Sunday, June 26, 2011

“Why is Sri Lanka so special?” Kulasegaran said..!!!

Date: 25 June 2011 18:52
Subject: FW: Malaysia's Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar disallows debate on Sri Lanka’s 'internal affairs'.

Dear All, please see below FYI. Our Malaysian Hindraf M. Manoharan MP visited Sri Lanka with his fellow MPS in May 2011. They filed a notice to debate in respect of appalling situation in Sri Lanka after the civil war. However, the Malaysian Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar disallows debate on Sri Lanka's "Internal Affairs. Thank god, our British Prime Minister, David Cameron MP have requested a full investigation into the death of 400,000 innocent civilians during the war after seeing the recent Chanel 4 Panorama by Mr. John Snow.

Kind regards,

Ano Rao.

Subject: Malaysia's Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar disallows debate on Sri Lanka’s 'internal affairs'.
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2011 22:27:27 +0100

Appalling situation, baffling rejection

Patrick Lee
| June 22, 2011

Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar disallows debate on Sri Lanka’s 'internal affairs'.

Deputy Speaker Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar disallows debate on Sri Lanka’s 'internal affairs'.
M Kulasegaran (DAP- Ipoh Barat) noted that Parliament had even passed resolutions against other countries, such as Israel, and Johari Abdul (PKR-Sungai Petani) pointed out that the Dewan Rakyat had often discussed the issue of Palestinians and the Rohingyas of Burma.
“Why is Sri Lanka so special?” Kulasegaran said as he and Johari spoke to reporters in the Parliament lobby.

Johari, who filed the notice for the debate, said that he, along with M Manogaran (DAP-Teluk Intan) and Senator S Ramakrishnan, visited Sri Lanka early this month and found that the situation in the northern part of the island nation was “appalling”.
He said many Sri Lankans experienced untold suffering during the 26-year war that ended in 2009.
In his notice to the House Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia, he said nearly 300,000 of them were now living in camps for Internally Displaced Persons and that they included thousands of Muslims.

He added: “Eighty thousand women there are widows. Five thousand Tamil fighters who have surrendered are nowhere to be found. Many women and children have been raped.”

It is estimated that more than 100,000 people perished during the war between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.Kulasegaran said the Dewan Rakyat used to be more willing to discuss Sri Lanka, recalling that he raised the subject of the civil war in 2004.

“The Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, personally replied that he had visited Sri Lanka and had asked the government there to find a final solution.“If this could happen in 2004, why is it not allowed in 2011?”

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The diary of an extraordinary human being.. A Review of Ben Bavinck’s "Of Tamils and Tigers"

The diary of an extraordinary human being
A Review of Ben Bavinck’s "Of Tamils and Tigers"
June 24, 2011, 12:00 pm

by Shanie

"This is a time of reflection for the Tamil community; a time for refashioning its politics. Even though the Tamil nationalist vision for a separate state met with a decisive military defeat in 2009, the politico-military decline of the LTTE had begun far earlier, with the convergence of multifarious set of political developments, both local and international, that began the downward spiral at a time when seemingly the LTTE was at its strongest.....

This time of reckoning is not just for the Tamils but also for the majority Sinhala community....Today, after the end of the war, the minorities fear that history is being rewritten. They fear that injustices meted out to the minorities are being written off that there is an unwillingness on the part of the majority community, even after years of destruction and polarisation in the country, to ...understand and acknowledge the history that pushed the Tamils to the edge, into the arms of the Tigers, (to understand) the uneasy relationship that ordinary Tamils had with the LTTE …...(and) that the demands for democracy and accountability are being brushed aside by an arrogant authoritarian state."

Rajani Thiranagama, an academic attached to the Medical Faculty of the University of Jaffna, was brutally shot and killed allegedly by an LTTE cadre in 1989. It was she, along with a few of her colleagues in the University of Jaffna who formed the University Teachers for Human Rights which became well known for the courageous stand they took against violations of human rights by the different actors in the Thirty Years War. Because of the principled stand the UTHR took, Thiranagama was gunned down and the other leaders like Rajan Hoole and Sritharan were driven underground. But despite these setbacks, the UTHR continued to publish their bulletins at regular intervals. These bulletins came to acquire a reputation for reliability in investigative reporting. They were able to do this because they obviously had a network of trusted informants which they cross-checked for accuracy before publication. It was this independence and integrity that made the UTHR bulletins become so very reliable, leading to the UTHR receiving the Martin Ennals Award as brave defenders of human rights.

A group of people who shared the vision and thinking of Thiranagama and the UTHR formed the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee to remember the twentieth anniversary of Thiranagama’s assassination. The Committee continues to function and has taken the initiative in publishing, in collaboration with Vijitha Yapa Publications, the diaries of Ben Bavinck, a Dutch church worker, who was both a teacher of Thiranagama and a close friend of the founders and leaders of the UTHR. The diaries are published under the title ‘Of Tamils and Tigers - a journey through Sri Lanka’s war years’. The book was launched in London recently and the quotation at the head of this column is from the Introduction to the Diaries written by the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee. Whereas the UTHR bulletins were based on investigative reporting by the authors, Bavinck’s dairies are personal reflections by the author during the period covered which is from 1988-1994. (A second volume covering the years 1994-2004 is under preparation.) The bulletins and the diaries therefore complement each other in providing the only accurate and independent recording of the events of that period in our country’s troubled past.

