Friday, July 31, 2009


Thousands of Tigers in welfare centres – Shamindra Ferdinando

Commissioner General of Rehabilitation Major General Daya Ratnayake yesterday said that several thousand LTTE cadres could be still among nearly 300,000 civilians accommodated at welfare centres in the north.

Addressing a press conference at the Information Department, Ratnayake said that once the police and the army had completed the ongoing screening process the numbers of LTTE cadres in government custody could go up as high as 20,000. The serving officer said that though as of yesterday there had been 9796 men and women held at 12 detention centres in the Vavuniya region, this figure could go beyond 15,000.

Responding to The Island queries, the former Military Spokesman said that among the detainees and those taking refuge among the civilians were suicide cadres. He emphasised that some of those in custody would have to face due legal process though the vast majority would benefit from the rehabilitation process. The police and army were in the process of inquiring into the background of persons in custody.

Ratnayake, who had commanded the 23 Division involved in the liberation of the Eastern Province subsequently functioned as the Forward Area Maintenance Commander, Jaffna before being asked by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to take over the fresh assignment.

Media Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene told the briefing that a gazette notification would be issued shortly to bring the subject rehabilitation under Justice and Law Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda. Major General Ratnayake would work with a team of officers who had been involved in rehabilitation of child soldiers after the liberation of the Eastern Province.

Abeywardena said he was confident that the international community would assist Sri Lanka to rehabilitate LTTE combatants. The rehabilitation of LTTE cadres and their families would be a gigantic task. According to him, the government had expanded and strengthened the rehabilitation process following the collapse of the LTTE. He said that of some 1000 LTTE cadres taken into custody in the Eastern Province, 837 remained at rehabilitation centres in several parts of the country.

He declined to comment on the possibility of the detainees at northern camps being given a chance to join the army. Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka recently told The Island that though they wouldn’t raise a Tamil Regiment as speculated by some people, about 800 ex-LTTE cadres had been recruited to the army.

He said many in detention once rehabilitated could engage in agriculture and fisheries.


As a Buddhist I am sad and ashamed!! The love and bond between a mother and a child are common to humans and also in the animal kingdom..!!!

‘As a Buddhist I am sad and ashamed’

We use the elephant as a symbol to promote our country and her tourism. We call it a treasure.

We are proud of the tusker that carries sacred relic caskets in processions.

I am a Buddhist. And to hear that baby elephants were taken away from their mothers to be gifted to two temples makes me really sad and ashamed! I think the order to return these babies to their mothers should have come from the temples themselves after the suffering of the poor creatures became public.

How could you ever forget these words from Karaneeya metta sutta?

"Maatha yathaniyan puttan - ayu sa eka putta manu rakke"

The love and bond between a mother and a child are common to humans and also in the animal kingdom.

I appeal to all those responsible for separating the baby elephants from their mothers to return them to Pinnawala forthwith so that they could reunite.



Where there is no vision, the people perish! The larger social problem concerns each of us as individuals & our personal attitudes:moral/ethical stds!

Thriving Through Tough J.B. Müller

Whatever ‘sunshine’ stories are splashed across the front pages of newspapers or programmes broadcast or telecast on radio or television, the sad fact is that the greater majority of people, from the Middle Class down, are struggling to make ends meet. More people are depriving themselves of a growing range of things and services because these are now unaffordable.

People are travelling less, patronizing restaurants less, curtailing their cultural life to zero point all because the cost is unthinkable. There are more important priorities such as food, clothing, and shelter; then, the children’s’ schooling, drugs for ailments and so on.

The disaffected play the ‘blame-game’ and lay the entire thing at the feet of the incumbent government and not unfairly because they can see prodigious waste and rampant corruption in every area of so-called ‘public services.’ They are aware that the country lives on foreign loans that they and their children and children’s children will have to pay back—with interest! The scenario is cold comfort for the harassed wage-earner and more so for the unemployed and the growing number of unemployables. This is a veritable witch’s brew in a bubbling cauldron giving out revolting odours.

This isn’t a problem that arrived today. It has been with us for a long, long time and the grandparents of the present generation, too, complained about the high cost-of-living. Yes, indeed, they did when bread was 25 cents for a pound of 16 ounces and a stringhopper was three cents! You see, wages and the cost-of-living are like two bulls yoked to the same cart—they rise in tandem with the COL being always somewhat ahead of the take-home pay-packet. Therefore, we all know about the problem even if we weren’t aware of its antecedents and we point fingers of blame in various directions and at various individuals—more especially the ones we don’t like. However, is there a way out of this gloomy forest of financial woes? Could we really thrive through tough times?

One glimmer of light in this darkness is that we are a resilient people who have survived many vicissitudes throughout our long history. We have absorbed much, adapted and changed our ways in order to survive and have, thereby, survived. We are survivors par excellence and one of the foremost lessons that history has taught us is to reduce our dependency on goods, services, and people to the barest minimum. Many of the things we take for granted aren’t ‘needs’ at all but quite unnecessary ‘wants.’ Another thing is this ‘keeping up with the Pereras’ syndrome based on envy, craving, greed and the pernicious doctrine of ‘one-upmanship’ so dear to the hearts of the ‘wannabes’ and yuppies. The larger social problem concerns each of us as individuals and our personal attitudes—particularly our moral and ethical standards.

1. Morality and ethics should take centre stage in our lives if we really want to emerge from the dark and gloomy forest that we inhabit;

2. We must have the courage of our convictions to ‘blow the whistle’ at waste and corruption and in order to do that we should ensure that our own integrity is unquestionable;

3. The elimination of waste and corruption does not begin with the ‘other.’ It begins with you. This means and implies being conscientious at all times in all places and situations and beyond that, not taking anything that you have not paid for. Stealing and pilfering on any scale, however minute, would be OUT;

4. Punctuality in reporting for work on time, every time, and leaving onl;y when the day’s work is done. This also entails avoiding malingering and working slow in order to do overtime. Overtime should be drastically limited and work after hours should be strictly supervised. Time is of the essence and the waste of time is a social and economic crime that costs every one of us money;

5. Discipline at home and in the workplace is absolutely important if we are to reorder the prevailing social order. Adhering to discipline might be hard but it is worth the difficulties encountered because it benefits everybody in the long run. A virtue that we should practice again is that of being frugal;

6. Commitment to the goals of creating a just society based on equity and fair-play and a society that is strong because of the discipline it practices is important. This commitment includes the work-ethic based on the premise that there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch.’ Everything is always paid for by someone else and in the case of corruption by everyone including yourself;

7. Working hard—and smart by using your innate intelligence. Avoiding hard work is also a social and economic crime. Then, in this day and age, the use of science and technology as tools enables us to work smarter than our grandparents and parents. It helps us to be more productive, effective, efficient, and successful.

When we fully understand that these things are in our own best self-interest and that, collectively, these things benefit society, we’ll begin to see more light and come out of that overwhelming gloom that envelopes us now. When we begin to work like Trojans or Yodhayas, the COL will stabilize and then, it will begin to go down because of the elimination of waste and corruption, because of the cost-cutting savings, because of the new environment of integrity, discipline and commitment and our new goal of working hard—and smart.

We can thrive through tough times—but only if we want to, period.

Indeed, there’ll be the gainsayers who will laugh hollowly and say that changing things to this extent is impossible. These are those ‘fat cats’ and their camp-followers inured to graft and malpractice. Well, the bottom-line is this: If we don’t take things in hand and do a turn-around, we’ll make the words of the psalmist: "Where there is no vision, the people perish," come chillingly true.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tamil IDPs: Innocent and powerless; treated with suspicion, daily lives fraught with fear of harassment and basic human need of safety & security..!!!

Ranjini's trip to the IDP Camps‏
Fra: Agnes Thambynayagam (
Sendt: 29. juli 2009 19:35:20
Til: Michael Thambynayagam (

----- Original Message -----
To: Noel
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2009 4:32 PM
Subject: FW: My trip to the IDP Camps

This is a first hand account of the situation prevailing in the various IDP camps.The writer is well known to me. The situation does not seem very dismal except for the fact that there is no freedom of movement and I hope the President will keep his word and release these unfortunate people so that they can get back to their homes and resume their normal lives.

--- On Wed, 7/29/09, Ranjini Manuelpillai wrote:

From: Ranjini Manuelpillai


All Experiences Are Subjective – A record of my impressions of the IDP camps

All experiences are subjective. And so I realized when nine of us visited some of the IDP camps last week and found that each of us had different feelings and observations about the experience. Perhaps this is because every experience is viewed through the prism of our personalities, value systems, cultural and educational orientations as well as our own life experiences. This may also be the reason why there are such diametrically opposing views expressed about the conditions in the IDP camps, for while some feel that the refugees are very well looked after, others feel that their conditions are dismal. All that I will attempt to do here is to describe my own observations, thoughts and feelings during my visit to the IDP camps.

I was one of five lay people of different religions and faiths, who joined a group of catholic nuns on a mission of mercy. Like many others in the South belonging to every religion and denomination, these nuns had been hard at work gathering clothes, food items and other essential goods in order to ease the suffering of the displaced people in the North. On this occasion however, they were working in conjunction with a group of young school leavers to provide 1300 families at Sumathipuram camp with what were referred to as “friendship packages”. Since the government was supplying the camps with basic food items, each of these packages consisted of a bucket, a sarong, a dress, several pairs of slippers, siddhalepa, condiments, soaps, a towel, sanitary towels and toothpaste for each family. Some of the items in the package would have been used up in a week and would have barely scratched the surface of their needs. Still, as they say, something is better than nothing and even this something cost a tidy sum!

