Thursday, January 27, 2011

There hadn’t been a political will to implement a workable plan to achieve language goals in spite of assurance given by successive SINHALA govts.!!!

Govt. struggles on the ‘Language front’, LLRC told
January 26, 2011, 10:00 pm

A study has revealed that there are 1,437 schools without a single teacher of English in spite of a surplus of 1,512 teachers of English in some educational zones.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government’s efforts to create a trilingual Sri Lanka with English as the link Language had run into a snag with ministries tasked with the accomplishment of the ambitious project dragging their feet on the implementation thereof contrary to public pronouncements, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was told on Monday (24).

Testifying before the LLRC at the Kadirgamar Institute, Presidential Advisor Sunimal Fernando proposed a series of measures to strengthen the presidential initiative for a trilingual Sri Lanka. Former Attorney General C. R. de Silva, who heads the LLRC, expressed confidence the government would take serious note of Fernando’s proposals, which the country could realise. Fernando said that India could help Sri Lanka in this regard, while every effort should be made to thwart attempts by INGOs/NGOs to take over the on-going efforts to achieve bi-lingual proficiency in the public sector.

Fernando, in a well presented testimony, highlighted the existing shortcomings caused by lack of funds, negligence and indifference on the part of the officialdom, while detailing an institutional structure, which could help achieve a trilingual society in a decade. Fernando’s proposal won praise from the LLRC members, who sought clarification on some issues, including English being made compulsory for university admission.

Fernando said that he wouldn’t support that proposal as it could be a severe impediment to a section of the student community. He said that the government was struggling to cope with the shortage of English Language teachers and was not in a position to prepare students to achieve proficiency in English for university education in the near future.

Citing a recent survey conducted by the government, Fernando revealed that 1,437 schools hadn’t been assigned a single teacher of English, whereas there was a surplus of 1,512 teachers of English in some educational zones. According to the study, the country is short of 3,561 teachers of English.

Referring to the socio-linguistic survey of Sri Lanka conducted for the Public Survey and Research Unit (PSRU) of the Presidential Secretariat by an independent research institute last August, Fernando said that the vast majority of the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities wanted a trilingual society. He said that successive governments had failed to take meaningful measures to realise the aspirations of the people. He blamed the ministries of National Integration, Public Administration, and Education for failing in their task.

Fernando didn’t mince his words when he said that the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration and Public Administration and Education had been largely inefficient, ineffective, lacking in drive and hence grossly disappointing in their contribution to the country and the people.

He said that President Rajapaksa was expected to launch a 10-year national master plan for a trilingual Sri Lanka this year. He said that though there were many language courses conducted in the country with impressive examination results displayed, the reality was that the majority couldn’t communicate effectively. He said: "Therefore the Ten-Year National Master Plan will have to bring in all institutions and resource persons engaged in language teaching to build a new infrastructure complete with a cadre of competent trainers of language teachers combined with supporting institutions and financial resources to sustain the initiative."

Fernando launched a scathing attack on the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of National Languages and Social Integration that had failed to make a difference. "While the ministries complain that adequate funds are not allocated for their programmes in the national budget, it is our experience that creatively designed imaginative, viable programmes of a ministry do not find difficulty in sourcing funds from the national budget, especially if earlier programmes of the same order have been implemented by the same ministry with success and impact."

Fernando said that there hadn’t been a political will to implement a workable plan to achieve language goals in spite of assurance given by successive governments.

He alleged that the Official Languages Department (OLD) had failed in its duty for want of a cohesive policy of monitoring and accountability. He went to the extent of calling it a dead department, while asserting that it could never face challenges.

Fernando stressed the importance of reviewing the existing set-up to work out a tangible plan of action to tackle the language issue. He went on to explain the glaring shortcomings in the administration of various language programmes.

Another area of concern was the dearth of professional translators, he said.

He alleged that a decision to stop the recruitment of’ second language teachers’, too, had contributed to the deteriorating standards in teaching. The Education Ministry had opted to groom in-service subject teachers to function as either Sinhala or Tamil language teachers to non-native speakers, following basic training at the National Institute of Education (NIE) or at one of the teacher training colleges. The official revealed that the Ministry had failed to maintain official census data on the number of teachers of the second language.

