds under which abortion would be considered legal, such as rape or incest.

Concerning the question on the Land Development Ordinance, the delegation said that it was being considered for reform and the Ordinance clearly flowed from the patriarchal roots of the country.

The Domestic Violence Act enabled victims and witnesses to benefit from protection. There were no impediments that prevented a victim from filing a complaint. If the perpetrator was a woman’s husband, the law enforcement agents had the duty to protect the woman. While the delegation did not have any case law to provide as examples, a number of victims had received redress in the past.

On the question of the involvement of the UNHCR in resettling internally displaced persons, the delegation confirmed that UNHCR needed to provide the Government of Sri Lanka with a certificate of approval before they were allowed to send the internally displaced persons home. So, in that regard, there was definitely involvement from the United Nations.

Questions by Experts on Articles Thirteen to Fifteen

Turning to articles thirteen to fifteen of the Covenant, Committee Experts asked the delegation to describe in greater detail the current education situation in the country and the longer-term situation.

Given the thinly written report, it was indeed difficult to discern the actual progress made in the education sector. Only four paragraphs were devoted to education in the core report and the statistics provided did not go beyond 2006. Under these circumstances, several Experts said that it was almost impossible to have a constructive dialogue on the subject of education.

One Expert brought up the very stark problem of dropouts amongst younger children. UNICEF reported a 21 per cent dropout rate before the nine years of compulsory education, likely because of child employment. Had the Government established apprenticeship programmes to train dropouts? Or conversely, was the Government considering ways in which to keep more students in school for longer periods of time?

The quality of the education system was also difficult to discern. What were the conditions under which students were being educated? How many students were there in a classroom and what figures were there regarding educational materials, including access to books, computers, etc? And also, what kind of temporary educational facilities were provided for children in camps for internally displaced persons?

There was a tendency to recruit poorly qualified teachers and school managers. The salaries were very low in Sri Lanka and teachers earned significantly less than their counterparts in India, Bangladesh and Thailand. With this in mind, what was the Government doing to correct this imbalance and increase teacher salaries?

Half of the households were under the impression that teachers were poorly qualified and even teachers themselves stated that the profession was no longer viewed in the same positive light by society. Given the dramatic lack of qualified teachers, what steps were being taken by the Government to promote teaching as a profession, particularly in rural and remote areas where the lack of qualified teachers was most acute?

According to some reports, a number of complaints regarding discriminatory teacher recruitments had been presented to the Ministry of Health but it appeared that they were not appropriately dealt with. Did the delegation have any further information on such cases?

Finally, on the issue of GDP allocation, it seemed that Sri Lanka earmarked a much smaller proportion of its national GDP to education than did its neighboring countries. One Expert was curious to know why this was the case.

On the issue of culture, one Expert asked what the Government was doing to ensure the right to culture and steps it had taken to safeguard the rights of all Sri Lankans to participate in cultural life, especially in the nation’s most remote and marginalized areas.

Responses by Delegation

In its responses to the Committee, the delegation said that cultural rights were truly important in Sri Lanka. There were four main cultures in the country and all cultures were given equal respect and promotion. The multicultural fabric of Sri Lankan society meant that this was a very important issue for the Government. Each student, irrespective of the community in which they lived, was exposed to and educated in the nation’s different cultures.

Primary education amongst Sri Lankan education was near universal and dropout rates were very low amongst primary school children. In addition to free education, the State also provided a midday meal, free books and uniforms. Education was entirely free, even including at the university level, and the delegation was surprised by some of the figures provided by the Experts.

In terms of education in camps for internally displaced persons, within a few months teachers were located and all school children in these camps benefited from teaching facilities. Also, catch-up educational programmes for children whose education had suffered directly because of the conflict were being conducted, in consultation and with help from UNICEF.

With regard to dropouts, the delegation had figures that contradicted those provided by the Eexpert that quoted a statistic from UNICEF. The dropout rate was significantly lower and it was probable that the figure was simply outdated. Additionally, the Ministry of Education had put in several measures to regulate compulsory basic education and to ensure that all students attended school for the compulsory nine years.

Many strategies were being put forth by the State to address the problem of teacher shortages. Government-funded teacher training courses had resulted in approximately 9,000 new teachers in recent years.

The delegation said that there had been allegations of corruption in certain schools with limited space but this was being dealt with. On the question of the availability of school supplies and the prevalence of computers and Internet access, the Government was making important progress in the field and nearly the entire country was connected.

Follow-up Questions

One of the Committee Experts asked for a clarification on whether or not there existed segregated schools based on religion or ethnicity.

Another Expert reiterated the question on dropouts, which may have been reduced in recent years but it would be useful to know exactly how it had been reduced.

The question of Internet access was not simply about installing wireless access zones in some areas or a computer for a large classroom of students. In this regard, what kind of training and education on Internet use was provided, particularly in the more remote areas of the country?

Responses by Delegation

With regard to access to Internet, the delegation said that they did not have figures on hand but would get back to the Expert in a few days time with more information. What the delegation could say was that an e-Government programme had been established nationwide but the exact figures were not available.

In response to the question on segregated schooling, there was no policy of segregation on either religious or ethnic grounds. However, in certain areas, there could be schools that taught only the Tamil language because of the particular demographics of that region. Nevertheless, national curricula ensured that religious education touched on all religions of the world.

Concluding Remarks

SHAVINDRA FERNANDO, Deputy Solicitor-General of Sri Lanka, in concluding remarks, thanked the Experts for the excellent manner in which they had conducted the dialogue. The issues that were raised made the dialogue truly interactive and the discussion was beneficial. The delegation had taken note of the Committee’s concerns and any outstanding issues would be taken up in due course.

In addition, the National Action Plan would be informed of the issues and concerns raised over the last few sessions. Considering the comments that were made about the report’s length and the fact that the previous report was submitted in 1998, it could be helpful if Sri Lanka came before the Committee before the regular time, perhaps in three years time.

JAIME MARCHAN ROMERO, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, said that all countries faced different challenges and appreciated the comments made by the delegation and their openness and commitment to addressing their shortcomings. The Committee was aware of the burden of preparing reports but this was the only way that the international community could fully monitor and be kept updated about the progress and problems facing individual nations.

The methods of work of the Committee had not really changed but 100 to 150 pages was fairly standard in terms of length of a report. It was equally important to go through the report article by article as this was how they were treated during the review. Finally, the Committee thanked the delegation for their active cooperation and wished Sri Lanka the best of luck going forward

UN PRESS RELEASE

November 10, 2010

'Wished I had simply died in fighting, worst was fear of pending death, rather than death itself', Susila, 24

IRIN News

BATTICALOA, 10 November 2010 (IRIN) - Cheran was 15 when he was abducted into the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He ran away two years later in January 2009.

"Being with the LTTE was a disaster. I never believed or cared for their cause, and don't like violence in general, but I feel that I might be seen as a terrorist or a violent person by others. This thought is very depressing."

IRINSTC110.jpg

Susila

Since the Sri Lankan government declared victory against the LTTE over a year ago, former child soldiers like Cheran have returned home, but many still face problems reintegrating and are fighting another battle - to overcome psychological scars and regain acceptance into society.

According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 6,903 children are known to have been recruited by the LTTE between 2002 and 2007.

Since the 1980s, the Tamil Tigers used children - many of them forcibly conscripted - as scouts and sentries, and in the 1990s, also for combat, said Brig. Sudantha Ranasinghe, director-general of the government department mandated to rehabilitate former child soldiers.

When the conflict ended in May 2009, the government helped reintegrate the children into society by giving them counselling and vocational training, and helping them to enrol in school. In April, the government closed its last remaining rehabilitation centre for former child soldiers in the northern town of Vavuniya.

According to UNICEF, 588 children have been reunited with their families while nine children remain in children’s homes and a further 54 children have been returned to school hostels for their education. The government and UN children’s agency are working on establishing community-based reintegration to meet the needs of all children.

"Children are always victims of war and are never perpetrators. Society now has a duty of fully reintegrating these children without any discrimination," said Hemamal Jayawardena, a legal protection specialist who has worked with former child soldiers.

"If we fail to trust them, if we treat them differently or act in an irresponsible manner, we could create a situation where their pasts could begin to haunt their minds again. Then all the good work of the rehabilitation process could be in vain," he said.

Resilience

Children have remarkable coping mechanisms and can even block out the "shattering psychological trauma" they've suffered, Jayawardena said.

"The seemingly normal life ex-combatant children are now going through shows their resilience and the great ability of children to cope and adapt," he said. "With time, most have been able to forget and put into their past the terrifying experiences they went through during recruitment, training, carrying lethal weapons, and even engaging in war."

Nonetheless, the trauma of life at war - when no one is paying attention to a child's needs - has serious repercussions on a child's psychological growth.

"Child soldiers live in environments that are the complete opposite from a normal child's living environment," said Mahesan Ganeshan, a psychiatrist who works with trauma-affected children in eastern Sri Lanka. "Being a child soldier distorts a child's view. Their expectations about everything change."

Many former child soldiers lack confidence, and therefore struggle with relationships and trust. They also have problems with anger management, he said.

Such issues pose a challenge for their reintegration with their families, schools and communities. "It's hard for them to make friends and spend spare time together because of their former association with armed groups," said Win Ma Ma Aye, the head of child protection for Save the Children in Sri Lanka.

When there is a security-related incident, "people often suspect the involvement of former child soldiers which deters them from starting afresh", she said, adding that they also have a hard time finding jobs. "All of these lead to more stress and often result in more aggressive and/or depressive behavior," Win Ma Ma Aye said.

"I wished I had died"

Susila, the youngest child of a family of four, was 15 when she was forcibly recruited by the LTTE in 2001. She was beaten and eventually forced into battle. She ran away from the LTTE six years later.

Now 24, Susila is unemployed, surviving with help from her family in Kokkadicholai Village, Batticaloa District. She tries hard not to think about the war.

"I thought I would die, especially after 2006 when fighting became really bad," she said. "Sometimes I wished I had simply died in fighting. The worst was the fear of pending death, rather than death itself."

Pic: Udara Soysa (IRIN is an editorially independent, non-profit project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), funded entirely by voluntary contributions from governments and other institutions.)

Economic Revival of the Northern and Eastern Provinces - National conflict and transnational consequences : Sri Lankan Experience

by Prof. G.L.Peiris

(Keynote Address delivered by External Affairs Minister Professor G L Peiris, at the symposium organized jointly by the Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai and the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Sri Lanka in Colombo on October 26, 2010)

I am very happy to associate myself with your discussion of a topic which I believe to be particularly relevant and important at this time. I recall with pleasure, my visits to Chennai and New Delhi at the invitation of the Centre for Security Analysis. This was a couple of years ago and I am glad that the Centre has collaborated with the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies to organize this exceedingly opportune and productive discussion.

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External Affairs Minister Professor G L Peiris ~ pic: businesstoday.lk

What strikes me immediately, as General Raghavan stated in his remarks is that you are putting the focus this time on consequences rather than causes. I think that is very desirable. There has already been copious discussion about causes, about origins, about the trajectory of evolution and in order to complete the analysis, I think it is very fitting that we should now, in a forum such as this, address our minds to the consequences, internal and external, of conflicts of this nature.

Terrorist organization

I think the world has given inadequate recognition to what Sri Lanka has been able to achieve in terms of controlling negative consequences. The conflict was with a terrorist organization which was described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States as the most feared and ruthless terrorist organization in the world.

The conflict spans the greater part of three decades, in various forms. And yet, when the conflict came to an end, a small country, with very limited resources, was able to handle an extremely complex situation in such a way as to contain and control the fallout of the conflict within the island as well as on the world at large.

I would like to give you some concrete illustrations of this. It has often been the empirical experience of nations that, when a conflict of this kind comes to an end, there is considerable instability in the region arising from a variety of causes, not least of which is the proliferation of small arms. It was particularly the case in the aftermath of the conflict in Cambodia, for example. It was a very serious problem.

It took years to come to grips with it. In the meantime, there was turbulence of very considerable magnitude within an extensive geographical region, with the proliferation of weapons, lawlessness, guns and ammunition. This did not happen at the end of the conflict here. Neither within Sri Lanka nor in neighbouring countries has that phenomenon manifested itself.