We left during the early hours of Thursday 16 July for the long drive to Vavuniya. Gradually the vegetation changed from lush greenery to dry scrub land. As we drew closer and closer to our destination I grew silent as I took in the scenes of neglect and devastation. It reminded me of a similar excursion to Matara that many of us in this very same group, undertook in the aftermath of the Tsunami, though it is difficult to compare the horrendous devastation we witnessed then along the southern coast with the desolate landscape that now lay before us. As a child, I had traveled overland through Vavuniya to Jaffna. However, I had no clear memories of the land that I was traversing, but felt very strongly that however dry and bare the landscape may have been before the war, there could not then have been this sense of sadness and defeat permeating the very landscape. I was struck by the notion that tragedy leaves its imprint even on the very soil and that it would take a long time indeed for the Tamil people to regain a sense of dignity and pride in themselves. There might be some who might deem this a good thing. For they reason that as long as the Tamil people remain demoralized, they will not pose a challenge or a threat to the country. But the very converse is true. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so too the nation will thrive only when its religious and ethnic minorities as well as its marginalized classes are strengthened and allowed to live and function as equal citizens in this land. As I looked out I took in the scenes that whizzed past my window: the few, stray, emaciated cattle and goats grazing listlessly among the dry brown vegetation; the broken, straggly fences made of palmyrah leaves behind which were the dilapidated huts of the people, some of whom could be seen working in their fields under the scorching heat of the sun. Some fields looked parched and dry, the stalks of paddy standing up like dry brown twigs in caked mud, while others looked green, though even this green did not look as vivid and bright as do the paddy fields in the South, but had a deeper, somber hue, not displeasing to the eye. I caught a glimpse of a people struggling to eke out a living from this harsh landscape and felt an immense sadness for their plight. I realized anew and in a concrete manner that the Tamil people were in a worse plight now than they had ever been before the LTTE took to arms. I pondered for the umpteenth time what the 30 years of war had achieved, at the cost of enormous suffering and many lives lost in every corner of this land from “Dondra Head to Point Pedro”. History is the story of the victor, they say. The loser concedes to the victor territory, power and morale. The IDPs are the losers even though they did not themselves wage war. They are the flotsam and jetsam cast up on the shore as the army and the LTTE fought to the finish. Thus the IDPs in the North of Sri Lanka are dispossessed of their lands, powerless and demoralized, waiting for charitable hand outs from the South, waiting to be released from their prisons (for they are prisons, as long as they are not allowed to move freely in or out of them), waiting to be reconnected with missing members of their families, waiting, in other words, as they have waited for the past 30 years, for normalcy to return.

At Medawachchiya we were delayed for an hour and a half as our documents and our vehicle were subjected to scrutiny. After a few wrong turns, we eventually found our way to the convent at Chettikulam where we unloaded some of the goods we had brought from Colombo. The entrance to this convent was piled high with toys and other goods destined for the camps. However even without taking stock, we could see that these goods would not have been sufficient to scratch the surface of the needs of even one of the smaller camps. The nuns in this convent, who belonged to both the Sinhala and Tamil communities, then told us of their experiences in the camps. They explained to us that the Menik farm complex housed the older and larger camps in which most of the refugees were to be found. Some of these camps carried names like Ramanathan and Arunachalam, names that were ironic reminders of those very different sites of residence in the idyllic surroundings of Peradeniya. Compared to these camps, some of which housed as many as 45,000 people, the Sumathipuram, Dharmapuram and Veerapuram camps which had been set up fairly recently, had much fewer numbers, somewhere between 7,500 and 10,000 people in each. People were being shuffled about in these camps as the authorities traced members of the same family and re housed them together. Tracing the families of 300,000 displaced people, located in several different camps, is a gargantuan task, especially in the context that concurrent arrangements had to be made to meet the daily needs of the refugees. To the inmates at these camps however, the process must seem agonizingly slow as they wait anxiously for news of members of their family. Some of the nuns had arranged for the collection and distribution of fresh milk to some 800 children in two of the camps. How did they pay for this, I wondered? One said that she receives funds from her brothers and sisters abroad and that she utilizes these funds to purchase essential goods for refugees. Mostly, of course, there is the influx of goods from caring people in the South. The list of requirements seemed endless: the little children needed toys and milk in limitless quantities; the young teenagers needed clothes (as is the case with young people, everywhere) and books; and of course, there was the on going requirement for the daily needs of life for all the people in the camps. The basic food items were being provided by the state, but every other need had to be met by others. The nuns had a practical, hands–on approach to solving these problems. When they were told of a need, they tried to meet this need, moving heaven and earth in order to do so until the next need engrossed their attention. I wondered how long it would be before they reached the point of exhaustion, but they obviously had not yet reached it.

From Chettikulam, we drove on to the Puvarasankulam convent where we were to stay for the duration of our visit to Vavuniya. This convent provides a refuge for unwed mothers and children from the poorer segments of society. While the nuns stayed on in the nunnery, we, the five lay people in our group walked towards the large and airy building which housed the children. As soon as we walked in there, we were immediately surrounded by bright eyed little girls who wrested our bags from our hands and carried them upstairs to the airy, sprawling room in which we fashioned make shift beds for ourselves. I could not help but make comparisons between the lives of these children and those of our more privileged children in Colombo. They lived away from their brothers and sisters in the convent during term time; they had no TV, computers or toys (expensive or otherwise) to speak of; their daily routine was regimented – with regular prayer sessions, two hours of study after school and another two hours before bed time, as well as household chores which included helping in the kitchen, mopping the huge expanse of floor space on their hands and knees as well as tending and watering the large garden. In between all this they had a few hours of play, in which they tore round the back garden in a burst of high spirits. Yet, when I asked them whether they were happy to stay here away from their families, they all chorused yes, even the littlest among them. The reason they gave me was that here they had lots of children to play with. However I suspect that getting three square meals a day must also have had something to do with their feeling of contentment.

After breakfast the next morning, we left for Chettikulam, where the Sumathipuram camp is located. However, before we could enter the precincts of the camp we had to join forces with the other half of this enterprise – the young school leavers from Colombo, who had been instrumental in making all the organizational arrangements, as well as in parceling the “friendship package’ for each family. We were to rendezvous in Chettikulam, so while we awaited their arrival from Colombo, we went to another convent in Chettikulam where we picked up a nun, who could secure our entry into two other camps – the Dharmapuram and Kovaransankulam camps.

When we finally reached the Sumathipuram camp, it was mid- morning. As we drove up to the entrance to the camp in our small convoy of vehicles, I took in the barbed wire fencing surrounding rows and rows of what looked like plastic tents. I was told later on that these were not made entirely of plastic but of some kind of canvas, though the roof may have been made of plastic. As we stepped out, we were subjected to the scorching rays of the sun and inhaled the dust – laden air whipped up by a stiff breeze. The Colonel in charge of the camp said that though we had been told that there were 1300 families in this camp, it had since increased to 1800, as more families had been re–united. Though this was good news, it was a setback to us as we had brought only 1300 packages. Still, we left these with the Colonel, who said that he would take charge of distributing them among the families, as otherwise there would be a stampede to collect these items. We then piled back into our van while he and another army officer on a motorbike, took us on a guided tour of the camp. Some people stood outside their tents and watched silently as we drove past, while others went about their business, chatting to one another, tending their children or trekking to the water pump to collect water in buckets. We knew that access to the IDP camps was restricted. We had also been told that visiting relatives too, from either a different part of the country or even from abroad were not allowed inside the camps but were permitted to communicate with their families from outside the fence. I looked for evidence of this and saw a makeshift hut at the perimeter of the camp where a few people sat on rough wooden benches placed on either side of the fence and talked to each other. I felt both sad and angry at the sight. My feelings of sadness were fairly uncomplicated, for I was sad that many who are innocent and powerless are treated with some suspicion, their daily lives fraught with the fear of harassment and the basic human need for nest–building, that is, for keeping one’s loved ones safe and secure under one roof, denied them. My feelings of anger however, were more confused and complicated, for I did not know who could or should be blamed for this state of affairs. There is, for instance, the question of who was immediately and who was ultimately responsible for this state of affairs. To trace the source of ultimate responsibility would be akin to opening up a Russian doll, each one leading to another, and then to another. It would prove an impossible task, for it is a hotly- debated and contentious issue on which very few agree. It must be said however, that extremist violence of the kind that the country has experienced in the recent past, with two armed insurrections in the South and a protracted one in the North, is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself. The disease is a sickness within the body politic of the nation which successive governments have failed to address in a meaningful manner.