Bavinck’s diaries were originally maintained in Dutch (for understandable reasons) and have been translated into English for publication. They are frank and written in a style that makes for easy reading. It will be an indispensable tool for anyone researching the political and social history of Sri Lanka during the war years. Although it is essentially about the North and East, there are many references to the happenings in Colombo and elsewhere in the South as Bavinck operated from Colombo during this period as the relief co-ordinator for the National Christian Council. Like the UTHR bulletins, Bavinck’s diaries are balanced and the sensitive concern of the diarist for peace and justice comes through very clearly. As Professor Valentine Daniel says in his Foreword, in the hands of the lesser man, the years covered in the diary could have been given to a selective recording of the vilest and the most hateful aspects of the period, a journal dedicated solely to the pornography of violence. "It is not so with Ben Bavinck, who sees moments in the midst of war of acts of humanity and shared human concerns on both sides, and even when he witnessed the worst, he was capable of envisioning the possibility and promise of it being otherwise."

The Diary

A sample of the entries will show the depth and the fairness of the diarist’s recordings:

!3th September 1988 (following a JVP declared Hartal the previous day): "I found that the success of yesterday’s Hartal has really shocked people. A few men with guns can apparently start a rule of fear. Would it be possible to break this by refusing and resisting on a mass scale? Does a whole society give in too easily? It looks as if the Jaffna story has started here too. How will it ever end?"

20th September 1988: "I feel tired and lethargic. But I decided nevertheless to walk around the Beira Lake. While walking, I was thinking about the situation in the North, where one finds an atmosphere of cynicism about the Indian proposed ceasefire. "It will not lead to anything!" and "How can our ‘boys’ trust the Indians?" It is important to break through this cynicism and not to forget that this is one of the few chances we have got to bring an end to the violence and misery. And we should not forget that neither the Indians nor the Sinhalese have much reason to trust the Tigers. It is necessary to have a positive attitude which is willing to take risks. But actually one so often comes across a cynical mindset, which can only lead to the disintegration of this island."

8th July 1989 (following President Premadasa’s wooing of the LTTE to oppose the IPKF): "One of the most amazing and incomprehensible developments is the total reversal in Sinhalese opinion about the Tigers. Of course, one can notice this in Premadasa’s appeal to the IPKF not to attack the Tigers. But the most amazing example of this changed attitude was at a meeting of our own Rehabilitation Committee where a Sinhalese pastor said, ‘The Indians must stop killing our boys.’ Our boys! Who are these boys? They are the Tigers! Really unbelievable!

1st August 1989: "The murders by the JVP continue. Now a popular Sinhalese TV personality, Mr Guruge, has been killed. I heard that when Mrs Guruge had found her badly wounded husband and wanted to take him to hospital, all cars simply drove on....Fear demoralises people and the community as a whole. One has to pray that one will not, like the priest and the Lebvite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, just pass by when suddenly a fellow human being in desperate need lies at one’s feet."

1st October1989: "On Sunday morning I cycled from Vaddukoddai to Jaffna to visit the Rajasingham family, the parents and sisters of Rajani. My old colleague Rajasingham was very downcast, and he wondered whether Rajani had not been too audacious. But he felt that the urge to stand up for justice and human rights came from deep within her being. He asked me to speak at the meeting in the university in her memory the next day. He mentioned that I had been her teacher, and that my stories about the Second World War and about resistance to the Nazis had influenced her. I also talked to Rajan Hoole. He was practically sure the ‘the striped animals’ had done this, but didn’t want to speak about this at this time, so as not to disturb the ceremonies in commemoration of Rajani. He told me that Rajani had been shot from behind as she was cycling home from the university, by someone on a bicycle."

2nd October 1989: "In the morning, I finished preparing my speech and proceeded to the university. There we heard that the procession through the town, in the morning, had been attended by 3000 people, including the Vice-Chancellor if the University, Prof Thurairajah. The Kailasapathy Auditorium was also filled completely when the meeting started under the chairmanship of the vice-chancellor. There were twelve speakers. I spoke about that sentence from the Gospel, which says that unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit. Self-sacrifice as a vocation, which only the best among us dare to accept."

21st February 1990: "Back in Colombo, I attended the funeral of Richard de Zoysa, a well-known TV journalist, age 35, who in the night had been taken out of his house and killed. His body had been founded the next day by a fisherman as it was floating in the sea. There are suspicions against the Police, but a top minister, without offering any proof, coolly blamed RAW, the Indian Secret Service."

