Sunday, March 11, 2012

TAMARA: USA say that they don’t have confidence that GOSL will implement the LLRC Recommendations.!!! They are judging our intentions.!!!

Interfering in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs :

Intentions of vested groups exposed - Ambassador Kunanayakam
There is general recognition that Sri Lanka has made significant progress since the end of the conflict and that the LLRC report is good and that it contains important recommendations. It is also seen as exemplary in its engagement with the international community, sending high level delegations to the Council sessions.

Why then, they ask, is Sri Lanka being singled out so unfairly , said Ambassador Tamara Kunanayakam.

In a wide ranging interview Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations – Geneva, Tamara Kunanayakam said, “What, in fact, is the US trying to tell us with their draft resolution? They are not saying that our LLRC report is bad. They are not saying that there are gross and systematic violations of human rights in Sri Lanka. What they are saying is that they don’t have confidence that we will implement the recommendations.

She was very critical with her observation : “They are judging our intentions, not the ground reality! This is unacceptable to most countries, because it gives a role to the Council that was never intended. Moreover, there is a general feeling that Sri Lanka is being punished for cooperating.

”If the reward for cooperation is punishment, then why, they ask, should anyone cooperate with the Council?”.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: What is the current situation in the Human Rights Council with regard to the debate on Sri Lanka?

A: The present climate at the Human Rights Council is in Sri Lanka’s favour, but a lot of work still needs to be done. I have great confidence in the value of our arguments.

It is true that thus far we have been able to gather around us a number of developing countries, thanks to the principled stand of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Government, the support of our people who have rallied around us, the tireless efforts of our External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, whose new Africa policy and his direct contact with his counterparts and Heads of State in Africa have brought us a number of allies in that continent, and, of course, thanks to the work of the staff of our Mission, who have been working round-the-clock to keep the Missions in Geneva informed about developments in our country.

As I said, a lot of work still remains to be done to convince Council Members of the correctness of our position. It is far too early to venture a prognosis. We have convincing arguments based on principles and on the results of our policy of reconciliation. For those who know the UN System, nothing is won until the last minute and we cannot sit back on our laurels before the vote. Although I’m reasonably optimistic about the outcome, we must remain vigilant and mobilised, and hard work on a daily basis is required.

Q: UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne has developed the argument that Sri Lanka is a ‘failed State’ and has called on UN institutions to “support change”. In her Report, Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, also used language that describes ‘failed States’. What do you think?

A: Like ‘terrorist States’ or ‘rogue States’, the notion of ‘failed States’ is part of a repertoire that is used to justify interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States, but under an angelic and moralising appearance.

Anyone with any knowledge of the ground reality will know that this description does not fit Sri Lanka!

UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne’s reference to Sri Lanka as a “failed State” is direct. The High Commissioner for Human Rights uses apparently innocuous language, but punctuates the section dealing with Sri Lanka with terminology associated with that dangerous concept. She suggests that Sri Lanka is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens, that its institutions are incapable of implementing the recommendations of the LLRC, and that it refuses to engage with UN institutions.

As you know, the West has been developing this argument to justify and legitimise interventions in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria. Their real objective is ‘regime change’! Many ambassadors in Geneva have been telling me that this is also what they want to achieve in Sri Lanka, so we take it very seriously.

Over the past 10 years, the US has sought to impose the concept ‘responsibility to protect’ or ‘R2P’ to justify military interventions in countries where, according to them, the government is unable to protect its own citizens!

Both the UK Foreign Office Minister and Navi Pillay advocate support for “change” in Sri Lanka. I wonder what kind of change they have in mind.Regime change? Their position reflects the singular reasoning of John Stuart Mills who said that the British invasion of India and China was “in the service of others” with “no benefit to itself … blameless and laudable” in everything it did!

No intervention
Clearly, we cannot accept such intervention in our internal affairs. That would be tantamount to surrendering our sovereignty and our independence. The right of peoples and States to protect their own citizens, without foreign intervention, is entrenched in the Charter of the United Nations and in every single international instrument that has been adopted ever since! Article 56 of the UN Charter clearly stipulates international cooperation as the means by which there is international engagement in the promotion of human rights.