The presidential advisor said that the Higher Education Ministry had failed to encourage the development of the teaching of Sinhala and Tamil languages in the university system. He asserted that there hadn’t been a dialogue among the specialised subject oriented departments and the departments of languages in and that too had been a drawback.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sudden visit to the United States has been the subject of considerable speculation..!!! Heavy responsibility of LLRC.!!!

Heavy responsibility of LLRC

January 24, 2011, 12:00 pm

by Jehan Perera

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s sudden visit to the United States has been the subject of considerable speculation. The government announced it as a private visit. The secrecy of the visit has not been in keeping with the transparency that is usually expected of leaders of democratic countries. As Houston with its renowned health facilities was the destination of the President, and is not regarded as an international meeting place, this has given rise to concerns about the President’s health condition. It is also where one of the brothers of the President resides, giving credence to the private nature of the visit.

However, there seems to be more at stake than a private visit would suggest. On this journey the President was accompanied by a large retinue. This included family members which may not be unusual in the case of third world rulers. But the fact that Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris also accompanied the President suggests that there was also a bigger purpose to the visit. As a legal expert, there is hardly any better person than Prof. Peiris to argue a case on behalf of the government. There is a legal matter that the government may have to face sooner rather than later, and in which the United States can play a central role, which is the issue of alleged human rights violations in the last phase of the war.

It may well have been a coincidence that President Rajapaksa’s visit to Houston took place at the same time as former US ambassador to Sri Lanka and current Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, was also in Houston to deliver a lecture on US foreign policy to a university there. Even if it was a coincidence, it would have been a good opportunity for a meeting. Assistant Secretary Blake is reported to have expressed the hope that the Sri Lanka government "will act on the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission it set up as part of wider efforts that will be needed to help establish a lasting peace." These sentiments have also been echoed by other US government officials.

It is also significant that the Sri Lanka government has chosen to act on the LLRC’s interim recommendations at the same time as the President was visiting the United States. The Attorney General’s Department announced that it had appointed a special team to act on the LLRC recommendations with regard to persons detained as LTTE suspects. Several hundreds if not thousands of young and old persons have been detained for many years without trial and quick action with regard to them will be an indication of the government’s seriousness to implement the LLRC recommendations. The Attorney General Mohan Peiris has also been appointed to head an Inter Agency Action Group tasked with implementing the LRRC’s interim recommendations.

Meeting test

The interim recommendations of the LLRC appeared over a month ago. The Commission’s approach at this initial stage appears to be to focus on practical issues. They call for addressing the language and land issues facing the people, disarming of all armed groups, setting up a special mechanism to handle cases of LTTE suspects and ensuring that their families have easier access to them. These are all within the government’s capacity to implement if it has the political will to do so. The action of the Attorney General’s Department with regard to the issue of LTTE suspects is a positive indication that the government is serious about the LLRC process. This may also contribute to meeting the expectations of the international community at least in part.

The US government position on the prospects for a credible process of fact finding and reconciliation from the LLRC appears to more favourable to the Sri Lanka government than that of many human rights organizations. Several of them have criticized the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission as not being independent or capable of doing an effective investigation.

They have instead been lobbying internationally for an independent international mechanism to probe the past. No sooner did Amnesty International find out about the President’s visit to the United States, it demanded that the US government should investigate the President. This was on the grounds that he was "the Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces which face numerous allegations of war crimes, enforced disappearances and torture."

Despite most government leaders in Sri Lanka, including President Mahinda Rajapaksa, taking a bold and defiant stance with regard to human rights violations of the past, they may also be concerned about what the future holds for them. Sometimes in addressing the electorate, the President has complained about a conspiracy between sections of the opposition and the international community "to send him to the electric chair". The allegation of violation of international law may make government leaders vulnerable to prosecution by international tribunals. Those international human rights organizations that have rejected the LLRC have instead supported the UN Secretary General’s appointment of a panel of experts to advise him on Sri Lankan issues.