Basic facilities

That was not fortuitous. It did not happen coincidentally. It happened because of perceptive and properly structured policies which had been formulated and implemented. I will have something to say about these polices later on and about the manner in which we dealt with the rehabilitation of persons who were directly affected by the conflict, the ability of the Sri Lankan Government, within a matter of 15 months, to reduce the numbers of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from 297,000 to about 18,000, of whom about 11, 000 are moving in and out, they are visiting their friends and relatives and coming back to the camps where basic facilities are provided.

There is also the way we dealt with ex-combatants. We began with a number of about 11,700 and now about 5,700 are being rehabilitated vigorously. They are being prepared for reintegration into the community and it is only a hardcore, about 1,400 who are being held, with a view to the institution of criminal proceedings against those among them who have been involved in serious criminal activities.

Foreign Governments

There was, as well, a whole cluster of initiatives connected with the resuscitation of the economy of those parts of the country that have been ravaged by the conflict. Enormous effort went into it, as well as the commitment of very substantial resources. Sri Lankan Government acknowledges with appreciation the support we received from foreign Governments, particularly the Indian Government.

On our recent visit to New Delhi, we had detailed discussions on these matters, especially the meeting with Sri Chithambaram, where we discussed in great detail, the logistics of this, the 50,000 houses for internally displaced persons being constructed at a cost of approximately 250 million US Dollars, the cost being borne by the Indian Government. We have worked these things out in great detail. One thousand houses are to be immediately constructed on State land, 32,000 houses are being constructed by the owners with the wherewithal to be provided.

Provincial Council elections

And 17,000 houses are to be repaired, they are capable of being repaired, so that is being undertaken. All this is being undertaken with great vigour and enthusiasm. We also have the focus on elections being held in the Eastern Province at the grass roots levels, elections could not be held for a long period, we began the process there, we graduated to the holding of Provincial Council elections in the Eastern Province, in the Northern Province we have already held elections to two Local Government institutions in Jaffna and Vavuniya.

We propose to hold elections to the other local government bodies in the North and then, as we did successfully in the East, in due course, sooner rather than later, to hold the Provincial Council elections in the Northern Province.

It is a multi-faceted strategy, beginning with the identification of priorities, undoubtedly the humanitarian considerations revolving around the people who have been displaced and then ensuring that these efforts are reinforced by the economic and political initiatives that would complete the strategy that is being embarked upon by the Sri Lankan Government.

Another familiar consequence of conflicts of this nature is the high degree of collaboration among insurgent groups in the region. It has been a matter of practical experience that they do not operate in isolation. There are links and synergies. They work together, there is exchange of information, money laundering, movement of weapons, movement of people, particularly training and other issues of that kind.

South Asian region

We have seen to it that did not happen. If you take the Waziristan area in Pakistan, the Swat Valley, the Northeastern region of India, the current situation in Nepal, there is clear evidence of collaboration among insurgent groups. But this has not happened. When I was asked in New Delhi a few days ago, about the suggestion that was made soon after the Pune bakery blast whether any of these persons had been trained in Sri Lanka, I was able to state categorically, that there is no evidence whatsoever of this.

The allegation was taken seriously, it was investigated by the Sri Lankan Government and we came to the conclusion that there is no reason to believe that this has happened. Again we have contained the consequences. We have ensured that they did not spill over and there was no collaboration among insurgent groups within the South Asian region.

Take the whole question of refugees. You are talking about the consequences of conflicts of this nature. One of the most prominent consequences would be problems connected with refugees. In that area, we have been actually commended by Foreign Governments for the steps we have taken to prevent that problem from escalating and assuming serious proportions.

About four months ago, when I attended the Shangri - La deliberations in Singapore, on the sidelines of that conference, I had a very fruitful meeting with the then Australian Defence Minister, Senator John Faulkner, who thanked the Sri Lankan Government profusely for action which we had taken that resulted in their own problem, with regard to the influx of refugees into Australian territory, being substantially mitigated.

Refugee status

The Government of Australia was appreciative of action taken by the Sri Lankan Government to extenuate the problems that Australia would have had to deal with on Christmas Island and elsewhere, with regard to refugees.

When I accompanied President Mahinda Rajapaksa to New York for the General Assembly sessions, on the sidelines of that, I had a meeting with the Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.

I discussed with him the manner in which we had handled this with the Australians and told him that the Australian Government, in recognition of the very useful action being taken by Sri Lanka, made a policy decision to suspend the processing of applications for refugee status from Sri Lanka for a period of one year.

They have reason to be satisfied that there is nothing happening in the country which people need to run away from and this was supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who said that there is absolutely no evidence of systemic discrimination against a group of people in Sri Lanka and there was no reason for people to flee the country, claiming that they feared for their lives or their safety.

That is why I stated to a leading Canadian Newspaper The Toronto Star that these people are really economic refugees, they were going to improve their lot in life, we don’t have any quarrel with that, but we object to a fictitious basis being constructed for these ambitions. The international community clearly recognized at that time, as was explicitly articulated by the Australian Government, that there was no refugee problem here.

Another consequence has to do with the security of sea lanes. We are familiar with rather serious problems in that regard in various part of the world. But as far as the Indian Ocean is concerned, we have done everything we possibly can and those attempts have been attended by considerable success and the resulting position is that there are no serious problems with regard to security of the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean.

About seven weeks ago we had some very useful discussions in the Southern port of Galle, it was called the Galle Dialogue, and we had high-level representatives of more than 23 Navies from around the world participating in that Dialogue.

Insurgent group

The Commander of the Indian Navy Nirmal Varma, visited us just before that and spent almost a week in Sri Lanka. There is very active collaboration in this field between India and Sri Lanka.

Matters connected with the safety of sea lanes, piracy, gun running, trafficking, we have dealt with all these issues in a systematic way and the results are there for all the world to see.

In all these areas, whether you are talking of proliferation of small arms, collaboration among insurgent groups in the region, influx of refugees into other countries which create serious problems there, we have dealt with all these issues in a constructive way. If there were a large numbers of refugees going into Tamil Nadu Gen Raghavan spoke of the importance of Tamil Nadu in the overall political equation in Delhi, this would obviously cause serious problems. That has been very effectively addressed.

All these are matters in respect of which, I think, there has been inadequate acknowledgment of the quality and the magnitude of the Sri Lankan achievement. It was not just a question of achieving a military victory against a very dangerous insurgent group, difficult as it was, and contrary to the expectations of almost the whole world, but winning the peace, as Gen Raghavan pointed out, is just as daunting as the challenge of winning a war and the post conflict phase has to be handled with finesse and sensitivity in order to prevent the exacerbation of the problems I have briefly outlined to you.

Military action

However, in the overall setting of consequences emanating from a conflict of this nature, we need to be perennially conscious of potential danger. Let us not forget that, although the military action is over and there is no likelihood whatsoever of the LTTE having the strength to re-arm and re-group and preparing for hostilities of an armed nature, nevertheless an insurgent group like that, even after the active conflict has come to an end, continues to have certain assets.

Communications network

In this case, there are two major assets. One is very large financial resources which they have accumulated over almost a quarter of a century.

The other is the highly sophisticated communications network which they have built up and consolidated.

If you survey some of the developments now taking place in North America and Western Europe, you will see that it would be very unreal to regard all issues connected with this conflict as completely at an end. Certainly, the military action is over. It is not going to raise its ugly head again. But there are other ramifications that call for active attention and appropriate action.

Take, for example, the matters connected with the so-called Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). In that connection purported elections were held in different parts of the world. The Canadian constituency, as it was called, for example, was supposed to have elected 25 persons. There is a person actively associated with the LTTE who claims to have been elected to the position of Prime Minister in the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam.

International law

It has gone as far as that, although of course no Government has recognized it and when I discussed this matter with the Canadian Foreign Minister, the Lawrence Cannon, he said not only do we not recognize it, we are doing everything consistent with the laws of Canada to deal with it. That is on that side of the Atlantic.

In the United Kingdom there is the Tamil Global Forum which is equally active. These are organizations that are putting constant pressure on politicians, their aides and getting involved in electoral politics to make themselves useful to the powers that be.

Even more visible than the wings of these movements, in North America and in the United Kingdom, is the activity that has been undertaken by some groups in Norway.

An illustration of some of these problems is provided by the arrival of the ship, the ‘Ocean Lady’ in Canada. That was the situation where about 87 people were on board this vessel when the ship reached Canada.

Among the 87 were persons against whom very serious charges including murder were proffered and they are wanted in this country.

The time has come to take a fresh look at the orthodox conceptions and assumptions of international law. In principle, when a group of people arrive on the shores of a country claiming refugee status, the receiving country is discouraged from having contact of any kind with the government of the country from which the voyage of the refugees originated. The application of this principle to the Canadian situation brought about immensely unsatisfactory consequences. The upshot of it all was that all of these people have the potential of being released into Canadian society. What is the consequence of that? If this were to happen, there will inevitably be considerable social disorder in that community.

People smuggling

Many of these people will find themselves on the dole. They would be supported by the taxpayers of these countries. They would generally have no fixed abode, no fixed employment and the natural and inevitable consequence of that situation would be proliferation of crime. That, of course, is accompanied by other equally distressing developments, to do with gun running, narcotics, people smuggling, fraud connected with passports and visas, all of which would be the natural result of a situation of that kind. These are matters which the international community needs to be conscious of.

There is certainly at least a moral obligation devolving on them to respond appropriately in order to contain consequences of that nature which emanate from conflict at the stage when the conflict itself has physically come to an end.

I spoke of the need to take a fresh look at the principles of international law governing the reception of refugees, but I think the problem is broader and deeper. It is my view that the traditional corpus of international law does not work and does not adequately serve the international community at this time.

Defence strategy

I read the speech by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, two days ago, where he made some very relevant remarks on the subject of the role of force in defence strategy. The Prime Minister of India implied that today insurgents and terrorists are able to derive a very considerable advantage from the manner in which International Law is structured and he said we must make it very clear that we have the resolve to combat terror and we have the means at our disposal to accomplish that object. There must be no equivocality or ambiguity on that point at all. This must be a message that must go out loud and clear to insurgents wherever they may be active, in any part of the world.

The backdrop to this is something that we need to reflect upon. The principles of International Law were developed in a particular context. That is true with regard to the formulation of legal principles in any field. The orthodox setting in which these principles received expression and were subsequently refined and developed was in the context of conflict between and among sovereign states.

Today the problem has a totally different dimension. Today the most dangerous conflicts in South Asia are not conflicts between or among states but situations where the legitimate authority of the established state is being challenged and jeopardized by insurgency. That is the familiar pattern.

The most striking characteristic of that situation is asymmetry. There is no reciprocity or uniformity. There is a sovereign state and in opposition to it, an insurgent group.

Territorial borders

The insurgent group is at a decisive advantage. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom made a very perceptive remark soon after her life was attempted. I am referring to the Brighton bombing. Thatcher was able to save her life only by a whisker. The bomb exploded five minutes after she left the room where it had been placed. She reacted the next morning when she addressed the media. She said, we must remember what a decisive advantage the terrorist has against the lawful Government and her words were, the terrorist chooses the time, the place and the opportunity.

How do you protect every temple, church, bus halt, railway station in the whole country; it is they and they alone who know where the next bomb is going to go off. The response of the IRA to Margaret Thatcher was even more interesting. They said, Madam, we have to be lucky only once; you have to be lucky, every time. That is true.

I am saying this to illustrate to you the obvious reality that, in a conflict of this nature, the terrorist is at an overwhelming advantage.

The principles of International Law which are evolved to deal with that situation must obviously take that reality into account. This underlines the need to look at particular segments of the established corpus of law, for example, the right to preemptive action. We don't believe in preemptive action outside our territorial borders but certainly the right of self- defence in national law does not arise only after you have been attacked.

The substantive criminal laws of India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, all these countries recognize the right of self-defence when there is reasonable apprehension of danger. That, certainly, is a principle that needs to be developed and applied in situations involving conflicts between the State and insurgent groups.

United Nations

There is the argument that is very powerfully and emotionally developed in various quarters that, whatever is done in the aftermath, if it is to be credible and effective, has to be at the international level. There are very influential INGOs espousing this cause with a vengeance, but internationalization brings in its wake very formidable problems. I think right now, the clearest example of that, is Nepal. When I became Foreign Minister in April, soon after that, the first visit overseas was to Thimphu, where, one of the interesting discussions we had was with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Nepal.

We realized how serious the situation there is. The situation on the ground is that the elected government of Nepal does not have full authority to deal with problems connected with arms and ammunition, because the final authority with regard to many of these matters is the United Nations.

