Full understanding of Geneva Fiasco
My intention in this brief note is to point out some important matters that Dr. Sarath Gamini de Silva has omitted, and also facts of history that he has not correctly interpreted in his letter titled “Problems in Geneva : Facts that brought us here” (The Island 26.02.2021). When one deals with the “facts that brought us here” with reference to the UNHRC Resolutions against Sri Lanka, the history, the nature and the present status of the Tamil Problem are of vital importance, as that problem is the core issue leading to the Geneva Fiasco. Further, an assessment of the UNHRC activities, particularly its lack of neutrality due to Western pressure and influence which has made Sri Lanka reject the Resolutions calling them a political campaign, is critical in a discussion of this subject.
The fact that Western powers use the UNHRC to exert pressure on Third World countries on the pretext of human rights, to make them do their bidding has been totally disregarded by Dr.S, while he finds fault with the Sri Lankan governments for not doing enough in the implementation of the UNHRC recommendations. Further, the fact that the Western powers make use of Tamils to destabilize Sri Lanka, as they did with the LTTE, to get it to fall in line and that Tamil separatists are willing partners in this project, has not been considered by Dr. S. It is naive to think that mishandling or not solving the Tamil Problem “brought us here” and resulted in Geneva Resolutions.
One cannot discuss Geneva disregarding the Tamil Problem. To understand the nature of the Tamil Problem, and why it remains apparently unresolved, one must examine its history and origin. It has its origin in Tamil separatism which dates back to 1930s. Tamil separatism is a Tamil construct. When independence for Ceylon was being considered by the British Raj, as it was uneconomical to maintain their empire, the Tamil leaders petitioned the British Government requesting a separate state for the Tamils. A case had been prepared for this claim well in advance. Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam in his book titled “Ancient Jaffna” (1926) attempts to show that an independent kingdom existed in Jaffna before it was conquered by the Portuguese in 1619. This is a distortion of facts. Mudliyar Rasanayagam’s views on Tamil habitation in Sri Lanka have been proved to be baseless, and less than a scholarly discourse of the matter by Prof. K. N. O. Dharmadasa (2007). Prof. Indrapala Karthigesu’s research work had shown that there is no evidence of Tamil habitation in Sri Lanka before the 10th Century CE. If there were Tamil kings in Jaffna, there should be inscriptions in Tamil, but not a single one has been found. On the contrary the earliest inscription found in Jaffna could be attributed to a Sinhala king, Parakramabahu II, who ruled Jaffna from Polonnaruwa.
In this context, it is important to see how this issue is being pursued at present. Former Chief Minister Wigneshwaran, has called for the creation of a Federal State for the Tamils, and to substantiate his claim had made reference to the ancient Tamil Kingdom and he has said Mahawamsa is fiction.. TNA leader R Sampanthan, speaking in the Parliament on the 8th January 2020, drew attention to the hitherto unresolved Tamil man’s problem (The Island, 10.01.2020). He has said 85% of Tamils have voted against Gotabaya Rajapaksa, which he says is an indication that their problem has not been addressed and that the Tamils have at every election repeatedly voiced the need for a solution to their problem. Since most of the economic, social, political and cultural needs of the Tamil community, in the Sri Lankan context, have been sorted out, one wonders what other grievances could be bothering the Tamils. However, when one reads Sampanthan’s speech, one would understand that his problem is the nature of the state of Sri Lanka as defined in the present constitution. What he wants obviously is to replace the word “unitary” in Chapter 1 Clause 2 of the Constitution, with the words “united, undivided and indivisible”. These words place the single sovereignty concept in jeopardy, and opens the way to federalism and separatism.
The above facts show how the Tamil leadership has made the Tamil Problem an intractable issue. Dr. S says, successive governments have failed to discuss these matters beginning from early times, and points out that the “50- 50” demand made by GG Ponnambalam, in 1939 in the State Council, and then to the Soulbury Commission in 1945, should have been discussed. When 50% of representation for the minorities is demanded disregarding population ratios, which is a crucial factor in universal franchise, could it be discussed? Similarly could the Thimpu Principles of recent times (1985) which the Tamils said were non-negotiable be discussed? Further, the TNA has submitted its proposals to the Experts Committee drafting the new Constitution, and these amount to a demand for an almost separate state for the Tamils. Are the Tamils serious in negotiating a solution?