The sources of immediate responsibility are the Army and the government who are responsible for the arrangements at the camp. The state is on a ‘weeding-out’ operation to root out terrorism. It has to be done; the country cannot afford the human, political and economic costs of another war. However, in this process, it is guilty of making a fundamental error of judgement – that is, of treating all the IDPs as LTTE suspects until such time as they can be proven innocent. Some might deem this a necessary exercise to eradicate terrorism. However, it might be useful at this point to compare the measures taken in the South in the aftermath of the second JVP uprising with the measures taken in the North in the aftermath of the war with the LTTE. In order to subdue and eradicate the violent extremism of the JVP, the state undertook a ruthless vendetta in the South in which many innocent people died alongside the Southern activists. However at no point did the state make the mistake of reasoning that since most of the JVP activists were from the South, all the citizens from JVP strongholds, like say, the Galle and Matara districts, belonging to every class and age group, be incarcerated until such time as they could be proven innocent. If they had tried to do so, they would have triggered off a spontaneous uprising in the country, which would have led to the defeat of the state more surely and thoroughly than any armed insurrection could have done. However, in a comparable scenario in the North, the state is guilty of making just that very mistake. It is guilty of the most fundamental fallacy in its logic. To reason that since all Tigers are Tamils (give or take a few exceptions), then all Tamils from the North must be treated as Tiger suspects, is to reason fallaciously. Furthermore, it must not fail to remember, that these people are refugees who sought liberation from the Tiger stranglehold, who turned to the state, however late in the day, for help and succour. For the state to invite the IDPs to flee the grasp of the Tiger and then to incarcerate them without any freedom of movement, is similar to the action of the spider which invited the fly into its parlour!

From Sumathipuram we proceeded to the Dharmapuram camp where the retired major in charge of the camp made us welcome. He spoke to us of his anxiety to promote the well – being of the refugees and of the arrangements he had made to make sure that the children in the camp received uninterrupted schooling. He also gave us carte blanche to wander at our will and talk to the people. Happily, and contrary to our expectations, most people in the camp seemed relatively cheerful. Their sudden release from the overriding fear of imminent death or disablement and the resultant sense of physical safety were reason enough for their relaxed demeanour. However, when we spoke to them, they all expressed an anxiety to get back to their homes and to their occupations. When I asked them whether their homes were still intact, they said that though their homes had been demolished, they would rebuild, once they got back home. One man I spoke to complained about the lack of variety in their diet, for they are given rice, dhal, brinjals and pumpkin for every meal, every day. His words of complaint were however accompanied by a smile, as if he were conscious of the irony of complaining about the lack of variety in his diet when, just a short while ago, he had had barely enough to eat to keep body and soul together. I asked him what he would like to eat and he replied “Bread” with a wry smile. Another told me that he had lost his parents as well as his brother and his wife as they all tried to escape from the Wanni, and was now very much alone in the world. One woman whispered to me that her young 14 – year old son had been taken away and she was anxious for news of him. Reading between the lines, I surmised that her son was a possible LTTE suspect and as such had been taken in for questioning. I looked at her and recognized the pain that is familiar to all mothers, in her eyes. What could I say to her? I murmured some words of comfort but could do little else to soothe her pain. We were soon surrounded by a group of men and women, each anxious to share their experiences. We just want to talk, they told me. But I could not linger. Our group was moving ahead and they called out to me to hurry up. Regretfully I hurried on to catch up with the rest. One fact that struck me forcefully as they all crowded around me was that none of them smelled unclean. In fact, we had passed some of the makeshift aluminium toilets on our way, and had not noticed any stench emanating from them. I do not know what the conditions are in the larger camps, but in these smaller, newer camps there seems to be an adequate supply of food and water.

As I hurried, I kept my eyes on the ground, as the stumps of trees which had been felled when the area had been cleared to house the refugees, were sticking up from the ground. This was another reason why there was an urgent need for footwear, though I saw many little ones running around barefooted. I caught up with the rest near the tents of their makeshift school. Five large tents were being utilized as a school. Soon we were surrounded by young girls and boys of different ages, who came out of their tents to speak to us. The children who were sitting their Ordinary Level Examinations this year, were concerned that they were not getting adequate tutoring especially in Mathematics and Science. Others made a request for more exercise books. When I asked them whether they have enough to eat, they said yes. One little girl who was about 10 years old said that prior to coming to the camp, she had slept in a bunker to escape the shelling, and used to fall asleep through fear, though her stomach was empty. At that time, she had subsisted on just one meal a day. Now she had three meals a day.

After going back to the Chettikulam nunnery for lunch, we had time to visit one more camp. Because a request had been made for bread, arrangements were made to purchase 150 buns and take these to the next camp at Kovarasankulam. This camp was located in the premises of the Kovarasankulam school. The Major in charge of the camp was a humane and kindly being, who jokingly told us to stay on at the camp site and help the people. As we stepped out of our vehicle, we were surrounded by a body of people who wanted to talk to us and we were struck once again, by the up- beat quality in their facial expressions and stance. One old woman kept embracing us and stroking our faces. Another, carrying a little toddler, told me that the child in her arms was the son of her injured son who had lost a leg due to shell injury. He and his wife were housed at another camp while she stayed on here to look after the little one. The stories they shared with us were tragic; but as I had noticed before at the Dharmapuram camp, they did not seem beaten down or depressed. As we had buns to distribute among the little ones, the Major asked the parents to take their little ones to the school hall and seat them in orderly rows on the floor of the stage. We were dismayed then to find that there were many more children than there were buns to go around. We managed to give a bun to every child seated on the stage, but there were others milling about in the hall who had to go without. The Major told us that these children were extremely well behaved and would not clamour for anything, unlike most other children. This we saw for ourselves, as they all sat quietly until we placed the bun in their hands. None of them reached out with their hands or even asked for one, if they had been inadvertently overlooked. One such little one sat with tears running silently down his cheeks, because he had been accidentally bypassed. Luckily this was rectified fairly quickly. The thought went through my mind that perhaps this kind of unnaturally good behaviour was the result of the trauma they had undergone in the recent past.

As we prepared to leave the camp, a sweet faced sixteen year old found her way through the crush and spoke to me. I asked her, by way of conversation, whether she was still studying. She replied that she had completed her Ordinary Level Examinations. When I asked her whether she wanted to continue her studies, she shook her head vigorously. I want to go out she said and pointed towards the gates of the camp, an image that has left a cameo – like imprint in the recesses of my mind.

Tamil people: Integral part of Sri Lanka and that they should be kept within the national fold through a continuous recognition of inherent dignity..!


People celebrating Black July 1983

Has the terrible abomination, which was Black July, now ceased to exist? This is the question which the conscience-stricken among us need to ask ourselves. Whereas in former times, Black July was consistently commemorated every year by the state and progressive, humanistically-oriented sections of the Lankan polity, July 2009 has almost ended with hardly a murmur in the most relevant quarters about the ignominious outrage of 1983, which drastically changed the face of post independence Sri Lankan politics and triggered a local societal crisis of unheard of proportions.

It is as if the liquidation of the LTTE in mid May this year has made it unnecessary for the state and the more socially-conscious sections of civil society, to keep alive in the public consciousness, the inhumanity which the Tamil community suffered at the hands of racist hordes at that wrenching moment in the country’s political history. By saying this, the implication is not intended to be made that those mind-numbing events of July 1983 bore the hallmarks of what is popularly referred to as a racial pogrom. Far from it. Those sad events did not see the majority community in its totality unleashing murderous violence, for instance, against the Tamils. The shaming events of July 1983 could not be described as ‘ethnic strife’ in the true sense of the phrase because persons in substantial numbers from the majority community went to the rescue of affected Tamils and even provided them succour at the risk of their lives. It was not a question of one section of the people seeking the physical liquidation of another section. The ‘troubles’ of July did not ,certainly, take on the contours of a ‘civil war’. The barbaric hordes that sought to ‘teach the Tamil people a lesson’ were not synonymous with the Sinhala community.

However, it could be said with certainty that the riots of July 1983 were state-orchestrated to a degree and overlooked and condoned too to an extent by some government leaders of those times and that murderous hordes were systematically unleashed on the Tamil people and their property with the aim of doing them maximum harm. Accordingly, the Tamil people were singled out for attack and for this reason the riots should stand condemned by all persons of conscience in this country, as brutally discriminatory in nature, regardless of how long ago the tragedy occurred. This should be the case as long as national unity, democratic accommodation among communities, multiculturalism, and above all, humanity is valued by Lankan society.

The local polity could pretend now that Black July is of no significance, only at its peril. ‘The lessons of history’ need to be borne in mind lest ‘the mistakes of the past’ are repeated. Therefore, it is only right and advisable that Black July is continuously commemorated by particularly the state and the inhumanity which was ghoulishly visited on the Tamil community solemnly recollected by the total citizenry.

The law and order problem which was the LTTE may be no more but the National Question is remaining unresolved and we would be forgetting, once again at our peril, the fact that ‘Back July’ was and is profoundly symptomatic of this conflict that is remaining to be rectified by political means.

There is no need to repeat here the truism that the LTTE is not synonymous with the Tamil people. The majority of the Tamil people never backed the LTTE or condoned its campaign of terror and one cannot perceive why the murderous violence which was unleashed on the Tamils in July 1983 should now be treated as a disposable piece of history. Since the majority of the people in this country are totally opposed to the inhuman treatment of living beings, whatever their ethnicity and cultural roots, Black July 1983 should be continuously solemnly commemorated by Sri Lanka, unless the state is tacitly making it known to the public that the Tamils and their legitimate grievances are of no importance in current post-LTTE times.

