By M M Zuhair
Parliament was told recently that the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Australian Federal Police were working with the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigations Department (CID) in the investigations into the April 2019 Easter Sunday attacks.
Sri Lankan lawyers – deemed officers of Court – do not have access to police investigations, except when police file reports of investigations in Courts. The presence, participation or involvement of foreign police personnel in local investigations are illegal, because under our law, the responsibility and accountability for all local investigations are vested in the OIC of the police station or unit, though there are exceptions not relevant to this discussion.
Investigations by foreign personnel who are not accountable and not subject to the jurisdiction of Sri Lankan Courts will taint the credibility of the CID investigations and affect the due process of rendering justice.
The draft Counter Terrorism Act, which was to replace the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979, ran into strong opposition, because inter alia the draft had a vague provision legalising foreign involvement and interventions in local criminal investigations. That provision in the draft law is obviously obnoxious. Foreign interests invariably conflict with local interests. These interests certainly do not coincide due to geo-political factors.
Foreign participation in Sri Lankan criminal investigations is entirely different to obtaining INTERPOL assistance to track suspects or receiving foreign intelligence, which are subject to local evaluations, credibly assessments and cross investigations. Evidentiary value in Courts of Law of such tainted investigations will adversely affect the credibility of the prosecution version. It will certainly be exploited by the defence.
of 7th June 2021 editorially referred to some of these countries and the damning role of some of these ‘Perpetrators as preachers’ of human rights violations. Now, the police from one of those prolific perpetrator countries are here as investigators, in a mission violative of Chapter XI of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act! ‘Perpetrators as preachers’ are here, now as illegal investigators!
We have heard claims that Sri Lanka is the only country in the world to defeat terrorism. Substantially true! It does not mean, however, that powerful countries do not know how to end wars on terror! It is in their national interest, as producers of arms and ammunition to continue the wars for as long as possible. Vietnam (18 years) and Afghanistan (20 years) are typical examples of the rich enriching themselves while the poor were blood wrenched and pauperised, the rich not forgetting thereafter to donate a little blood and their lending agencies not hesitating to help with loans, of course under wide publicity so that the atrocities are soon forgotten by the oppressed. The point is that the true interests of arms producing countries are diametrically opposed to those of developing nations, struggling to stand on their own feet.
The Americans and Australians may have been asked to manage and direct the CID because the Sri Lankans have no credible answers to the question of who happens to be the ‘maha mola karuwa’ of the Easter Sunday attacks! We really do not know.
The FBI may not investigate the globally publicised assertion of respected Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith in his speech on 21st July 2019 on the somber occasion of the re-consecration of the Katuwapitiya St Sebastian Church that, “Easter Sunday mayhem was an international conspiracy and not merely the work of Islamic extremists”. The Archbishop also referred to a report that ISIS leader AL Baghdadi was in a military camp run by the “most powerful nation in the world” and that “We are worried that ISIS leaders are being used by this powerful nation to fulfill their vested interests”. What these ‘vested interests’ are, soon we will know. The FBI will not have any doubts at whom the finger is pointed at but will never find the Easter attacks’ maha mola karuwas in the US or its virtual 51st State, Israel!
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) leader Rauf Hakeem told Parliament the other day that the Israeli connection needs to be probed. Michael Bar-Zohar who had served in the Mossad, spent nine years besides Israel’s founder David Ben-Gurion and fought in four Israeli-Arab wars, in his book, ‘Mossad: the greatest missions of the Israeli Secret Service’ co-authored with Nissim Mishal, (21st Jaico Impression 2019), leaves no room for readers not to believe that there is any major strategic security event occurring anywhere in the world without Mossad’s involvement!
Australia, the Indo-Pacific Quad partner of the United States on the other hand, may find it uncomfortable to investigate possible radicalisation of suicide bomber Zahran Hashim from the New Zealand Christchurch mass shooting on 15th March 2019, a month and days before 21/4, killing 52 Muslims at Friday prayers in two mosques. It is well known that the Christchurch perpetrator happened to be a 28-year-old Australian! This mass shooting was debated in Sri Lanka’s Parliament as one of the immediate causes that may have advanced and triggered the Easter Sunday attacks.