20th August 1990: "This morning I heard that the unfortunate Methodist pastor who was trapped with his lorry at Iyakachchi had still not been relieved. Another Methodist convoy had been attacked by a helicopter resulting in Rev Govindaraj being wounded in the back of his head. Going to Vaddukoddai, I met Principal Jebanesan also on his bicycle. He told me that Vaddukoddai had been bombed just then. We cycled there quickly and found that two dive-bombers had indeed been busy dropping four bombs. One destroyed the Primary school of Jaffna College by the side of the church, another fell behind the church near the boys’ home, which was badly damaged. The boys had all been in a bunker and were not hurt, but some teachers had sought refuge under a water tank. One of them was killed by a piece of shrapnel which had penetrated his abdomen. One bomb fell on a Co-op Store and another fell on a private house, where four people were killed, two of them children of 11 and 8 years. Totally incomprehensible why this bombardment took place. Were they under the impression that small arms factories were operated here by the Tigers?"

15th April 1994: "Sri was here. He told me about a Tamil friend Manoranjan, who writes very good Sinhala and regularly contributes a column to the organ of MIRJE, called Yukthiya, in which he describes the situation in Jaffna and the feelings and perplexities of people there. Apparently this column provokes many reactions from Sinhalese people, often even from persons in the armed forces. Many of these reactions show much understanding and compassion. It confirms the idea that the ordinary Sinhalese person is very friendly and capable of tolerance and understanding for others. The intolerance is found among the more educated Sinhalese. Sri also told me ...a Tamil university professor had reproached the UTHR (J) that it was all the time criticising the Tigers. He seemed to feel that we should not speak about the failings and misdeeds of the Tigers while the fight was still on."

Need for critical assessment

Bavinck, who lived and worked in Sri Lanka for a total of thirty three years, in two almost equal spells, had a sensitive mind that enabled him to reflect with understanding on the conflict in Sri Lanka. He lived in his native Netherlands during the Nazi occupation in the Second World War and says that that experience had a profound impact on him, creating a deep abhorrence of authoritarian fascist rule. He was publishing his diaries in the hope that it would ‘help the Tamils as well as the Sinhalese to strengthen a critical assessment of the policies and actions of their own government/movements/armed forces during the period covered. This may be of value in the ongoing search for a lasting peace in Sri Lanka.’ Even after the war has ended now, that critical assessment is still needed, Even more, a critical self-assessment is needed by everyone in Sri Lanka to reflect if we have shown any real understanding of the pain and suffering of ‘the other’ and instead become mere apologists for the failings and misdeeds of the government/armed militants/armed forces in our country’s tragic past and present.

As Professor Valentile Daniel states in his Foreword, Bavinck’s Diary entries are ‘a record of what he had seen and has now witnessed; an emotionally charged landscape that was at once subtle and plain, complex and transparent, objective yet interpreted. This diary is a gift, not only to the historian and research scholar, but to every (Sri Lankan) citizen, whatever be the state with which he or she chooses to identify himself/herself with.’ In addition to Ben Bavinck, we have to be grateful to the Rajani Thiranagama Memorial Committee and Vijitha Yapa Publications for making this Diary available to a wider readership.


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All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Tamil Nadu Resolution: Jayalalitha secures Chennai stopover in Delhi-Colombo shuttle diplomacy

The Tamil Nadu Resolution: Jayalalitha secures Chennai stopover in Delhi-Colombo shuttle diplomacy
June 18, 2011, 4:33 pm

Rajan Philips

The Tamil Nadu State Assembly resolution of June 8, 2011, apart from provoking conflicting emotions among Sri Lankan Sinhalese and Tamil nationalists, served notice on the Union government that Chennai is to not to be by-passed in future shuttle diplomacy between Colombo and Delhi. Delhi would appear to have heard the message loud and clear. A day after the resolution, the Indian troika of National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar stopped in Chennai en route to their pre-scheduled meetings in Colombo. Mr. Menon met with Chief Minister Jayalalitha and assured her that he would raise in Colombo her concerns regarding Tamil Nadu fishermen and the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Whether Sri Lankan officials will emulate the favour and visit Chennai on their way to Delhi remains to be seen. It would be good diplomacy if not anything else notwithstanding ministerial musings in Colombo that sovereign Sri Lanka would only deal with sovereign India and not its minion states. Sri Lanka might be the world’s uniquely unitary state but we must not be innocent about how federal systems work in the rest of the world.

The Tamil Nadu resolution on Sri Lanka is not very different in the substance of its concerns from the concerns raised by India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in his Joint Statement with Minister G.L. Peiris. The main difference is that the resolution does not use any code words unlike the Joint Statement, and it explicitly refers to the UN Secretary General’s Experts Panel Report and calls on the Indian government to vigorously follow up on the report including an economic blockade of Sri Lanka.

In my earlier comment on the Joint Statement (Sunday Island, May 29) I focused on the current global and regional context as key to understanding the possibilities for a new, post-war, Indo-Sri Lanka engagement. The Tamil Nadu resolution has added an explicitly internal Indian dimension to this context. There is an intriguing part to the resolution that seems to have been less noticed in Colombo, and that is the directive to the Tamil Nadu Government to implead in a Supreme Court case that ultimately intends to retrieve the islet of Katchatheevu that India ceded to Sri Lanka under bilateral agreements in 1974 and 1976.