So you have, in many of these critical situations a certain condition of atrophy. The Government finds its hands tied and that immeasurably strengthens and emboldens the terrorist groups.

That degree of internalization is a disincentive to effective action by the State and a source of tremendous strength, no doubt unwittingly, to the terrorist groups. We believe that the international order today must be constructed on the premise that countries must be encouraged to deal with their own problems. That is very essential.

Gone are the days of the colonial mentality, when the doctrine was preached that the emerging nations do not have the resources, pecuniary, intellectual and in terms of empirical experience, to deal with matters of this nature. They have to be done for them, by others.

Cultural values

That is a wholly condescending and patronizing attitude which is very much out of line with the mores of the contemporary world. Therefore, we believe, in keeping with the spirit pervading the charter of the United Nations and the values which lie at the core of the United Nations, as an instrument, that the central endeavour must be, to give every encouragement to countries to work out solutions in keeping with their own historical antecedents, their social traditions, their cultural values, all of which change significantly from country to country. There is no size that fits everybody.

That is why, when we were contemplating the legislation and the structures of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), we were certainly happy to benefit from useful experience elsewhere.

In particular, we looked at the experience of South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was headed by Alex Borie and where a very active role was played by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

We also looked at the Chilcott Committee in the United Kingdom. But we took care to ensure that experience was suitably adapted to suit the combination of circumstances in our own country; that is absolutely essential, if it is going to work on the ground, it must be in harmony with local circumstances and priorities and any attempt to impose a straight jacket on countries such as Sri Lanka is bound to be futile and counterproductive.

Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of the conflict, has been deeply conscious of the need to address itself to potential consequences and to put in place viable strategies and mechanisms to extenuate the gravity of the consequences.

Multi-pronged strategy

We have put in place, in order to achieve that objective, a multi-pronged strategy. Most of all, we believe that economic revival is absolutely crucial and we also believe that there is an intimate correlation between economic resuscitation and political innovation.

Political developments, especially when they mean swimming against the current, when you are doing things which people are not really familiar with or accustomed to, success is much more likely to attend your effort if those attempts are being made in an environment that is pervaded by some degree of economic contentment and well-being; and that means access to incomes, livelihoods which is a sine qua non for achieving success in respect of political innovation.

This has required collaboration with the private sector. Sri Lankan Government has been able to persuade the private sector to go to Jaffna, to go to Kilinochchi, to go to those areas and to open factories where today, Tamil speaking girls have become the breadwinners in their families. They are reviving fisheries, agriculture, adding value. All of that has brought about an economic revival in those parts of the country. The first prong has been the economy.

Negative experiences

The second has been the concern with the emotional side of it. The scars in the minds of the people; the need to remove pain and anguish and to encourage people to put these negative experiences behind them and to face the future with courage and fortitude. More than anything else, it is a time of healing.

We are experiencing reunification. Reunification requires rapprochement. And the Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka is the principal instrument that we have put in place to accomplish that task of rapprochement.

Diaspora's role

General Ragavan referred to the Diaspora. That is another very crucial element. Whether we like it or not, the Diaspora has an indispensable role to play. When I was in Washington, in May this year, to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she told me, I am not advising you, but I am just telling you about our own experience, she said that the Clinton administration invested very considerable effort, time and money in reaching out to the Diaspora, the Americans who were associated in one form or another with the developments in Northern Ireland.

She said that although it took a great deal of time, it was well worth it, the results were commensurate with the energy that was expended on that task. The idea is to soften, to chasten attitudes. That is exactly what we have set out to do.

It is not the intention by any means of Sri Lankan Government to isolate the Diaspora, much less to demonize them. We want to reach out to them. Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been talking to them, and so have I; and the Defence and External Affairs Ministries are working very closely with regard to it.

Economic conditions

The central message that we are sending out to the Diaspora is this. We want you to be involved. While the conflict was on, you did several things that were not very helpful, but that is water under the bridge. There is no need to dwell on that. Today we have a new situation. Would you not really derive a deep sense of satisfaction from seeing the economic conditions of the people in the North and the East substantially improved?

That is where we are now. Look at the enormous effort that is being made with regard to the development of infrastructure, highways, irrigation systems, schools and hospitals, all of this.

Why don't you associate yourself with those initiatives? Would it not be deeply satisfying? I am happy to be able to tell you that for the most part, the responses have been very encouraging. In External Affairs Ministry, I met a group of about 20 people; very influential in the respective countries in which they reside.

Professionals and intellectuals

We are working closely with them and many of them are coming back; look at the passenger manifests of Sri Lankan Airlines. You will find a lot of Tamil names.

They are coming back. I am not suggesting that they are coming back to settle down. They haven't made final and irrevocable decisions but they certainly are coming back to the country with their families to see for themselves what conditions are like. There is no substitute for first hand observation, so they are doing that.

I consider this to be a situation that is very sanguine. It is full of hope for the future. So General Raghavan, we are at a very critical juncture in the history of our country. In order to formulate policies, there has to be deep analysis.

We must make certain that there are no lacunae, there are no significant factors which we have unwittingly excluded. That is why an initiative of this nature is especially opportune at this time.

The Sri Lankan Government is addressing in earnest all the different ramification of this problem and we would like to work with academics, professionals and intellectuals. I said two days ago when I addressed the National Law Conference that this is unique, for the first time in Sri Lanka's contemporary history, lawyers from all parts of the country are able to participate in these deliberations.

That is a unique achievement which must not be underestimated. In the new environment, there is really scope for all academics and professionals to participate fully.

The President often tells me why don't you ask your Tamil friends in the Universities, in the professions, to come actively into politics. Let them contest elections.

We would be happy to give them nomination from the ruling party.

Practical expression

Now, until the conflict came to an end this was simply not possible because of the LTTE's claim to exclusivity.

Any Tamil speaking person who contested elections was not going to live for long. Today that situation has changed.

There is no longer that fear, that intimidation. Consequently, we are celebrating emancipation from terror and that must receive practical expression, in the form of a much more vigorous contribution by cerebral, reflecting people, academics and professionals with whom this country is abundantly blessed.

So my plea to you, as we embark on these deliberations, is that you make use of this opportunity to focus deeply on all the issues that have a bearing on the situation in which we find ourselves today.

Australian High Court unanimously rejects attempt to keep Sri Lankan Asylumn seekers outside the protection of Australian law

Shake-up looms for offshore processing after High Court ruling on Tamils

by Lauren Wilson, Joe Kelly

THE High Court has unanimously rejected the federal government's attempt to keep asylum-seekers on Christmas Island outside the protection of Australian law.

In a landmark ruling handed down by the full bench of the High Court this morning, the court determined that two Sri Lankan Tamil asylum-seekers, M61 and M69, had been denied procedural fairness.

The Coalition said the decision was a “disaster” which would appear to represent a “total collapse” of Labor's offshore processing system.

David Manne, executive director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, who co-ordinated the High Court challenge, said: “This is a great decision for the rule of law in this country.

“The court has unanimously ruled that these decisions on our clients' cases were unfair and unlawful because the government was not applying ordinary Australian laws on decisions on these life or death matters.”

Today's decision could allow failed asylum-seekers whose claims were processed on Christmas Island access to Australian courts to appeal.

“This decision applies to every asylum-seeker in Australia subject to the offshore processing regime,” Mr Manne said.

“ It means that not one single one of them should be removed without their consent until they have had their claims assessed through a new and lawful process in accordance with the High Court's ruling.”

The two Tamil asylum-seekers were refused refugee status and have been detained while they challenged the legality of Australia's offshore processing regime.

The High Court said the processing agency which determined that Australia did not have protection obligations to M61 and M69 made an error by treating the Migration Act and decided cases “as no more than guides to decision-making”.

It found that the asylum-seekers' forced detention had a direct impact on their rights.

The High Court did not uphold the asylum-seekers' broader challenge to the validity of the Migration Act.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the High Court judgment could open a “Pandora's box” of appeals in Australian courts.

“It would appear to represent a total collapse of Labor's offshore processing system.

“This decision of the High Court now throws into doubt the whole offshore processing system that Labor had introduced and essentially opens up a Pandora's box when it comes to the potential legal claims that could be made,” Ms Bishop told ABC television.

Ms Bishop said the only option left for the government was to “pick up the phone and talk to the President of Nauru”.

Ms Bishop said she understood the High Court challenge came about because of the government's decision to make the processing of asylum-seekers on Christmas Island a “non-statutory” process under amendments to the Migration Act in 2008.

“This represents a total failure on Labor's part on protecting Australia's borders,” she said.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison also said Labor's border protection regime had completely collapsed as a result of the ruling.

He argued that every rejection decision could now be subject to a “flood” of appeals.

“The system that Labor put in place in the middle of 2008 when the unprecedented rate of illegal boat arrivals began has completely collapsed on the government today, throwing into further chaos the government's asylum policy and border protection regime,” he told The Australian Online.

“This was a system that Labor put in place that has been slammed by the High Court and literally opens the door now to a flood of appeals on every rejection decision, including potential claims for compensation,” Mr Morrison said.

“They have set new records for incompetence that challenge even their pink batts failures. “

Mr Morrison said there was now “no future” for Labor's regional processing centre in East Timor.

He explained that in the middle of 2008 Labor had “introduced what was a non-statutory process or an informal process for assessing and reviewing applications for asylum under the convention”.

He said this was in stark contrast to the statutory process that the Coalition had in place for doing the same job in Nauru, he said.

“If they picked up the phone to Nauru today then all of those same protections and provisions for conducting assessments in a valid way would be in place,” he said.

The two asylum-seekers arrived by boat in 2009, reaching Christmas Island on October 2.

Both claimed refugee status out of fear they faced persecution from the Sri Lankan army, agencies of the government and paramilitary groups because of their alleged support for the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam.

Faced with deportation, the pair appealed to the High Court on grounds of lack of procedural fairness because former immigration minister Chris Evans had failed to personally consider their cases.

The minister has the power under the Migration Act to grant a visa if it is in the public interest.

The Australian government and the immigration minister have been ordered to pay the pair's legal costs. ~ courtesy: The Australian ~

The Harvest Dream of Fr. Michael Rodrigo: Bread of life for the people of Uva

By Eymard de Silva Wijeyeratne

FMRTC1110.jpg"Ah look at those lovely people
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church
Where a wedding has been,
Lives in a dream,
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she
Keeps in a jar by the door, who is it for?
Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was
Buried along with her name.
Nobody came.
Fr. Mckenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands,
As he walks from the grave,
No one was saved." (John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

It is with a sense of indignation mixed with sadness that I write this memorial note on the life and work of Fr. Michael Rodrigo, who was assassinated on 10th November 1987. I do this, not merely to sing the praises of a Catholic priest, but also to draw attention to the social commitment of a man who sacrificed his life in the process of reducing his own dimension to enhance the dimension of national life devoid of religious and ethnic divisions.

The life of a Christian priest, especially a Catholic one, is a damming of a stream of consciousness into segmented parts: one part, articulated with spiritual exercises and routines of discipline that control emotions and abjure participation in worldly activities, and the other part spent in ordering spiritual activities that deal with liturgical services and rites relating to the needs of the faithful. Unfortunately, in the routine run of life, when ordinary men and women toil hard to feed their children, and struggle to keep body and soul together in conditions of abject poverty, there are others, who because they are anaesthetized by wealth and political/social influence, function as ‘sapient sutlers’ (T.S. Eliot) of the lords. At this point they get disengaged from the throbbing mass of humanity, which they are expected to serve but to which they scarcely belong. Fr. Michael was a rare exception.

Family and Social Background

Fr. Michael was born of a middle class family that had no special claims to the fruits of the earth. The secret of his unusual character as a Catholic priest was perhaps that his father was a virtuous man of Methodist stock, while his mother held on to the austere values of the Magnificat – a woman, who could through her steadfastness, say that everything in creation had done great things to her. A large part of those great things was her beloved son.

He was educated at St. Peter’s College, Colombo; the school I was privileged to attend. This school imparted a sound education to generations of students, among whom were those who belonged to less privileged families that lived beyond the boundaries of the South of Colombo. After being ordained as a priest, Fr. Michael continued with his theological studies; obtaining a doctorate from the Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP). On returning to Sri Lanka he was appointed a lecturer at the National Seminary. Soon thereafter, he received an offer from ICP to be a Professor of Theology. He declined this offer in order to work with Bishop Leo Nanayakkara, in the Badulla Diocese.