The motivations and bona fide of those seeking to characterise Sri Lanka in such terms are questionable! Many of our friends from Africa, Asia and Latin America are not duped. They are talking of an “Anglo-Saxo alliance” against a small developing country!

Let’s not forget that countries which are part of this alliance are also some of the largest contributors to the voluntary fund of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which pays for the salaries of the majority of its staff and its human rights program. The atmosphere in the Human Rights Council is such that our friends in the developing world are beginning to associate the onslaught against a small country such as ours with a witch hunt, which has nothing to do with actual guilt or innocence!

Q: Can we reduce the challenge faced by Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council to a problem between Sri Lanka and the US/EU alliance?

A: In my opinion, no!

The real interests of those who want to move a resolution against Sri Lanka have nothing to do with human rights in Sri Lanka, whether of Tamils, Sinhalese, or any other community. It lies elsewhere!

There is a lot of hypocrisy and double standards being played out at the Human Rights Council, and the objective of the big powers is to turn the Council into yet another weapon at their disposal for use against developing countries.

With the growing global crises, especially at the centre of their own economies, they are becoming increasingly aggressive to gain control over the wealth and resources of their former colonies, in the hope that they can postpone the political crisis that will inevitably follow the present multiple economic, financial, environmental and social crises. That is why we have so much support from the developing countries and the emerging economies.

There is general recognition that Sri Lanka has made significant progress since the end of the conflict and that the LLRC report is a good one and that it contains very important recommendations. It is also seen as exemplary in its engagement with the international community, sending high-level delegations to the Council sessions. Why then, they ask, is Sri Lanka being singled out so unfairly?

What, in fact, is the US trying to tell us with their draft resolution? They are not saying that our LLRC report is bad. They are not saying that there are gross and systematic violations of human rights in Sri Lanka. What they are saying is that they don’t have confidence that we will implement the recommendations. They are judging our intentions, not the ground reality!

This is unacceptable to most countries, because it gives a role to the Council that was never intended. Moreover, there is a general feeling that Sri Lanka is being punished for cooperating. If the reward for cooperation is punishment, then why, they ask, should anyone cooperate with the Council?

Not only developing countries, but also European countries feel that Sri Lanka is being unfairly targeted.

Litmus test
Many say that the outcome of the battle at this Session will be a litmus test, the real issue being the survival of the multilateral system. Whereas the US seeks to convert the system into an instrument in the service of its foreign policy goals, based on confrontation rather than cooperation, developing countries and other emerging economies are fighting to maintain its multilateral character. A resolution on Sri Lanka will, many feel, be the ultimate test of the Council’s politicisation. It will make it or break it.

In her statement to the Human Rights Council, the US Under Secretary of State, Maria Otero, unilaterally outlined the values which, she said, would guide their work within the Council, totally disregarding the principles that the UN General Assembly has determined and which the US accepted when taking its oath as a member of the Council! ‘Cooperation’, which is embedded in the UN Charter and a duty incumbent on all States, is replaced with ‘dialogue’; ‘impartiality’ and ‘non-selectivity’ replaced with the vague and subjective values, “principle” and “truth”!

It is common knowledge that certain Western countries never really digested their 2009 defeat, when, for the first time in its history, a Special Session of the Council adopted a resolution that was contrary to their objectives! The West never forgave us for that! By “us” I mean Sri Lanka and like-minded countries, which, together, succeeded in defeating the might of the West! That victory also won us the admiration of other developing countries that realised that a small country can, if united on principles, defeat even the most powerful!

Let us also not forget that the US is vying for re-election to the Human Rights Council in May this year. The problem is that the Western Group has fielded five candidates for only three seats. It is believed that by revising the 2009 Council resolution that is favourable to Sri Lanka, adopted when the US was not a member, it is trying to show its allies that the Council cannot function without it.

Developing countries fear that such a decision would set a precedent giving an historic character to the Council permiting a powerful country, for reasons of its own, to reopen a dossier that has been closed to examine past violations.