The case was filed in 2008 by Jayalalitha, as leader of the AIADMK, while in Opposition. Her contention is that the Union government did not have the authority to cede territory without a constitutional amendment and approval by both houses of the Indian parliament. It is part politics in that it is an explicit accusation that Karunanidhi, as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, did nothing and failed to take legal action to stop the 1974 & 1976 agreements. It is also a constitutional matter because of a Supreme Court ruling in a similar situation in the 1950s that declared null and void the Union government’s action to cede Beru Bari in Bengal to then East Pakistan. The successful court action at that time was initiated by B.C. Roy, West Bengal Chief Minister, against the Union government.

Where all this will end, no one knows. As Colonel Hariharan, the Chennai based commentator and formerly of the Indian army, has noted Katchatheevu is irretrievable after more than three decades, but by coupling the Sri Lankan Tamil issue and Katchatheevu, Jayalalitha has made it impossible for Delhi to ignore her in its dealings with Sri Lanka. The question is if it would make sense for Colombo to start dealing with Tamil Nadu both directly and in tandem with New Delhi. There is no shortage of misconceptions in Colombo about the status of Tamil Nadu in the Union of India, but there is no appreciation of the potentials for Sri Lanka given its geographical proximity to Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu, to say the obvious, is the closest human settlement, economic entity and political jurisdiction that Sri Lanka has. Do the two need to be so close, and yet so far apart?

Tamil Nadu and the Indian Union

There is a perception in Colombo that Tamil Nadu is being allowed to throw its weight around too much and that New Delhi should put the southern state in its place and let it know that foreign policy is not its business. No other Indian state, one pundit has opined, interferes in India’s foreign policy as does Tamil Nadu. The latter assertion is simply not true for there are nearly a score of Indian states bordering neighbouring countries and are implicated in India’s foreign policy in relation to those countries. V. Suryanarayn, Chennai academic and commentator, has listed them in a recent article: India-Pakistan relations have implications for Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat; China policy affects Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Jammu and Kashmir; policy towards Nepal has consequences for Bihar, Sikkim, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh; India-Bhutan relations impact West Bengal, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim; relations with Myanmar affect Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur; India-Bangladesh relations will impinge upon West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and Assam. In this continuum, Sri Lanka’s relationship with India has implications for only one Indian state, Tamil Nadu.

The perception that Tamil Nadu is being allowed to throw its weight around is also not correct. The 1964 Sirima-Shastri pact repudiated previous Indian positions on the citizenship status of the plantation workers in Sri Lanka and ignored opposition to the pact across the entire political spectrum in what was then the State of Madras. Similarly, the 1974 and 1976 agreements ceding Katchatheevu did not go down well in Tamil Nadu, especially among the fishing communities along the southern coast, even though the DMK government at that time chose to remain mute on the matter. Thirty five years later Ms. Jayalalitha is mounting a legal challenge against the agreements in the Indian Supreme Court.

Even in regard to what Suryanarayn has called the "twists and turns" in India’s policy and initiatives on the Sri Lankan Tamil question, it is a moot question whether New Delhi used Tamil Nadu for its purposes or has been wagged around by Tamil Nadu. There is no point trying to find a conclusive answer to this question because the files on the matter are still open in all three places – Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and India, not to mention many other countries in the world. The point of my discussion is that the Jayalalitha government in Tamil Nadu is insistent on making Tamil Nadu count in India’s relationship with Sri Lanka in a more formal and powerful manner than any previous Tamil Nadu government has done. And it would be a mistake to attribute this insistence to the straddling Tamilness across the Palk Straits on electoral imperatives. There are other matters too that merit consideration.

For starters, Tamil Nadu has never been a hotbed of separatism. It has certainly been in the vortex of Tamil cultural nationalism long bandied by the DMK. But that nationalism is so systemic in the Tamil Nadu of today that it requires no specific political expression or extra-constitutional assertion. Chief Minister Jayalalitha has no truck with the cultural nationalism of the DMK and Mr. M. Karunanidhi might be its lone surviving relic. Not even his children who are in politics seem to bother about the nationalist aspect of their father’s legacy. They seem to be creating new legacies of notoriety of their own.

The enabling environment for the de-politicization of Tamil nationalism has three primary sources: India’s federal political system of which Tamil Nadu is a highly satisfied constituent partner; a thriving state economy that has made Tamil Nadu rank among the top three or five Indian states with respect to every economic indicator; and the egalitarian achievements of the DMK and the AIADMK governments that have significantly benefited every caste group that has been historically marginalized in South Indian Tamil society. These sources have helped Tamil Nadu raise its specific weight and status within the Union of India in a positive, durable and influential way. In other words, Chief Minister Jayalalitha has stronger props to stand on in her encounters with Delhi than the Tamilness of Tamil Nadu and electoral blackmailing.