The UNHRC Resolution 30/1 and the subsequent resolutions on Sri Lanka were sponsored by the Western countries, who indirectly supported LTTE terrorism and almost stopped the war being conducted to its finish. The Resolutions are biased because they make unsubstantiated accusations that the Sri Lankan armed forces have committed war crimes and these have to be investigated by international judges. No examination of the witnesses by the defense is allowed. Further no consideration whatsoever has been given to the available evidence that shows no war crimes have been committed by the armed forces. The evidence provided in the diplomatic dispatches filed by Lt. Col. Anthony Gash the Defence Attache of the British High Commission, and the revelations by Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith the Defence Attache of the US Embassy, which could be considered as reliable as these officers were aware of the ground situation during the final stages of the war, have totally been disregarded by the UNHRC and the sponsors of the Resolutions. Recently Lord Naseby has written to the UNHRC about these evidence, and he has brought these facts to the notice of the British House of Lords.
Is it such a UNHRC and its dubious resolutions that Dr. S wants our government to take seriously as the “day of reckoning” closes on us as Dr. S puts it? Does Dr. S think that the West is genuinely motivated by human rights issues? Surely he knows that they are the worst HR violators. Would the West withdraw these resolutions if we implement their recommendations? As a matter of fact, had we agreed to sign the MCC, ACSA and SOFA agreements of the US there would be no resolutions against Sri Lanka. And Mitchel Brechtlet would play a different tune. UNHRC Resolutions against Sri Lanka are nothing but tools of hegemony and imperialism.
Further the International Community, whose opinion and dictate Dr. S wants our government to pay heed to while dealing with human rights and UN Resolutions, is nothing but the Western power block, which uses human rights as a bludgeon against small countries while murdering millions of civilians all over the world. Is China with the largest population or Russia the largest country included in this International Community. The UK just a few weeks ago passed a law prohibiting accusation of war crimes against their armed forces. And their armed forces are not innocent of war crimes either, their brutal excesses in Iraq are well known. And it is the UK that led the crusade against Sri Lanka in Geneva.
It is very easy to say that if the government looks after the minorities there would be no Geneva resolutions against us. But when we are dealing with minorities who know that they can exploit the geo-political situation that exists in the Indian Ocean region to their advantage, by helping the West to get a grip on the strategically situated Sri Lanka, it is difficult to negotiate a solution that would be fair by all stakeholders. The Tamil separatists know this and they will make the Western powers pressure the Sri Lankan government to give in to their demands. The minorities will want to dictate terms and get their pound of flesh. However, the minorities must realize that everybody stands to lose if the imperialist West is allowed to take a stranglehold on our country. Tamils must give up their campaign which they started before the time of independence, and ask for a reasonable and realistic solution.
N.A.de S. AMARATUNGA
Celebrating what went well or denouncing what went wrong?
By Chani Imbulgoda
“We suffer today, because leaders in the past have failed to govern this country properly”. Oh, the predecessor has not done things well, they all have let the place go haywire”. Familiar excuses… When one takes over the leadership be it the country, be it an organisation, or be it a new position. We, naturally, incline to blame the past, criticize the leadership and highlight what went wrong. We start new reforms, new policies, new practices… condemning the past. We have a tendency to look back through the rearview mirror… only to criticise what went wrong, and start everything all over. Why don’t we give some credit to the past and celebrate what went well, as well?
It is said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. While Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, I wondered how much similarity we can evidence today. Tolstoy describes how the war was waged in early 1800, and how Russia suffered. After two centuries, we witness how Russia repeats it over Ukraine. No lessons learnt from the past. We just passed a civil riot; strikes, protests continue; and controlling and curbing protests are not rare. As a country, have we forgotten our gloomy days in recent past? Bombs, killing, destructions from northern point Pedro to southern Dondra, youth insurrection, misdirection and all the blood we witnessed… It seems that we, rather than learning the lessons unlearned it.