It is also very unlikely that the FBI will evaluate the report of Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary Select Committee or the more recent report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday attacks both of which referred to the emergence of majoritarian extremism (both reports had chapters unacceptably titled ‘Buddhist extremism’) as also having “provided a fertile ground for people like Zahran to prosper”, PCOI report page 362. It will, however, be worthwhile to look at the Norwegian role, following the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, in brainwashing selected groups of majoritarian innocent persons against the Muslims, the only Tamil speaking minority whom the LTTE perceived as obstructionists to Tamil Eelam.
Investigators may also look at the follow-up actions taken on the advance warnings given to the authorities by the Muslim community as early as, late 2014 of the radical inclinations of Zahran Hashim, long before the alleged RAW reports of 4th April 2019 and thereafter. Muslims also complained to the then IGP and also the then Attorney-General through the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to take action on matters that were contributing to the perceived radicalisation.
One of those who complained to the then IGP is well known Muslim civil activist Azath Sally, who is under arrest and completing three months detention on 16th June 2021, under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1979, though it is equally well known that he had nothing to do with the Easter Sunday attacks or damaging the Mawanella Buddha statues!
There are other aspects to the US FBI and its Quad partner, Australia, illegally investigating crimes in Sri Lanka. One is the United Nations -Human Rights Council (UN HRC) resolution of March 2021, which has authorised the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN HCHR) to set up special mechanism to monitor not only the alleged war crimes during the last phase of the separatist war but also about ongoing violations of human rights, including the forced cremations.
Dr Tush Wickramanayake, a National Health Service medical practitioner in the UK and daughter of Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who was also one time elected President (1955) of the ‘Ceylon Students’ Association of UK’ in an interview with the Daily Mirror, 9th June 2021 has said:
“The monumental mistake was appointing a geologist to the COVID Task Force who promulgated mythological facts about the virus entering underground water system. This was utilised as a tool to encourage ethic conflict by disallowing burials in Sri Lanka contrary to WHO guidance. In fact, all 12 Fundamental Rights petitions against forced cremations were disallowed on the basis of the fabricated evidence of the Geologist …. Such heart-breaking human rights violations resulted in UNHRC resolution taking a firm stance on Sri Lanka”. The burial issue remains to be fully resolved. The dismissal of the cremations petitions may also come under UN HCHR’s focus.
The other is Resolution 413 of 18th May 2021 pending in the US House of Representatives commented upon in many articles published in The Island . The proposed resolution asks the United States to explore “investigations and prosecutions pursuant to the recommendations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights” and urges the US to work with the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and the UN HRC to establish international mechanism for accountability for grave crimes committed during the war in Sri Lanka.
It looks as if Sri Lanka had already facilitated the setting up of an FBI base here to handle the coming issues of the UN HCHR even before Resolution 413 was adopted by the US House of Representatives! Probably, the CIA with a history of toppling foreign governments not in line with the US, may also path-find its way with great ease, if they are not here already.
The processes set against Sri Lanka in the UN HRC originally by the US and now by the UK are serious enough for any responsible government to understand. Lord Michael Naseby in his speech in the British House of Lords as recently as 19th May 2021, refuted allegations of genocide and figures of 40,000 deaths in Sri Lanka but put the maximum deaths at between 6,000 and 7,000. More importantly he also said, “If the UK chooses to dictate, then let me be clear: there is a clear risk to our Indo-Pacific strategy on Sri Lanka.”
The Indo-Pacific strategy as I see it, is the four US and Quad countries backed by the UK and NATO countries, preparing South Asia as the battleground for the next chapter in the unceasing wars already strategised by Western arms industries. The strategic conflicts unfortunately may commence soon enough, likely within the next few years and possibly last for the next three to four decades to ensure their factories unceasingly produce arms that kill.