The lessons for Sri Lanka should be quite obvious. The Sri Lankan government must rid itself of the chimera of Tamil separatism, especially the notion that Tamil Nadu, India and, God forbid, many others in the world want to foist on Sri Lanka a separate state that they do not want on their own soil. There is no rational basis for this delusion. It is in trying to prevent such an imaginary monster that conditions of oppression and retaliation are perpetuated. Instead, Sri Lanka should try to take advantage of its proximity to Tamil Nadu and its vibrant economy using the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) and CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) framework of that is already in place. This will create an entirely different dynamic for a new triangular engagement involving (in the alphabetical order) Chennai, Colombo and Delhi.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Two years ago in the euphoria of war victory the Rajapaksa regime soared high - only the Tamils, defeated in war.!!!

Tamils, universities, capitalists and now workers battle government - Sinhala petty-bourgeoisie: Government’s last rampart
June 11, 2011, 7:31 pm

by Kumar David

Two years ago in the euphoria of war victory the Rajapaksa regime soared high - only the Tamils, defeated in war, snivelled and whined in an obscure corner. Internationally too the regime was in luck when India, China and Russia closed ranks around their protégé to defeat critical voices in international human rights lobbies. One year ago it comfortably won presidential and parliamentary elections and in March 2011 the regime did well (shedding just 5% of its peak vote in the Sinhalese community) in local government polls. True some tension was mounting among university students but the thuggish minister in charge seemed able to bash troublemakers and though there were signals from the university teaching community that unhappiness was brewing the president brushed it aside. Small concessions may be necessary to buy off grumbling lecturers and the plot to run down public universities and start up a private system may need fine tuning, but no way was the Rajapaksa regime in any serious trouble.

I don’t claim to own the world’s clearest crystal ball but the one I have, my cranial orb, now alerts me that a fork in the road was reached unexpectedly, and the government is now sliding downhill. The cause is a confluence of international and local happenings in the last two months. The trouble started with the Darusman Report, then came the Jayalalitha election victory in Tamil Nadu followed now by an open confrontation with the working class. The clash with the workers can only get worse, or it can force the government into a humiliating retreat on pension funds. These are still trends; let us watch the international and local stage for a month or two more for the fog in the crystal ball to clear.

The Sinhala petty-bourgeoisie

In countries at the stage of development corresponding to Lanka the petty-bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeois class, is the most numerous and of course the Sinhalese portion is the largest among our ethnic groups. As a ball park figure we could say the Sinhalese are 75% of the total population and the Sinhalese petty-bourgeoisie about two-thirds thereof, that is say half the population. There is some confusion in the careless use of the categories middle-class and petty-bourgeoisie interchangeably; there is overlap but the two should more appropriately be used to point out differences. Strictly speaking the middle-class belongs in the modern economy; good examples would be those young fellows in starched white shirts in private sector companies, professionals, civil servants and corporate managers. Culturally, middle-class means English speakers who prefer to blend with a Westernised outlook. The petty-bourgeoisie is more numerous and dominated by the rural mass which is not wage labour in a capitalist production process, but self-employed on the land. The petty-bourgeoisie, neither bourgeois nor working class, and not positioned in the modern capitalist economy, includes the self-employed, the informal economy, small traders and sangha, guru, veda types. Of course there is overlap with the modern middle-class proper, mainly in the shape of mixed families, but the distinction is significant, especially culturally and politically. Middle-class people are less nationalistic and a larger proportion vote UNP. (A goodly portion of the upper layers of traditional rural society too, of course, votes UNP, otherwise it couldn’t have an assured 25-30% vote bank)

The petty-bourgeoisie, even after such careful delineation, is a fairly broad-brush category and social scientists refine it with a finer comb. I do not need to do so for my discourse today; but I do need to make one split between two parts of the Sinhalese petty-bourgeoisie political base of this government. There are two distinct components; one is the rural mass, the village folk, the phalanx of SLFP support in the deep-south and other areas. There is also quite a different component in what I call the Anagarika Dharmapala (AD) belt, a more ideologically Sinhala-Buddhist petty-bourgeoisie deep-set in regions encircling the metropolis – Maharagama-Kotte (think JHU and Wimal), Dehiwala-Ratmalana and Gampaha; the exception is the Catholic north, in and beyond the city. These two distinct components are the legs on which this government stands.

Having said so much about class ideology of the Sinhalese petty-bourgeoisie I can’t let it go without one last point. The less privileged, poorer, caste disadvantaged, and under or unemployed younger elements of this class, both in the rural hinterland and in the AD-belt, constitute the JVP’s core constituency.

Shifting categories

OK, let’s get back to business. My point in this article is that disaffection with the government has spread from Tamils and university types to the working class and further. The bourgeoisie proper, that is the capitalist class and the higher echelons of the Westernised society (the elite upper middle-class), never liked this government because of corruption and sheer misrule. It is this coming together of several disparate social forces at this moment in time when the regime’s international standing is strewn in tatters that makes my nose twitch. I smell trouble; it’s not for nothing that my buddies disrespectfully call me the prophet!

