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Implementing Geneva resolutions

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By Dayantha Laksiri Mendis

“Treaties and Non-treaty instruments are the bones and sinews of global politic, making it possible for states to move from talk through compromise to solemn commitment.”

Professor Thomas M. Frank

Taking Treaties Seriously

[1988] 82 AJIL 67

 

Implementation of the Geneva Resolution is an onerous task. It will encounter various challenges and dilemmas. It requires the establishment of institutional structures and national legislation to give effect to operative part of the Geneva Resolutions. Implementing legislation must not offend the 1978 Constitution and the 1976 Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties (VCLT 1976)

 

The Geneva Resolutions

The Geneva Resolution can be classified as a non-treaty instrument. It is different from a treaty in many respects (Anthony Aust – Modern Treaty Practice). It does not require the consent of the State to be bound by such Resolutions. It has a preambular and operative part. It is likely to be interpreted in the same way as a treaty by reference to articles 31 and 32 of the VCLT 1969. It resembles the Resolutions of other UN Specialized Agencies such as IMO or ICAO which are of a binding nature.

The proposed Geneva Resolution is likely to be different and devastating for Sri Lanka if it is based on the Report of the UN High Commissioner for HR. If so, it is desirable at this point of time to draft a counter resolution and outline Sri Lanka’s proposals relating to reconciliation and accountability without taking a confrontational approach at this time.

 

Operative part of the Geneva Resolutions

Implementation of the operative part of the Geneva Resolutions can be dealt under four areas. These areas are – (a) Establishment of a Truth-seeking and reconciliation commission; (b) Investigation into violations relating to human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL); (c) Reparation to victims; and (d) Guarantee of non-recurrence. All these areas are seen as an integral part of transitional justice.

 

(a) Truth-seeking and reconciliation

Establishment of a Commission for Truth-seeking and Reconciliation is an important consideration in dealing with transitional justice. It is a sensitive area. It can “open old wounds” and therefore such investigation should not be undertaken in Sri Lanka. It can create “new wounds” that can get festered over a period of time. If so, the situation might become worse for reconciliation.

In South Africa, such a commission was established under National Unity and Reconciliation Act No. 34 of 1995. It was necessary to do so as apartheid was inherently anti-democratic and unjust system perpetrated by a white minority. The global community denounced apartheid with sanctions and recognized the right to self determination by the majority community. In Sri Lanka, LTTE was engaged in an armed conflict to establish a separate state in defiance of the Constitution and International law. The global community proscribed LTTE as a terrorist organisation.

Hence, we should gently reject this requirement in the preambular part by reciting the reasons as outlined above.

 

(b) Investigation into violations relating to human rights and humanitarian law

Geneva Resolutions require investigation into violations relating to human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL). It is a requirement of transitional justice. Investigation should not be restricted to the final phase of the war, where Sri Lankan security forces had to proceed, amidst protests, to save the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka from the tentacles of the rebel forces who used child soldiers and civilians as a human shield

The Resolution requires Sri Lanka to establish a credible domestic mechanism. It must be fair to the accused as well as to the victims. The Resolution requires the inclusion of Commonwealth judges and prosecutors along with national judges and prosecutors. Inclusion of Commonwealth Judges and Prosecutors may encounter political and constitutional issues. In this context, when formulating the Report on Sri Lanka, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should read article 46 of VCLT 1969 which says that any treaty or non-treaty instrument should not offend the fundamental principles of the Constitution.

Any investigation relating to violations of human rights law or IHL would be dangerous in Sri Lanka, unless such investigation is conducted as a non-international armed conflict under common article 3 of Geneva conventions 1949.

Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka, the Common Article 3 was not given effect to by the Geneva Conventions Act of 2006. The initial draft Bill prepared by me in 2001 incorporated the provisions relating to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (draft Bill is on file with me) on the advice of the top legal advisers at ICRC headquarters in Geneva. These legal advisers came to the conclusion after consulting Jean Simon Pictet’s five points enshrined in the negotiating record (travaux preparatoires) of the Geneva Conventions 1949 and I was given the go ahead to draft the requisite legislation.