Bringing the beauty of learning from the past, American author, Judith Glaser suggests looking at the past, finding new meaning from significant events, following them and creating successful behaviour patterns. Have we forgotten our glorious past where this country was recognised as the jade of the Indian Ocean? This was known as a prosperous country during the reigns of ancient kingdoms. Once the granary of the East, and even before that, crowned as the Kingdom of mighty by king Ravana, who deemed to be the first to fly an aircraft. I recall my friend in university days who used to say that “there is no future without past”. As Santayana, Glazer and my friend say “we need to look back and learn from our past in moving forward. In the early 19th century, we submitted our sovereignty to colonial masters by conspiring against our own breed. We made Sinhala only policy in 1956 and we opened the economy in 1977, letting our strengths blown out by foreign winds. Lots of lessons are on the stake, if we really want to take. An upcoming book “What Went Wrong” by a bureaucrat, Mr. Chandrasena Maliyadde, a former Secretary to Government Ministries discusses how Sri Lanka failed in many aspects, including public service and University education. There are books on historic accounts, newspapers and media that bring present contexts, and futuristic projections…it is left for us to make our soup adding right mix of past, present and future to taste the soup.
Past is a repository of knowledge!
Reflect on the qualities and competencies possessed by today’s youth with yesteryear’s generation. Do we miss something in the new generation? A state university officer once lamented that those young officers joining the university did not look at the overall picture when making decisions … fair enough, I have noticed a many young staff, and even some old hands think only about the fraction of work they deemed responsible … ignoring the whole process involved. We often pin the blame on the education system. During the good old days, school curricula consisted of lessons on morals and ethics, lessons on history. More importantly, formal education kept space for youngsters to think, there were no tuition classes, and no online assignments to complete. There was time for friends … time to play; time to enjoy nature, and time to talk with parents. Those days youngsters were a part of the real world, nature and ancestors who educate the wholeness of life. Aren’t we missing something in our education system? It is time to look back and look ahead, and look across. Finland, known to be one of the best countries for education in the world, avail time for students to engage with nature; no tough competitive exams, they learn being humane, they learn to be balanced humans. There was a propaganda “Nearest School is the Best School”. In the present context where everything has become expensive, exercise books to transport fees. Safety and security of both male, female children are at stake. Much concerns over drugs, and sex, it is time to revisit and refresh this propaganda tagline. There is a shortage of papers, there was a shortage of fuel and electricity, we never know what is in stock for us in the coming months. We cannot afford to have marker pens and whiteboards in schools now. Time to think about the rock slate which we could use several times and learn well and hard way. I believe more the hard work put in tiring both the hand and head, higher the productivity. Considering the wellbeing of individuals, rising cost and scarcity of essentials and medical drugs, and sustainability of our environment, time has come to think of our past styles of commuting, cycling. Cycling reduces air pollution; cycling makes you fitter. In effect, we will not be compelled to depend on many vehicles imported and perhaps medicine too. We have reached the point where we have to bridge the past with the future. We need to learn from the past and blend it with the future, appropriately without forgetting the present and its context.
Learn from the past, but don’t
stick to it.
When we see a roadblock, a cavity on the road or a commotion or congestion, we naturally turn to the rearview mirror. But we do not turn the car and go back to where we started. No doubt we learn lessons from the past, but we can never create the past again. If you drive constantly looking back from the rearview mirror, you would not proceed much far! Buddha has said that “you can’t have a better tomorrow if you think about yesterday all the time”. One of the key accusations during recent public agitations, and the rebel was that youth do not get opportunities. The anxiety developed over rejection or blocking paths for youth, to be hatred towards old. We often miss fresh blood in decision making bodies, especially when it comes to public sector institutions, owing to too much credit being given to the past. Long number of years in service overshadows competence. When recruiting people for positions, we look at the conduct and experience of the applicant in the past, and make our decision; sometimes a decision to show the door would completely sabotage the future of the applicant. We come across people who wag their past records when they make important decisions for the future. People like to boast about their glorious past and want to create yesterday in tomorrow. I recall an incident that took place at a staff meeting where I work. When the senior officers celebrating past glory, a few newcomers openly challenged and declared they get demotivated in effect. If we cling too much to the past, we will end up spoiling both our present and future.
Change is inescapable. Everything gets changed, context, requirements, and mindsets. History cannot be restored as it was, only lessons and practices can be brought and tried after careful analysis. We normally cling to one of the two paradoxes; one school of thought is glued to the history, experience, and the way things happened. They hardly see goodness in novelty. On the other extreme, the school of thought is forward-looking they ignore the past, condemn the history and embrace novelty. In a car, we have a larger windscreen, two side glasses and a tiny rearview mirror. Why? When we are moving, we need to look at the future with a much broader view, assess the present, and from time to time look back and ensure we are alright.