Many countries are also concerned that the US is trying to undermine the internationally recognised principle of “exhaustion of domestic remedies.” The International Criminal Court has focused exclusively on Africa, even filing cases against individuals from countries that have not signed the Rome Statute, when they have their own legal systems.

In addition to what I’ve already said, the West also has a problem with our example that a small developing country, with the political will, can defeat even the most ruthless terrorist group alone and without their help, when the West itself has failed to do so, despite its modern weapons and the combined might of NATO!. That is a strong message we have sent to the developing world! Moreover, the geostrategic importance of our country is well known. Certain countries also appear concerned about the quality of our relations with our Asian neighbours and our ability to mobilise support of countries in Africa, Asia and even Latin America, which are our natural allies.

Many people have difficulties understanding US impatience for accountability on the part of Sri Lanka, not even three years after the end of the conflict. They point out that there has been no accountability on the part of the US authorities for abuses in the Guantanamo detention centre, Abu Ghraib, conditions under which Fallujah was captured, the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and double standards in its treatment of Palestine and Israel.

Selective targeting
The selective targeting of Sri Lanka does not augur well for the future of the Council. The US think-tank Fund for Peace, which is an organisation that serves as a reference for the US Secretary of State and the US Secretary of Defence, has placed Sri Lanka on the Alert List of its Failed States Index. Thirty-five of the 47 Member States of the Council are also on its Alert List or its Warning List; all 35 are developing countries or emerging economies. The divine surprise is that the 12 Council members that are not on the list are all from the West!

It is certainly true to say that much may have changed since the days of Adam Smith. But, the standard he called “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for ourselves, and nothing for other people”, continues to flourish!

Q: What are your plans now? How will you proceed?

A: There’s still a lot of work to be done! We must be lucid! We must not underestimate or overestimate our capacity! To claim victory at this stage would be a grave error. First of all, we cannot speak on behalf of sovereign States. Each State will take a sovereign decision, and it will not have spoken until it casts its vote.

States can change their position at any time, even at the last hour, depending on national interests. Therefore, the battle will have to be fought to the very last minute. Nobody has the right to anticipate the vote of another country. It is a matter of respect, respect for the sovereignty of other nations and peoples.

Q: Do you think that it will be important for Sri Lanka to seek a compromise?

A: It is not a question of seeking compromises. We are defending principles and nothing justifies compromising on principles! If we do that, we will lose our allies. This battle is not over, we can foresee others in the near future. Whether or not we compromise, they will return in June, then in September, with another and stronger resolution. Look at the example of Yemen. In June last year, when the West had a draft resolution against Yemen, developing countries were ready to support it, but then Yemen decided to accept a compromise, because the US promised that there would be no outcome. In September, the West broke its promise and returned with a stronger resolution, but this time the developing countries refused to come to the aid of Yemen.

The other day, immediately after my right of reply to US Under Secretary Maria Otero, when I exposed the real intentions of the US to unilaterally replace the values on which the Human Rights Council was set up, a number of developing country delegates came up to me and thanked me for speaking up for all developing countries. They were grateful that we were not only defending Sri Lanka, but our collective interest.

Courtesy: Asian Tribune

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We look forward to the day that Sri Lanka would once again become the showcase of a benign, pluralist and accommodative culture, celebrating life..!!!

Early days of Peradeniya Reminiscences
By R. Sunderalingam

Prestigious Jayatilleke Hall with warden,
Dr. G. P. Malalasekera. R. Sunderalingam is on his right

Sri Ivor Jennings ‘Farewell Walk’
as he leaves the campus in
1954 with Union President
R. Sundaralingam

When I was appointed Assistant Superintendent of Police, Ambalangoda District in 1961, one of my first visits in the area was to the ancestral home of Dr. C. W. W.Kannangara, Father of Free Education in Sri Lanka. It is to him that all middle class Sri Lankans – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher - of my generation owe our sincere gratitude for making us what we are today. Due to his untiring efforts as Education Minister the Free Education Bill was passed in 1945, providing education free to all communities from kindergarten to university.