International human rights standards are also not properly transformed into national legislation in Sri Lanka. There are many “deficiencies” and “inconsistencies” in our national legislation. Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015 requires substantial amendments.

 

 

 

Unless international human rights standards are properly transformed into the domestic legal system by way of new legislation or amendment to existing law using the correct legislative techniques, any domestic mechanism established for this purpose will not be effective and will not be able to function according to international standards.

Operative part of the resolution will recite that accountability will be determined under common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and therefore national legislation needs to be enacted to incorporate common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the existing Geneva Conventions Act 2006 (A draft Bill is annexed as a schedule to this paper to illustrate the requisite amendment).

 

(c) Reparation to victims and tracing missing persons

Reparation to victims is also an important requirement under Geneva Resolutions to promote reconciliation. Legislation has been already enacted to establish a domestic mechanism for such reparation. The amount granted is too small and may be increased in the future.

It does not take into account reparation already provided to victims of war either through legislation or army routine orders or Cabinet Memoranda.

Unfortunately, the civilian victims, especially women who have lost their husbands or children have not been adequately compensated. Hence, there is a great need to compensate civilians who have suffered due to eviction, injuries, unlawful killing and/or and those who have suffered due to suicide bomb attacks. The legislation must clearly identify those who are really entitled to these benefits in the context of the Sri Lanka’s armed conflict.

Operative part should recite the continued implementation of national legislation relating reparation and of missing persons.

 

(d) Guarantee of non-recurrence

Guarantee of non recurrence is a very challenging requirement of the Geneva Resolutions.

In most countries, the reconciliation between ethnic and religious groups are handled by an Ethnic Relations Commissions. In developing countries such as Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, these Commissions are established through constitutional provisions. These Commissions are empowered by law to take action where there is a threat to ethnic or religious harmony.

These Commissions have produced enormous literature relating to peace, harmony and development and organised drama festivals to promote racial and ethnic reconciliation. I have seen many plays written by Eric Brathwaite in Georgetown and Port of Spain and cried how backward my beloved country is in regard to reconciliation and creating ethnic harmony and unity. We have not understood that national security is ethnic harmony and unity, and ethnic harmony and unity is national security.

These Commissions are empowered to refer any matter to a Tribunal established by legislation. Such matters include “hate speech” or any act which causes ethnic disharmony. Issues relating to burial or cremation regard to those who died from covid19 should be referred to such a Commission and not to politicians or religious bigots

Establishment of an Ethnic Relations Commission and a Tribunal may satisfy the reconciliation requirement, as these Commissions have prevented a fully fledged armed conflict between diverse religious groups and ethnicities in many countries.

Operative Part should recite the establishment of such institutions to make reconciliation more effective and efficient. It can be described as a 13+.Ethnic harmony is national security.

 

Additional requirements

Geneva Resolutions imposes additional requirements. These include the full implementation of the 13th Amendment, reform of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Public Security Ordinance. Implementation of the 13th Amendment, PSO and the PTA is part of the “domain reserve” under article 2(7) of the Charter of the United Nations. Hence, such intervention is not fair and legitimate.

 

Impact on State sovereignty

Implementation of the Geneva Resolutions and the recent Report of the HR Commissioner can impact on State sovereignty. In today’s world, State sovereignty is diminished through ratification, accession or succession to treaties. A treaty per defitionem may restrict State sovereignty. However, a non- treaty instrument is not in the same category unless there is express or implied consent to be bound by it. Co-sponsoring gives implied consent

In regard to ratified treaties, a State cannot hide behind state sovereignty to avoid international obligations. International compliance and control measures established by various legal regimes demonstrate that state sovereignty is diminished and the Westphalian Order does not exist anymore in its pristine form.

Implementation of the Resolutions may offend the provisions of the Constitution. In Sri Lanka, the Constitution grants sovereignty to the people and its elements are enshrined under Article 4 of the 1978 Constitution of Sri Lanka. If the legislative implementation of the proposed Resolution offends the Constitution, Sri Lanka should propose an alternative counter resolution which is in harmony with our constitutional provisions.