His Mission and His Message

Fr. Michael was a rare exception in that he opted to exercise his priestly duties outside the limits of a parish, a school or other religious institution. He realised that Christianity as conventionally practised in Sri Lanka as well as other parts of the world, lacked the sublime Jesus-vitality that has a benign influence on humanity: this being his macro-interpretation of the second part of what Jesus called the greatest commandment "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Mark 12:29-31, Luke 10: 25- 28, Matthew 22: 34-40).

If Christians constitute a very small percentage of Sri Lanka’s population, he asked how one could explain the meaningful balance of God’s creation. With the approval and assistance of Bishop Leo Nanayakkara, Fr. Michael established a Christian-Buddhist Dialogue Centre which he called Suba Seth Gedera, in Alukavila, Buttala in lower Uva. He maintained close contact with the people in the surrounding villages, engaging in ceaseless activity as their mentor, counsellor and companion in distress.

He also maintained a running dialogue with Buddhist monks in the area. At the start of his mission in Buttala, the villagers and Buddhist monks in the area were sceptical about his motives and those of his co-workers. In fact one monk is said to have remarked that it would not be long before he started pouring the waters of baptism on unsuspecting villagers. The sincerity of his motives and his carefully designed programme of work in the village finally convinced these monks, that in him they had found a loyal and sincere partner in pursuing the goal of moral regeneration and joint social validation of religion.

The major feature of Fr. Michael’s life and mission was that he tried hard to teach Christians the distinction between claiming to be Christian and trying to become Christian through finite, but unceasing attempts to practise Gospel values. A true Christian, as Fr. Michael so effectively demonstrated through his life and mission, is a person, who after an initial leap of faith, engages in the continuous process of becoming Christian and in doing so gets progressively closer to God. On the other hand, he endeavoured to teach non-Christians that being true to the values of their own religion was more rewarding than to switch religions for the sake of personal gain.

His Passover to Martyrdom

According to those who lived and worked with Fr. Michael, a businessman of area was shot at, by persons alleged to be insurgents, on 4th November 1987. This incident took place at the height of insurgent activity in the South. The same night at about 11.30 p.m. about 12 armed men are said to have surrounded Fr. Michael’s lowly quarters and called out to him, saying that they were the police. When he opened the door, the armed men had told him that they had information that he was hiding the businessman’s assailants.

The armed men had then searched the quarters and looked through all documents, which included his theological treatises, poems and other writings, in the hope of finding evidence that would have incriminated him in insurgent activity. When they had failed to find such evidence they had left the premises.

The next morning (5th November) the armed men had turned up again and said that they were the ones who had come the previous night. They had told Fr. Michael that they had received several petitions against him. He had responded by requesting them to ask the people in the village about the type of activity he was engaged in. The armed men had replied saying that JVP indoctrination classes were being conducted in his house. Fr. Michael and his co-workers had explained to these men that the classes they conducted were literacy-enhancing and farmer-education programmes. This process of investigative visits and interrogation had continued for a few more days, with a final threat that he should abandon his mission.

Fr. Michael was more overwhelmed by the suffering, which poor villagers were forced to endure than by the threats made by the armed men. He made the abject poverty of the villagers a part of his own life. He was convinced that the type of market-economy of which the government of the day was enamoured, would in no way alleviate their suffering. He thought that their citizenry was being threatened to the point that they were expected to provide the grist for the market-mill that will grind them as supply-side fodder. Their suffering was made unendurable by the fact that they, especially the young boys, were under constant suspicion of being insurgents.

The brave NGOs whose hearts undergo spasms of conscience-flutter at the mention of the word ‘refugee’ were nowhere in sight to plead on their behalf. At this point of time Fr. Michael and his small community of helpers realised that they risked death if they continued with their work in the area. When threats were directed at him on the grounds that he like his Master, was undermining the Pharisaic social establishment, he had sufficient warning and time, to run away to a well-manored religious house, where life as well as peace of mind would never be under threat and where spirituality would be confined to meditation, prayer and a constant vision of an idyllic after-life.

The community had to take a prompt decision whether to abandon their life’s mission at Suba Seth Gedera or to carry on with their work. Before doing this they realised that their mission demanded discussion, meditation and prayer, as well as taking into consideration the wishes of the villagers, whom they had decided to serve. Fr. Michael told his co-workers that he would abide by their collective decision even though his personal preference was to stay on and face the consequences of his commitment.

The people of the village had also declared their wish that Fr. Michael and his community should remain. The final decision was to be taken after the celebration of the Eucharist by the members of the community on 10th November 1987. As though in the grip of a premonition of his fate, Fr. Michael had, with overpowering anguish, intoned Psalm 130; "Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord; Lord hear my voice"! While bringing the service to a close, he had exhorted the members of the community in the following words, "After all, the lasting things are love and relationship with people. These things will last even in eternity. Don’t be afraid, we will commit ourselves to God. He added, "Into your hands O Lord I commit my spirit".

It was nearly 7.30 in the evening, when the sound of a gunshot at close range reverberated in the room. Fr. Michael’s skull and brain lay shattered on the floor. His flesh was laid impasto on the walls of the room and his blood splashed on the vessels used for the celebration of the Eucharist. His Passover from a purposeful life to an avoidable death was accomplished. Meanwhile, the mitred ones had chosen the easy path of wiping the dirt from their hands, in the way that Fr. Mckenzie of the Beatle ballad did. Fr. Michael was buried alone with his name.

His Sublime Theology – God in the Midst of His People

Fr. Michael sacrificed his life, not for stubbornly defending dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church, but for living Christ in the intimacy of unshakeable faith: by motivating, energising, showing concern for and defending every human being irrespective of his faith. As far as I am aware, the officialdom of the Church to which he belonged and loved so much, did not appear to have been moved by his death. Perhaps it may have been a little relieved in the subconscious depths of its much-vaunted magisterium that an un-Roman source of embarrassment to its illusions of grandeur, had been struck off the roll.

Fr. Michael was in the habit of making notes of the intimate thoughts that found their way into his mind as he engaged himself in dialogue with the peasants with whom he associated. The language he used was quaint but simple. It was as he himself said in many of his writings, dislocated into meaning. He favoured the metaphor of the Passover: moving imperceptibly from the revelation of lamb-blood sprinkled on door-posts as a sign of protection, to human blood, shed to protect and sustain truth.

His own precious blood, splattered on the altar on which he celebrated the Eucharist, proclaimed the final chapter of a Passover, which the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has failed to celebrate as the noblest and finest Jesus-entrenching event in the history of that institution, in 20th Century Sri Lanka. When going through these notes, one experiences the exhilarating shock that God had decided to journey downwards to savour roots and enjoy the fragrance of soil that that has been turned over with human hands to produce bread that is also the work of human hands. Fr. Michael’s concern for the environment was enchantingly bucolic rather than pretentiously technical. It reminds one of what a Latin poet once said: "Vitaque mancipio nulli datur" (Nature does no more than lend). He spoke to people about living and sharing what they imagined as being their exclusive possession.

Now let me dwell on the relevance of the Beatles ballad, which is quoted as an introduction to this essay of appreciation. It describes the routine time-table of the average priest, who in compliance with commands from the top is expected to defend territory rather than to serve his people with sense of anguish for their needs, hopes and fears. The lovely but lonely people, who take their faces out of a jar on Sundays, days of obligation, feast days, put them back on other days when Jesus Christ is not in focus and is therefore ecclesially dead.

Where do all these lovely people come from and where do they all go? Their lives, their loves, their hunger and their thirst are not Fr. McKenzie’s business. Being always vigilant, alert and ready for vertical take-off, he must through no fault of his own, only talk about God. He too is lonely because he is curbed by the trivial unctions and the exaggerated sense of pomp and propriety to which he must subscribe.

Yes, Fr. McKenzie cannot shepherd his flock together; he cannot lead them to pastures green. In their pilgrimage from the sublime to the ridiculous, they move from ‘pastures green’ where sheep may safely graze’ to laity-mowed lawns, at which holy cows may safely gaze to enjoy a pleasing prospect in the midst of an asphalt jungle.

(November 10th is the 23rd anniversary of Fr. Michael Rodrigo's assassination. This article appears in "The Island")

Four Top Garment Manufacturers Planning to Open Factories in Northern Sri Lanka

By Uditha Jayasinghe

Hobbled by the loss of GSP+ and rising costs, top garment manufacturers are moving north to gain an edge with lower labour costs and fast tracking development in the process.

Brandix Limited, Hidramani Limited, Timex Garments Limited, MAS Holdings and Omega Line Limited are some of the companies keen on investing in the north.

The officials of leading garment factories who are willing to set up their factories in the Northern Province visited Vavuniya on 28 October and had a discussion with Northern Province Governor G.A Chandrasiri at the District Secretariat, Vavuniya.

The investors said that they were willing to set up factories in Omanthai, Nelunkulam and Cheddikkulam areas in order to provide employment opportunities for the youth in the Northern Province.

Of these companies, Timex and Fergasam are considering establishing a factory in Mannar at an investment of Rs. 1.5 billion next year.

“We are focusing on constructing the buildings in six months with another three months allocated for staff training. So at the moment we are hoping to start business during the latter part of 2011,” company representatives noted, adding that once the factory was established, they would consider moving to Achchuveli with another Rs. 1.5 billion venture.

“We are keen on this because of the tax advantages and the shortage of labour we face in other regions. The initial investment will be comparatively small, but in another two years we are hoping to expand with a Rs. 3 billion venture.

Brandix already has a garment factory in Punani in the Eastern Province and is eying the north as well. However, the company was reluctant to divulge details until the project was finalised. When contacted, Hidramani officials also preferred to remain tight-lipped.

Meanwhile, MAS Holdings sources revealed that the project was currently on hold but confirmed that their representatives had discussions with Government officials for a proposed venture.

Joint Apparel Associations Forum (JAAF) General Secretary Rohan Masakorala told Daily FT that the move by large scale apparel companies to take advantage of the Government’s tax incentives and infrastructure development in the north made perfect sense given the fact that Sri Lanka’s top foreign exchange earner had had a lacklustre run of earnings lately. He also remarked that “substantial” investment could take place.

“There is nothing thrilling about our export numbers,” he admitted, noting that they had posted a consecutive decline in the third month in a row. “Volumes remain the same and the number of orders is good, but when it comes to prices, profit margins and overall turnover, the industry is hurting.”

However, experts are optimistic that the third quarter will be positive since Sri Lanka’s key competitors, China and Bangladesh, are seeing an increase in labour prices.

“In the JAAF three year strategy we clearly marked the north and east as well as other economically-underdeveloped provinces as an option because costs in the Western Province are too high. While we can get better production costs in these newly-opened-up areas, the companies can also assist livelihood growth and grass root level development as well. It’s a good move,” he added.

The investors visited the sites at Omanthai, Cheddikkulam and Nelunkulam in the Vavuniya District. Government Agent of Vavuniya P.S.M. Charles and officials from the Sri Lanka Board of Investment, the Department of Environment and USAID also participated in the event

COURTESY:FINANCIAL TIMES

November 09, 2010

Politicians must not repeat mistakes of the first half century after independence

By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, MP

In looking at the question of national integration, which should be our principal goal now that we have eliminated terrorism from at least Sri Lankan shores, we need to begin by considering the factors that so nearly caused disintegration.

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Signing The Indo-Lankan Accord in 1987

Firstly there was the sustained neglect of areas in which minorities lived. This was not particularly targeted at the minorities, since Sri Lanka suffered for more than 50 years after independence from development without equity. This has resulted in the Western Province hogging the lion’s share of per capita income, which is why many areas in the country still suffer from high levels of poverty even though the country as a whole has now moved to middle income level.

Secondly, there were measures which in intention as well as in effect were clearly discriminatory. The most upsetting in this regard was language policy, not only the constitutional measure declaring Sinhala the only official language after an electoral campaign in which both major parties seemed to think being negative about Tamil was the key to electoral success, but also the educational system that straitjacketed many children in monolingualism. Another upsetting measure, still remembered with bitterness as I found last week in dialogue with Tamil members of the diaspora in London, was discrimination with regard to University admission. This is all the more significant in that Mr Prabhakaran’s was the first school cohort affected by the new system, even though in its overtly racist form it was only formulated in 1978.