Although the University of Ceylon was established on July 1, 1942, the first move to Peradeniya was made only in 1950 – five years after the end of World War II and two years after independence. The reason for selecting this location for a seat of higher learning was quite obvious. Its natural beauty, the botanical gardens, the Mahaweli River, temperate climate and its close proximity to the ancient Hill Capital plus its religious significance – the Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth – proved there was no better place for a university campus. The environment was clearly conducive for higher studies.

Perhaps it is for similar reasons – apart from security considerations - that during World War II Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in South-East Asia, selected Peradeniya for his headquarters when he shifted it from India to Sri Lanka in 1944.

The first move to Peradeniya was made in 1950 with just a few students. The university Law Faculty - preparing students for the LLB Degree - had taken temporary residence in Peradeniya. Among them were Felix R. Dias, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Kapukotuwa and Ana Seneviratne, who later became Inspector-General of Police.

In later years the vicinity of the campus also provided an ideal spot for young undergraduates who were struck by Cupid’s arrows. The mist covered Hantane hills became the regular haunt of young lovers from the university. As the years went by the place came to be romanticized by Sinhala lyric writers and novelists.

It was only on October 6, 1952 that the university was formally established. All Arts Faculty students numbering almost 1,000 moved from Colombo to Peradeniya. They – including myself - were called the Peradeniya Pioneers. This historical event was made possible primarily due to the efforts of the Vice Chancellor, Sir Ivor Jennings.

Halls of Residence included Jayatilleke, Arunachalam, James Peiris, Ramanathan, Hilda Obeysekere and Sanghamitta – named after well known historical, social and political figures. Marrs Hall was named after the first Principal of the University College, Colombo. In those good old days we pioneers were privileged lot being entitled to single room accommodation with all the modern amenities – a far cry what the place turned out to be decades later. The kitchen was well equipped and had a trained staff. Each hall had a warden, who was often a very senior member of the academic staff.

The important event of the university becoming fully operative at Peradeniya was celebrated in subdued fashion, with the Vice Chancellor planting a tree opposite the entrance to the lodge, because the government was keen to postpone the ceremonial opening arranged for 1952, until Queen Elizabeth II could participate in the event, which was on April 20, 1954. The postponement was caused by the death of her father King George VI.

Among the well-known academic staffers during our time were, Dr. Gunapala Malalasekera, Professor J. L. C. Rodrigo, Professor Hettiarachchi, Professor Ludowyke, Fr. Pinto, F. R. Jayasuriya, Doric de Souza and Prof. Wijesekera.

I was at Jayatilleke Hall and was fortunate to have Prof. Malalasekera, leading Buddhist scholar, later President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists and Sri Lanka’s (then Ceylon) first Ambassador to Soviet Russia. I had a close working relationship with him in the university. Later when I was Superintendent of Police, Northern Province, he was my personal guest in Jaffna, as Chairman of the National Commission on Higher Education. His proficiency in Hindu and Buddhist Philosophy was amazing. During his term as Ambassador in Russia, he was often invited to address meetings where his in-depth knowledge of Buddhism and Hinduism was a topic of interest to Moscow-based Western diplomats, although the then hard-core communist regime there had virtually no interest in the subject.

Campus politics were invariably Left oriented. Most students were divided into the two Marxist camps – the Trotskyites and the Stalinists. There were the LSSP, CP, Bolshevik and other groups. They often invited such speakers as Dr. N. M. Perera Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Pieter Keuneman and Philip Gunawardena to address meetings.

Peradeniya University was a big draw in the itinerary of all VIP visitors. In 1954, the then President of the UN General Assembly Vijayalakshmi Pundit with Prime Minister Sir John Kotalawala visited the campus. Popular Indian movie stars Raj Kapoor and Nargis were among the other visitors who drew the keen attention of the undergraduates.

The first big political explosion in the campus was the Hartal of 1953 following the hike in the price of rice. Rail transport was paralyzed and there were violent incidents in Colombo. (The violent unrest led to the resignation of Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake). When the university students rioted in support of the hartal, police moved into quell the riot and in the ensuing clash students and police personnel were injured.