 

Conclusions

Implementing the Geneva Resolutions is an exacting task. It will encounter many challenges and dilemmas. The draft report evince that High Commissioner has not understood the atrocities committed by the rebel forces or Kadi’s Case in the European Court of Justice on freezing of assets without due process.

High Commissioner has gone on to declare unfairly and wrongly that security forces who saved Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as enemies of mankind (Hostes Humanis) by subjecting them to universal jurisdiction and International Criminal court. (preambular part).

At this time, we must not forget that President Mahinda Rajapaksa saved the country from the rebel forces. If not for him, the armed conflict would have dragged on for many years. In this context, he was assisted by India, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. He was also assisted by the Defence Secretary, Army Commander and many others. Since then, we have enjoyed freedom from fear and freedom from unlawful killing. (preambular part need to recite this fact).

Geneva Resolution must not be rejected in toto. A rejection might send wrong signals to UN Member States. After all, the UN is the best friend of small and weak States, although the Thucydides’ doctrine (powerful States do what they can and small States must accept what they must) still continue to apply in the conduct of international relations and diplomacy. Notwithstanding the aforementioned phenomenon, the UN has assisted small and weak States in situations where might is not right. Let us engage with quiet diplomacy and convince the international community to go along with our counter resolution. (preambular part needs to recite some of these observations)

Hence, it is necessary to draft a counter resolution and identify how we intend to deal with reconciliation and accountability taking into account ground realities, constitutional provisions and the political ramifications.

We need to understand Morgenthau’s realism in dealing with this vexed issue and not engage in an unnecessary confrontation with Western countries. In my career, I have experienced quiet diplomacy and good reasoning with my Western counterparts at the UN or in diplomatic circles constitute the best tools that lead to victory at the end of the day. Such a strategic approach is important as the victories on the battlefield.

ANNEX

GENEVA CONVENTIONS (AMENDMENT) ACT 2021

 

AN ACT

to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 2006 (No. 4 of 2006); to give effect to common article 3 and for connected matters.

BE IT ENACTED

by the Parliament of ……………

Short title and date of commencement

1. This Act may be cited as the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 2021 and shall come into operation as the Minister may appoint by Order published in the Gazette.

 

Amendment of section 2 of the Act

2. Section 2 of the Geneva Conventions Act No. 4 of 2006 is hereby amended by adding immediately after section 2, the following section 2A.

“2A.(1) A person who in Sri Lanka commits or aids, abets or procures any other person to commit a breach of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) or (d) in sub-article (1) of Common Article 3 of the Conventions as provided in Schedule V to this Act is guilty of an indictable offence.

7

(2) A person who commits an offence under section 2A is liable –

(a) Imprisonment for life or any lesser period where the offence involves the willful killing of a person protected by the relevant Convention; and

(b) Imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years for any other offence.

 

(3) An offence against section 2A shall not be prosecuted in a Court except by indictment in the name of the Attorney General.”

 

Amendment of the Schedules

(3) The Schedules to the Geneva Conventions Act No. 4 of 2006 is hereby amended by inserting immediately after Schedule IV, the following new Schedule V

SCHEDULE V (Section 2A)

CONFLICTS NOT OF AN INTERNATIONAL CHARACTER

In the case of an armed conflict, not of an international character occurring in the territory of the one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions.

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth or any other similar criteria.

To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced and regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

 

(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

 

Mendis LLB (Cey), MPhil (Cantab) is former Legal Adviser to the ICRC, Lecturer on IHL at the KDU and University of Colombo, former Ambassador to Austria and Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, former UN Legal Expert and Legal Adviser to several Caribbean, African and Asian countries. He has drafted diverse legislation, treaties and non non-treaty instruments at the time he served as Commonwealth Legal Expert to the Caribbean Community Secretariat in Guyana, South America.



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Playing politics with science!

