Monday, May 10, 2010

Sri Lanka: The diminished credibility of justice institutions

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene - Legitimate fears arise this week as to whether the post elections policies of this government will lead to the further undermining of Rule of Law institutions in the months ahead.

Overarching political control

The deliberately designed retention of powers in the hands of the Executive Presidency to an extent hitherto never seen, (even with the most manipulative of past Executive Presidents such as JR Jayawardene), accompanied by an equally deliberate redistribution of ministerial and political authority among the various members of the Presidential family is exceedingly worrisome in and by itself. Such an all powerful political constellation carries very obvious dangers, particularly against the backdrop of an opposition which remains pitifully inchoate, ineffective and disunited.

This overarching control of the country's social, economic and development sectors by one political family is further aggravated by gravely insidious policy changes that threaten even the limited extent of democratic space that we possess in Sri Lanka today.

The Office of the Attorney General to come under the President

One such immediately troubling development concerns the bringing of the Department of the Attorney General under the direct control of the Executive Presidency. In the gazetted notification relating to the assignment of subjects and functions to the relevant ministries, (Gazette no 1651/20-April 30th 2010), the Department of the Attorney General is omitted from the list of departments under the Ministry of Justice. Instead, this Department has been brought under the purview of President Mahinda Rajapakse in terms of Article 44(2) of the Constitution which is, inter alia, to the effect that the President may assign to himself any subject or function and shall remain in charge of any subject or function not assigned to any Minister.

This is an extraordinary development indeed and goes to the very heart of Sri Lanka's legitimacy as a democratic system. For years, the efforts of legal activists and commentators in this country had been directed towards drawing attention to freeing the Department of the Attorney General from indirect political control. There were good reasons as to why these calls were made.

Political control of prosecutions

Increased political control of prosecutions had led to the Department of the Attorney General loosing much of its lustre through the years. The extent to which state prosecutors had been politically driven in several cases to refrain from going ahead with the prosecutions or to embark on arbitrary prosecutions has been well documented and analysed. Instances in the first category for example, include, most famously, the Richard de Zoysa prosecution where the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka, (which is now most unremarkably silent on equally grave challenges as then to the Rule of Law), virtually accused the then Attorney General of acting according to the dictates of the United National Party government in power. Other cases of politically tainted prosecutions are well known in this regard, numbering among them failure to hold those accountable for the massacre of prisoners at the Welikada prisons.

However, despite the political pressures brought on the Attorney General in particularly controversial cases such as the above, there remained honourable state law officers who persevered to conform to time honoured traditions of serving as the State's chief law officer rather than to act as a political lackey of any particular government in power.

This concept of an independent state law officer was not a magical creation. Instead, this rationale evolved through time, commencing from the moving out of the Attorney General from the inner cabinet as a result of recommendations made in 1928 by a special commission on the Constitution and then becoming firmly entrenched through the Soulbury Reforms.

Though there were challenges posed to this concept, most notably in 1972, its vital importance was recognized in later constitutional changes in 1978. In more recent and further acknowledgement thereof, the 17th Amendment to the Constitution stipulated that the Attorney General must be appointed subject to approval by the Constitutional Council. Ancillary legislation laid down strict removal procedures in respect of the Attorney General equal to the removal of an appellate court judge.

Serious problems with legal accountability

Yet all these painfully evolved constitutional protections have been rendered nugatory at one stroke by this government in bringing the Department of the Attorney General under the direct control of the Executive President.

Given Sri Lanka's serious crisis of credibility in regard to legal accountability for human rights abuses, the creation of the Office of an Independent Prosecutor with funds drawn from the Consolidated Fund and not coming under any ministry, was in fact suggested by the 1994 Commissions of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances.

Yet we have the exact opposite today. What does this signify for the public acceptance of the Department, even at the diminished level at which this acceptance exists today? Can we expect even the theoretical notion of the office of an independent Attorney General to survive? From indirect political control, do we now have to contend with direct political control, from the filing of indictments to the withdrawing of cases? These are relevant questions indeed for us to ponder over.