It is quite some time since the Jews of the world acquired a state of their own and enabled some of their political aspirations to be met, but the ‘Jewish Holocaust’ is a dreadful episode in modern human history which the civilized world would dare not consign to the dust heap of history. This is mainly because the civilized world considers it advisable to keep the memory of the ‘Holocaust’ alive to enable humanity to recollect the invaluable lesson that inhuman violence should never be unleashed by sections of humanity against each other. Besides, the lesson is driven home that no social group should be victimized on account of its cultural identity.

The ‘Holocaust’ is commemorated today by the majority of Germans too who shudder at the thought of being identified with the genocidal Hitlerian regime which sought the physical elimination of the Jews in the early decades of the last century. ‘Holocaust’ commemorations are by no means a slur on the dignity of the majority of Germans who seek peaceful co-existence with the rest of mankind.

Much of this logic applies in Sri Lanka too. By unfailingly remembering Black July, we, the totality of Lankans, would be demonstrating our opposition to the unleashing of inhuman violence against innocent civilians, besides saying ‘no’ to the victimization of people on grounds of ethnicity and other cultural markers.

Such observances have nothing to do whatsoever, with the LTTE and its illegal agenda, which the state was obliged to deal with, with the coercive power at its disposal. But it must be ensured that social peace and ethnic harmony prevail and one of the most effective means to do this is to implant in the popular consciousness the need for the humane treatment of one’s ‘neighbour’ or the ‘other’, through the consistent remembrance of events such as Black July.

The need of the hour is not a self-righteous rejection of Black July but a rediscovery of its potential as an instrument of ensuring continuing social harmony. It is also a valuable means of remembering that the Tamil people are an integral part of Sri Lanka and that they should be kept within the national fold through a continuous recognition of their inherent dignity as humans.


Our sincere hope:Devolution would be adequate enough to meet the demands of our brother community who had been subjected to deplorable injustices.!!!

The Roses and Thorns of the APRC Proposals

Migara Doss

It seemed as though the battle would never end, both camps fought valiantly with pride for their nationality ready as ever to sacrifice their lives . But one camp outnumbered the other and soon got the upper hand in the battle. And finally it ended bringing tears of hopeless defeat to one camp and tears of hope and joy to another.

Thus ended our country’s long driven ethnic war making room for peace and solidarity amongst the two camps the Tamil and Sinhalese population.

It is now time to strike the final nail into the coffin of ethnic disparity which would end the long dark night and make the new sun rise for our nation.

It is at this juncture that the government is ready to bring about the much awaited All Party Representative Council proposals which contain its final consensus regarding a just solution for our country’s ethnic issue. In looking into the depth of these new proposals and closely scrutinizing it we find various pros and cons in it which could be discussed as below,

First and foremost these new proposal’s brings a sign of hope with its moves to introduce a new constitution replacing the present one which had been widely criticized for fortifying the center with immense power to dominate other provincial state bodies making them beleaguered.

Furthermore reintroduction of the Westminster style legislature consisting with two chambers would pave the way for greater devolution of power for the provinces dignifying their presence in the law making body while ensuring the unitary structure of the country. This new introduction would also do greater good to politics with altering the present representative system that would improve the dastard political culture now practiced by our representatives.

The proposed establishment of village councils too is another paramount decision which aims to carry development into the grass root levels of the provinces, but the question still lies as to whether development would expand to the poor souls in the villages or would it be confined to politicians who prosper daily utilizing all the power and resources at their reach.

And in looking at the much debated thorns of this new invention which are highlighted by the very benches of the government itself draws speculations in our minds of the credibility of this new horizon as promised by its founders.

A significant feature we see through this is that even though the committee is titled as ‘All Party’ representative council it is a pity to find that 11 out of the 13 parties indulged in forming these proposals happen to be government affiliated ally’s which humiliates it’s very concept.

And also the greater devolution of power within the legislative body amongst the provinces and the central government would be highly contingent since it had been the dexterity of politicians to cause interferences, obstructions and estrangements in political practice that would raise questions of the practical credibility and the success level of this effort to devolve power. It is our sincere hope that this devolution would be adequate enough to meet the demands of our brother community who had been subjected to deplorable injustices throughout the past and would bring a new light of hope to Sri Lanka. Will the establishment of a constitutional body resolve the early defects of an introduced new constitution?

Or will the new State bodies to concentrate on devolving land, water and police powers be able to carry out their work with dignity? It is time that has the answers for all these covert issues. As for us the best we could do right now is to gaze hopefully at the far far west and wait for the sunrise as promised in a new Sri Lanka through these new APRC Proposals.

I am very sincere and good-hearted man..!! Every body will get proper justice and equality when dealing with their matters.!! Nobody has to worry.!!

Army Commander Lt. General Jagath Jayasuriya....By Shanika Sriananda

The new Army Commander Lt. General Jagath Jayasuriya spelling out his new vision - ‘to further transform the Sri Lanka Army into a highly trained, motivated, and disciplined professional force which is well organised and structured to suit both the current and future requirements of the country, said that the Army would work hand in hand with the government in its massive reconstruction initiatives to develop the areas once held by the LTTE terrorists.

The Army Chief thanking the political leadership given to end the Eelam War IV said he hoped that the Army would get the fullest political support in future. Listing out his priorities, he said apart from assisting the development of the North, the Army would give priority to the welfare of the disabled soldiers, “I would follow my former Commander’s policy of stopping corruption, waste and irregularities in the Army”, he said.

Being the youngest Army Commander of the Army’s 60 years old history, Lt. Gen. Jayasuriya said that as he is commanding an Army with a large majority of young soldiers he wanted to harness their energy to develop the country. We have to remotivate them to take up other challenges of national importance as well, he added.

The 19th Army Commander of the Sri Lanka Army in an interview with the ‘Sunday Observer’ said that he was the happiest and luckiest Army Chief in the history of the Army as he got his appointment at a time when the country is heading for a new era. “Thanks to the dedication and commitment of General Sarath Fonseka the Army was able to secure a triumphant victory”, he said.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q: In the aftermath of defeating a 30 year old terrorist war, what would be the priorities of the Army?

A: Though the battle against terrorism is over there are lots of other areas that need be given attention. One is general welfare of the soldiers and the other major area that I want to touch upon is, the welfare of the disabled soldiers. As you know there are thousands of disabled and wounded soldiers who need care. They need assistance and I would introduce some programs to secure their future.

Q: You have come straight from the field and how long will it take you to identify your priorities?

A: Yes, it’s a leap forward! Since I came straight from the field to this chair I have to study the role of general administration. Normally, the Army Commander is appointed when he is holding the post of Chief of Staff or the Deputy Chief of Staff. First I have to get used to these activities before listing down the immediate priorities of the Army.

Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya assuming office as the 19th Army Commander.

Everything would be in order within a few days!

Q: Your appointment came as a surprise move and how did you feel when you got the news first?

A: Yes, it was a great surprise for me because I came to Colombo from Wanni for an urgent meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and finally I ended up here as the Commander of the Army. However, I am proud to be the 19th Army Commander of this country and I must be thankful to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for their choice. And I personally believe that I was chosen for the top post considering my contribution to the Eelam IV war as the Security Forces Commander Wanni. This is mainly on merit basis and If I were to come through the normal procedure I would become the Army Commander in 2010.

I also pay my gratitude to General Sarath Fonseka who commanded the war for over three years and seven months and brought it to its ultimate end with total victory within two years and 11 months! We were able to defeat the LTTE, which was supposed to be invincible, mainly due to his great leadership and commitment. I am so proud to be part of the team under his leadership. I was able to give my fullest support to General Fonseka during his tenure, to win the war.

Now I am saddled with a great responsibility to lead the Army to a new era. I believe that this is a new era and I am ready to lead the Army to have the expectation of the government fulfilled.

Q: Are there any senior military officers who had an influence on your life to enable you to become a good Commander?

A: Yes, I thank the former top military icons like Maj. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwe and Lt. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte. I was the Adjutant to the former during the Eelam war II. I was his staff officer during the operation to rescue the Jaffna Fort in which General Fonseka and Defence Secretary took part. I was with Gen. Daluwatta during the Riviresa Operation. Their guidance helped me to reach high and still I am following some of the lessons that I learnt from them.

Q: Can you tell more about the welfare programs that are to be designed for the disabled soldiers?

A: These disabled young soldiers have sacrificed their lives for the liberation of the country and we as a nation need to look after them well. I always feel that we have not done enough for these young soldiers who fought to end terrorism.

Taking care of them cannot be done alone. They sacrificed themselves to save our nation. This should be a collective effort and the responsibility of the entire nation as well.

Lots of welfare programs introduced by Gen. Fonseka are going on but still there is space to do more to uplift their living standards. Welfare of disabled soldiers is a continuous job and should not be limited to a day or two. As they are disabled we have to look after them throughout their lives. Therefore, it is a great responsibility for each and every citizen to look after them.

Q: Are there any new plans to help the government to expedite its resettlement programs?

A: The Army will provide its support in rebuilding the North. Even at the moment the soldiers are engaged in de-mining, road construction and other development activities. Apart from de-mining, the Army has undertaken a huge task of clearing the North of explosives. This is vital before resettling people. This is going on well and we have already recovered explosive dumps and lots of weapons.