They need only a pretext and they are creating it! Past pretexts include communism, Islam and now China! Let us not forget that not a decade had passed during the last 500 years without the Western countries fighting wars originally amongst themselves and now with others in the third world, one country or a few at a time. We cannot afford to ignore that the agendas of arms producing countries are clearly and eternally opposed to countries like ours yearning for peace. The composition of the foreign investigators and their extra-territorial operations need to be watched.
The battle against KNDU: Renewing our contract with the people
By Sivamohan Sumathy
The KNDU Bill is designed to single-handedly change the face of education in Sri Lanka. Since the ‘90s, successive governments have tried to roll back the gains of the Free Education Poliicy of 1945. The history of free education is not linear, nor is it without contradictions. It is implicated in the hierarchies of class, ethnicity, gender and the multiple vectors of violence of state and civil society. Despite and because of these very contradictions Free Education has come to represent and symbolise the often contradictory but powerful assemblage of social aspirations and social desires of the general body of citizenry, particularly the vast majority situated on the margins or near margins of society. Free education does not serve everybody equally, but over the years and across decades, it has come to represent the hope of a vast majority for a better place in society. For a populace that is increasingly disempowered, it opens up opportunities toward social mobility, limited as they are; and as or more importantly, becomes the ideological and political weapon of the vast majority in the struggle for justice, social justice and bid for a democratic pact with the state.
Privatisation, Corporatisation, Militarisation
The State university system is an integral part of the state apparatus. Successive governments, have attempted and, to some degree, succeeded in undermining its integrity from within, creating parallel systems of higher education that would be on par with it. Privatisation of higher education follows a two pronged plan; the creation of fee levying centres and bodies of education and the degradation of state universities through under funding and sub-standardization. The fortnightly Kuppi Talk column in The Island has consistently foregrounded the pressures exerted upon the state university compelling it to carry out multiple reforms that compromise on standards and force it to privatise itself. From the ‘90s onwards (if not before), spending on university education has steadily deteriorated and in the post war years spending on education has stayed under 2% of the GDP (Niyanthini Kadirgamar, “Funding Fallacies,” https://island.lk/funding-fallacies-in-education/). The Humanities and Social Sciences are the most affected as highlighted in the various contributions of the Kuppi Talk column. It is no accident that the most recent move toward privatisation from within and without takes place by fiat and through militarisation. Much has been written about the principles of militarised authority that the KNDU bill enshrines. I do not have to reinvent the wheel here, but want to note that by rolling back the gains of free education and its potential to empower people, the KNDU bill points toward a future of repressive technocratic governance and repressive exclusions of those who most desire education as the path to mobility.
While the ‘80s and ‘90s saw a few stuttering steps toward privatisation of education, at the turn of the new millennium one is witness to the onset of an aggressive campaign toward the the dismantling of the long cherished free education apparatus as we know it. I trace this historical trajectory in “SAITM: Continuities and Discontinuities” looking at the different impetuses behind the establishment of NCMC and SAITM, the ideological similarities notwithstanding (http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=161915
Certain forms of privatised tertiary education have existed for a long time and have expanded in recent years, but to this day, the establishment of a fully-fledged private university has run into problems. Popular will stood in its way. But it is also a fact that the country simply does not have the infrastructural, intellectual and investment-capacity for a viable private university to take off. Private sector in fact is weak in Sri Lanka. In the post war years, the then Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, with S. B. Dissanayake as Minister of Higher Education spear headed a move to formalise private universities through an umbrella organization that would act as an accreditation council, bringing private and state universities on par and under the same purview and placing this purview within the ambit of corporate interests. In their eyes, Sri Lanka is to become an education hub, attracting foreign investment (“Education and its discontents,” ). The Yahapalana government is no better and blindly follows through on the privatisation plans of the previous regime with its Private Public Partnership policies, SAITM, and the degrading of Arts Education to some vague notion of soft skills development. The KNDU Bill was gazetted in April 2018 and was opposed by the academic communities and members of civil society. As with most corruption ridden neo liberal moves that render all aspects of life commodified, in this instance too, the state becomes an investor in privatised education. We hear that Bank of Ceylon and NSB have been ordered to pledge 36.54 billion rupees to KDU. (https://www.sundaytimes.lk/210725/business-times/kotelawala-uni-gets-over-rs-36-bn-from-boc-nsb-449828.html) If the rationale for privatising education is to ease the burden on the state, why does the state continue to subsidize these institutions? The logic boggles the mind.