When the students were charged with rioting, the case came up before Justice Pulle in 1954 and we were able to get the best lawyers to appear for us. It so happened that I was elected President of the Jayatilleke Hall as well as President of the University Students Council uncontested for the first time in the history of university politics. My name was proposed by Neville Jayaweera and Vincent Panditha. (Both of them later had illustrious careers in the Ceylon Civil Service).

Dr. Colvin Silva agreed to appear for us free of charge in the Hartal case. He had then just won the acquittal of Sathasivam who was charged with the murder of his wife. In the Hartal case too Colvin’s forensic skills were so excellent that all students were freed. We garlanded him in the court premises and I requested him to be our guest at the Jayatilleke Hall high table dinner during the following week. The topic of his address was "Mostly Murders I Defended."

On the last day, due to commitments in Colombo, he instructed his junior K.C. Nadarajah to talk on the same subject. I was at the high table with the Warden, Dr. G. P. Malalasekera. The Hall was packed to capacity as Nadarajah deputizing for Dr. De Silva began saying that the most sensational murder at the time was the Sathasivam case. According to Nadarajah, Sathasivam was weak on liquor and women but he did not murder his wife. The sequence of evidence recorded and the legal arguments and forensic medicine as illustrated by the speaker was fascinating and convincing to the undergrads. It was proved that Sathasivam was not a murderer, as claimed by the prosecution, but a victim of circumstances.

Life works in strange ways. While as President of the Students Union I visited Colombo to meet with Dr. Colvin R. de Silva to defend fellow students, my role was totally reversed over a decade later. Then as Acting Superintendent of Police, Kandy, I had to lead a riot squad to quell a student riot. Despite my strong warning that police intervention in university student unrest would aggravate the situation, the then Vice Chancellor, Sir Nicholas Attygalle, veteran Gynecologist and successor to Sir Ivor Jennings, was adamant that police should intervene to bring the situation under control. I met him in early December 1965 and recalled my experiences as a student at Peradeniya during the Hartal of 1953 and advised him against such a move. But he would not listen and insisted that the police enter the campus. He had even complained to Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake that SP Kandy had refused to enter the campus stating that it was an internal matter that University Marshal should deal with. It was Sir Ivor who as VC had employed Marshals to handle security within the campus to avoid the police entering the premises.

Later Police Headquarters gave me specific instructions that the police should intervene only if there was a complaint of a criminal offence inside the campus. When I heard from university professors that trouble was brewing there - instead of rushing in - I along with two ASPs visited the university biology lab, which was surrounded by hundreds of striking students. I told the strikers that I was the President of the Students Union in the 1950s and was fully aware of their problems but appealed to them to demonstrate peacefully instead of inciting others and blocking university entry doors. My appeals to the students to disperse however failed and I had no alternative but to move a riot squad into the campus. The police intervened in response to a telephone call from Professor Cruz that the biology building was being stoned causing heavy damage. The student-police clash led to several injuries and some were serious. All the injured were admitted to the Kandy hospital. It was the first time in the universityhistory that the police were compelled to use both firearms and batons.

The destruction caused to the campus property was enormous. The rioting students had heavily damaged the Vice Chancellor’s lodge and other buildings. The national press gave wide coverage to the incident and asked why the police entered the campus. The saving grace, also highlighted in the newspapers, was that the SP Kandy (me) did the right thing by appealing to the students to demonstrate peacefully – before the rioting broke out. Yet Opposition politicians were demanding my interdiction. My name was however cleared by veteran Journalist H. L. D. Mahindapala who wrote an interesting piece in a leading newspaper giving the sequences of events that led to the Peradeniya Campus riot, with reference to my role as Student’s Union President in the 1950s.

Premier Dudley Senanayake stated in Parliament that he approved police intervention but promised a commission to probe the incident. The commission resulted in several innovations to the university administration. The proposals were outlined in the Higher Education Act No. 20 of 1966 the aim of which was to introduce a certain measure of State control to academic self-government. University Courts were abolished and the Councils were replaced by Boards of Regents. A National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) was set up in Colombo to supervise and regulate universities. Under the new Act, the Vice Chancellors would be selected rather than elected.