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It is obvious that the only way out of this disastrous pandemic is through science––the use of vaccines that have been introduced in double quick time due to scientific ingenuity. It is the duty of politicians to refrain from playing politics with science.

 

By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

If you thought it was only our politicians who played politics with science, you thought wrong. Admittedly, ours are pretty bad as evident from the Dhammika peniya episode. We had our Health Minister freely advertising the concoction by ingesting it in her office and wasting the valuable time of academics by instructing them to test it for efficacy. Getting a pretty bad attack of Covid-19 demonstrated the idiocy of her action but she continues unashamedly to be our Minister of Health!

A Professor of Pharmacology turned politician did likewise. Forgetting what he taught his students, he supported the untested therapies, the explanation given by one of his colleagues being that he behaved as a politician, not a scientist! By implication, even scientists can forget science when they become politicians! Funnily, he was rewarded by being appointed the Acting Minister of Health the day the Health Minister was discharged from hospital, which was rather bizarre considering that during the Minister’s prolonged period of hospital-stay there was no acting appointment! Perhaps, fearing that he might take the bread out of her mouth, the Minister returned to office within a few days of discharge.

Although the first wave of the Covid-19 epidemic was very effectively controlled, the loss of efficiency as regards the second wave was due no doubt to allowing non-scientific ideas to creep in. The refusal of permission for the burial of Covid-19 victims in spite of a group of top scientists recommending it, made us look foolish and turned international opinion against the country.

The clamour for vaccination is a welcome sign, more so because the UK is continually producing evidence for the extreme efficacy of vaccination.

The UK was the first country in the world to start vaccination and has already vaccinated more than 21 million of its 66 million population. It started with the Pfizer vaccine, closely followed by the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. EU, which was a late starter, was critical of the Oxford AZ vaccine. The French President Emmanuel Macron is obviously guilty of playing politics with science as he was one of the vaccine’s most vociferous critics, calling it “quasi-ineffective” for the elderly. As a result of political comments of this nature, more than half of EU countries limited the Oxford AZ vaccine to those under 65 years, in spite of the European Medicines Agency approving it for all age groups.

Another political appointee, Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, had a public spat with AstraZeneca over gaining more of its vaccine doses and introduced a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland; she was forced to reverse her decision, quickly. She then suggested the UK had compromised on “safety and efficacy” by approving the jab so early, despite the EMA reaching the same conclusions as the UK’s internationally-respected MHRA, which approved the Oxford AZ vaccine for all ages. Millions of doses of Oxford AZ vaccine, which they obtained in spite of criticism, remain unused in France and Germany. Why did they not have the generosity to give these to struggling countries like Sri Lanka?

Data released by Public Health England (PHE) shows that both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing COVID-19 infections among those 70 years and over. Since January, protection against symptomatic Covid-19, four weeks after the first dose, ranged between 57 and 61% for Pfizer and between 60 and 73% for the Oxford AZ vaccine.

In the over 80s, data suggest that a single dose of either vaccine is more than 80% effective in preventing hospitalisation, around 3 to 4 weeks after the jab. There is also evidence for 83% reduction in deaths from Covid-19 with the Pfizer vaccine and data for Oxford AZ vaccine is awaited.

European aversion to Oxford AZ vaccine is, no doubt, due to Brexit than to science. Very soon, all EU countries would be forced by science to allow all age groups to have the Oxford AZ vaccine which, by the way, is the cheapest vaccine that is easier to transport and store. Politicians who criticised Oxford AZ vaccine have had to eat humble pie but they will no doubt come out with some claim to justify their idiocy!

A Belgian minister, Budget State Secretary Eva De Bleeker, has angered vaccine manufacturers by revealing sensitive and confidential commercial information – the price that the EU has agreed to pay for the leading Covid-19 vaccines. Though her twitter message was deleted quickly, screenshots taken show that the EU agreed prices for the three vaccines used at present are as follows: Oxford/AstraZeneca: €$ 1.78, Pfizer/BioNTech : €$ 12 and Moderna: $18.