Insidious undermining of the Rule of Law

These policy changes are wrought quite insidiously. At one point, we are expected to be grateful for the relaxation of certain aspects of emergency laws and to be glad that journalist JS Tissainayagam has been pardoned. Yet questions remain as to why the military continues to be afforded police powers under remaining emergency law and why indeed a journalist had to be indicted in the first place, primarily for writings that surely come within the scope of freedom of expression however disagreeable they may have been to some?

And while we hear of constitutional reforms on the one hand, even existing justice institutions are undermined on the other hand. Without securing the basic independence of justice and legal institutions, is there any point in establishing yet another Commission, this time (apparently) on Justice and Reconciliation? We have seen very well the farcical nature of such Commissions before, designed purely as a palliative to international pressure rather than to benefit the people.

These are fundamentally conflicting signals that (unfortunately) appear to speak to a most profound insincerity of this administration in terms of its commitment to the Rule of Law.

© The Sunday Times

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Sri Lanka: MTV attack suspects released

The 14 suspects arrested over the recent attack on the MTV/MBC media office in Colombo were released on bail by the Colombo Fort Magistrate today (10). The suspects were earlier released on police bail but the Magistrate had reprimanded the police for doing so saying they should be presented in Court.

The suspects were among 16 people arrested after a mob began pelting stones towards the MTV/MBC media office in Colombo in March this year. Two suspects did not appear in Court today.

© Daily Mirror

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Monday, May 10, 2010

"Tissa still not officially pardoned" – Sumanthiran

By Rathindra Kuruwita - J. S. Tissainayagam who was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment for ‘inciting communal violence through his writings and receiving money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)’ was pardoned on May 3, by President Rajapaksa. LAKBIMAnEWS met J. S. Tissainayagam’s lawyer who is also Tamil National Alliance (TNA) National List MP, M. A. Sumanthiran.

Following are some excerpts from the interview:

Minister for External Affairs, G.L. Peiris announced that J. S. Tissainayagam was pardoned on May 3. As his lawyer, what is your opinion about the pardon?

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L Peiris announced that J. S. Tissainayagam will be pardoned by the president on May 3, on World Press Freedom Day. I don’t think that the government will go back on its word but so far the pardon has not been granted officially and we have not been consulted yet. So I will not and I cannot comment much on this development until he is officially pardoned.
He is on bail right now and we had to remove the appeal so that he can be pardoned. We will start discussing the terms of this pardon with the Attorney General’s Department in the coming days.

What is the legal point of the pardon? Will the pardon erase the conviction?

Yes it should. We will discuss that when we meet officials from the AG’s department. We have always argued that the allegations were false, and absurd and this case should never have been presented to court.

Talking about the AG’s Department, as a lawyer what do you feel about it being taken under the control of the president?

AG is an independent post which is on par with the Independent Commissions appointed by the 17th amendment. It’s very unhealthy to bring the department under any Ministry let alone the president because of the vital role it has to play. AG’s department should be unbiased as possible.

The gazette extraordinaire No. 1651/20 - Friday, April 30, 2010 -- does not categorize the AGs department under any ministry but if you look at the departments under the president, there is a Department of Legal Affairs. Maybe that is the AGs department but even if it’s not under any ministry, such departments are automatically assigned under the president. So as a lawyer, this is a development that I hate to see.

The conviction of Tissainayagam had a negative impact on journalists in the country, especially Tamil journalists who were critical of the government. Do you think that the pardon will have a positive result?

Hopefully it will. The conviction of Tissainayagam sent chills among journalists who were critical of the government and maybe this will help to relieve the situation. But one should not forget that the conviction of Tissa was not the only thing that is affecting media freedom. The regulations that convicted Tissa still exist. And there are many more official and unofficial restrictions still in place.

