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What we must say at the UNHRC in Geneva

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by JAYANTHA GUNASEKERA, PC

Under the Presidency of Donald Trump the USA quit UNHRC alleging that the Council is biased and unreliable. It was the USA that sponsored Resolution 30/1 against Sri Lanka. With the USA leaving the UNHRC this Resolution necessarily lapses as there is no sponsor now, and it is therefore not valid.

We must, at any cost, withdraw from the co-sponsorship of this Resolution of March 2019 which was done without the approval of the Cabinet and of the then President. According to our Constitution, no foreign judges or foreign prosecutors are permissible in the judicial mechanism. Though not strictly relevant, we should also apprise the delegates of the reasons why General Shavendra Silva is being hounded and prohibited from entering the United States 11 years after the war. He did his duty by his country. As a result, 21 million people today live without fear of terrorist attacks.

It is necessary that we should go back to the period where the whole UNHRC exercise originated after the war ended in may 2009. One of the people who started the inimical exercise was the then Head of the UNHRC – Navaneethan (Navi) Pillay of Tamil descent.

We must apprise the delegates in Geneva that the US, UK and European Union politicians are making a desperate attempt to destabilize Sri Lanka not for human rights violations but because Sri Lanka refused to obey their dictates to save the life of Prabhakaran, their erstwhile friend, who not only bought stacks of their sophisticated weapons but also paid them millions of dollars in filthy lucre. These western politicians, in order to prevent their illegal sources of income completely drying up, continue to cater to the dictates of the LTTE Diaspora, who provide them fabricated and blatantly false information. The LTTE has billions of dollars stashed away, part of which is spent bribing westerners. The LTTE Diaspora lead an opulent life style in the West and continue to mount pressure on Tamils worldwide to collect millions of dollars, just as they did when Prabhakaran was alive.

Had our delegation in March 2019 consulted professionals we would not have been in this plight today. Most Lankans feel that the same old faces, the same old brains, the same old approach, the same docile manner in putting things across may bring the same old results as in 2012/2013.

Rather than depend on paid advisers only, many lawyers, diplomats, and those who have done an in-depth study should be consulted before our strategy is decided. I am confident that they will give of their best for the country ‘pro deo’. We must realize that there are good brains among the self employed that can be harnessed with no cost to the government.

We must, in Geneva, make a case against LTTE cohorts who have supplied weapons and given every possible ‘material support’ so that they could be brought before an International War Crimes Tribunal. The US, Britain, Norway and other western countries will oppose this tooth and nail as they will not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The LTTE Diaspora are bribing western politicians and delivering them votes at elections to remain in office and enjoy the consequent perks.

If these matters are intelligently and convincingly placed before the delegates in Geneva, not many will vote with Britain, US. the European Union, and Canada. We may have to change our tactics now and be on the offensive. In 2012/2013 it was a fiasco. A case in point is that a few years ago, Palestine defended herself very successfully, and all the countries in the UNHRC voted with Palestine. Only the USA backed Israel.

If we are to continue to remain a sovereign nation it is mandatory that new laws will have to be enacted to make any attempt of separation either in word or in deed high treason punishable with loss of civic rights, confiscation of property and death. The State must act swiftly. The present laws to curb traitors is totally inadequate.

We should move a counter resolution backed by some friendly countries against the glaring human rights violations by the US, UK and other western countries. Even if this fails, it will dawn attention of delegates that the US and UK who are against us are themselves violators of human rights; and they should be the last to use the human right stick to beat other countries.