Moderna, a Bio-tech company, which has not been profitable so-far, is heading for wind-fall profits and the drug-giant Pfizer will get richer. No one seems to have followed the noble gesture of AstraZeneca, which agreed with the Oxford group to provide the vaccine on no-profit basis.

It is obvious that the only way out of this disastrous pandemic is through science––the use of vaccines that have been introduced in double quick time due to scientific ingenuity. It is the duty of politicians to refrain from playing politics with science.

As Dolly Parton sang with a rewrite of her famous song ‘Jolene’ whilst having her jab:

“Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, because once you’re dead, then that’s a bit too late.”

 

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Who wants to live forever?

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The haunting lyrics of The Queen song and the almost plaintive tone in Freddie Mercury’s oh so unique voice, when he sang this song (particularly in his live performance at Wembley), echo through my mind these days. There are two main reasons why longevity is foremost these days.

The first, of course, being the pandemic that is among us. It may be the first time that the civilian population of the entire world is facing the possibility of sudden death, not from incoming fire or even suicide bombers but from an insidious, unseen, minute germ!

The second reason why the length of our lives and prolonging it for as long as we possibly can have been entering my thoughts, is when I see the scramble to get the anti-virus vaccine that I observe in the Pearl. Now, most of us are Buddhists and somewhere in those teachings is a belief that we come into this world with a certain amount of AYUSHA or length of life, and that when that is over the end happens and there is no choice. At least, that is the basic interpretation of undoubtedly very complex teaching.

If that is the case, why this scramble for the vaccine? Why are we using privileged positions (connections to rulers and politicians), connections to doctors, and even the Mayors of certain cities to short-circuit the waiting lists? Older people are complaining that they are being denied the vaccine, why? Those people have probably achieved all their objectives in life, completed successful lives, seen grandchildren or even great-grandchildren, why do they want to deny some young man or woman starting out on life with all those milestones to reach, the vaccine, particularly if they are devoted to the teachings of the Buddha.

Is it selfishness, greed, and avarice, things we should avoid according to these self-same teachings, or is it simply one-up-man-ship and the need to be able to boast that they got the vaccine when the “ordinary” man is still standing in queues and probably infecting each other due to the total chaos and non-observance of Covid protocols in these places of administering the vaccine? Think about it dear readers, especially those of you who have completed productive and useful lives, brought up “successful” children, and as is the way in our society provided them with houses, lands, dowries, and other ways of sustenance. Do we really need to join this scramble for the vaccine? Or, use our position of privilege to probably deny some younger person, with a life to live, the chance of getting it. Is it even our ego (something else we should control and make less significant in our lives and decisions) that allows us to justify our long existence in this world? They need my superior intellect, does this world and this society, therefore I must live as long as possible! Or, is it simply the basic animal instinct to live as long as possible, something that we as humans with our superior brains should be able to think around?

Here in Aotearoa, we have re-entered a level 3 lockdown in our most heavily populated city and a level 2 lockdown for the rest of our country. This has been due to certain non-observance of Covid protocols by people of a clearly identified community, living in a certain part of the city of sails, as Auckland is also known. This is the second time that the community, living in that part of the city has brought about an escalation of the pandemic and stricter lockdowns. It has brought more economic misery and spelled the end of the road to more businesses and enterprises. Now, in the Pearl, we may have resorted to attacking those communities and even rioting. All that seems to have happened here are of course the usual vitriolic racist attacks on the internet and a government decision to vaccinate those areas of the city first, in an attempt to control the pandemic. Wow! in the pearl either all these people would have been rounded up and locked up in a camp in the Vanni or locked down under strict curfew with the threat of being shot if violated. The jury with regard to if the Pearl alternative or the Aotearoa alternative of these should have been used is still out …

Maybe some readers are interested in the outcome of the threat that is looming over us from the upcoming United Nations action in Geneva? I have been trying to get some feedback from “intellectuals” currently living in the Pearl, but they seem distracted, and a feeling of helplessness seems to prevail. The incumbent Foreign Minister seems to think that a humble Indian Ocean Island with what strictly speaking, can be considered a failed or at least failing economy, can dictate terms to the UN, behaving like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Maybe our “new best friend” China, probably aided and abetted by Russia has lent strength to his arm.