Central role

So far the Sri Lanka government has not shown interest in having the UN panel visit the country and meet people within it. The government’s position is that there is no need for the panel to make its own findings, but if it has information it is free to disclose it to the Lessons Leant and Reconciliation Commission, which is the government’s chosen instrument of dealing with issues of the past.

The government also said that visas would be granted to the UN panel members for the sole purpose of giving testimony before the LLRC. Thereby the government has given the LLRC a central role in keeping international investigators at bay. The justification is the principle that national remedies must first be exhausted before recourse is made to international remedies.

In this context a heavy responsibility lies with the LLRC to ensure a credible and comprehensive investigation into what transpired in the past and to draw the conclusions that would bring about

reconciliation in the longer term. The Commissioners have traveled to all parts of the country and seen the ground situation for themselves. The Commissioners are fortunate in that they have had access to a wide range of opinions and facts from theoreticians, practitioners and victims which would give them a broad view of the issues that need to be addressed. The detailed submissions made by the Bishop of Mannar, Rayappu Joseph, which contained facts, figures, analysis and suggestions for action was exemplary in this regard.

The opening submission of Bishop Joseph at the LLRC hearing in Mannar in the former war zone of the North, was to express disappointment at the failure of previous commissions of inquiry to establish the truth about human rights violations. In meeting with a wide cross section of society, traveling to all parts of the war affected north and east, and in coming up with interim recommendations, the Commissioners have shown that they are doing their part.

It is incumbent upon the government to continue to provide the LLRC with an enabling environment to continue with their work, and to take their recommendations seriously by implementing them without delay. In particular, the provision of necessary and generous compensation to the destitute and battered victims of the war would be an urgent part of future recommendations that would need to be implemented.

Friday, January 21, 2011

LLRC:Recommended urgent steps to tackle language & land issues,disarming of all armed gps, a special mechanism to handle cases of LTTE detainees.!!!

AG acts on LLRC advice:

Top team probes Boossa detainees’ cases

January 21, 2011, 12:00 pm

For want of a tangible action plan, some of those detained under PTA and Emergency Regulations languish in detention without charges being brought against them. The MoD, too, wants cases expedited.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Attorney General’s Department is in the process of inquiring into cases involving detained LTTE suspects, including those held for high profile attacks.

The inquiry follows the recommendations made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to President Mahinda Rajapaksa late last year. The Attorney General’s Department launched the inquiry on Wednesday (Jan. 19) with a special team headed by Deputy Solicitor General Shavendra Fernando visiting the Boossa detention facility to speak with LTTE suspects.

A spokesperson for the LLRC told The Island yesterday that some of those detained Tigers had requested the members of the LLRC on Dec. 30, last year to make representations on their behalf to the government. The detainees requested the LLRC to expedite police inquiries into their alleged involvement in terrorist activities.

They wanted to be either prosecuted or released.

The official said that the LLRC had met the parents of those detainees numbering 20 during field visits to the Northern and Eastern Provinces since last August. The detainees are among those held by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID).
Attorney General Mohan Peiris has included Senior State attorneys, Chetiya Gunasekera, Kumara Ratnam, and Dilan Ratnayaka, in Shavendra’s team.

The AG heads an Inter Agency Action Group (IAAG) tasked with implementing the LLRC’s interim recommendations.

The LLRC commenced its sittings last August at the Kadirgamar Centre for International Relations, Colombo 07.

Sources said that the LLRC had recommended several interim measures for the benefit of the Tamil speaking people in the aftermath of the war. The LLRC, headed by former Attorney General C. R. de Silva, recommended urgent steps to tackle the language and land issues, disarming of all armed groups, a special mechanism to handle cases of LTTE detainees and ways and means of giving their families access to them.

The Interim recommendations of the LLRC specifically suggested that a review be made of laws delays with regard to LTTE detainees to expedite prosecution or discharge detainees. The Interim recommendations of the LLRC were made even before its visit to Boossa based on written submissions made by the kith and kin of LTTE detainees during LLRC sessions held in Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Batticaloa, and Vauniya last year.

Defence Ministry has expressed concern over the delay in prosecuting some of those arrested on charges of terrorism and over shortcomings in the handling of some cases.