The Army got the sole credit for rescuing a massive crowd of hostages while maintaining a zero casualty rate. The dedication and commitment of Gen. Fonseka to free the Northern people from the clutches of the LTTE was immense. I know how he handled the rescue operation. The political commitment also played a major role in this victory. During the last days of the war President Rajapaksa was calling me every day from Jordan as Gen.

Fonseka was in China and I updated him about the situation. I told him that the final days of the LTTE were not too far!

The Army’s contribution towards resettling IDPs proved a success. We have started assisting the government resettlement programs from the time Nagenahira Navodaya was launched and now it is the Uthuru Wasanathaya in which the soldiers are involved with.

Lots of development activities are going on with new roads and bridges being constructed.

The Sri Lanka Army, which brought freedom and peace to the country is proud to be a part of the Government’s development programs. The Government wants to give 100 percent priority to resettle IDPs as it is a costly affair for the Government to feed and look after such a massive IDP population. Hence our aim is to support the Government to achieve this goal as soon as possible. The army engineers have already been deployed in the North to do the infrastructure development such as construction or renovation of roads and bridges.

Q: Nearly half of the Army’s strength comprises youth, who used to fight throughout day and night. Are there any plans to keep them occupied?

A: Yes, the number-wise, Sri Lanka Army has expanded very much. Over 80,000 had been recruited to end the war. Fighting is over and now we have to do lot of things to keep these young soldiers occupied. They need to be taught the general traditions and procedures of the Army.

Another main task is to mould the Army to suit to the next 20 years. This can be achieved through training. Therefore, several training programs with recreational activities have already been introduced. They need a change! These young soldiers were motivated for fighting to defeat terrorism but now they should be motivated towards other aspects so that they can continue to be good soldiers in the coming years.

Q: During Gen. Fonseka’s tenure the Army was ranked the ‘world’s best Army’ in the context of crushing terrorism. How do you plan to maintain this reputation?

A: Yes, through discipline and professionalism! I want to maintain that reputation and I also intend to give them a professional training for the betterment of their career. Military training that suits the future will be introduced. More training centres will come up. Those who fought in the battlefront need to pass their expertise to others. I know that other countries like to learn lot about fighting terrorists, especially small group operations and night fighting.

Q: How do you see the political commitment during the Eelam War IV?

A: The Army had the political blessings throughout the Operation and both the President and the Defence Secretary were fully committed to end terrorism in Sri Lanka. They gave their fullest support and were a tower of strength for the military to secure the final victory.

I hope that the Army will get the same political support in future as well.

Q: Do not you think that your ‘trade mark’ smile will be a hindrance to be tough as the Army Commander?

A: I am a very sincere and good-hearted man. Every body will get the proper justice and equality when dealing with their matters. Nobody has to worry. I am always a good listener. I would listen first if any body comes with a problem.

I am not a man who takes unilateral decisions but one who takes multilateral decisions! I am approachable at anytime. I talk to and smile with ordinary soldiers. That is my style of leadership and it has proved a success upto now. I hope it will produce good results in future too. I hope I will be able to treat everyone equally.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One needs to be a Tamil to know of the inconveniences and the humiliation we suffer at times..!!!

Grievances of Tamil citizens

Many Sinhalese scoff when reference is made to our grievances. One needs to be a Tamil to know of the inconveniences and the humiliation we suffer at times. It was therefore refreshing to see a Sinhalese gentleman refer to some of our problems. Thank you Mr. Godage, for referring to the difficulties that we Tamil citizens are undergoing, in your recent article on the rehabilitation of former LTTE cadres. Yes our brothers in Jaffna and the north and east are still receiving letters from government departments in Sinhala, we Tamils are still unable to make an entry in Tamil at a Police stations, no ‘Tamil only’ speaking citizen can transact business at our post offices, though Tamil is said to be an official language in this country. W e are also subject to rude questioning when stopped at checkpoints.

The implementation of the 13th Amendment plus or minus or some other constitutional arrangement should be undertaken at the earliest so that the minorities who live in the north and east can feel that they have a say in deciding on their own destiny within a united country. I agree that it is inadvisable to give Police powers to PCs in our small country. In any event if what is intended primarily is to ensure good governance and that we the people are brought closer to the process of governance then is not the District Council as proposed by Dr. Neville Laduwahetty in all his contributions not the answer?

What is indeed sad in our present circumstances is that the people in the south, particularly those who dislike Tamils (though we worship the same Gods and many ‘Sinhalese’ came from India even as late as the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries for silk weaving, cinnamon peeling and toddy tapping and got ‘Sinhalized’) are unaware of the suffering that the people in the north went through over the years, just like the sufferings of the people in the south because of the LTTE’s atrocities. The government should consider compensating those who suffered as a part of the effort to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people. Permit me to list some of the atrocities

Yes everyone knows of what happened in one bloody week in July 1983 when almost one thousand Tamil civilians were killed and their properties destroyed in Colombo and the rest of the country and gave rise to the so-called Diaspora. In addition to this were the following atrocities perpetrated on the Tamils which many of our Sinhala brothers are not aware of:

The revenge killing of 60 civilians at Tinnevely on 24th July 1983 – a day after the 13 soldiers were killed in an ambush at the same village. the killing of 40 detainees at the Welikada Prison during that horrible week in 1983. The revenge killings immediately after 30th November 1984 killings by the LTTE at the Kent and Dollar farms, when some unknown elements are alleged to have gone berserk and shot everyone in sight. A large number of such killings took place in Irretperiyakulam in the Vavuniya District, at Chettikulam in Mannar District, and at Valvettithurai as revenge for the slaughter of pilgrims at Anuradhapura by the LTTE, and last but not least came the best known massacre at Kokkadicholai in 1985 where over 80 civilians were killed. The vicious cycle of reprisal killings by both sides has been absolutely horrendous. Yes we Tamils have suffered too because of the atrocities committed by the LTTE.

We now live in the hope that this horrible era is over, thanks to President Mahinda Rajapakse who destroyed the LTTE, which was a curse to us Tamils too. It now remains for him to ensure peace with justice. He needs now to address the causes that led to the militancy. Whilst there are political grievances, there are also socio-economic issues that need to be addressed and education and employment in the state sector are two such important areas. With regard to education, I liked the suggestion made by Mr. Godage that education in the North and East be in the English medium, no one can then ever claim that we have been discriminated against, I have no doubt that students from the south would seek to enter schools in the North and East to secure a good and better education than there is in the south where education in the vernacular prevails. The Universities in the North and East could also teach in English. This would promote social integration and better understanding.

Politicians the world over live on rhetoric, ours are no exception, they must understand that we are living on borrowed time. We cannot leave any room for a recurrence of an insurrection either in the north or the south. As for the ethnic issue, the political package must go parallel to the reconstruction programme. The peace dividend must not be delayed. We must have peace with justice, this is extremely important, for peace without justice is only a symbolic peace. The government must ensure that the rule of law is enthroned, so that all the people of this country can feel secure. Restoring Justice after a conflict may be a hazardous task but it would help to build mutual trust, which is indeed the foundation for a just and lasting peace.

It is only President Rajapakse who can allay the fears of the paranoid who have stood in the way of an agreement from the time of Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike. If only a settlement had been reached, then not only would the lives of over one hundred thousand have been spared, we would have been a better developed country than Singapore and we would have been the envy of the developing world. If only the President can achieve a just and sustainable peace, he would then no doubt go down in our history as the greatest ruler of this country, as great as the greats of the sub-continent..

S. Ramalingam


Innocent Tamils were murdered brutally and their property was destroyed just because they were Tamils!!! Black Chapter in the history of Srilanka..!!!

Excerpts from a symposium held on the National Question :

After the War - What Next?
Manjari Peiris

The mistake of making Sinhala only the official language lost the support among the Sinhala people on one side and the Tamil people on the other side.

Dr. N. M. Perera and another leader and the Left Movement in general which espoused the cause of Tamil too, saw how racism came up in our country and we have witnessed the consequences thereafter, said Leader of the LSSP and the Minister of Science and Technology Professor Tissa Vitarana.

He added: Had Dr. N. M. Perera been alive today he would have wanted us very much to see that there is no recurrence of what had adopted earlier. Is there a danger of such a recurrence? There is! It is unfortunate that the successful war against separatism and terrorism which has resulted in the military defeat of the LTTE is being considered by some people as a sufficient guarantee of the unity of our country as one Sri Lankan people and is getting together as one Sri Lankan people.

“I think we have to be realistic and face the truth. Following the loss of confidence over the language issue, the Tamil people had to face the problems that occurred in the period 1977, 1983 which culminated in Black July about which we are all familiar and about which we are all deeply sad.”

In that situation innocent Tamil people were murdered brutally and their property was destroyed just because they were Tamils was the Black Chapter in the history of our country. It ultimately resulted in military struggle of the Tamil people to set up a separate state - a Tamil Eeelam as a part of our country where they could live in safety and also be able to develop their culture and their economy, under their own leadership.

Professor Vitarana pointed out that this need had not disappeared just because the LTTE was militarily defeated. “We have to remember that in 1987 with the introduction of the 13th Amendment for the first time into our Constitution, the principle of devolution of power to provinces that had caused all other militant groups; there were close to 10 militant groups who had taken up arms against the state to give up the arms, because they felt that devolution of power was an adequate solution to their problems. We have a situation where even the 13th Amendment is not being properly implemented.”