Even a “victory’ for Lanka at the UNHCR to this resolution should not be cheered too vociferously, as the countries ranged against us will have long term plans. Every step of this government will be monitored closely. The loss of our garment exporting privileges to the first world could result along with other economic sanctions that would make the cost of living in the Pearl even higher.

One rather interesting possibility seems to be travel bans on certain individuals and freezing of their assets held abroad. Now that could be stimulating, especially if the numbers involved are made public! However, if that was the case, I believe the attempt to rectify the situation would have been given to a more competent person than “the bull in the china shop”!

I cannot resist putting this out dear readers and I apologise profusely in advance. What if someone like Ranil W, was in charge of foreign affairs? Do you think we would have had a more professional approach and had a better chance in dealing with the complicated nuances of handling UN diplomacy, in the long term? At least we may have not insulted and possibly humiliated the visiting PM of one of our allies, Imran Khan of Pakistan! On the other hand, Mr. Khan, you may rest assured that even if you had addressed our parliament, no member would have understood anything you said or even been able to decipher your immaculate Oxbridge accent. It is only those of us who have shut ourselves out mentally from the shenanigans or gone into voluntary exile who watch with dismay, who would have savoured your words and briefly wondered …what if … ?

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Thanks for quick vaccination; harmful dabblers in the occult should be severely dealt with

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There has been much in the daily press on vaccination against Covid-19 in this fair isle of ours, or rather in Colombo and its suburbs

Let’s put aside complaints and say praise be!

Most of what was media-written was on the ensuing chaos of not knowing where to go for the jab; how to get a token; which age group will be given it (apart of course from VIPs and politicians who were close behind frontline health workers). Mercifully, the authorities righted the initial wrong of deciding on prioritizing the 30-65 age group and neglecting the over 65s, who were placed second in the priority list in more enlightened countries following WHO strictures. And so lots have got the jab and we anticipate a drastic drop in infection and Covid death rates. Cass contributed her fair share of criticism in this column but not stridently nor unreasonably. She had not seen the privileged list that passed off as Municipal workers on Tuesday 24 February at the Public Library, Colombo 7, arriving in Mercedes Benzes and SUVs. If she had, her ire would have emerged in pure vitriol! One friend said she enquired from several sophisticates in the queue how they got there, but received mumbled replies. So, a Rose by any other name, even Do-Gooder, smells as bad when it goes unjust! Things got much better and the service worked smoothly once the MOHs came into their own.

What Cass notes in summarizing the issue today is thanks and gratitude to the government and the Health Services particularly, for vaccinating so very many so quickly. People who wrote about this issue, Cass included, were all praise for the actual data takers and vaccine givers. In certain centres, the old and disabled were queued in a different line and vaccinated within an hour.

The gratitude Cass renders is because only part of the total amount of vaccine was gifted by India and the WHO. Our government booked early and paid for the rest, and of the Oxford kind. This vaccine is admittedly relatively cheaper, but it had to be paid for, which cost the government bore. We have to appreciate the massive organization entailed and excuse inevitable hiccups. This fact struck Cass as a feeling of much needed security and elimination of fear was felt, and all for free. Also when a friend in Melbourne wrote they were as yet awaiting vaccination.

 

Black Magic and witchcraft in Sri Lanka

If you thought as Cass did that we would never ever resemble a dark Congo tribe resorting to occult cures or a re-enactment of shades of supernatural superstitious beliefs in witchcraft as in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, in 1692 (where some young girls caught prancing naked cooked up lies about good women in the village being witches), you and Cass were both mistaken. We’ve had these in different styles right here in supposedly majority Buddhist Free Sri Lanka with other religions holding people together, in the 21st century with some of our own doing brilliantly well in advanced scientific disciplines all over the developed world. Cass, as you now know, was born and bred in the hills of Kandy with its most sacred Dalada Maligawa and picturesquely situated quaint temples in peaceful green valleys with the sound of evening pooja bells, joined by Kovil tinkles and Sunday sonorous Church gantara and the cry of the Muzeen. We never had a bali or thovil ceremony. If an inauspicious time descended on the village or a household, it was pirith chanted by Bhikkhus. So to Cass what has been happening very recently is even stranger than to those who have village cousins who dabble in mantra and kodivina with kattadiyas in action.