Both these areas pertain to political decisions, and should have been resolved through political means. However with the advent to power of J R Jayewardene the situation changed, and systematic violence against Tamils gave rise not only to lasting bitterness but also to recourse to violence that now had more supporters. Unfortunately the Cold War adventurism of the government also led to a forceful Indian reaction, which helped to bring terrorism to centre stage, a position it continued to occupy for a quarter of a century.

It should be noted that, with the exception of the Tigers, other former terrorist groups abandoned militancy with the Indo-Lankan Accord of 1987. Though I believe there is no excuse for terrorism, there was no longer any pretext even for the Tiger continuation of intransigent violence, given that there has been no repetition after 1983 of the type of ethnic violence the Jayewardene government seemed to countenance. Sadly, given the indulgence the Tigers received, briefly from successive Sri Lankan governments, and also from some elements in the West – though never thankfully by India again – they were able to grow from strength to strength, until they over-reached themselves spectacularly, refused all compromise and negotiation, and ended up defeated.

If then the third reason for ethnic tensions, violence encouraged if not supported by the state, was a thing of the past, the other two however still remained. Though Tamil had been made an Official Language in terms of the Indo-Lankan Accord, implementation of this was slow. Most students were still essentially stuck in one language or the other, and it was generally impossible for Tamils to deal in their own language with public servants. This also continued to affect recruitment to the public service, with Tamils and minorities generally having far fewer representatives than their numbers warranted.

However the government of President Kumaratunga began a policy of ensuring that children would also learn the second official language in schools. She also permitted English medium classes in the state system, which should lead in time to more children of different language groups being able to learn together. President Rajapakse’s government more recently took even more effective measures in this regard in making it compulsory for new recruits to the public service to learn the other official language. Existing employees are also encouraged to learn this, and steps are being taken to increase minority representation in the public service. This is happening apace in the police, which could otherwise seem an alien force to many Tamils and, with security concerns less pressing, the policy can be extended to the armed forces too.

With regard to education, one of the most important innovations planned by government is the introduction of private education at tertiary level. Previously, given the state monopoly, there had been no alternatives for those minority students who suffer because of the current policy of positive discrimination. At the same time it is important to ensure even more radical reform of the education system so as to ensure that talents, in particular in socially deprived areas, are not suppressed.

This holds true for other aspects of social policy that will promote national integration. Though what has happened thus far suggests a commitment to more equitable policies, these should be fast forwarded with the cooperation of all stakeholders, and in particular private investors. Higher quality vocational training programmes, greater effort with regard to soft skills and other qualifications for employment, stress on confidence and social awareness and personality skills, are all essential, and need to be pursued with vigour.

This is the more important in view of the comparative success of the government programme of infrastructure development. In addition to ensuring basic facilities, extending to fully functional schools, for those who had been displaced by the conflict, most of whom have now been returned to their places of residence, government has laid stress on better communications, through electronic connectivity as well as roads. Irrigation facilities which had lain disused for years are being restored, and efforts are being made to train farmers in processing while ensuring better methods of distribution.

Investment is being encouraged, the plan being to turn an area which only saw subsistence agriculture into one in which the producers are economically active. But all these will need as much concentration on human resource development as on the development of the physical infrastructure. Of course this is an area in which the rest of the country too needs support, in terms of the massive changes with regard to infrastructural development taking place elsewhere too. We have already seen the increased prosperity in the East, given the developments that had been introduced even while the war in the North was being concluded. However, given the much longer period of suffering endured by the people of the North, clearly there is need for intense and concerted efforts in all the areas I have outlined above, and more.

I have not thus far talked about what is described as a political settlement, a consummation that figures largely in the discourse of agencies in Sri Lanka, and indeed elsewhere, concerned with conflict resolution. The reason is that I feel that consensus in the past was prevented by excessive concern with forms and structures, without adequate attention to the other factors that politics necessarily involves. After all the claim for self determination was put forward in the seventies not as an end in itself, but rather as a means towards focusing attention on problems of the sort I have described above. It was only subsequently that it turned into an end in itself, a goal that grew in the imagination until it culminated in the intransigence of the LTTE, unwilling to settle for anything except a separate state.

I feel the more qualified to discuss this issue, because it was only the Liberal Party that in the eighties argued for devolution, but on the basis that that was the best way of empowering individuals in units that were otherwise neglected. In short our argument was based on the principle of subsidiarity, ie the idea that decisions should be made by the smallest possible unit of relevance, personal questions by individuals, community problems by the community and so on. What we did not want was the majoritarianism of one unit, the country, being replaced by another sort of majoritarianism.

I have not thus far talked about what is described as a political settlement, a consummation that figures largely in the discourse of agencies in Sri Lanka, and indeed elsewhere, concerned with conflict resolution. The reason is that I feel that consensus in the past was prevented by excessive concern with forms and structures, without adequate attention to the other factors that politics necessarily involves. After all the claim for self determination was put forward in the seventies not as an end in itself, but rather as a means towards focusing attention on problems of the sort I have described above. It was only subsequently that it turned into an end in itself, a goal that grew in the imagination until it culminated in the intransigence of the LTTE, unwilling to settle for anything except a separate state.

I feel the more qualified to discuss this issue, because it was only the Liberal Party that in the eighties argued for devolution, but on the basis that that was the best way of empowering individuals in units that were otherwise neglected. In short our argument was based on the principle of subsidiarity, ie the idea that decisions should be made by the smallest possible unit of relevance, personal questions by individuals, community problems by the community and so on. What we did not want was the majoritarianism of one unit, the country, being replaced by another sort of majoritarianism. That is why indeed for a long time we were favourably inclined to the District as the unit of devolution, though the games the Jayewardene government played with the District Development Councils made us realize that the sense of disappointment felt by the Tamils could only be assuaged by Provincial Councils.

However we were totally opposed to the merger of the North and East, because that introduced a completely different dimension to the whole question. It was based on the concept of a homeland and, whilst initially we could sympathize with a unit for Tamil speaking people in a context in which the national language policy was discriminatory, later it became obvious that to treat Tamils and Muslims as a single entity on this basis was inappropriate. The establishment of Tamil as an official language in 1987 reduced the need for a different sort of unit based on language, and already tensions between Tamils and Muslims had begun, culminating in the expulsion of the Muslims by the LTTE in 1990, making clear the dangers of an exclusivist majoritarianism such as we had feared for any unit in which power is exercised. We must after all be wary of what Prof Pratap Mehta described recently as the ‘tyranny of compulsory identity’,

Incidentally I should note that all Sri Lankan Tamils I think believe that that expulsion was wrong. At a meeting in Norway, I was intrigued by the fact that the only defence of this was offered by the Indian politician Mr Vaiko, who claimed that the Muslims had acted as traitors. This was in contrast to the attitude of the Sri Lankans, those opposed to the LTTE roundly condemning the action, whilst the supporters of the LTTE claimed that Mr Prabhakaran had acknowledged his mistake.

Be that as it may, the merger was an unnecessary flaw in the Accord, and it was shown as totally unnecessary by the split within the LTTE in 2004, when the Tamils of the East indicated that they too had a distinct identity. It is sad therefore that there are still some politicians in Sri Lanka, and others still influenced by them abroad, who hanker after the merger. Any efforts to resurrect that will rouse further suspicions about the rationale behind excessively strong and distinct units.

For we must also recognize that the structures we are talking of are now interpreted differently from the way they were a quarter of a century ago. The Liberal Party then did not think the debate over the term Federalism of any great consequence, what we were looking for was structures by whatever name that ensured local empowerment. In those days Federalism was seen as a mechanism that provided such empowerment whilst ensuring the unity of a country made up of different units, as is the case with India or the United States of America.

However the 90s saw the concept of Federalism used to divide up countries. There was the example of the Soviet Union, and even more dramatically Yugoslavia, where precipitate recognition of a unit that was not homogeneous led to a bitter backlash – as had indeed been predicted by the British Liberals who tried to slow down the German Liberals in their enthusiasm for a separate Croatian state.

The rest is history, culminating in the cynical breach of promises by international decision makers after Serbia permitted an international presence in Kosovo. Autonomy might have been necessary there, given recent history, but the insistence on independence contrary to assurances made it clear that, in the context of federal structures, might will trump morality as well as any doctrine of state sovereignty.

I am sorry then to still hear clarion calls about Federalism, since these will only rouse fears of the incrementalism so cleverly played out by the LTTE. On the contrary, we should concern ourselves with practical measures that will ensure the power to decide for themselves in matters that concern them for the inhabitatants of all our regions, together with a voice in decisions that concern the country as a whole. After all there must be certain areas reserved for a Central Government, and we need to ensure that the views of all parts of the country are taken into account in making decisions in such areas.

How is this done in other countries where there are different regions with different concerns? One is by ensuring the full participation in politics at the Centre by politicians of all regions. In this respect indeed it should be noted that the distinctive concern with rural development under this government may be connected with the fact that the current President is the first elected leader of Sri Lanka from outside the Western Province. Sadly, whilst the Muslims played their part in all cabinets after independence, Tamil politicians from the North withdrew after the divisive games played by their Sinhala brethren in 1956, and we did not have them, until the advent of Douglas Devananda, contribute to cabinet decisions. This we hope will change, with Tamil politicians from the North exercising influence on the lines of our two Foreign Ministers from the minorities, Mr Hameed from an area far from Colombo, and the brilliant Lakshman Kadirgamar who was from the capital’s multi-racial elite.

Secondly, many states have second chambers with weightage towards units at the periphery. The President has proposed such a Senate in his manifesto, but sadly the main Tamil party does not seem interested in this at all. While it is all very well for them to say that they want other matters settled, the impression created is that they see no role for themselves or those they represent at the Centre. This is a dangerous attitude.

In fact it was extremely sad that the main Tamil opposition party, instead of entering into discussions with the government in the period immediately after the LTTE was eliminated, engaged in adventurism with regard to the candidature of Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency. The impression created was of a wholesale cynicism based on hostility to the incumbent President. When they indicated that they were interested enough in national politics to want the abolition of the Executive Presidency, it seemed rather that they were more interested still in destabilizing Sri Lanka rather than developing a consensus as to reforms. Those who claim then that the government should take steps to win the confidence of this group should bear in mind the dogged destructiveness of their approach initially.

The same indeed goes for the proposals of the All Party Representatives Conference, which was tasked to work out suggestions as to the further sharing of power. Instead of dwelling on the relatively sensible proposals that had been put forward in this area, together with suggestions as to a Senate, and a new electoral system, its votaries made much of the need to abolish the Executive Presidency while reactivating the 17th amendment to the Constitution. Since the electorate had decisively rejected the Presidential candidate who made these the principal reason to vote for him – apart from summary punishment for his opponents – it showed a complete lack of understanding of current trends in the country.

In short, we are still dealing with a formalistic mindset, amongst the vast majority of those who theorize about politics, which harks back to the ideals of the nineties. It is true that Mrs Kumaratunga brought forward in 2000 proposals for constitutional change that went far towards empowering those Tamil politicians who were working together with the LTTE at the time. But they rejected the proposals as being inadequate, doubtless on the instructions of the LTTE, while the main opposition party rejected them for racist reasons. And it is precisely those two groups, and these two alone, which hark back to those proposals. Why they should suppose the rest of the country, having decisively rejected them in the polls, should now adopt their ideas baffles me.

On the contrary, if they really were concerned about the Tamil people, all of them, including those who support other political parties, they should work on the lines the President has sketched out to improve the provisions of the 13th amendment. He had consistently said that he would like a political dispensation based on 13 plus, but this has received no positive response from his erstwhile and continuing critics in Sri Lanka. As noted above, they pretend they have no real interest in a Senate, even while agitating for a change of government at the Centre and the abolition of the Executive Presidency.

My own view is that they should start, basing themselves on the proposals of the APRC, by looking carefully into the powers currently conferred by the 13th amendment on the various layers of government, and attempt to remove all ambiguities and encourage positive usage of the powers that already exist. There is for instance a concurrent list, which currently it seems Provinces do not work on at all. It would not take much discussion to extract from this areas in which the Province should have priority, and transfer these to the Provincial list. Similarly, in areas in which unforeseen complications have arisen, such as with regard to police powers – where in fact the 17th amendment seriously affected the powers of the Province, with no objection at the time from anyone – it should not be difficult to reach consensus so as to ensure that the policing of communities comes under provinces whereas matters pertaining to national security remain with the centre.