Sources said that the Defence Ministry had discussed the issue with the AG’s Department after some suspects, held in connection with the assassination of Gen. Janaka Perera, were given bail last year.


Friday, January 7, 2011

UNHCR official Michael Zwack: More refugees will return voluntarily to the North..!!! COULD UNHCR STOP KILLINGS & KIDNAPPINGS BY WHITE VANS NOW..!!!

TN refugee camps becoming empty as more Tamils return home
January 6, 2011, 9:13 pm

This year, says top Colombo-based UNHCR official Michael Zwack, more refugees will return voluntarily to the Northern Province, where they’ll receive assistance from the agency to settle down.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Close on the heels of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of Sri Lanka’s rehabilitation, reconstruction and re-settlement efforts in the post-war era, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that Sri Lankan Tamil refugees living in South India are keen to return home.

"The number of refugees wanting to return home since the end of the conflict in 2009 is clearly on the increase; in response, we have streamlined our procedures and introduced some new measures to make the return process quicker and easier," said the Colombo-based UNHCR representative Michael Zwack.

He expects more refugees to voluntarily return this year.

Zwack said that the majority of the returnees would come home with the agency’s help.

A senior government official engaged in northern rehabilitation told The Island the UN statement couldn’t have come at a better time. According to him, the UN Refugee Agency has publicly acknowledged that the situation in the Northern and Eastern provinces is getting better and there is no basis for concerns expressed by those sympathetic towards the LTTE.

Alleging that the Sri Lankan government was ‘not doing enough’" for Tamils, Rahul Gandhi on Dec. 22 said he would ensure that justice was done.

"We are concerned that enough is not being done for Sri Lankan Tamils by the government there," Gandhi said during a brief interaction with a group of intellectuals in Chennai.

Gandhi was quoted as saying that he would take up the matter with ‘appropriate persons’ at the Centre and see that Sri Lankan Tamils got justice.

The UNHCR said on Wednesday (Jan. 5) that last year 2,054 Sri Lankans had returned to the country, though only 843 came back in 2009. "Most of the returnees came from refugee camps in Tamil Nadu, with several from other countries, such as Malaysia. In addition to these assisted returns, another 2,742 Sri Lankan refugees, who had returned on their own, approached UNHCR’s offices in the North for assistance."

Navy headquarters said troops patrolling north-western seas had brought many Tamil families returning to NE on their own last year.

Under UNHCR’s voluntary repatriation assistance, refugees are provided with air tickets to return home from India or other country of asylum and they are assisted in documentation issues. "Starting January 1, 2011, refugees returning under UNHCR’s programme will also receive a standard reintegration grant to help them restart their lives," the agency said.

It said: "UNHCR meets returning refugees at the airport in Colombo and provides them with a modest transport grant to help them get back to their homes.

Once home, they can approach UNHCR offices in the north to get a kit of basic household supplies. This assistance is only for refugees returning through UNHCR’s facilitated programme."

According to the latest Indian government figures, as of 1 November 2010, there are 70,354 Sri Lankan refugees living in some 112 camps in Tamil Nadu and 32,467 living outside the camps. In total there are 146,098 Sri Lankan registered refugees in 64 countries including India, France, Canada, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Malaysia, Australia, the United States and Italy."

Asked whether the UNHCR believed those categorised as registered refugees in the West, too, could return as there was no reason for them to be accommodated there any longer, the agency’s External Relations Assistant Sulakshani Perera told The Island: "The decision of Sri Lankan refugees to return, whichever country they are in, should be completely voluntary and fully informed. We are assisting Sri Lankan refugees who want to return home from India or other countries."

Declining to comment on the UNHCR’s involvement in Canada, where the government is under pressure to accommodate more Sri Lankan refugees, Perera said that query should be directed to UNHCR office in Ottawa.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sri Lanka going the wrong way! But if Colombo continues to encourage China & Pakistan, India would have to do something to safeguard its interests.!!!