Look at some of the signs blowing in the wind. IGP Balasuriya has been kicked out unceremoniously; all his years of craven stooging bought him no reprieve. German envoy Jens Ploetner sent off an insolent missive to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya telling him to keep his uniformed thugs off the premises of German FTZ companies. The regime had to grin, cringe and bear; it dare not kick out the German Ambassador. Rajapksa directs the BOI to hand over a million rupees to the family of the worker murdered by the police in a desperate gamble to trick his kin into disallowing political speeches at the funeral. The JVP is on the offensive and the government is on the run; the state simply cannot risk violence on the streets. Dictators across the world are taking their cue from the travails of Gaddafi, Syria’s Assad junior and Yemen’s Saleh. The other piece of gloomy news is that Delhi will do nothing to provoke tough talking Jayalaitha, so Rajapaksa’s chief benefactor has gone dumb. There is a confluence of national and international events that shoves the regime into a tight corner – excellent if you agree that checking authoritarianism is a priority.

Does this mean that matters will simply keep getting worse and it’s only a matter of time before it is curtains for the regime? No that’s too linear a projection and too simple an analysis; I think the outcome is still a little open ended. The decisive factor will be the bloody Tamils again; not that they have the remotest wherewithal to start a fight; the problem comes from another angle. Rajapaksa is caught by the short and curlies regarding whether and what kind of a deal to cut with the Tamils. ‘Damned if I do and damned if I don’t’; that’s his predicament. If he does nothing his equation with the international community, already troubled, will descend into a spiral of hostility.

But he can’t devolve or go 13A plus or minus either! I belong to the section of public opinion which believes the Rajapaksa regime will not grant substantial concessions to the Tamils nor "solve the national question". More important, and this is the crux, I believe the reason is not because the leadership is plain cussed and chauvinist (it is but that’s not my point), the reason is that it cannot make concessions and continue to survive in power. The B-C Pact buckled and the Dudly-Chelva deal was nipped not because the two premiers were spineless (though they were) but because racially prejudiced sentiment whipped up on the streets, in society, and in the temple, was too powerful for the government of the day to withstand. Rajapaksa faces a no less sombre imbroglio. Whatever the pressure from Delhi, the odds are Colombo will be stubborn in its "No". Otherwise Wimal will be on hunger strike whipping up rabble, Champika’s party will walk out, some Mahanayakes could well call on the faithful to rise up, and that familiar story will replay. Rajapaksa cannot stand against such forces. The Sinhala-Buddhist rampart is Rajapaksa’s last line of defence; it is also the cage that confines him.

Three months ago the JVP seemed to be moving in a progressive direction on the national question; then last month Tivlin dismissed all thought of devolution and Tamil collective rights. These mixed signals raise fear that if Rajapaksa makes concessions to the Tamils, say under pressure from Delhi, the JVP may swing back to its1989 petty-bourgeois ideology and opportunist line.

The final rampart

Hence, most likely the government will lean on its nationalist Sinhala petty-bourgeois base since the two think alike; it’s the ideology with which the regime is most comfortable. Then regime and extremist Sinhala-Buddhism will hang together. The mass rural and small town petty-bourgeoisie however is a different story because these classes are closer to and considerably overlaps the urban and semi-urban working class. For example there are reports of parents coming from rural areas to collect their worker daughters from the FTZ and rumour that Mahinda Rajapaksa cut-outs are being torn down and despoiled. When the chips are down there is little doubt where mass loyalties will lie. Therefore, if the worker protest movement grows and confrontation with the government multiplies on pensions, salaries or whatever, the rural masses will go along with it. The more extreme nationalists in the AD-belt however will keep faith with Rajapakse so long as he does not soil his hands by granting concessions to the nationalist’s arch historical enemy, the Tamil.

The working class and the ultra nationalists will then, at last, part company. The former will find absolution and expiation from the hideous ideological cancer that overcame it during the race-war and in the euphoria of war victory.

When polarisation reaches extremis this is the way the cookie will crumble says my crystal orb.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Instead, open discussion is now completely discouraged & the primary democratic reqt for transparency in law-making has become a disastrous joke...!!!

Bulldozing bills into law
June 8, 2011, 12:00 pm

By Dr A. C. Visvalingam
President, CIMOGG

In a newspaper article contributed by the Citizens’ Movement of Good Governance (CIMOGG) in early October 2007, it was argued that, other than in the case of a declaration of war or some other major emergency, a Green Paper or a White Paper should invariably be published outlining and explaining every significant new Government proposal so as to encourage members of the public to come up with their own views on such proposals (see the book "Good Governance and the Rule of Law - A.C.Visvalingam - April 2011"- p83). It was emphasised that virtually all Government bills are intended to deal with problems which have been known for years and years and that there could be no genuine justification for treating any of these as "urgent", or in maintaining secrecy regarding their contents, or delaying the printing and sale of the relevant Gazettes, about which there have been many complaints in Parliament over the years. Instead, open discussion is now completely discouraged and the primary democratic requirement for transparency in law-making has become a disastrous joke. In the aforesaid article, CIMOGG went so far as to state that it was not aware of a single bill that was rushed through in a hurry since Independence that could not have benefited from some months of considered public scrutiny. Adding weight to our contention, the Constitution, too, carries the exhortation that "the State shall strengthen and broaden the democratic structure of Government and the democratic rights of the People ... by affording all possible opportunities to the People to participate at every level in ... Government".