“What is the message that is going from the country to the world? Is it to tell those people who gave up arms at that time on the basis of the 13th Amendment, we are not going to implement the 13th Amendment. Isn’t that an invitation for them to go back to arms?”

He elaborated; We have a situation where the President, in his own election manifesto in the Mahinda Chinthanaya clearly stated that the source of the problem was political as such there had to be a political solution. It was for this reason that he set up an All Party Conference and said that he would implement the suggestions that came out of the All Party Conference.

The implementation of the 13th Amendment would be sending of the correct signal. The proposals of the APRC, need to be implemented, but will take time. Therefore we have to send the right signal to those Tamil people and convince them that after the defeat of the LTTE, that they can be assured that they will get their due rights in our country as equal citizens.


The whole society has been brutalized of the way in which the problem was manifested. So we have to repair that situation, come out of that with a clear program where the immediate needs of the affected people such as their housing, food supply, water supply etc. are provided; we must go beyond and empower them.

Power has to be shared both at the centre and the peripherals so that we may really build up one Sri Lankan nation. This is really the situation that is confronting us,’ Professor Vitarana concluded.

If the correct decision had been made by politicians at that time, including the Tamil leaders, Dr. N. M. Perera would have taken over the reigns of the country; it would have been a very prosperous one then, said, V. Anandasangaree - former Member of Parliament from Kilinochchi, President of the Tamil United Liberation Front, General Secretary of the Democratic Tamil National Alliance and former Member of the LSSP.

When NM was holding the portfolio of Finance, he allowed only three Pounds exchange to go out of the country. Within a short period the country regained its position in the international field. Everybody started appreciating what he had done earlier. That is the type of a leader that we had!

He was a man who thought the country as one and not as two or three.

The Government defeated the Tigers or the terrorism not alone, but with the support of everybody. You all know that the amount of contribution made by me for the eradication of terrorism in this country, Mr. Sangaree said.

Everyone in this country had suffered. No one could walk on the street freely, in this country a couple of months back. I think now we are free from these troubles. If we are to live as free as we want in a peaceful country, the role that everyone plays is vital. Let us forget differences among us whether communal or otherwise or religious. Let us work towards building one united nation!

How do we get a united country? By treating everyone equally as said by Dr. N. M. Perera. We all feel that we are equals, no one is superior to the other, and no one is inferior to the other either. All the rights enjoyed by one should be enjoyed by everybody. That is how I and our great leader looked at it!

The children who had been forcibly taken and detained for training should not be treated as LTTE cadre; they are innocent people and should be released as early so that they can go to school.

The things that I appreciate about the LSSP were that firstly in my recollection it was the only political party that did not exploit ethnicity to gain power. In fact it was one of the few parties that were able to treat all ethnic groups with dignity.

It was also a party that had great passion for the working class, but I suspect the passion was more for the urban working class and this could have been one of the reasons as to why the LSSP did not continue to make its impact. There was the caliber of leadership, wise and informed men and women with integrity, said Bishop of Colombo, Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera.

He added; “Various people have set down to analyze why the LSSP has come down, what it is today. I don’t know whether to class it a failure or whether to suggest that there has been some inability to appeal to the nation.”

We have to strive from where we are towards an integrated, united, just reconciled nation that recognizes its pluralism; we are a people of many cultures, many ethnic groups, and several religions.

The war is over; what next? Firstly we have to respond to certain physical challenges - the crisis of IDPs. Certainly that is not the most important crisis that the country is facing today.

But it is an important crisis and we must be careful when we read the headlines not to allow the IDP crisis to call the diversion from other fundamental issues that the people of this country had been called to struggle against.

The position that the Government has taken in security screening is acceptable, but it must be done professionally and speedily; people must be arrested in broad daylight so that people know that an arrest is being made.

People feel that one has to wait till the whole process is over for re-settlement and rehabilitation to begin. What we need is a concurrent process. People in IDP camps have got to be screened, released in batches and must go back to their villages, returned to their own schools, their temples, their churches, their livelihoods. The resettlement process must be seen as a contribution towards the productivity not just of the Vanni, but of the whole country as well.

Like the Sinhalese, Muslims, the Tamil community is a resourceful community and we must not only recognize the human resources, but support the contribution that it can make no matter how small towards the economic growth and stability of this country.

In the process of “decommissioning for wars”, soldiers must also be assisted to return to normalcy as against fighting a war. Men and women of the Armed Forces who have lost certain opportunities must be given a chance to qualify to pass examinations and to follow the dreams of their hearts. The nation has still not come to terms with those who have died. Over the years particularly during this war so many Sri Lankans had died and killed each other.

We have a culture where death occurs, there is community solidarity that is expressed and people come together to mourn. We know that the Tamil community in this country had increasingly felt alienated. If you want to attack Tamil militants, you must have surveillance over the Tamil community.

Strengthening of democratic institutions like a free media, independent judiciary or police force is absolutely essential. When we conduct conflict resolution workshops sometimes within the churches, inter-faith with brothers and sisters of other religions, we ask children and usually about the age of OLs to give us a solution to the problem. Whether they are Sinhala, Tamil or Muslims they always get it right finding a solution to the problem. This must be a country in which we treat others with dignity and all equal before the law. If school children get it right, the politicians must get it right.

The problem is the process that is where different agendas content with each other. Who is responsible for the process are political leaders. That’s why we elect them. Solution to the problem will be somewhat entrenched in our constitution. That will reduce the anxiety of certain minorities in this country.

All sound religions condemn killing and death, will stand with the vulnerable and the poor, will preach forgiveness and reconciliation, will talk about unity in diversity.

We have different backgrounds and skills and contributions to make, but we can all stay together united in this country. What sound religions speak about and offer is something that the political leadership of this country must accept as a challenge. “The Left has made a big sacrifice in the past so that it’s entitled to be heard during the language debate, communal riots, and periods of interrogations.

During the long period when the Left leaders of the North were systematically assassinated by the LTTE for no other reason that they belonged to the Communist party or to the LSSP” said Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Dr. Sarath Amunugama.

He added: Not for their political records, but simply because through the left they were providing an alternative vision.

This is the time for people who have made sacrifices to make their ideas known.

Most of the people who are talking about what should be done next are the people who have not made any sacrifice whatsoever in terms of the political conflict for the last 30 years.” We have to examine in terms of this heritage what should be the attitude of the people in varying forms and political parties who share this common human and humane concern as to how we should view the future.

It is already enshrined in our Constitution, that every Sri Lankan citizen irrespective of his ethnicity, other particular distinct characteristics are entitled to equal recognition and treatment in terms of all those constitutional guarantees that are by common consent enshrined in our constitution.

We should stand up for not what we think right, but what is right because that is the human and liberal tradition of thought. When we address these questions, what is important is to clarify from what advantage for it we are looking at these problems and the tradition which helps us to accept no other solution, but that of equality of all people for which as if not mentioned there had been a long struggle of humanity.

We should be able to manage these different concerns in terms of much practical decision making with different ethnic groups, communities, perspectives, fears, approaches, etc.

Politics is a question of compromise and management, except for a few people like, NM and Philip Goonewardena was not widely recognized by the left of that time. We saw it in terms of rigid ideological positions and could not move to understand the bigger social forces that were creating this type of conflict at that particular period.

The first thing we have to create in this country is a realistic approach to the ethnic issue on the basis of the radical and liberal traditions which are very important. The debate on questions of federalism nobody other than the LSSP have that most rhetoric attack of federalism which is found in the Hanzard. No way were they going to compromise on the sovereignty or unfettered rights of Parliament.

This has to be qualified by thinking that at that time the question of the devolution process or the devolution of power as a solution to regionalism was not very much in the intellectual horizon of that time. It was a later development.

The question of unit of devolution has been solved. My view right through has been that the North and the East should be two different Provincial Councils. The Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims are working pretty well there. Very many people try to sweep under the carpet if that there had never been a permanent jointer of the North and the East.

Nothing in the Indo-Lanka accord or in the legislation that followed in Parliament in the 13th Amendment speaks of a permanently joint North and East. Powers must be given at one point with the touch of a button or concurrence. Certain co-powers can be devolved immediately and others can be done over a period through experience and so on.

We need not be pessimistic, a lot of good work has been done and we are much closer to a realistic solution than we were two or three months ago. One of the tragedies of the ethnic conflict was that we were never able to realize our real economic potential because of this unfortunate conflict.

China and India which were considered very backward in regard to economic growth have been pushing the global growth from 4-5%. People spoke contemptuously of the Hindu rate of growth or Buddhist rate of growth 2-1%, but with the new reforms in China because of the Communist Party there were 4 modernizations, viz. modernized agriculture, industry, army and science and technology. China has got a superb growth of over 10 percent of GDP over 5 or 6 consecutive years.

We did too badly - around 6-7 percent growth. I feel the whole of Sri Lanka on a growth path may have very close to a 10percent growth; partly we spent on arms and the war, we have a negative growth that way and that we don’t have enough agriculture, irrigation, productivity.

If both ends were made productive, we could have gained a 10 percent growth. Very few people realize the interrelationship particularly between the Eastern province and the Central Province.