The Democracy Call
From 2011-2012 the Federation of University Teachers’ Association (FUTA) launched the greatest challenge that the teachers had ever made to an incumbent government and in the post war era brought together diverse disgruntled forces under its slogan of Save State Education and the 6% GDP campaign. It brought together different groups and a wide range of actors together to formulate a response to the neo liberal forces that were riding rough shod over the needs of an anxious working and professional class. Its call for action was framed by the call to save democracy. However, in the Yahapalana years and after, the struggle for education lost its momentum. FUTA itself was riven from within, preoccupied by its members’ narrower preoccupations, diverse aspirations, and loyalties. Other disparate groups took up the mantle to fight against privatisation, some of which may not have developed in desirable directions.
Today, the bill threatens to become a dangerous reality. It is not just Universities that are threatened by the KNDU. School teachers led by their unions have jumped into the fray. Beaten by the crippling conditions of COVID 19, teachers and students are facing the dire consequences of years of underfunding in education. FUTA is joining the protest as a key player, a mighty powerful player, but not as the only player. As Shamala Kumar eloquently put it at a press conference called against the KNDU bill on 24 July, 2021, the struggle against the authoritarian bill is a struggle against the PTA, a struggle for working people’s rights, guaranteeing safety of working conditions in the informal sector, particularly women, and a struggle for democracy within the university, including raising one’s voice against ragging. University teachers, rallying forces under FUTA, are once again on the cusp of a decisive moment of the history of education in the country. Let’s defeat the KNDU bill together!
Sivamohan Sumathy is attached to the Department of English at the Univ. of Peradeniya
Condolences, warnings and admonition never to forget
Two great Sri Lankans have died and we as a country are much the poorer, and mourn their deaths. Manouri de Silva Muttetuwegama has vacated her long held position as a wise, consistent, fearless combatant for women and particularly those underprivileged, discriminated against, and helpless against forces of war and ethnicity that caused them suffering. Another noteworthy trait of the woman and characteristic of her work-ethic was quiet efficiency in going about her remedying, healing work with no fanfare and never seeking of publicity and praise. She was a lovely friendly person, always with a sincere smile lighting her face. Manouri served the country well and her daughter carries the torch.
Business magnate and media moghul R Rajamahendran, who used his money, influence and power to help the country is mourned, more so as he could have served his company Capital Maharaja Organisation and Sri Lankan media longer. The appreciation of him by Rex Clementine in The Island, Monday July 26, detailed the great good he did for Sri Lankan cricket. Teaming up with Gamini Dissanayake he literally fought for test status for our country, amply justified by teams of yore, one of which won the World Cup and another nearly did.
(Note: Cass uses the verb ‘died’ and the noun ‘death’ in preference to the softer, gentler ‘passing’, ‘passing away’ et al as she prefers the more real though stark word to euphemisms. Death is death.)
Never forget crimes committed
This is the thought that came to mind when coincidentally Cassandra, on 22 July watched the movie 22 July, almost a documentary on the 32 year old Anders Behring Breivik, who parked his bomb-laden van outside the PM’s office in Oslo; it killed eight people and caused utter damage, and then crossed to a summer camp on an island where he shot, point blank, the manager who welcomed him as a police officer but then wanted to see his ID, and a woman in authority. He embarked on a killing spree, which left 69 Youth League workers dead and many more injured. When the police arrived he tamely surrendered. At his trial he said he wanted to save Norway and Europe itself from multiculturalism, particularly naming Muslims, and that the killing of innocents was a wakeup call. His defence attorney attempted pleading schizophrenia but on hearing the awfully heartrending testimony of some of the young campers who escaped death but were injured grievously, he was found guilty on all counts and jailed in solitary confinement for more than two decades.