Why we raise this matter again is to state regretfully that, if the Government had set out for adequate public discussion its proposals for the now temporarily aborted Private Sector Pensions Bill, there would have been less violent challenges to its provisions. The impatience shown by the Government in this instance cannot by any measure be considered untypical. Any moderately discerning person would have to conclude that the Government has some additional undeclared agenda as well, and was determined to leave no time or space for concerned persons and institutions to study the Bill in depth and have it amended suitably. Had there been complete openness shown in this exercise, there would have been no anti-Bill demonstrations, violence, disruptions to the movement of the public at large, or the other adverse repercussions on the scale seen recently - including, not least of all, the much-lamented death of a young man and severe injuries to others.

For possibly inappropriate comic relief, there is also the perception that the Inspector General of Police has been nominally and conveniently "sacrificed" to cover up the Government’s folly and disregard in riding rough-shod over every objection and all objectors. The IGP’s gesture was devalued instantly when it was revealed that he had only a few days left to retire anyway. It would not surprise us if, after a brief interval, he is given a foreign office posting as compensation for his unprotesting acquiescence.

An equally important reason why Government actions will tend to encourage resort to various degrees of explosive turmoil is the more basic issue of the existence of the 18th Amendment, which has reduced Sri Lanka to a pitiful constitutional dictatorship. At the time of its hurried passage through Parliament, there was not even a pretence that the fundamental requirement for a distinct separation of powers was going to be given any place at all in the Government’s plans. In 2001, Parliament, including the then MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, had voted unanimously for the 17th Amendment - although some MPs later claimed that this amendment was faulty because it had been passed in haste! In late 2010, Parliament abandoned the 17th Amendment and replaced it far more hastily with the 18th Amendment, not unanimously but with only a two-thirds majority. Hence, every MP who voted for the fiendish 18th Amendment may be deemed to have opted to go voluntarily into political slavery, abdicating his or her independence, and unquestioningly agreeing to be subject for ever to the President’s unbounded authority. The terrible result of their actions is that we now have a system of government where the People are compelled to accept without dissent the decisions of one all-powerful person. However persuasively such decisions are paraded before the public by highly paid public relations experts as having been arrived at by the Cabinet and a free Parliament, the truth is otherwise. The factual position is that the People, having delegated their legislative, executive and judicial powers to their representatives, now find their representatives have been converted into puppets who are compelled to do what they are told - and no more and no less. This is surely a prescription for the People to turn to extra-legal methods of protesting to have their voices heard.

Even though 18th Amendment has coloured the sky a deep dark grey against the free exercise of the People’s rights, it is important that the People should not wait to act until another fierce confrontation with the forces of law and order arises. While things are calm, voters should get together into small "neighbourhood" groups and write politely but forcefully to their District MPs, with copies to the freer newspapers, making known their own views regarding the issues of importance to them. Even though one can be almost certain that there will be no acknowledgment or reply, the writing of petitions, done on a more or less regular basis, will definitely have a beneficial impact on our lawmakers’ attitudes in respect of their accountability to the People. If large numbers of voters sign these petitions, even the most thick-skinned MPs will find that these pinpricks swell greatly to become something far more painful. The People’s representatives may thereby be stirred into joint action with their equally power-deprived colleagues to play a more proactive role for the good of the Country.

Readers are probably curious about what exactly could be the reasons, other than the arrogance of power and contempt for the public, which might necessitate keeping the People in the dark about the full details and implications of the Private Sector Pensions Bill. Reading between the lines of newspaper comments on the Bill, the following may be matters which are sought to be kept hidden from the public; but one cannot be sure because they are secrets after all!

One idea is that foreign financial institutions and governments are willing to assist Sri Lanka only provided it increases savings and reduces consumption. A new Pensions Fund would be a step in this direction because the contributions made to it would leave a little less spending money in the hands of the all private sector employees and thus help to swell the State’s coffers. Presumably it would be embarrassing to admit to the public that this is the price to be paid to secure the help that is being sought from the very same IMF, World Bank and the many western powers that get bashed by our "patriots" day in and day out. The second scenario is that, when large sums of money become available to the Government, it would be so exhilarating to be able to splash out freely on the numerous prestigious projects that are in the queue for financing, leaving the next generation of Sri Lankans to pick up the burden of paying back the capital and interest. Thirdly, of even more interest, perhaps, is that the law could be appropriately formulated so as to permit the moneys collected in the Pension Fund to be invested in public-quoted firms in such massive amounts that it would enable those in power to appoint relatives, friends and sycophants to key positions in these companies and secure for them high emoluments, generous perquisites and extensive undervalued shareholdings, thus strengthening and retaining their loyalties. It may be that all three reasons are simultaneously valid.

So, start writing to your District MPs without just moaning, groaning and complaining!


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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Tamils of this country were considered most docile and law abiding compared to other communities.!!!

Never again a civil war in Sri Lanka!
June 4, 2011, 4:37 pm

By Dr.M.A.Mohamed Saleem

We learn from the media that External Affairs Minister G. L. Pieris, speaking to a select group of journalists in New Delhi recently declared… "There is never going to be another civil war in Sri Lanka. Never again" (The Sunday Island May 22). Although it is indeed comforting there are many, inside and outside this country, who would have asked the same question that was raised by one from audience – how could he be sure? And, also find the Minister’s answer less convincing.