Past is always a scapegoat for those who don’t want to strive to achieve success. We as a nation today suffer a lot and I believe in owing up to the blame game we play with the past and egoistic attitude and our unwillingness to learn from the past. I always advocate seeing what went well in the past, success stories teach us lessons, where failures are more appealing to worry and enjoy at the same time.
(The writer is a holder of a senior position in a state
University with international experience and exposure and an MBA from Postgraduate Institute of Management (PIM), Sri Lanka and currently reading for her PhD related to reasons of reform failures at PIM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rogues have no right to eat while masses starve!
Ali (Raheem) Baba and 225 rogues have no right to eat while the people they are supposed to protect, nourish and maintain go hungry.
A poor widow with a school going child called me from Elpitiya and told me that they had not eaten anything yet. The time was 11 AM. The child had refused to go to school with an empty stomach. But the mother had coaxed him to go to school promising him to keep lunch ready when he returns. She had not found anything to cook by 11 AM and desperately called me. This was just one of such calls I get regularly.
I lost my shirt; I scolded her and told her that she had elected Ali (Sabri Raheem) Baba and 225 scoundrels and that she should go to them and ask for food. I instructed her to do this. Collect as many widows like her as possible and go to the house of their MP (GK) and remind her that they had fed her all these years and now they were hungry and she must feed them. Sit down in the house and do not leave till your problem is solved. While you go hungry that woman has no right to eat. In fact, the scoundrels of Diyawannawa have no right to gobble down subsidised food in the canteen of the den of thieves called the parliament of Sri Lanka.
Another widow called me and told me that she and her children lived in the dark. They have electricity but they could not afford to use it. The family lives in total darkness, every night. The government which could not maintain an uninterrupted power supply at least during the A/L examinations is not a failed administration but a heartless criminal regime. The rogue government which deprived the people of power has no right to use power in their den for light, sound and air conditioning.
And the rogue government has no right to govern at all. It has deprived the people of their right to vote and choose representatives they desire. It has cancelled the provincial council elections and the local government elections. By depriving the people of their right to vote it has abrogated its right to govern. Getting rid of this government is legal, and, in fact, it is the right and the civic duty of the people of this country.
It is this government that robbed the country to bankruptcy, ruined the agriculture and the economy and destroyed law and order in the country. Now, it blames Aragalaya for that. They pretend to be the victims! The effect has become the cause; they turn everything upside down!
Everything they are doing now is some desperate measure or other to keep marking time as long as possible to rob and rob and empty the national coffers before getting out of government and the country.
The scoundrels in the Parliament are accused and even found guilty by courts, of every crime under the Sun. They cheat, swindle and rob openly and unceasingly. This is a curse on the country and its people. We are paying for our stupidity and gullibility. We are a people immersed in superstition and irrational beliefs. There are no better ways to learn life’s lessons than hunger and deprivation. Aragalaya was a great eye-opener and a teacher of the difference between myth and truth, between objective reality and the narrow chauvinism of race and religion; the last refuge of the scoundrel. I hope the 6.9 million have at least by now learnt the lesson.
My dear co-citizens of Sri Lanka, it is time to act. It is pathetic and depressing to see our small children becoming stunted, weak and malnourished. They cannot wait to grow up till things get better constitutionally and decently. The powers that are do not behave constitutionally or decently. They are not gentlemen. They are certainly not ‘Honorable’ Members of Parliament. They have become fascists and tyrants, dictators and underworld god-fathers. Regardless of the cost, we must free ourselves from their murderous grip on us and on the country. It is time to act. For the sake of generations of our children, it is time to act.
Fr J.C. Pieris,
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In his article in Sunday Island, Maj Gen A M U Seneviratne (Rtd) said “We vote and elect our representatives to represent us in parliament and other governing bodies and we expect them to respect us and work for the uplift of the country and its citizens”.
I totally disagree – We, the majority, elect them just for their sake, not to uplift the country or its citizens. Otherwise, how could every riff-raff who had not done anything worthwhile for the people and are notable for corruption and frauds be voted, election after election? Haven’t we seen how their supporters gather around them (and cheer) when they come out after Court hearings in which they were accused of various crimes?
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