I hasten to add that these are simply my own suggestions, and I am sure all stakeholders will have different priorities. But instead of serious discussion about practicalities that will make life easier for the people in the North, we are still debating theoretical issues on lines laid down one and two decades back.

It should also be recognized that, if the current pace of development is to continue, there is need for leadership from the government. With regard for instance to issues discussed at the recent India-Sri Lanka Dialogue organized by the Asian Institute for Transport Development, taking things forward with regard to cooperation as to transport and energy, and encouraging better trade relations, requires central government action. I cannot understand then why we are not also working on ensuring better representation for the regions in decision making at the centre, whilst also tightening up the provisions of the 13th amendment so as to ensure a better deal for the regions in areas in which decisions are obviously better made locally.

In this respect it should be noted however that our decision making mechanisms require considerable improvement. Whilst it has been heartening to see the manner in which senior administrators in the North are taking a lead in rehabilitation and reconstruction, junior officials require much more training and confidence building to contribute actively to development. In a sense this is true of the country at large, where the Administrative Service suffers from a lack of soft skills and training in problem solving and decision making, but the situation is worse in the areas in which the LTTE prevented any initiatives that did not lead to their own idiosyncratic goals. Hence indeed the absurdity of one Foreign Head of an NGO, when asked what were the capacities they had developed through the enormous funds devoted to that purpose (since it seemed that there was little to show for this, and much had been absorbed by the LTTE’s war budget), replying that they had taught the villagers to boil water before drinking it.

In short, my stress on Human Resources Development extends also to the public service. Unless and until we develop capacity there, it will not make sense to speak of devolution at an enhanced level. In encouraging relevant officials then to use the powers the Constitution already bestows, we must bear in mind the need to train them in taking initiatives, based on clear goals and measurable targets.

I would therefore urge all those who have the interests of the Sri Lankan people at heart to think in terms of holistic solutions, and not dwell only on constructs that are based on ancient and no longer always relevant foundations. The people of the areas concerned should be our priority, and we need therefore to promote prosperity for them as well as the capacity to participate fully in the economic and political life of the country. They should be empowered to take advantage of the new opportunities peace brings, and also to contribute to creating new opportunities themselves. In the process they will be the best check on the excesses of politicians, local as well as national, who must be prevented from repeating the mistakes of the first half century after independence.

War crimes whitewashed: Why human rights groups reject Sri Lanka’s reconciliation commission

By Louise Arbour, Kenneth Roth, Salil Shetty

While we would welcome the opportunity to appear before a genuine, credible effort to pursue accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) falls far short of such an effort. It not only fails to meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries, but it is proceeding against a backdrop of government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses. Our three organisations believe that the persistence of these and other destructive trends indicates that currently Sri Lanka’s government and justice system cannot or will not uphold the rule of law and respect basic rights.

We have highlighted our concerns in a number of reports. Of particular relevance are Crisis Group’s May 2010 report “War Crimes in Sri Lanka” and its June 2009 report “Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights”; Human Rights Watch’s February 2010 report “Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka” and its February 2009 report “War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni”; and Amnesty International’s June 2009 report “Twenty Years of Make Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry” and its August 2009 “Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka: Safety and Dignity for the Displaced Now”. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka has made no progress since the end of the war in addressing our concerns detailed in these reports.

In addition to these broader failings of the government, we believe that the LLRC is deeply flawed in structure and practice. Of particular concern are the following:

Inadequate mandate

Nothing in the LLRC’s mandate requires it to investigate the many credible allegations that both the government security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) committed serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the civil war, especially in the final months, including summary executions, torture, attacks on civilians and civilian objects, and other war crimes. The need to investigate them thoroughly and impartially is especially urgent given the government’s efforts to promote its methods of warfare abroad as being protective of the civilian population, when the facts demonstrate otherwise.

Nor has the LLRC shown any genuine interest in investigating such allegations. Instead, it has allowed government officials to repeat unchallenged what they have been saying without basis for months: that the government strictly followed a “zero civilian casualty policy”. Indeed, during the testimony of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 17 August 2010, the primary intervention of the Commission chairman, CR de Silva, was to prompt the secretary to provide the Commission with a February 14 2009 letter from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) thanking the Navy for assisting in a medical evacuation.

While highlighting that one letter, the chairman and his colleagues failed to ask the defence secretary about any of the ICRC’s numerous public statements between January and the end of May 2009 raising concerns about excessive civilian casualties, violations of international humanitarian law and insufficient humanitarian access.

The Commission also has not required officials to explain the government’s public misrepresentations during the war. Particularly disturbing are the government’s repeated claims that there were under 100,000 civilians left in the Vanni at the beginning of 2009 when officials later conceded there were some 300,000, and that Sri Lankan forces were not using heavy weapons in civilian areas when the military eventually admitted they were.

Lack of independence

A fundamental requirement for any commission of this type is that its members are independent. The membership of the LLRC is far from that. To start, both chairman de Silva and member HMGS Palihakkara were senior government representatives during the final year of the war. They publicly defended the conduct of the government and military against allegations of war crimes.

Indeed during two widely reported incidents " the shelling of the first “no-fire zone” declared by the government in late January and the shelling of Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK) hospital in February " Palihakkara, then Sri Lanka’s representative to the UN, told CNN that government forces had confirmed that even though the LTTE was firing out from the “no-fire zone”, the government was not returning fire; and that the military had confirmed they knew the coordinates of PTK hospital and they had not fired on it.

Beyond his public defence of government conduct during the war, there is also evidence that as attorney general, CR de Silva actively undermined the independence of the 2006-2009 Presidential Commission of Inquiry that was tasked with investigating allegations of serious human rights violations by the security forces.

Most other members of the LLRC have some history of working for the Sri Lankan government. None is known for taking independent political positions, and many have publicly declared their allegiance to the president and government.

Absence of witness protection

Equally worrying is the absence of any provisions for the protection of witnesses who may wish to testify before the Commission. Sri Lanka has never had a functioning witness protection system, nor has the Commission established any ad hoc procedures for witness protection.

The lack of witness protection is particularly crippling in the current atmosphere in Sri Lanka in which government officials label as “traitors” persons making allegations that government forces might have committed violations of international law. Only a brave few have testified before the LLRC about war crimes in the north despite that threat.

Moreover, even though the war is over, the country is still operating under a state of emergency, with laws that criminalise political speech and where there is no meaningful investigation of attacks on government critics. This clearly undermines the Commission’s ability to conduct credible investigations of alleged violations of international or national law. Until effective protection of witnesses can be guaranteed, no organisation or individual can responsibly disclose confidential information to the Commission.

Past commission failures

Our decision to decline the LLRC’s invitation to testify also stems from Sri Lanka’s long history of failed and politicised commissions of inquiry. Amnesty International’s report, “Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry”, documents the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to provide accountability for violations, including enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and torture.

Today Sri Lanka has no credible domestic mechanisms able to respond effectively to serious human rights violations. The Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission lacks independence and has itself acknowledged its lack of capacity to deal with investigations into enforced disappearances. At the international level, Sri Lanka has 5,749 outstanding cases being reviewed by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, several hundred of which have been reported since the beginning of 2006.

Should a genuine and credible process eventually be established " featuring truly independent commission members, effective powers of witness protection, and a mandate to explore the full range of alleged violations of national and international law; and backed up by government action to end impunity and ensure that police and courts launch effective and impartial prosecutions " we all would be pleased to appear.

Louise Arbour is president and CEO of International Crisis Group; Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch; Salil Shetty is secretary general of Amnesty International. [courtesy: nationmultimedia.com]

November 08, 2010

Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Tamil Fishing Communities engage positively – How Governments could help

by R.Swaminathan and Dr. V. Suryanarayan

The fishing imbroglio in Palk Bay had taken a favourable turn, with the fishing communities on both sides engaging each other in a dialogue, to further mutual interests.

This significant event at the end of August 2010 went largely unreported in the Indian and Sri Lankan media. This was the decision, among others, jointly taken by the fishermen of southern India and northern Sri Lanka to stop bottom trawling in the Palk Bay within one year.

Bottom trawling has done irreparable damage to marine ecology on both sides of the Bay; on the Indian side, the fishing grounds have been denuded of fish; and, on the Sri Lankan side, it has been threatening the very livelihood of hundreds of Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen, who have only recently resumed fishing operations that had been interrupted during many years of fratricidal ethnic conflict. The initiative for the constructive dialogue was taken by Dr. Vivekanandan, the highly respected leader of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) and the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies. Dr. Vivekanandan is of the firm view that a “solution from below” arrived at as a result of dialogue among fishermen, has greater chances of success than a solution imposed by New Delhi and Colombo.

It is necessary to remember that historically, the Palk Bay had never been a barrier but had been a bridge which linked the Tamils on both sides. These links were reinforced through common ethnicity, language and inter-marriages. The maritime boundary in the Palk Bay was delimited in 1974, but the ground reality was that fishermen continued their centuries-old practice of fishing without any notion of a border. Furthermore, the Sri Lankan fishermen do remember with gratitude that when they were subjected to savage reprisals by the Sri Lankan armed forces during the long years of ethnic strife, they could always find safe sanctuary and succour in Tamil Nadu.

The people of Tamil Nadu welcomed them with open arms. The Sri Lankan refugee fishermen used to work closely with their Indian counterparts accompanied them in their fishing voyages and used to show them the rich fishing grounds. Since the Sri Lankan Government (SLG), for security reasons, had imposed a ban on fishing, the fishing grounds on the Sri Lankan side used to be frequented by Indian fishermen. The trawler fleet multiplied and, what is more, occasionally Indian fishermen used to get killed in incidents of firing by the Sri Lankan security forces; some of them were detained and frequently their catch was dumped into the sea. Even when some got killed and some got detained, many more fishermen returned with rich harvests.

What complicated the controversy surrounding the maritime boundary in the Palk Bay was the ceding of the Island of Kachchatheevu to Sri Lanka in 1974. The fishermen in Tamil Nadu, so also various regional political parties, believe and affirm that the island had for long been a part of the Zamindari of the Raja of Ramnad. The Government of India unfortunately ignored these historical claims and ceded the island to Sri Lanka. However, Article 5 of the Maritime Boundary Agreement protected the traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen to fish in and around Kachchatheevu. These reserved rights were also bartered away in 1976 by the agreement delimiting the boundaries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal. What makes Kachchatheevu significant for Indian fishermen is the fact that the surrounding seas are very rich in prawn. The Indian fishermen allege that they get caught or killed while fishing near the island. This is only partly true, as many Indian fishermen venture deep into Sri Lankan waters, and are found fishing near Mannar and the Delft island.

The travails of the Indian fishermen during the ethnic strife from 1983 stemmed mainly from their clashes with the Sri Lankan Navy. The Sri Lankan Navy suspected that the Indian fishermen were fuelling the LTTE war machine. The scenario changed after the end of the armed conflict. The Sri Lankan fishermen, when they resumed their vocation, found poaching by Indian fishermen to be a major hindrance to their livelihood. From 2003 onwards, there were occasional conflicts between (Tamil) fishermen of the two countries. In July 2010, the fishermen from Mannar took the law into their hands and attacked Indian trawlers with petrol bombs, sinking one of them. The Sri Lankan fishermen are naturally very bitter about the “inhuman” activities of the Tamil Nadu fishermen. When Prof. Suryanarayan visited Mannar in 2004 and talked to the fishermen, they were very angry and were not prepared to make any concessions to Indian fishermen. During this period, the authors had floated the idea of licensed fishing by Indian fishermen in the Sri Lankan waters and reciprocally licensed fishing by the Sri Lankan fishermen in the Indian waters, especially in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (which is rich in Tuna, a variety of fish which is a delicacy in Sri Lanka).

With a commitment to find an amicable solution, unbounded idealism and missionary zeal, Dr. Vivekanandan entered the scene. He is immensely popular amongst the fisher folk in Sri Lanka because his organization ARIF has rendered yeoman service to Sri Lankan fishermen detained in India. Dr. Vivekanandan told the authors that, initially, the Sri Lankan fishermen took the hard line that the Indian fishermen have no legal right to enter another country’s waters and that they should desist from poaching in Sri Lankan waters. A few leaders even pleaded with the Sri Lankan Government to take strong action against Indian fishermen. However, their attitude mellowed gradually. This process was further facilitated when a team of Sri Lankan fishermen visited Tamil Nadu in August 2010, went around fishing villages dotting the Palk Bay and held free and frank discussions with their Indian counterparts.