It is lunatic to talk of East separately. The full irrigation development of the Eastern Province which is the mega major agricultural sector in Sri Lanka depends from water from the Central Province. All the dams are in the Central Province.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a strong believer in the radical tradition of no discrimination whatsoever in this country. It is the strongest legacy that the Left has in this country. The Government is dedicated to investing in the future. When Mr. Bandaranaike brought in a law that Sinhala only shall be the official language in 1956 did the greatest damage and divided our country in 1956.

On the day in 1956 the Sinhala Only Act was passed and the Tamil Members of Parliament walked across Galle Road sat down at Galle Face Green and had a peaceful sitting.

It was a symbolic protest because the entire Tamil population who has worked for this country was wiped out. Half an hour later Sinhala people attacked them. Even Buddhist monks did the same thing. former MP Managala Moonesinghe said.

There are good Buddhist monks but I don’t consider who take politics as good Buddhist monks. Then the rift widen. As the years went by the 1958 riots took place. Why did the riots take place? They obliterated all the Tamil signs, both public and private.

The UNP Government in 1970 had a group of Ministers with different views, utterly racist pro Sinhala and anti Tamil. It was the beginning of the conflict. They held elections for the District Councils, took some Party thugs and there was no democratic election where they pilfered ballot boxes and won it.

It was the turning point. Tamil youth thought enough is enough. Then in 1958 Mr. Bandaranaike entering into a pact with Mr. Chelvanayagam and wanting to implement the reasonable use of Tamils and giving pride of place to Tamils including language, the UNP in opposition protested in a march to Kandy. The racist Sinhala people and Buddhist monks surrounded Mr. B’s residence and demanded that the B-C Pact be torn up. He tore it up.

A few years later when Dudley Senanayake and the UNP came back to power the SLFP was in opposition. The UNP also wanted to do the same thing as it felt it was unfair by a large section of our Tamil population. It engaged in an agreement with Mr. C. to bring a reasonable use of Tamil. Then the SLFP who originally proposed this summoned all its political leaders and started a march from Viharamahadevi Park right up to Parliament and protested.

Thereafter Mr. Dudley Senanayake was also weakened. So there was no place for Tamil. What is the signal we give to the major Sinhala political parties? - You will get nothing as long as the Sinhala people rule this country.

The youth were disgusted even with their own political leaders and took to militantcy. Prabhakaran wiped out all the Tamil militant youth and Tamil political leadership, those who were in the main stream. We are responsible for the suffering we went through for the last 25 years. Dr. Colvin R. de Silva said one language, two countries and two languages, one country.

That’s what the LSSP taught the people. Now we are faced with What Next?

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and three Service Commanders worked in an excellent manner, planned and pursued this conflict to bring about Prabakaran’s end. The LTTE which was the most ruthless and fearsome and internationally organized terrorist outfit was destroyed in three years. No other government or Army leader has been able to do that.

In 2007 the Army in advancing camp after camp, destroyed LTTE camps. They took over its capital - Killinochchi moved and confined this fearsome outfit to a small area of land. Before that the Army took over the Eastern Province where the LTTE ruled and they were driven out. Elections were immediately held to bring civil administration there .

The Eastern Province is going to be one of the most important and developed provinces.

When elections took place the international community felt that here is the chance to support peace and reconstruction.

Monday, July 27, 2009



Self sustaining villages as a vehicle for reconstruction and societal integration in Sri Lanka...!!!

Self sustaining villages
as a vehicle for reconstruction and
societal integration in Sri Lanka...........from The Mahatma Gandhi Centre

The war displaced in the North....!!!

Three decades of militancy for dividing Sri Lanka and counter measures to hold it together as a single unit displaced thousands of people from their homesteads in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces to take refuge in temporary camps. With the recent mass exodus of people to escape for safety from the grips of LTTE, the humanitarian crisis intensified. After having overpowered militant threats against the civilian population, resettling the internally displaced people in their own places of origin has become the immediate single most challenge for the government of Sri Lanka. The pace of resettlement seems conditional to ensuring that the villages are landmine-free and provided with other basic facilities for people to return. Reconstruction is essentially being viewed as the layout of infrastructures, and therefore, it is subjected to bureaucratic macro level planning and project implementation. While all these do contribute to the rebuilding process, people who should be in the centre of everything meant to affect and restore their lives are not in the picture.

People displaced and living under tremendous hardships for many years should not suffer any longer, and given their frame of mind, returning to their villages and restarting their lives as quickly as possible will be their biggest post-war dividend. We at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre believe that entrusting the rebuilding of the villages to the respective inhabitants will restore their self confidence, and contribute to rehabilitation much faster. We also believe that direct involvement of people in reconstruction work according to priorities agreed by the people themselves will not only provide employment and kick start a viable economic activity but also will ensure higher value for investment and eliminate waste and corruption. Thus, the Mahatma Gandhi Centre is advocating formation of structured village administrative councils or gramarajyas as people centered development and empowerment mechanism for societal reformation in this country and, in particular, to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Northern region which has become the immediate interest of the government and the donor community.

Gramarajya, an immediate option:- Formation of Gramarajyas will contribute towards a peaceful and equitable society in which every citizen (in the Gramarajya & therefore the country) is assured of a space and right to attain life goals individually and collectively. Specifically the Gramarajya mode of organization and administration is aimed at:-

* Encouraging the people to take charge of the development plans for the village and implementation of such plans

* Social transformation through self-reliance and accrual of immediate societal benefits

* Greater inter-village interactions and social cohesion for national harmony.

These objectives are in consonant with the long term vision of President Rajapakse for this country when he suggested to the All Party Conference that "…any solution needs as a matter of urgency allow people… in their own localities…take charge of their destiny and control their politico-economic environment".

Benefits of Gramarajya:- Gramarajyas that provides space for individual and collective creativity and take pride in self achievements will set a new trend for societal cohesion and national harmony which may not be achieved by power sharing constitutional amendments. Formation of Gramarajya can be implemented very easily based on present geographic delineation and, this will be the simplest mechanism to reach out to the people while all discussions for constitutional (13th, 13th+ or 13th +++ etc) amendments can go on. Grama-Niladhari units on the ground can be identified using GPS imageries, and information gathered from the people awaiting in the IDP camps relating to identities and localities can be used for resettlement in the their respective units. This may help even to cluster people based on affinities of blood and other relationship in the camps, and initiate discussion on post-settlement reconstruction of the villages prior to their departure from the camps.

When people are made directly responsible for village reconstruction they tend to organize under interest-based activities – for instance- Heritage, Women, Youth, Food Production, Services that can contribute directly to development of their immediate localities. Electing and supporting functions of administrative councils (Gramarajya) are made mandatory for people of each village to formulate and implement development plans of the respective village. The administrative council (Gramarajya) is constituted by representatives – at least one for each sector- elected by the people forming groups to reflect their interests. The 924 Gramarajyas thus formed (in the Northern Province) may undertake the following (or similar) tasks as reconstruction priorities:-

* Bringing every piece of village arable land under appropriate use to match land capability for maximizing production efficiency and reducing reliance on chemical inputs. Food for Work (FFW) Programme is a well known method in post-war reconstruction, and initially land repair and rehabilitation can be the major FFW task undertaken by each Gramarajya.

* Generating a source of renewable energy to replace fossil energy for varying use, from cooking fuel to fueling farm operations. A 5-10ha fast growing tree species like Giricidia blocks of Renewable Energy Banks (REB), can be strategically positioned as a dedicated energy source for each village

* Narrowing down the rural-urban disparity by improving connectivity for sharing knowledge and providing access to all service entitlements (banking, payment of bills, health care etc).

Even in areas where electricity is unavailable, solar powered Mobile phone and Internet connectivity can be encouraged. This will facilitate people to learn new entrepreneurship skills and rapidly restore normal life to fully utilize reconstructed infrastructures.

Establishing Gramarajya particularly in the war affected Northern Province will be the quickest way to restore normalcy as it will lead to:-

* Functioning administrative village council elected by the people

* Engagement of everyone in constructive and remunerative work

* Better use and accountability of resources under the supervision of the beneficiaries in the village

* Respect for public goods and collective responsibility for progress and protection of the interest of the village.

Thus the success of Gramarajya can be measured by:-

* Declining dependency on handouts and engagement of everyone in some activity connected with reconstruction and rehabilitation

* Declining extents of fallow and uncultivated land in the village with increasing cropping and other forms of land use

* Increasing product outflows and inter village economic interactions

* Decreasing crime rates and increasing social cohesion

Support for Gramarajya:- Gramarajyas cannot be established unless there is interest and support from government. If Mahatma Gandhi Centre is to assist in setting up Gramarajya as a mechanism for reconstruction and rehabilitation it is assumed that:-

* There will not be bureaucratic hiccups in selection of the village(s) and interaction with the people awaiting resettlement and /or have been recently resettle in their original villages after being internally displaced

* Government advisory and extension services will be available to support village self efforts

* The government will recognize and respect peoples development priorities and collective decisions

It is estimated supporting one gramarajya will cost between Rs 2.5 Million to Rs 3 Million per year to carry out the following activities. The Funds will directly go the Gramarajyas and most of it is to be devoted to development targets as identified below:-

Budget Items

Diagnostic Phase (once)

* Village Identification

* People’s Consultation

* Commitment for self reliance

Constituting Gramarajya (Once)

* Group(s) consultations & selection

* Village development plans

Implementation of development Projects

* Home Gardens

* Waste Management

* Renewable energy

* Public Awareness and Information

Monitoring and advice

* Enumerators and resource persons

* Self evaluation

End Note:- The President and his team deserve the plaudits for their new mission to take this country to another level of development at par with other developed nations. This confidence is highest at this moment, as the President also took a bold step to reassure people that there are no minorities in this country. It can however evaporate rapidly if the economic recovery anticipated by ending the war and military expenditure is held back by our inability to reach agreements on power sharing and other benefits to satisfy all political parties. What the country immediately needs is the resettlement of the war affected people, and reigniting a new hope in them that the country and its leadership care for all. Constituting Gramarajya will help to restore confidence that people are in direct control of their destinies, and that will the biggest prize for all the patriots who sacrificed their lives to save this country from breaking up.