I refer here to the stupidly preposterous belief in Dhammika’s peniya as both a prophylactic and cure for pernicious Covid-19. Where is that charlatan veda – oops sorry- Kaliamma devala kapurala now? Safe with his ill-gotten gains, we suppose.

The latest voodoo story, but with such a tragic ending, is that of the 9-year-old Delgoda girl who suffered an emotional (rather than mental) aberration and was subject to exorcism by caning her mercilessly. The exorcist could not be a woman; she must certainly be a sadistic aberration herself. Can you believe that she applied oil on the girl and used the cane on her till the kid went unconscious? Was the cane an ordinary one? At first I could not believe the story read in the papers – how cane a person to death, but it was a child receiving the torture and who knows what sort of ‘weapon’ was used. The mother definitely must be punished more severely. Maternal love, even in the animal kingdom, will never allow harming an offspring, so how on earth did the mother watch all that caning. One shot would have torn Cass to the defence of her child, or for that matter any child, with talons extended and blood now not turned to milk as the Sinhala saying goes, but to vitriolic fury. The woman exorcist with supernatural powers and the mother are in police custody. Why doesn’t she do a Houdini and astound handsome Police high-up Ajit Rohana?

People claiming superhuman clairvoyance and divine power crop up everywhere. Cass accompanied a friend to consult a girl in the suburbs of Kandy to find out where her hub had ‘donated’ a fairly large sum of money. This girl had given clear directions to find a lost Persian cat to a third friend; hence the visit. She was a pretty, soft girl of around 18. Once Cass and the other entered the room, the girl changed, was in a near trance and speaking in an entirely different voice, pronounced the reason for seeking her help and said “Look for a man always dressed in long sleeves and thinning hair parted in the middle.” The friend was baffled and defeated by this long shot, but finally she met a man of this description – the father of a girl in her husband’s office. She did not ask for the money!

Such ‘powers’ are temporary; maybe like poltergeist manifestations in a teenager’s home. But going for cures to them is unthinkable. Buddhist bhikkhus and maybe bhikkhuunis, so also certain Christian priests (the bulk of lecherous Father Mathew intrudes here) do have powers of exorcism. A medical doctor is the best bet, in any case, including even mental upsets.

 

Short Takes

Imran Khan’s all too brief visit was a successful veni, vidi, vici in spite of being snubbed ungraciously over the address to Parliamentarians (what a weak, threadbare excuse was offered – C-19 precaution!) and missing out two of our cricket greats: Michael Tissera and Anura Tennakoon from the list of cricket folk to say Hi to the great Cricketer at lunch at Shangri La. What was the success apart from charming everyone and showing off what a Statesman can look like and carry himself off? Why – the Muslims of Sri Lanka conquered. Burial was theirs or so it seemed. But hold it, is it gazetted or is this ‘yes’ like the Prime Minister’s definite ‘can bury’ pronounced in Parliament and then brushed aside and explained by the Gaman as “he was merely expressing his thoughts.”

Main headline in The Island of Wednesday 3 March:” PCol report on Easter Sunday carnage: AG won’t be given ‘sensitive’ volumes.” Why on earth? Is it X-rated and the AG underage?

Picture on page I of same issue of Dr Rajitha Senaratne arriving at the Colombo High Court to appear in a case involving two persons who accused then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of various crimes. We have long forgotten even a single word of what they said. They will not get off free is Cass’ bet unlike Aluthgamage, who emerged very recently from a court house free as a bird, accused of corruption, Cass recalls.

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