In October 2009, five months after the war ended, the Western Powers at the behest of the LTTE Diaspora made a desperate attempt to punish Sri Lanka before the HRC in Geneva. There was ample time for the LTTE Diaspora and the Western Powers to make out a strong case. There was no Channel 4 then so they started making fictitious films to bluff unintelligent westerners. In the absence of cogent and compelling material, UNHRC exonerated Sri Lanka. Any lawyer knows that contemporaneous evidence has to be adduced to prove any allegation. Belated evidence is valueless and considered to amount to an afterthought. Also, once exonerated the country remains exonerated on the principle ‘Autrefoi acquit’ (an accused not being tried a second time for the same crime on the same facts). Then the LTTE Diaspora machinery started working, heavily bribing the Westerners and re-canvassing the same issue on evidence thereafter fabricated which was non existent in October 2009. Now we ourselves seem to have forgotten that we have already been exonerated.

It has to be forcefully and convincingly urged that our forces saved 300,000 Tamils from the clutches of the marauding LTTE killers. This is not disputed. Some Tamils were killed by the LTTE when they were floeeing to army controlled territory for safety. The LTTE held them as a human shield without food and water. These facts are well known to the Westerners. Thousands of army personnel sacrificed their lives in the process of trying to save the Tamils.

According to these brainwashed Western powers, our forces are supposed to have killed 40,000 Tamils. Only those with a very low IQ will believe that the same forces that saved 300,000 Tamils were responsible for killing 40,000 in the last two weeks of the war. Those who make these allegations must ask themselves the question, will our forces kill 40,000 when 300,000 lives were saved by the same forces? They could have wiped out even these 300,000 or permitted Prabhakaran to kill them without putting their own lives in danger.

It is an accepted fact that the LTTE targeted and killed thousands of their own people for disobeying their orders by refusing to be a human shield and fleeing behind army lines for protection. Those who make allegations against the army must ask themselves the question: will 300,000 run for protection to the army if the same army killed 40,000 of the same Tamils? Our detractors claims not four, not 40, not 400 nor 4,000 but 40,000 dead bodies. Can 40,000 bodies be made to vanish into thin air? Where are these bodies and what are the names of the dead? Where are their graves and, if the bodies were burnt, where are the incinerators? Only those who want to believe such poppycock will do so.

The US and UK are under deep obligation to the LTTE Diaspora for the bribes they have accepted and the Diaspora votes delivered to corrupt politicians at various elections.

Britain, USA and France are heavily dependent on the sale of armaments for the sustenance of their economies. If wars are not encouraged and ongoing wars not prolonged, arms and munition factories will have to close down and those working in the arms industry will loose their jobs. So it is in the interest of arms manufacturing countries to propagate war elsewhere. They have already created chaos in Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria.

The USA and UK may be envious that Sri Lanka has eradicated terrorism while they are still grappling with the problem despite all their sophisticated weapons and superior forces. The history of US failures in military adventures in the 1950’s, when they got bogged down in the Korean war and had to retreat, is well known. Next, they had to leave Vietnam and pull out of Iraq; now they are leaving of Afghanistan in ignominy. Perhaps they should take a cue from the SL forces on how to wage a successful war.

Was Prabhakaran used by the British and Americans to kill Rajiv Gandhi? That is not an unreasonable question in a world full of intrigue. Was there a plan to use the LTTE not only to destabilize Sri Lanka but also destabilize and fragment India? The Western powers did everything to prevent India from becoming a nuclear power. We must remember how the US and UK treated India for quite some time when India developed nuclear weapons. India’s markets are enormous and the Indian economy has grown by leaps and bounds, while western economies are stagnant.

If Stephen Rapp, former US ambassador-at large for war crimes, was impartial, he should have visited the Dalada Maligawa where hundreds were killed by an LTTE bomb, Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura where many people died as a result of an LTTE bomb, Aranthalawa where several bhikkus were massacred, the Madhu Church where several Catholics were killed and a host of other places where many Sinhalese and Muslims were slaughtered. Instead, he visited only the North and says 40,000 were killed in these areas. Whom does he think he is fooling? How can Rapp tender a convincing report without a jot or tittle of convincing evidence that 40,000 were killed by the Lankan forces during the last two weeks of the war. We have not forgotten how Hillary Clinton sent David Milliband, former UK foreign secretary, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to twist Mahinda Rajapaksa’s arm to stop the war. Rajapaksa stood his ground. Hence their present attitude. Is there any doubt that Rapp too was strongly influenced not only by his ow government but the LTTE Diaspora as well?