We, most fortunately have had no single mass murderer like Breivik and American school killers but murder most foul continues and may surface any time.
Cass’ thought was never forget terrible crimes committed on persons who were innocent or who were doing their duty. Yes, we as a nation must never forget these grievous crimes. The death of Richard de Zoysa stands out stark, but the police person who took him away from his home and his mother ‘for questioning’, tortured and killed him and dropped him far out at sea died gruesomely along with Prez Premadasa on May 1. Richard’s body washed ashore though weighted and dropped far out at sea. The person who probably ordered his demise too was killed by the same LTTE bomb. Thus, they paid for their heinous crime.
Others who murdered or ordered murders seem to live on powerfully and mightily. The gruesome murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge is kept alive by his daughter, but to no avail. Never to be forgotten or forgiven is the killing of the young, harmless ruggerite whose only ‘crime’ was cocking a snook at those who thought they were superior. What the telling vine conveyed was that the rugger captaincy almost going to him had him tortured and killed. Again a coincidence or overconfidence brought to light the crime: Thajudeen’s body was placed next to the driving seat and his car pushed against a wall to fake an accident. It was all covered up. But people remember this murder, though no one shouts for justice for Thajudeen’s grieving parents.
When you question how come murderers and torturers seem to thrive, the answer is karma, Cass supposes. Maybe, the perpetrators suffer in the midst of utter luxury and in power. Maybe, even slightly, they are overcome with shivers of fright, but never remorse, we surmise.
Unanimously, we are all triumphant that the 15 year old Tamil girl’s death by immolation after prolonged rape in an ex-Minister’s home is being investigated. We hope it will move to correct, just conclusion.
Notes on news items
Highly commended is the article ‘Whither the Sangha and Buddha Sasana?’ by S M Sumanadasa in The Island of July 26. If you have not read it, and are a Buddhist, please retrieve the article and read it. It is spot on though gently written, very timely with so many protests going on, most headed by yellow robes. He starts by saying “As a keen observer …, I feel confident and justified in what I say…” Perfectly justified and every point made is valid. The majority of our Sangha strictly follow the 200 odd vinaya rules and render invaluable service to Buddhist lay people, to Buddhism, and the country, but the yellow robed bad eggs are truly rotten. The Sangha may only advise leaders and from a back seat. Sumanadasa queries why the Buddha Sasana Ministry and the Nayaka Theros do not stem the growing tide of indiscipline and reprehensible behaviour of men in Sangha robes. We ask the same. He states a truth that the death of Buddhism in Sri Lanka is really caused by the Buddhists themselves and some members of the Sangha.
An agreeing opinion by Piyasena Athukorale is in The Island, Wednesday July 29.
Proposed Plantation University and its economic benefits by Dr L M K Tillekeratne appears in the same newspaper. Cassandra retorts: Oh goodness! Enough universities! What benefit when sane advice by university dons and experts in agriculture and related subjects have been completely ignored by the President, the PM, the Cabinet and others in power. They have still not rescinded or withdrawn the overnight ban on import and use of inorganic fertilisers. When famine stares us in the face after the demise of the farmer (the country’s so called backbone) through suicide or utter disgusted exasperation and loss of livelihood, we Ordinaries will have to suffer hunger pangs and malnourishment while those who ordered the very ill-advised and too sudden ban, will live on happily. Maybe, exotic food from around the world will be helicoptered to them!
Professor Channa Jayasumana, I was told, has said that the long awaited and longed for Astra Zeneca vaccine was delayed in transport to our land by the Olympic Games. Cass really did not know that these Games blocked air routes or interfered with air travel. Maybe, the Prof meant that the vaccine gifted (we seem never able to buy this absolute requisite) by Japan was stymied by the Games in Tokyo. He should know as he is a professor.
Why Cass mentioned this tale is because thanks to Professor Jayasumana, she increased her life span by ten years, rolling around choking with laughter (bitter though) at the explanation of why the A-Z Vaccine is so delayed.