While steps were taken to appoint the commission, police filed plaint in Kandy against the ring leaders of the students’ riot. My evidence was vital as to the prior warning issued to them. As I recall, all those convicted were given suspended sentences.

Graduates who passed out from the Peradeniya Campus in the 1950s and early ‘60s made important contributions to the country in various capacities. Among them were leading Civil Servants (Administrative Service officers), Foreign Service officers, high-ranking police officers including three Inspectors-General and about seven Deputy Inspectors General, High Court Judges and top Prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Department. Several others joined the University Academic staff while three became editors of the country’s prestigious newspapers.

The comradeship formed at Peradeniya had it’s advantages in getting jobs done for the Police Department through my university contemporaries in all spheres of the Public and Private sector. I vividly recall the night of April 5, 1971 when JVP insurgents attacked over 70 police stations from North to South of the island. I was then SP Northern Province. We successfully repulsed the attack on the Jaffna Police Station, aimed at rescuing JVP Leader Rohana Wijeweera from the Jaffna Fort prison.

But the Vavuniya Police station was not so fortunate. It came under a heavy onslaught from a JVP group in Anuradhapura causing total panic and turmoil in the District which had hitherto never heard of or witnessed such an attack on a police station in the North. Within one hour Vavuniya Government Agent Neville Jayaweera - my good friend at Jayatilake Hall, Peradeniya Campus – was at the besieged Police Station. He took up residence there and called me promptly to appraise me of the situation. Given full responsibility to restore law and order, he proved his worth, directing all police/civilian operations. His hourly transmissions to me kept me abreast of the situation.

Within 48 hours the district was back to normal with all government offices and banks fully functioning and the population getting about freely with no hindrance. Food supplies were uninterrupted and transport was normal while other parts of the country experienced serious problems. Jayaweera was a good example of what a high profile and capable GA can do – a miracle in time of crisis.

I left Sri Lanka in 1985 on an Interpol Assignment and continued my service at Interpol HQ in Paris until 2003. During the period my visits to Sri Lanka were infrequent. Our son, an orthodontist in the USA, is also a Peradeniya Graduate and by more than coincidence was also a resident at Jayatilake Hall in the late 1970s. In later years he was very interested in visiting the university with his wife to revive happy memories of his days there. My wife and I too joined this trip in December 2004 visiting Peradeniya and Kandy, spending almost a full day there including the botanical gardens. While in Kandy, the then Diyawadana Nilame of the Dalada Maligawa, Neranjan Wijeratne, received us with a special pooja at the temple. This was followed by a dinner hosted by the then Central Province Governor, the late Monty Gopallawa - incidentally a university student leader during the campus riot of 1965 when I was SP Kandy.

The visit to Kandy and Peradeniya were memorable. In the 1950s Peradeniya campus was vibrant with its students coming from different ends of the island – North, East, South and West. It was vastly enriched by multi-ethnic and multi-cultural composition. The harmony blended so seamlessly that it bred no distance no rancour. Today, the campus as such remains much the same – including the majesty of its buildings. The scenic beauty is as verdant as it was 50 years ago. The picturesque surroundings and the magnificent Mahaweli flowing through look livelier than ever before.

But what is shockingly missing is the easy-going camaraderie that was there – the fellowship in the student community which harboured no prejudice, had a scant awareness of differences and nurtured no acrimony among them. This culture of oneness that radiated from Peradeniya at the time was reflected in all walks of life in the country.

Today there is a heavy air of separateness, a palpable sense of distance, a tangible notion of mental barriers that was essentially unknown in our undergraduate days. This is again unfortunately true across the nation. The prevailing segregation that is alien to its spirit and culture needs to be eliminated. We old timers still yearn for those halcyon days and fervently hope that the smouldering embers of trust and affection, bonhomie and solidarity can be stoked and kindled back to their old glory.

As pioneer graduates of Peradeniya University nothing would warm and fill our hearts more than to see the wick of harmony and peaceful co-existence lighting the torch of Sri Lankan society where the wax of ever abiding cooperation and collaboration would nourish it. We look forward to the day that Sri Lanka would once again become the showcase of a benign, pluralist and accommodative culture, celebrating life and rejoicing in its bounty.