American and British politicians must remember the hatred that the world had for Hitler’s Germany. They must be conscious of the hatred their politicians are bringing upon their people by various acts of omission and commission. It is time that the people of those countries took their politicians to task for their actions. Politicians may come and go but the hatred they attract towards their people will stick like glue.

US Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavega warned his government against taking sides on the Sri Lanka issue, urging it not to resort to double standards. He called upon the US to stop bullying a country strategically important to it, unnecessarily antagonizing 21 million Sri Lankans by catering to a few thousand criminal LTTE Diaspora agents.

We all remember what the then U.S. embassy defence attache in Colombo, Lt. Col. Laurence Smith, said in 2011 at a seminar on ‘Defeating Terrorism – the Sri Lanka Experience’. He made some outspoken comments that were widely reported. They included inter alia: ‘I have been the Defense Attaché here at the US Embassy in Colombo Since June 2008. Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours and days of the conflict, from what I was privileged to hear and see, the offers for surrender that I am personally aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE – Nadesan, KP – people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or combat power of the LTTE.

“So their offers were a bit suspect any way and they tended to vary in content hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real. It is not so uncommon in combat operations in the fog of war, as we all get our second, third, and fourth hand (information) from various commanders at various levels, that the stories don’t all seem to quite match up. But I can say that the version presented by the Sri Lankan Army at this seminar is what I heard as I was here during that time. I think I’d better leave it at that before I get into trouble”.

No sooner had he made this truthful statement, the US State Department dissociated itself with what their own Military and Defense Attaché had said. This is the way the USA and UK work. It clearly shows that the Pentagon and the State Department have two prisms through which they see the wars in the world.

It was very strange that the then Sri Lankan delegation co-sponsored this Resolution without authority from the cabinet from the then president. We must show indomitable courage in the face of daunting odds and overwhelming obstacles that will confront us in Geneva.



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Strong on vocals

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The group Mirage is very much alive, and kicking, as one would say!

Their lineup did undergo a few changes and now they have decided to present themselves as an all male group – operating without a female vocalist.

At the helm is Donald Pieries (drums and vocals), Trevin Joseph (percussion and vocals), Dilipa Deshan (bass and vocals), Toosha Rajarathna (keyboards and vocals), and Sudam Nanayakkara (lead guitar and vocals).

The plus factor, where the new lineup is concerned, is that all five members sing.

However, leader Donald did mention that if it’s a function, where a female vocalist is required, they would then feature a guest performer.

Mirage is a very experience outfit and they now do the Friday night scene at the Irish Pub, in Colombo, as well as private gigs.

 

 

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Dichotomy of an urban-suburban New Year

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Ushered in by the ‘coo-ee’ of the Koel and the swaying of Erabadu bunches, the Sinhala and Tamil New Year will dawn in the wee hours of April 14. With houses to clean, preparation of sweetmeats and last-minute shopping, times are hectic…. and the streets congested.

It is believed that New Year traditions predated the advent of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. But Buddhism resulted in a re-interpretation of the existing New Year activities in a Buddhist light. Hinduism has co-existed with Buddhism over millennia and no serious contradiction in New Year rituals are observed among Buddhists and Hindus.

The local New Year is a complex mix of Indigenous, Astrological, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions. Hindu literature provides the New Year with its mythological backdrop. The Prince of Peace called Indradeva is said to descend upon the earth to ensure peace and happiness, in a white carriage wearing on his head a white floral crown seven cubits high. He first plunges, into a sea of milk, breaking earth’s gravity.

The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the New Year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. Astrologically, the New Year begins when the sun moves from the House of Pisces (Meena Rashiya) to the House of Aries (Mesha Rashiya) in the celestial sphere.