No one in Sri Lanka, given its size, could have even dreamt that our country will ever go to war with anyone. This country cannot afford to earn anyone’s enmity, and the best course for it therefore is non-alignment, and that is what was adopted by the early leaders all along. Unfortunately, the very leaders had discounted emotional sensitivities of the various groups of people in this country, and for the minorities, some government policies were discriminative and meant to marginalize them from the mainstream. In the eyes of many therefore, this country did not belong to everyone. That incited some to agitate for a separate homeland and pushed the extreme militant Tamil fringe to take up arms to fight for it although, at one time, Tamils of this country were considered most docile and law abiding compared to other communities.

No doubt, the group that terrorized this country for three decades has been decimated, and some other collaborators with that movement are still detained for further investigation or have been released after a crash rehabilitation programme. Most of the civilians held in camps have returned to their villages for resettlement. Minister Pieris is an experienced diplomat; he is fond of articulating peace and reconciliation, and has done it on various occasions holding brief for different ruling parties. At one time he marketed that autonomy to the merged Northern and Eastern provinces under a federal arrangement with Prabaharan at the helm was the way to peace and reconciliation in this country. At that time he was representing Ranil’s government. Now that Prabaharan is no more, the minister seems to believe that (although Northern and Eastern Provinces are now demerged and pursuing different democratic courses) … "ongoing dialogue between government of Sri Lanka and the representatives of the Tamil parties … a devolution package, building upon the 13th amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation…" and therefore made him to declare that, under these conditions, there is not going to be another civil war.

Independently, another group calling itself the North East Interfaith Forum for Reconciliation (NEIFR), constituted by coming together of some religious leaders representing Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians from the war affected parts of this country, had adopted a strong position early in January 2011 that resorting to war should never be an option for resolving problems of any form in this country. For this to happen, NEIFR has premised that the country needs a new vision "…based on love, compassion, moral and spiritual principles enriched by all religions that are practiced on this land…" which will create "a new environment and enable a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in this country in which all citizens can co-exist and enjoy equality, justice, human rights and security". NEIFR’s stand is that "…all human beings are born free, equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to development and well being of a society…" and "…ethnic diversity of this country should be valued, enjoyed, accepted and embraced as a permanent feature enriching our society…". Therefore, NEIFR calls for national policies that will:-

* make dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred an offence punishable by law

* introduce vigilance and deterrence (through establishment of Committee of Conscience at each administrative level starting with the village) to discourage individuals, groups and organizations from disseminating racial superiority or hatred and treat these as acts of violence or incitements to commit such acts

* enable a facilitation unit for healing and reconciliation through which people of every locality can take charge of development and, in the process, create a space for mediation, expressing regrets, remorse and apology at individual levels

* provide globalization spin off opportunities and benefits evenly to all people rather than to individuals and groups selected on political or ethnic criteria.

The power that controls this country seems to project (as Minister Pieris did in Delhi) that trickledown from administrative amendments through 13 plus or 13 minus, infrastructure reconstruction and new economic opportunities will lead to national reconciliation. Unfortunately, little is realized that such dispensations, with whatever good intentions attached to them, seem immaterial to the ones who are returning to their villages from the refugee camps to pick up the broken pieces and restart life.

Free interaction with the war affected returnees reveals that emotional and psychosomatic wounds they sustained over the long years of conflict remain not only open but are beginning to fester and, as long as they are unattended to, national reconciliation will be a distant goal. A common feeling among them is that there is no willingness or serious effort by anyone to help in healing their wounds and, they are let to remain in this plight by a (government) policy design. At every turn of life the war victims are being bureaucratically and militarily blocked and the given excuse is security risk. For anything they wish to do to restart life, even to collect and resell thrown away scrap materials, an invisible someone’s approval is required but, approval is not a barrier or easily granted to anyone from Southern provinces who wish to be involved in the same trade. What is needed is an opening for these war victims to stretch out and make a free choice of how they wish to restart their lives. Ingredients for reconciliation are situation specific, and they cannot be generalized under one package.

Regardless of whatever different situations may demand, reconciliation has to ultimately work through the hearts of individuals who harbor pains from the long years of their inability to meet basic human aspirations or from loss of loved ones and properties as they became innocent victims of calculated and indiscriminate violent attacks between fighting forces. Constitutional amendments and projected development that the enlightened minister talked about cannot make hearts to forget or forgive. This has to be done at a different level, through a process of spiritual counseling and persuasion. If wounds are not healed and social inequities and disparities are allowed to multiply consciously or unconsciously they will turn to be the harbinger of another cycle of fear and violence. Certainly we in this country do not want this to happen. This is a choice for those in power to make. It is gratifying that, at least, NEIFR has realized dangers from people with unhealed wounds, and that is why it has taken upon itself to find redress through reconciliation at the spiritual level which is within NEIFR’s own forte.