An attitudinal change took place and the Sri Lankan fishermen realized that a number of Indian fishermen were dependant on trawler fishing and it will be a difficult for them to switch over to other forms of fishing overnight. The two sides have now agreed to a process of phasing out trawler fishing. The Indian fishermen have given the “firm assurance” that they will stop mechanised trawling in Sri Lankan waters within a period of one year. The dialogue has also resulted in a number of other agreements. Use of paired trawls is to be completely avoided. The number of fishing days in a year is to be restricted to 70 days. The ban on fishing has been extended from six weeks in April-May to another 30 days in September. Fishing days per week has been reduced from three days to two (Mondays and Saturdays). And in the northern Jaffna coast and South of the Mannar Island, the Indian fishermen can fish up to five nautical miles from the maritime boundary. These proposals will be submitted to the two governments for their consideration. The success of this initiative would largely depend upon scrupulous adherence to the agreement by Indian fishermen. It is essential that this dialogue among the representatives of fishermen of the two countries is held regularly, to resolve a number of related issues.

If the agreement is violated and if the Indian fishermen are found to be fishing beyond the agreed and stipulated territorial limits, what action should and could be taken against them? It is suggested that a small monitoring committee consisting of representatives of the Fisheries Departments and fishermen’s associations of the two countries should be constituted immediately. The committee can be empowered to identify the culprits and make almost-binding recommendations to the concerned Fisheries Department to suspend or cancel the registration of the vessel and the fishing license of the guilty. In closely knit societies like those of fishermen, social ostracism can also become a powerful deterrent.

A major question relates to the phasing out of mechanized trawlers from the Palk Bay area. According to a study undertaken by the South Indian Federation of Fishermen Societies, there are 2000 trawler boats, 28 to 50 feet length, with inboard engine capacity ranging from 68 to 120 horsepower. The Government of Tamil Nadu can make a significant contribution to tackle this issue. It could help the owners of the trawlers to convert and use some of them for deep sea trawling (without damage to the sea bed) in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone adjoining Tamil Nadu. It could also examine the feasibility of modifying some of these trawlers, to be used as patrolling vessels by the Marine Police and Coast Guard, which are understood to be desperately short of such vessels. Both these options would also reduce the unemployment of skilled workers that may result from the decommissioning of the trawlers in the Palk Bay area. Some of these trawlers could be sold to states like Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Gujarat and Andaman and Nicobar islands where they can be used for deep sea fishing. An in-depth study needs urgently to be commissioned by the state government, to be undertaken by specialists.

Despite their great maritime traditions, the fishermen of Tamil Nadu and the Tamil fishermen in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka are yet to embark upon deep sea fishing in multi-day boats. It is high time that the Government of Tamil Nadir starts thinking of starting a dialogue with the regional governments in the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka to start joint ventures for deep sea fishing. Deep sea fishing offers tremendous potential for sub-regional cooperation and will go a long way in raising the standard of living in these less developed parts of South Asia. Such an initiative on the part of Tamil Nadu will be a welcome step in reducing regional differences in the Island Republic and will be a practical demonstration of our concern for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

During the long years of ethnic conflict the Sinhalese dominated southern parts of Sri Lanka, with solid government support, have advanced in deep sea fishing. India, especially Tamil Nadu, can play a catalytic role in reducing these regional disparities by embarking upon the suggested joint ventures for deep sea fishing. Such a step would also help in removing any apprehensions among the Sri Lankan fishermen that the present situation benefits Tamil Nadu fishermen more than their Tamil counterparts in Sri Lanka.

For effective implementation of the agreement, in letter and spirit, it needs to be backed strongly by various agencies in India and Sri Lanka. The Indian Coast Guard, the Indian Navy, Fisheries Department, Customs Department and Marine Police immediately come to mind on the Indian side; and the Department of Fisheries and the Sri Lankan Navy on the Sri Lankan side. These agencies have to work in close cooperation with the representative organizations of the fishermen.

While the dialogue among the fishermen was going on in August, representatives of the Fisheries Department of the Sri Lankan Government and of the Fisheries Department of Tamil Nadu were present as observers. Unfortunately, the Indian Coast Guard, the Sri Lankan Navy and the Ministries of External Affairs of both countries did not evince any interest in these meetings. We call upon them immediately to give up their negative attitude and start supporting the grassroots efforts of the fishermen. The authors have always projected the view that the Palk Bay should not be viewed as a contested territory but as a common heritage. They have pleaded for the immediate constitution of a Palk Bay Authority, consisting of representatives of the two countries along with specialists in the area of fisheries and marine ecology. The Palk Bay Authority can be vested with the tasks of determining the ideal sustainable catch, the number of fishing days, equitable distribution of marine resources and enrichment of marine resources. Such an imaginative and innovative step will give a tremendous boost to regional co-operation in South Asia.

The need of the hour is to think boldly, shedding old baggage and projecting a vision of a common future. All stakeholders need to be involved in the slow and steady work towards that end. Will India, especially Tamil Nadu, rise to the occasion and work for a win-win situation instead of harking back to past mistakes and undoing historical wrongs? The authors believe that Tamil Nadu has enough visionaries in government and politics for the answer to this question to be a resounding “yes”.

(R. Swaminathan is Special Secretary (Retd), Government of India. Prof. V. Suryanarayan, formerly Senior Professor in the Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras is currently Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Asia Studies, Chennai.This article appeared as the Guest Column of South Asia Analysis Group)

Submissions made by His Lordship Bishop of Batticaloa Kingsley Swampillai Before Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission

Culture of Human Rights:

I am here to make submissions on the Culture of Human Rights. In the background of erosion of values of all kinds and especially with the consequences of war, human rights have suffered worst causalities.

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Rt.Rev.Dr.Joseph Kingsley Swampillai ~ pic: archdioceseofcolombo.com

Therefore, a culture of Human Rights where every citizen respects the rights of the other must be cultivated and where the principle of 'Equality before the Law' is respected and applied should be followed. Equal protection guarantees protection from both legislative and executive acts by way of discrimination. It must replace the present scenario where rights are violated with impunity and with utter disregard to accepted norms. A nationwide Human Rights education program must, therefore be incorporated into the National Agenda. Respect for and protection of individual and group rights leads to social justice which in turn would lead to sustainable peace. This is one clear method to promote national unity and reconciliation among all communities. The concept of equality lies at the core of our democratic aspirations and traditions.

May I also point out at this moment, due to the past 3 decades of war, and consequent to the P.T.A.,( Prevention of Terrorism Act ), Emergency Regulations and other activities, lawlessness has set particularly in the areas of North and East. Not very much spoken about human rights, rather it is dangerous to speak about human rights. Therefore, it must be enforced at this moment if we are looking for a period of peace, so that every citizen may respect the rights of one another. Human rights have been violated with impunity by the Security Forces and unidentifiable groups and persons, especially in the North and East. This state was worsened by the State sponsorship of Para-Military Groups during the height of the war to out former militants. Therefore it is very much needed that National Educational programmes enforced throughout the island with concerted effort. It must become a national priority and requisite for Reconciliation.

Unemployment of youth after completing the University education, ex-combatants and ex-paramilitary groups need to be rehabilitated with immediate effect to prevent another uprising and to ensure meaningful reconciliation where law and order are implemented.

Missing and Disappeared Persons

There are a large number of reported cases of missing, I am sure you must have given to hearing to the people where you have visited, and disappeared persons whose fate is unknown for many years. This is true in the North and East. This has caused much agony to their families for whom the uncertainty of what had happened to them has added to the anguish. Some of these cases are documented while a majority remains undocumented. I wish include here in this list some religious personalities, among whom are the cases of Rev. Fr. Nihal Jim Brown who disappeared in Allaipiddy in Jaffna in August 2006 and Rev. Fr. Joseph Francis who was last seen in Vettuvikkal, Mullathivu in May 2009, at the tail end of the war. Actually he had been sighted little before the exit and while he was leaving the Omanthei camp and when he has been going out with others, he had been taken into custody by the Special Security Forces, and never heard of him since then.

A serious effort should be taken to investigate these cases in order to reveal the truth and ensure justice.

Release of Detainees

A large number of detainees arrested much earlier under the Prevention of Terrorism Act ( PTA ) continue to be kept in custody. Their future is uncertain. It is the best that those not directly involved in terror activities be released without delay. Also, many youth in the Plantation Sector too had been arrested on mere suspicion of having a connection with the LTTE. These youth should be given the chance of proving their innocence and when they are not accused of any acts crime, then it is proper that they may be released.

Problem of Families Who Visit Detainees

The sufferings of the family members of detainees cannot be explained by words. When the mother, father or relative comes to know that their loved ones are in detention, they want to see them and at least console them. The families should have the right and the facilities to see their loved ones and many cases come into our won ears, that there is a long list of cases who are still missing. I present this matter also for your serious consideration. Rehabilitation Centres and Detentions centres are all scattered. These families want to know where these people are detained or whether they are detained, and their families and relatives could visit them sometimes or other.

Issuance of Death Certificates

The families of many who perished in the war have not received death certificates. This is an impediment for them in reordering their broken lives. The lack of documents show that their beloved ones are lost and issuance of death certificates need to be done, since they have to appeal for compensation or for any other facility that they are entitled to.

Compensation on Lost Life, Limb and Properties

During the past conflict period there were many bomb blasts and attacks in the North and the South which killed and maimed hundreds of civilians. Now we appeal that compensation should be paid to them as soon a; possible. Provision to be made for speedy implementation.

Submissions of His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith Before Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission

His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith addressing the Presidential Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation on 03rd November 2010 at theLakshman Kadiragama Hall, made the following submissions to the Commission.

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pic courtesy of: archdioceseofcolombo.com

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“First of all, I would like to thank the honourable members of this Commission and the President for according us an opportunity to present submissions before this Commission on the relevant topics that had been suggested to us over the Press and the Media.

Most of these topics were discussed at different meetings of the Sri Lanka Catholic Bishops’ Conference which we represent as a body here. And so each of the item mentioned in the presentations will be taken up by one of those participating here.

The Catholic Church as part and parcel of the Sri Lankan Nation has to be seriously concerned with the peace and welfare of the country. The problems of the nation have to be noted with the intention of offering solutions according to the vision and direction given by faith.

It is therefore natural that the Church express her standpoint on issues which deeply affect the well being of all citizens irrespective of religion and race.

Further, according to the teachings of the faith, Christians have to abide by fundamental precepts such as:

a) Fidelity to the truth which is a hallmark of all religions
b) Be respectful to the human dignity of every person irrespective of man-made divisions
c) The equality of all human beings
d) Well being and development of all segments of society,
d) Maintenance of the Rule of Law and Good Governance

In applying these basic principles accepted by other religions as well, authorities have to be mindful that this is not just a matter of 'charity' or 'maitriya' but of strict justice.

Though errors have been made in the past by all stakeholders, what is important now is to learn lessons from them, which will imply attitudes of mutual forgiveness that will pave the way for genuine reconciliation.

We believe that the search for a political solution to the ethnic conflict must be intensified. It is only a political solution that will help to eliminate the root causes of violent insurrection, ethnic disharmony and suspicion and mistrust between various communities living in this country. In fact, the roots of the conflict could be traced back to the 1950's, especially the Sinhala Only policy of 1956 which disregarded the multicultural and pluralistic nature of Sri Lankan society and paved the way for Sinhala dominance and the trend towards mono-culturalism. Since independence, the gradual entrenchment of majoritarian democracy, where the language and religion of the majority community have been given priority, has increased ethnic tensions and undermined the concept of a truly multi-ethnic, multi-religious, plural society. The Official Languages Act, the introduction of the first Republican Constitution of 1972 and as well as the Constitution of 1978 where the Sinhala Language and Buddhism were given an exalted place in the constitution, were a landmark in the slide towards divisive tendencies in this country.

The massive colonization schemes undertaken by successive governments after independence, even if they were well-meant, but which did not necessarily respect the pluralities of the ethnic and religious proportions of the Sri Lankan people served rather as irritants than as catalysts for unity, because they were served as an attempt to a gradual breakdown and erosion of the original cultural make-up of these regions. Furthermore, in the 1970's, the Republican Constitution of 1972 as well as the Constitution of the 1978 omitted or overlooked the provision in the Soulbury Constitution (Section 29) which had enshrined safeguards for the minorities. Such irritants must be avoided in the future in all development plans.