Sri Lanka going the wrong way
December 26, 2010, 6:06 pm

by Kuldip Nayar

SRI Lanka is going the wrong way in solving its ethnic problem. The Tamils nourish a grievance that they do not get their due in their own country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, representing the Sinhalese, the majority community of Sri Lanka, should have at least after an overwhelming victory at the polls, looked into what has come to be the Tamil question. But he has discontinued the singing of National Anthem in Tamil, a practice followed for years to give the Tamils a feeling of equality. This will only confirm their belief that they are second-class citizens.

The Tamils, living mostly in the northern part of the country, were critical of what the LTTE did and its chief Prabhakaran was not their hero because he brought them misery and indignities which the Sinhalese government heaped on them. Yet as long as long as he lived and the LTTE held aloft the standard of resistance from Jaffna and the places in the North, the Tamils believed that Colombo would give them a better deal under pressure.

Most of Tamils kept away from Prabhakaran lest the government should wreak its vengeance on them. Still it did. However, the fact remains that the fear of LTTE on the one hand and the pressure of Tamils outside Sri Lanka on the other made the Sinhalese government go slow in their plan to have one nation, one flag and one anthem. The steps Colombo has taken after vanquishing the LTTE do not hold much promise for the Tamils. They feel too lonely, too neglected.

India, towards which they look, sent Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao early this year to persuade the Rajapaksa government to decentralise power and allow the North to have a say in their own affairs. Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna has also visited Sri Lanka and hopeful that the Sinhalese government would take measures whereby Tamils feel safe and secure. He still hopes that the Tamils, who constitute nearly one fifth of the country’s population, would not be ignored. But the deletion of national anthem in Tamil has made India somewhat despondent.

New Delhi has also allocated a large sum of money for rehabilitating the Tamils who have suffered during the war. Still 300,000 Tamils are languishing in camps or living in the open although the war ended more than a year ago. And there is no dilution of the situation that the Tamils continue to be discriminated. A democracy, which Sri Lanka claims to be one, has to treat all citizens equally. The Sinhalese are in a majority and Tamils in a minority. Yet, together, they constitute the nation.

New Delhi, which enjoys good relations with Colombo, has been under pressure from Tamil Nadu in the Southern India, to get a better deal for the Tamils. A federal structure is what is needed in Sri Lanka so that North has a feeling that it is as much part by the country as other areas are.

But, to spite New Delhi, the Rajapaksa government has begun building close relations with Pakistan and China, the two countries which are in conflict with India. Sri Lanka has, in fact, given the two facilities to China for building the Trincomalee harbour and to Pakistan for training the new entrants to the Lankan army. However irritating, they do not change New Delhi’s policy of befriending Sri Lanka and helping the country to have a system where the Tamils can participate politically. This is in Colomboown interest.

Otherwise, the alienated Tamils will once again organise themselves into a force to harass or even fight the government. New Delhi may also be faced to stand by them because of domestic political compulsions. The DMK-run Tamil Nadu is crucial in the survival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government.

The late Rajiv Gandhi had tried to persuade Sri Lanka to include Annexure C to its constitution that ensured decentralisation so that the Tamils would also enjoy power. He even sent Indian Peace Keeping Force when the Sri Lankan government was in trouble. Sri Lanka can overlook New Delhi’s efforts to effect understanding at its own peril.

I recall when I was India’s high commissioner at London, a senior official, Ratnakar Rao, telling me that the LTTE leader, Sadasivam Krishna Kumar, better known at Kittu, wanted to meet me. I had spent several hours with him in Chennai many years earlier, when he was present during my interview with the LTTE mentor, Anton Balasingham. I refused to meet Kittu.

New Delhi commended my ‘decision.’ It did not want any contact with anyone from the LTTE at any level, we were told in the message which followed my refusal to meet Kittu. India did not want to be misunderstood by the Sri Lankan government. But if Colombo continues to encourage China and Pakistan, India would have to do something to safeguard its interests.

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By unnecessarily bullying and pushing Sri Lanka with condescension, India will only push Sri Lanka more and more into the lap of China...!!!

‘Sri Lanka going the wrong way’: Reply

January 3, 2011, 8:23 pm

By Gamini Gunawadane

I have been reading Kuldip Nayar’s feature articles appearing in The Island with interest as they generally presented a different view of India. But I was rather perturbed to read his above mentioned article on Sri Lanka, which appeared on 27th Dec. I would wish to express my humble opinion on some of the issues raised by him therein.