The New Year marks the end of the harvest season and spring. Consequently, for farming communities, the traditional New Year doubles as a harvest as well. It also coincides with one of two instances when the sun is directly above Sri Lanka. The month of Bak, which coincides with April, according to the Gregorian calendar, represents prosperity. Astrologers decide the modern day rituals based on auspicious times, which coincides with the transit of the Sun between ‘House of Pisces’ and ‘House of Aries’.

Consequently, the ending of the old year, and the beginning of the new year occur several hours apart, during the time of transit. This period is considered Nonegathe, which roughly translates to ‘neutral period’ or a period in which there are no auspicious times. During the Nonegathe, traditionally, people are encouraged to engage themselves in meritorious and religious activities, refraining from material pursuits. This year the Nonegathe begin at 8.09 pm on Tuesday, April 13, and continues till 8.57 am on 14. New Year dawns at the halfway point of the transit, ushered in bythe sound of fire crackers, to the woe of many a dog and cat of the neighbourhood. Cracker related accidents are a common occurrence during new year celebrations. Environmental and safety concerns aside, lighting crackers remain an integral part of the celebrations throughout Sri Lanka.

This year the Sinhala and Tamil New Year dawns on Wednesday, April 14, at 2.33 am. But ‘spring cleaning’ starts days before the dawn of the new year. Before the new year the floor of houses are washed clean, polished, walls are lime-washed or painted, drapes are washed, dried and rehang. The well of the house is drained either manually or using an electric water pump and would not be used until such time the water is drawn for first transaction. Sweetmeats are prepared, often at homes, although commercialization of the new year has encouraged most urbanites to buy such food items. Shopping is a big part of the new year. Crowds throng to clothing retailers by the thousands. Relatives, specially the kids, are bought clothes as presents.

Bathing for the old year takes place before the dawn of the new year. This year this particular auspicious time falls on April 12, to bathe in the essence of wood apple leaves. Abiding by the relevant auspicious times the hearth and an oil lamp are lit and pot of milk is set to boil upon the hearth. Milk rice, the first meal of the year, is prepared separate. Entering into the first business transaction and partaking of the first meal are also observed according to the given auspicious times. This year, the auspicious time for preparing of meals, milk rice and sweets using mung beans, falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 6.17 am, and is to be carried out dressed in light green, while facing east. Commencement of work, transactions and consumption of the first meal falls on Wednesday, April 14 at 7.41 am, to be observed while wearing light green and facing east.

The first transaction was traditionally done with the well. The woman of the house would draw water from the well and in exchange drop a few pieces of charcoal, flowers, coins, salt and dried chillies into the well, in certain regions a handful of paddy or rice is also thrown in for good measure. But this ritual is also dying out as few urban homes have wells within their premises. This is not a mere ritual and was traditionally carried out with the purification properties of charcoal in mind. The first water is preferably collected into an airtight container, and kept till the dawn of the next new year. It is believed that if the water in the container does not go down it would be a prosperous year. The rituals vary slightly based on the region. However, the essence of the celebrations remains the same.

Anointing of oil is another major ritual of the New Year celebrations. It falls on Saturday, April 17 at 7.16 am, and is done wearing blue, facing south, with nuga leaves placed on the head and Karada leaves at the feet. Oil is to be applied mixed with extracts of Nuga leaves. The auspicious time for setting out for professional occupations falls on Monday, April 19 at 6.39 am, while dressed in white, by consuming a meal of milk rice mixed with ghee, while facing South.

Traditionally, women played Raban during this time, but such practices are slowly being weaned out by urbanization and commercialisation of the New Year. Neighbours are visited with platters of sweetmeats, bananas, Kevum (oil cake) and Kokis (a crispy sweetmeat) usually delivered by children. The dichotomy of the urban and village life is obvious here too, where in the suburbs and the village outdoor celebrations are preferred and the city opts for more private parties.