Sri Lanka should be a secular democracy in which all ethnic and religious groups , irrespective of their numbers, identify themselves as citizens of one country. Race-based and religion based political structures are best avoided in the search for national integration.

We as Christians submit these specific recommendations to this Commission with the fervent hope that they will be considered seriously in order to heal the wounds of a painful conflict which traumatized our homeland for over thirty years, and to lay the foundation for a solid sense of peace and harmony in the future.

Culture of Peace, Acceptance of Differences and Building Harmon;

Promotion of Tolerance among Individuals and Communities -

As Christians, we are expected to be truthful & honest and always be guided by our conscience. Hence we have a duty to point out the causes that led to the ethnic crisis culminating in a bloody war resulting in disastrous consequences to the living conditions of the ordinary people, particularly in the North-East which should be addressed.

It is necessary to think beyond the 'Black July' of 1983, even beyond 2002, in order to 'learn lessons' from the past and in order to prevent any recurrence of these events in the future. The hearts and minds of the Tamil community were seriously disturbed by certain legislative enactments by the Governments in the post independence era, perhaps to promote their own political agendas, although they might not have been purposely directed against the Tamil community.

The armed struggle of young people and the disastrous consequences it has brought about must serve as a lesson to the youth of this country about the futility of taking up arms. Through a system of value education, through the dissemination of religious precepts found in the four major religions practiced in this country , and through the inculcation of values such as tolerance, respect for other's rights, compassion, non-violent communication and non-violent conflict resolution, politics which does not harbour communal hate and a comprehensive programme of life-skills training for children and youth, any future resurgence of hate, division and terror should be effectively prevented.

Religious Education in this country

Under this category I would like to say with regard to education, it is dangerous to visualize the deprivation of Religious Education in this country. Because religion is what provides necessary moral strength to our people, whatever their religion be, to help them to overcome short-term temptations towards winning over or dominating other cultures and other societies. In that sense it is necessary to ensure that the Religious Education is given due place in this country. And also certain provisions of law, for an example, the latest note that came to my hand is, this Gaming Special Provision Bill, which is due to taken up soon in the Parliament, is something that does not encourage religious background or religious principles in this country.

It is very interesting to note that the Sinhala word, “ Sudu Vidividana Panatha” (Gaming Special Provision Bill ) – for those interested in starting Gaming Centres, to name the places where they could begin such activities. So this legislation which encourages ‘Gaming’ is against all religious principles that we have come know. So unless we encourage religious formation of our people and strengthen the religious background in the schools, in the education system, ensuring that such legislation does not go against the basic values in the religions which become very important in this country, if it is to move forward towards the new era of peace and harmony.

Promoting Trilingual Education -

Since language skills facilitate better communication and create understanding and acceptance of others and their views, Trilingual Education should be introduced in all schools, even from childhood. A good knowledge of the native languages and the link language English will result in better interaction among the communities, make reconciliation easier to achieve, promote national unity and help establish a common Sri Lankan identity for all.

Every attempt must be made to create a sense of belonging to this country among all its citizens irrespective of race, religion or social status. Since this is an important aspect, I would say, it is necessary that we promote Trilingual Education in this country. Trilingual Education will allow children from very young days to get to know each other, to get to understand each other and achieve reconciliation and peace and harmony among themselves. Any attempt to dominate just through one language will not heal this nation. Therefore, it is important that in the educational field, even from childhood, all the children are encouraged to study all three languages. And that anyone entering University is expected to qualify in all three languages before doing so. Now the use and the implementation of the official language Act, becomes difficult, because many people are unable to get across this barrier of knowing Sinhala and Tamil at the same time. There is a serious scarcity of people available for various jobs and professions in the Northern area who are able to master both Sinhala and Tamil languages.

It is necessary in order to meet this necessity and that educational stream allows all three languages to be promoted as being important to studies of the children. Serious recognition must be given that both Sinhala and Tamil, even though they have been declared as national languages under the Constitution, the implementation policy is still far from being realized. There is evidence that many of the existing governments, administrative units, are unable to communicate in different languages with the public. So that when the public present themselves in the government offices, they are unable to communicate their ideas to the officers concerned. Therefore the proper implementation of language policy ensuring that the future generations would know all three languages, become very important. This will help to bring together the country to a proper united and harmonious existence.

[ Chairman – ( cross question ) – “ Your Eminence say that the study of all three languages are important for peace and reconciliation ? ]

Response – Yes, at least, if that can be done, it will help to create a new generation of administrators who will be able to communicate in all three languages with the public. There is evidence that many of the existing Government administrative units are filled with Sinhala speaking officers who are unable to communicate with the public. At the same time, there is a big shortage of Tamil speaking officers in Government Offices.

Hegemonistic tendencies should be curtailed and controlled especially of those who enter politics on race or religion based policies. Let a new Sri Lanka emerge, united but not uniform, disciplined yet resourceful and morally and spiritually upraised.

Allay fears of new settlements in the North & East and Cultural Invasion -

It is observed by many that there are attempts made in the Northern & Eastern areas with new settlements to change the demographic situation of the people. This could be a dangerous trend if it is not addressed, unless the people are allowed to move in and move out in the proper way, without any colonization as such with or without the government approval. Because what can happen is, that there can be a psychosis or fear of a cultural invasion of villages and areas of the country considered to be predominantly of one group or the other. This can cause frictions and unnecessary clashes.

Questions & responses –

Question – Is there a necessity to extend or lift the Emergency Regulations ? Role of the religious leaders in the national development.........

Response by His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith –

Security of the Country -

Honourable Sir, I was listening to your responses with Mr. Shamil Perera, in his presentations. We accept that some safeguard and security for the country is necessary. In the matter of confidence building among the people, opening and helping each other to reach out one another to build goodwill and harmony, requires certain amount of freedom whereby one is not threatened with misunderstanding of the motives for which one is working.

All religious and ethnic communities can contribute to the national life of this country -

The Catholic Church for a long time has been trying its best to bring about some kind of a dialogue between two sides. For number of years, various attempts were made to try to convince both sides to negotiate. But they did not succeed, because basically there was a big misunderstanding between the two groups. And there were other political forces that got involved in this and obscured it at certain points. Therefore the Peace Process did not get off the ground. So, unfortunately this division took place in our country. We are in no way in favour of any arm conflict in this country, I say it very clearly.

Therefore, we are not advocating the position of the LTTE on separating of this country. But we strongly for a united Sri Lanka, yet where all religious and ethnic communities feel confident that they can contribute to the national life of this country and bring the best that is available in them and feel that they are wanted in this country and that they have an identity and a place in this country. It is very important to build up this confidence. It is for that reason that the religious leadership has a role to play and the Catholic Church is very keen on advocating a common activity at the level of the religious leaders in this country to create unity and harmony among our people. Therefore, we not unaware of the need, but we are trying to do our best for the country.

All our attempt and everything which has been said here, never justifying terrorism. Never advocating any particular position with regard to the division of this country, but advocating justice based on religious values in this country. That’s why at the very beginning I said that inculcating religious background to the children and in the schools, mutli-lingual approach in the schools become very important in order to unite this country and ensure that the future progress that is visualized, Sri Lanka can build very strong peace environment and economy in this country. It has the capacity.

We appreciate the policies that are being carried out by the government, but we want the government to ensure that the other aspects are kept in mind always, the religious values of our society, the call for justice and fair play, integration of all communities, respect for all communities, and to wider outlook in this effort, specially avoiding politicization of religious and ethnic differences. If parties are allowed on the basis of religion and on the basis of ethnicity, it again becomes an expression of division in this country. Therefore, we should work towards national harmony and unity at this point. We are very much in favour of that and we would like to get along with the other religious leaders and communities in this country, specially the Buddhist Clergy, because they are the majority in this country and get together with all and work towards peace and harmony and for religious principles in this country.

Regional Religious Communities -

And establishing various regional religious communities, is a very good proposal for our country. There are certain tensions that could happen at regional level due to various local factors, and at that point it is necessary that the religious leaders in that region come together and discuss those matters and seek peace settlement based on religious principles, and not allow extremist elements to take it over. Then it becomes conflict and unnecessarily causes divisions and tensions in this country. Because of the 30 year war, Sri Lanka cannot afford once again to go back to such tensions and a situation. Now we should have long years of peace and progress for all people in this country.

Emergence of a just peace can be a criterion to evaluate whether the war was just or unjust

By Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka

It was gratifying that the argument I consistently made three years ago at the UN Human Rights Council and in every space available to me, namely that Sri Lanka’s war met the criteria of a Just War, has been made at the LLRC. There were extensive references to Hugo Grotius, but no acknowledgement that Just War doctrine definitively originated many centuries before Grotius (AD 1583-1645), with St Ambrose (c. AD 339-397), St Augustine (AD 354-430), and St Thomas Aquinas (AD 1225-1274).

There was a more important omission. Just War theory has developed in three stages or ‘moves’, two of which were mentioned at the LLRC: the criteria by which a war has a just cause (‘jus ad bellum’) and those by which a war is judged to have been waged by just means and methods (‘jus in bello’). A just war must demonstrably meet both these criteria and ours (demonstrably) did. Just war doctrine has, for some time now, developed a third ‘movement’ (or ‘leg’ as in a tripod): the category of a Just Peace; ‘jus post-bellum’. Whether or not its outcome is a just peace is increasingly deployed as a criterion of whether a war was just or unjust.

Early in 2007 I had made the case for Sri Lanka in Just War terms to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams when he called on President Rajapaksa. His tacit concurrence was manifested in his remarks at a press conference at the conclusion of his visit in which he stated that the state’s response to the Tigers must perforce have a military component. Dr Williams, known for his refined intellect, was not known as a supporter of wars, still less wars of aggression, and had distinguished himself by his open, ethical opposition to the invasion of Iraq. His Colombo press briefing made the Tamil Diaspora activists and their Sinhala fellow travellers such as Dr. Brian Seneviratne howl in outrage.

In the presence of President Rajapakse, several Ministers, officials and ranking members of the Christian clergy including Bishop Duleep de Chickera, the Archbishop of Canterbury challenged me with a counter question. He had been wrestling with just war theory for about fifteen years and was concerned about a ‘just outcome’. Why did I think a just outcome would result from Lanka’s war and what were the chances, he queried. I replied that the wresting of territory from the Tigers would be accompanied by the legitimising, automatic re-enfranchisement of the Tamil people; the re-opening, however rudimentary, of democratic space and revival of a political process in those areas would enable the criteria of a just outcome to be met to some degree while further advance towards that goal was possible by negotiation between the state and the elected Tamil representatives.

A roadmap for the transition to a sustainable peace was sketched by Prof GL Peiris in a recent keynote lecture at a symposium organized by the Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai, and the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo:

“It is a multifaceted strategy... the humanitarian considerations ... are reinforced by the economic and political initiatives that would complete the strategy...We propose to hold elections to the other local government bodies in the North and then, as we did successfully in the East, in due course, sooner rather than later, to hold the Provincial Council elections in the Northern Province”. (October 26, 2010)

Speaking ten days earlier at Pandit Nehru’s residence Prof Peiris demonstrated a sure conceptual grasp of the core issue:

“In multicultural, multiethnic societies, what are the economic, political and social structures that you need to create in order to make it possible for everybody living in the country to feel at home, to feel a sense of genuine belonging without any sense of inferiority or exclusion? Devolution of power falls into place within that overall setting.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, which was a sequel to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord of 1987, established for the first time in Sri Lanka’s constitutional history a line of demarcation between central government and provincial functions...However, recent experience has shown that the Thirteenth Amendment is incomplete in a basic respect.

In a country like Sri Lanka, where the minority communities do not live exclusively in a particular geographical area, but are scattered throughout the country, there is a need for a power sharing mechanism in the Centre as well...There are many ways of achieving that objective, one of which is a bicameral legislature...” (RK Mishra Memorial Lecture, Oct 15th 2010).

In their presentations to the LLRC, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, preceded by Anglican Bishop Duleep de Chickera put forward critical ideas which they doubtless intend as guidance and guidelines for jus post bellum; a Just Peace. While a just war does not guarantee a just peace, a just peace cannot issue from an unjust war.

Therefore, the necessary call for a just and lasting peace is best situated on a con