Enough is absolutely enough
Please, whoever the authority is, stop that telephone message that comes in the three languages exhorting us to act with care during this period. I have forgotten the terms used in
Sinhala and English as I don’t listen when the message comes through, but they are synonyms of urgencies, calamities, crises; which last short spells of time, not months and months as the telephone message has been. This is parallel to the Sri Lankan habit of hanging bunting, posting posters but never bothering to remove them.
It is better the government just calls up protesters for meetings (even though it intends doing nothing) so that spreader of the C19 will cease or at least decrease. We stay home – telephoners – so why have we to suffer a double whammy – eternal message and risk contracting C19. We completely disapprove of teachers protesting en masse all over the country for salary hikes. Not done, not done at all during a country’s economic crisis.
Will we ever learn to put the country’s good and people’s wellbeing before our acts of self-seeking and selfishness?
Doing the right thing the wrong way
By Jayasri Priyalal
Nurturing nature is the right thing to do when mother nature is struggling to adjust to the manufactured damages taking their toll and challenging the mutual cohabitation of all living beings on earth. Feeding seven billion people with depleted natural resources and a degraded environment is a mammoth task for humanity. During the past ten millennia, homo sapiens have evolved to adjust and move ahead with their advanced cognitive abilities. However, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, there is ample evidence and warning signs to suggest that human beings have crossed the line in harming nature. Maintaining balanced biodiversity is advised by experts to mitigate natural disasters triggered by climate change.
Research in 2020 by the World Economic Forum found that $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total GDP – was moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore exposed to ‘nature loss’, including tropical forests.
This article was prompted by the presentation delivered by Senior Professor Buddhi Marambe, Department of the Crop Science, University of Peradeniya, yesterday (24 July 2021). My special thanks go to the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty Alumni Association [PEFAA] for organising the timely event.
The learned Professor presented his arguments with facts and figures from authentic sources and clarified many myths about synthetic fertiliser and pesticides use in Sri Lanka. All Sri Lankans are truly indebted to all these professionals dedicated to improving our agricultural productivity in a scientifically sound manner, causing minimum impact on biodiversity. Sri Lanka’s ranking in the use of synthetic fertiliser and pesticides, and emergence above our competitors in the region on maintaining food security was an alarming highlight of the lecture.
The discussion heightened the public awareness of the proposed move by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to ban the import of synthetic fertiliser and agrochemicals and switch to organic fertiliser. Professor Marambe dealt with points and forewarned the dangers of these short sighted policy directives that appear to have been formulated without sufficient consultations with experts dealing with agriculture, instead relying on ill-advised opinion makers, based on assumptions instead of scientific facts.
Recent developments in the country, mainly various draft bills, attempting to militarise higher education, attempting to dispose of the country’s iconic properties to attract investment, indicate the quality of advisors to the President. Those who teamed up with him as Viyath Maga experts appear to have misled President Rajapaksa.
At the webinar, Prof. Marambe revealed that he and other agricultural experts had been appealing for an audience with the President to explain the dangers of this policy directive, which entails long-term adverse repercussions to an agricultural economy. President Rajapaksa has come out with strong convictions on the benefits of using organic fertiliser and sadly lacks scientific evidence to back the perceived benefits and advantages of the proposed policy directive.
I am making a humble appeal to President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his team of advisors to seek expertise from the experts and decide on the policy directives instead of counting on assumptions.
Fareed Zakaria devotes a chapter on why people should listen to experts and experts should listen to people, in his book ‘Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World’. He refers to President Donald Trump being questioned about experts he consults, during the 2016 Republican nomination campaign. Trump responded, “I am speaking with myself, number one because I have an excellent brain; my primary consultant is myself.” His idea to inject a cleaning solution to treat COVID-19 patients could have surfaced through this process of self-consultation. Trump ridiculed the experts in 2016 thus: “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” The rest is history; the mess he created during his tenure as the US President. These are useful lessons for many other political leaders.
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