Really the ‘cat is out of the bag’ on his actual concern and the message he wanted to convey is clear, in his last sentence. He says "But if Colombo continues to encourage China and Pakistan, India would have to do something to safeguard its interests." What a patronizing statement!

So what is unsaid here is that Sri Lanka being the neighbour, India will choose whom Sri Lanka should associate with and her friends! Ignoring the insult, let me explain the Sri Lankan side of the story. It is not Pakistan or China who created this mess for Sri Lanka by creating the Monster that is Tamil Tiger Movement, by providing them a safe haven, training them and arming them in their formative years, with which Sri Lanka had been struggling with for the last 30 years and finally succeeded in wiping them out by the dint of her own hard work, which caused so much suffering to the Tamils themselves whose welfare he is now mourning over. If not for this short sighted policy, perhaps Rajiv Gandhi may have been still living, who knows? Although it is conceded that the ultimate success would not have been possible if not for the ‘hands off’ policy by India this time during our final campaign, we know that India did that not for our sake but for its own sake, because the ‘Monster’ they created was becoming a real threat their to security and political stability. Thus, Sri Lanka did a big favour by India, by removing a looming threat to her security and stability when Sri Lanka saved her from a serious impending crisis with no cost to India, for which India should in fact be grateful to Sri Lanka. It reminds me of the famous lion and the mouse story. Yet, during this difficult campaign, when India was refusing to help us with the weapons we asked for and were trying to tell us which weapons and military devices we should use and not use, it was Pakistan and China who readily helped us all the way. Not content with nurturing the Sri Lankan terrorists, when India denied the Sri Lanka military men admission to their higher Military Training establishments, it was Pakistan who opened theirs readily. Pakistan also co-operated with the Sri Lankan Air Force, exchanging their know-how with us. Incidentally, it was neither China nor Pakistan who nurtured Tamil terrorists in their countries.

It is true that India has helped us in this effort; but it was always in exchange for a bigger deal in return. Nayar says: "New Delhi has also allocated a large sum of money for rehabilitating the Tamils who have suffered during the war." Not only that. India is doing the Northern Railway line, re-developing Palali Airport and obtained a contract to construct a coal powered plant in Trincomalee etc. etc. But look at what they extracted in return. A consular office in Jaffna and Hambantota, of all places. For what? I may ask. It is common knowledge here that the Jaffna office given unasked, is to serve as a watch post for RAW and to churn up another revolt if the need arises, through the RAW, in time to come. And what is the Hambantota office going to do, other than to serve as a watch post for the RAW, thinking that China is going to have a military base here! Could India be so naïve to imagine that Sri Lanka will entertain such fancy ideas? In Sinhala there is a saying Ahaka yana nai sarama asse daagannawa meaning: "one does not tuck under one’s sarong, cobras that are going away." Our President is quite familiar with all this folklore. He is a man of the soil.

True, China in return have got many mega contracts here. They have given them on very low interest credit. They did not ask us for a pound of flesh, like some others. They did not scrutinize our bank balance and our earning capacity like the World Bank or the IMF. before they released the loan in tranches watching our work and conduct. The Chinese do not try to teach us how we should spend our money and try to brainwash us on how to manage our affairs as they do. In short, they have not impeached our self respect as a nation. They have not tried to influence our way of life. As somebody pointed out, they have even brought their own prostitutes for their work force. So what, as long as they take them back to their next work site?

Besides, is it nothing but proper to reciprocate China in whatever way we could as they have been our unfailing friend with no questions asked when almost the entire Western world was bringing pressure on us during the height of our crisis. And Pakistan who had done all this without asking anything in return, a true friend indeed.