 

 

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New Year games: Integral part of New Year Celebrations

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Food, games and rituals make a better part of New Year celebrations. One major perk of Avurudu is the festivals that are organised in each neighbourhood in its celebration. Observing all the rituals, like boiling milk, partaking of the first meal, anointing of oil, setting off to work, are, no doubt exciting, but much looked-forward-to is the local Avurudu Uthsawaya.

Avurudu Krida or New Year games are categorised as indoor and outdoor games. All indoor games are played on the floor and outdoor games played during the Avurudu Uthsava or New Year festival, with the whole neighbourhood taking part. Some of the indoor games are Pancha Dameema, Olinda Keliya and Cadju Dameema. Outdoor games include Kotta pora, Onchili pedeema, Raban geseema, Kana mutti bindeema, Placing the eye on the elephant, Coconut grating competition, Bun-eating competition, Lime-on-spoon race, Kamba adeema (Tug-o-War) and Lissana gaha nageema (climbing the greased pole). And what’s an Avurudhu Uthsava sans an Avurudu Kumari pageant, minus the usual drama that high profile beauty pageants of the day entail, of course.

A salient point of New Year games is that there are no age categories. Although there are games reserved for children such as blowing of balloons, races and soft drinks drinking contests, most other games are not age based.

Kotta pora aka pillow fights are not the kind the average teenagers fight out with their siblings, on plush beds. This is a serious game, wherein players have to balance themselves on a horizontal log in a seated position. With one hand tied behind their back and wielding the pillow with the other, players have to knock the opponent off balance. Whoever knocks the opponent off the log first, wins. The game is usually played over a muddy pit, so the loser goes home with a mud bath.

Climbing the greased pole is fun to watch, but cannot be fun to take part in. A flag is tied to the end of a timber pole-fixed to the ground and greased along the whole length. The objective of the players is to climb the pole, referred to as the ‘tree’, and bring down the flag. Retrieving the flag is never achieved on the first climb. It takes multiple climbers removing some of the grease at a time, so someone could finally retrieve the flag.

Who knew that scraping coconut could be made into an interesting game? During the Avurudu coconut scraping competition, women sit on coconut scraper stools and try to scrape a coconut as fast as possible. The one who finishes first wins. These maybe Avurudu games, but they are taken quite seriously. The grated coconut is inspected for clumps and those with ungrated clumps are disqualified.

Coconut palm weaving is another interesting contest that is exclusive to women. However men are by no means discouraged from entering such contests and, in fact, few men do. Participants are given equally measured coconut fronds and the one who finishes first wins.

Kana Mutti Bindima involves breaking one of many water filled clay pots hung overhead, using a long wooden beam. Placing the eye on the elephant is another game played while blindfolded. An elephant is drawn on a black or white board and the blindfolded person has to spot the eye of the elephant. Another competition involves feeding the partner yoghurt or curd while blindfolded.

The Banis-eating contest involves eating tea buns tied to a string. Contestants run to the buns with their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat buns hanging from a string, on their knees. The one who finishes his or her bun first, wins. Kamba adeema or Tug-o-War pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. Teams pull on opposite ends of a rope, with the goal being to bring the rope a certain distance in one direction against the force of the opposing team’s pull.

Participants of the lime-on-spoon race have to run a certain distance while balancing a lime on a spoon, with the handle in their mouths. The first person to cross the finish line without dropping the lime wins. The sack race and the three-legged race are equally fun to watch and to take part in. In the sack race, participants get into jute sacks and hop for the finish line. The first one over, wins. In the three-legged race one leg of each pair of participants are tied together and the duo must reach the finish line by synchronising their running, else they would trip over their own feet.

Pancha Dameema is an indoor game played in two groups, using five small shells, a coconut shell and a game board. Olinda is another indoor board game, normally played by two players. The board has nine holes, four beads each. The player who collects the most number of seeds win.

This is the verse sung while playing the game:

“Olinda thibenne koi koi dese,

Olinda thibenne bangali dese…

Genath hadanne koi koi dese,

Genath hadanne Sinhala dese…”

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