The Mahatma Gandhi Centre,

22/17, Kalyani Road, Colombo-6

Tel: +2501825;


Military victory is empty if it does not lead to equality! Respect for others; respect for oneself; responsibility for our actions & national dignity!

Child soldiers - The Government's response
Ruwantissa Abeyratne

In a recent issue of The Economist - one of the world's most reputed and respected journals, focussed on child soldiers in one of its articles, and quoted James Elder, a spokesman for UNICEF in Sri Lanka saying that the Sri Lankan Government is making a genuine attempt to help child soldiers learn how to be civilians. The same article estimated that, from 2003 to the end of 2008, more than 6,000 instances of child recruitment by the LTTE had occurred in the North and East.

Wikipedia records that, according to UNICEF figures, since signing of the ceasefire agreement in 2001, the LTTE had abducted 5,666 children upto July 2006. However, the organization speculated that only about a third of such cases are reported to them. It is also, reported that the forces nicknamed one unit 'the Baby Battalion', due to the number of children in it.

A child soldier looking ahead.

Heartening gesture
The Economist also commends the work being carried out under the auspices of the Government at the Protection and Rehabilitation Centre in Ambepussa which provides children and adults with vocational training and education, along with the opportunity to participate in cultural and sports events.

It is indeed heartening and encouraging to both Sri Lankans and others to witness that the Government, under the guidance of the President, has alighted a platform of reconciliation and humanity with regard to those who had been misled and were incapable of forming their own opinions of good and bad.

A child under 15 years is universally recognized as having the right to decide not to participate in active military combat. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989, in Article 38 provides that State parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 15 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.

However, the Convention allows children who are over the age of 15 but remain under the age of 18 to take part in combat as soldiers, provided they do so voluntarily.

Taking measures
Furthermore, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (which came into force in 2002) , which is an adjunct to the main Convention provides that its State Parties "shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that they are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces". The Optional Protocol further obligates states to "take all feasible measures to prevent such recruitment and use, including the adoption of legal measures to prohibit and criminalize such practices.

Universal standard
As at December 31, 2008, 193 countries had ratified The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is pretty much the entire world, setting a universal and incontrovertible standard on the reprehensibility of recruitment of child soldiers. Therefore, by taking them into the fold of the Government, Sri Lanka as a nation has shown a committed conviction to help those mistreated by others.

This measure demonstrates forgiveness and understanding. Forgiveness is giving up one's right to hurt another, for hurting the former.

It is impossible to live on this chequered planet without getting hurt, offended, misunderstood, lied to, and rejected. Learning how to respond properly is one of the basics of civilized life. Forgiveness is often followed by self- reconstruction and these concepts are complementary and can never be mutually exclusive. The forgiven has to make sure the process of hurting will not recur, by reconstructing himself.

Generations to come will analyze the way in which we handled wars and made peace. That will be our legacy. It is natural to feel overwhelmed in a time of crisis. When that crisis passes, however, we must share our stories and experiences, and build relationships.

No differences
These are the legacies of the present that would remain with our children in the future. We should not be over shadowed by our forefathers but rather be strengthened by their values. President Rajapaksa, addressing the Parliament on May 19, 2009 said, "This is our country. This is our Motherland. We should live in this country as children of one mother. No differences of race, caste and religion should prevail here".

It must be recognized that in as much as there would be no peace, if normality in daily human intercourse were not restored, it is incontrovertible that there will be no lasting peace if the attendant hatred that goes into human conflict is not eradicated and obviated.

It is important to remember that the spontaneity brought to in the powerful feelings expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations was a direct result of the collective suffering of people through hatred among mankind. Therefore, any measures taken by a government towards achieving peace and obviating hatred among its peoples would be destitute of effect if it merely caters to the cessation of war.

Surely, there is more to it than that, such as educating our children on the viciousness of hatred and the need to recognize respect. Respect for others; respect for oneself; responsibility for our actions and national dignity. This is what all of us must stand for.

There is also no room for doubt that this is a turning point in the history of Sri Lanka, not only in terms of reconstruction but also in terms of reconciliation and forgiveness.

No room for revenge
There is no room for revenge, as both the Government and the entire nation have has demonstrated after the military victory over the LTTE. Francis Bacon once said: "revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.

For as the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong putteth the law out of office". Bacon also said that, which is past is gone, and irrevocable and wise men have enough to do with things present and to come.

We must also confront ourselves in our diversity and suspend our disbelief in others.

We could stand proud as a nation if we continue to show that an indomitable spirit and courage of a military victory is hollow and empty if it does not lead to equality.

In this context, how we treat our children is the most paramount reflection of our humanity. Our politics will have to show the best traditions of our forefathers and ensure that all our children share common hopes and common dreams. It is not their ultimate goal that would matter but how they got there. As Voltaire said: "It is not the destination but the journey that matters".

This philosophy is amply seen in the words of President Rajapaksa in his Mahinda Chintana, "I will respect all ethnic and religious identities, refrain from using force against anyone and build a new society that protects individuals and social freedoms."

It is what we do that matters now.



By Sandun A. Jayasekera

The long awaited final proposals and recommendations of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) will be submitted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa this week, Minister and APRC Chairman Tissa Vitharana told Daily Mirror yesterday.

The main proposals call for the abolishing of the executive presidency; reverting to a Westminster System of parliament; a second or upper chamber to be formed with representatives from the nine provinces and for a village committee system.

The APRC also proposes the setting up of a National Land and Water Commission to operate under the purview of the Central government to determine future policy guidelines for the distribution and alienation of state land and water.

Professor Vitharana ruled out the absolute and unchecked power devolution to the periphery and reiterated that the APRC proposes the establishment of separate state bodies for policy making and monitoring of contentious national issues such as police and land and water.

“I can assure you that as set out in the APRC proposals, the Centre not only decides on the policy framework but can exercise control over the implementation of these powers within the provinces depending on national needs,” Prof. Vitharana said.

The APRC proposes a new Constitution and a Constitutional Court as the main vehicle to resolve the national conflict.

“Representatives of 13 political parties -- 11 of which were allies of the government, the SLMC and the Democratic Peoples’ Front -- discussed key and contentious issues and reached a consensus on most of them, including the setting up of a Constitutional Court to deal with constitutional issues when the new Constitution is implemented. The problems that have arisen in the past when trying to implement the 13th Amendment will not arise since there is a clear division of power between the Centre and the provinces in the proposed Constitution. By doing away with the concurrent list, the Centre and the provinces can exercise the powers without interference by the other,” Minister Vitharana said.

He said adequate funds would be provided through a suitable mechanism to enable the exercise of powers vested with the provinces.

“To strengthen local government, the village committee system will be restored and the Divisional Secretariat is to be made the executive arm of the Pradeshiya Sabha,” Prof. Vitharana said.

He said the grievances of Tamil-speaking people in particular would be suitably addressed while changes would be made to ensure that undue concentration of power which was a feature of the executive presidential system would be diluted.

Many are of the view that the passing of the new Constitution incorporating the APRC proposals will not be difficult as the main opposition UNP has pledged its support to provide a two-thirds majority.

“The military defeat of the LTTE has removed the biggest obstacle to resolving the national question,” Prof. Vitharana said. “The door is now open to collectively work out a political solution that is acceptable to a vast majority of our people. We must do this in a sensible and in a cooperative manner to ensure that the danger of separation is removed forever and we can live together as one Sri Lankan people within an undivided country.”

Once he receives the final report, President Rajapaksa will present it to various political parties, mainly to the UNP, for their suggestions and work out a consensus among all political parties represented in parliament.

President Rajapaksa is on record as having said that any proposal to resolve the conflict would be presented to the people prior to it being presented in parliament. He had maintained that he expected to seek a mandate for the new set of proposals based on the APRC recommendations at the next presidential election expected in the first quarter of next year.


• A New Constitution

•Reverting to Westminster system

•Executive powers to be pruned.

• A Constitutional Court

• A second chamber to safeguard minority rights.

• A National Land and Water Commission

• A Village Committee system
Flash back

•The APRC was appointed by President Rajapaksa on July 20, 2006

•Only 13 political parties have taken part in APRC deliberations conducted up to now.

•UNP, JVP, TNA, JHU and the MEP vacated the APRC deliberation.