Nayar says in one place: "He (Rajiv Gandhi) even sent an Indian Peace Keeping Force when the Sri Lankan government was in trouble". Oh my foot! This makes the whole of Sri Lanka laugh aloud. J.R. Jayewardene himself must be laughing in his grave! Who put the Sri Lankan government in trouble, may I ask? Who prevented the Sri Lankan forces from dealing the knockout blow to Prabhakaran in July1987, with the ‘Parippu invasion’, may I ask? If not for the unseemly, crude intervention of India on that occasion we would have saved all the lives of several thousands of Sri Lankans lost till 1 ½ years ago, of the many Indian soldiers as well as that of Rajiv Gandhi himself. That was not Pakistan or China. And who do you think Rajiv Gandhi was, to ‘persuade’ Sri Lanka to include an Annexure C in our own Constitution? Have you heard of any such thing happening anywhere else in the world? Did Sri Lanka ever try to tell India how to solve their Kashmir problem where heinous human rights violations are alleged to be occurring regularly? Have we asked for a war crimes inquiry against India? That is not all. We are still struggling here with the 13th Amendment that Rajiv Gandhi forced on our Constitution, and are left helpless with the Provincial Councils set up here as a result, which has turned out to be a white elephant. And he says : ‘A federal structure is what is needed in Sri Lanka so that the North has a feeling that it is as much part of the country as other areas area+". A federal structure for Sri Lanka which is minutely smaller than the smallest state in India? And that in this age of communication revolution? You must be kidding.

Nayar refers to the Sri Lankan government as "Sinhalese government". A Sinhalese government when several Tamils and Muslims are holding Ministerial positions in our jumbo cabinet. How come? Mr. Nayar an ex-diplomat of repute in India should know better. If not for the proportional representation system in our constitution, very few of these people would even reached parliament. "….. to persuade Rajapaksa to decentralize power and to have the North to have a say in their own affairs". Who does Nayar think are the government agents in Jaffna, Mannar and Batticaloa are, but Tamils? So are all the officers in the administrative bureaucracy there, down to the grassroots level. So are the top of the corporate sector in these parts. So, where is the "Sinhalese Government"? Are the structures in the rest of the country any different? So where do we need the advice of Nirupama Rao? It would be a better exercise for her to study the administrative structures here at some depth, to advice her own government.

"This will only confirm their belief that they (Tamils) are second-class citizens". Could Nayar please tell us some instances where the Tamils of this country are made to be "second class citizens"?. This is a genuine enquiry. As far as we know, there are no situations where Tamils or any other community is made to feel "second class". They have held most of the highest positions in this country and some, even todate. They are entitled to the same fundamental rights that the rest of the people are entitled to under the constitution. They are entitled to all the privileges that the rest of the population is enjoying in this country. True, they have suffered setbacks in these opportunities due to the deprivations caused because of the restrictions imposed by Prabhakaran. From now onwards, there are no obstacles down the road.

As regards the national anthem, is the beautiful Indian national anthem sung in any other language than Bengali? Do the rest of the people in all the other Indian states thereby become second class citizens as a result? At the same time, will the Tamil Diaspora now domiciled in England and Canada feel second class citizens because they cannot sing the national anthems of those countries in Tamil? On the same line of argument, will the Sri Lankan anthem have to be sung in Malay too because there is a Malay minority too here? It seems strange that all these things are being decided for Sri Lanka, by other people quite unsolicited.

That brings me to my last point. If only India and other countries in the rest of the world could leave Sri Lanka alone, to manage her own affairs, much of the problems will be solved. True, we have some problems to solve in the aftermath of the ‘war’. We are settling them slowly one by one of our own time. These are not things that could be rushed through, to please others. We have confidence in Rajapaksa to deliver the goods, despite the motley crowd that he has to manage with; he does make mistakes, for he is human. But he has made fewer mistakes than most leaders we have had.

To wind up, let me say this to Kuldip Nayar to be conveyed to the Indian high command, Rahul Gandhi inclusive. Sri Lanka has not gone insane, to be doing things that would jeopardize the interests and fears of India, our closest neighbour. No sane government would do that. For, to do so will be to the ultimate detriment of our country. We are not such fools. But by unnecessarily bullying and pushing Sri Lanka with condescension, India will only push Sri Lanka more and more into the lap of China, which we do not fancy either. However, a country needs many friends. For, when pushed and bullied by another, there has to be a way out. Therefore, please understand us in a realistic perspective and the best that India could do is to leave us alone, while managing the cheap rabid communalism of Tamil Nadu as best as you could.

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