© Lakbima News

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Monday, May 10, 2010

94 Government Departments Under Direct Family Control

By R. Wijewardene - According to the Government Gazette detailing the names and duties of the 42 ministries in the current cabinet, the Rajapaksa siblings will control no less than 94 state institutions.

The 51 page document outlines in bullet points the key responsibilities of each ministry, and also lists the state institutions that fall under the purview of each minister.

The list, by defining the duties of the country’s ministries, elucidates some of the most baffling mysteries of Sri Lankan politics. For example, it explains just what the Minister of Public Management Reforms is actually supposed to do.

Interestingly, the Mahinda Chinthanaya is now incorporated explicitly into the duties of the nation’s ministers, with cabinet members specifically asked to carry out their duties in accordance with the principles of the Mahinda Chinthana/Idiri Dekma vision for the future.

The incorporation of one man’s vision into the responsibilities of a nation’s key ministries might seem troubling but then the Mahinda Chinthana is effectively the ruling party’s manifesto. That is, providing we have a ruling party and not a single ruling man.

Much more worrying, however, are the enormous numbers of government departments, responsibilities and powers that have been brought under the aegis of the ruling family.
The Defence Ministry, Ministry of Finance, Ports and Aviation Ministry as well as the Transport Ministry are all under the direct control of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Ably assisted, at least where defence is concerned, by younger brother Gotabaya.

And while we’ve come to accept the President wielding enormous power, the balance or imbalance of power has changed with the creation of the new Ministry of Economic Development under the purview of Basil Rajapaksa. With Basil Rajapaksa now taking control of ‘all regional development programmes,’ the ruling family will enjoy an even tighter stranglehold over the country’s vital institutions. The purview of the ministries under Rajapaksa control is vast, with dozens of state enterprises, a host of duties and sweeping powers.

The Defence Ministry, for example, now rather mystifyingly includes the Urban Development Authority. What connection exists between urban development and defence is unclear. Pavement hawkers can be an annoyance, but are they really a threat to security? Interestingly the Defence Ministry also issues travel documents, registers persons and is in charge of the reclamation and development of lands.

Beyond defence, however, the Finance Ministry, which contains no less than 46 different state departments and corporations — ranging from the all important state banks to the diminutive Lady Lochlor Fund – remains under Rajapaksa control. As does the Ports and Aviation Ministry which includes not only the nation’s ports but also SriLankan Airlines and of course Mihin Air. And then there is the RDA behemoth which through the Transport Ministry has been kept in family hands.

But the jewel in the Rajapaksa’s crown is the newly created Economic Development Ministry under Basil Rajapaksa, which includes everything from the Zoological Gardens to the Tourist Promotions Bureau and the Board of Investment. Extraordinarily it also includes all regional development programmes including the massive Uthuru Wasanthaya programme and even the Wildlife Conservation Department.

The country seems to have reached a point of one family rule. Every aspect of our lives from the registry of our births, to the taxes we pay, the roads on which we drive on, and the documents we must carry in order to move freely, is under the control of Rajapaksas. Their domination is absolute.

The 38 or so remaining non Rajapaksa ministries appear puny things by comparison to the Rajapaksa’s mighty ministries. The Foreign Ministry for example, now renamed the External Affairs Ministry, is typically one of the most powerful in a nation’s cabinet. However in its present incarnation the Ministry contains little more than a handful of embassies and the Bureau of Foreign Employment.

The idea of a balance of power has been made utterly redundant and absolute power has been conferred on the ruling family. This is worrying because potentially conflicting institutions such as Economic Development and Wildlife Conservation have been placed under the purview of a single minister.

Basil Rajapaksa, who ripped a highway through the nation’s largest national park in the name of development, is now also in charge of wildlife protection. So we can expect far fewer objections to development programmes based on the interests of wildlife.

And that sums up the danger of a system, where so much power is concentrated in so few hands. Those wielding the power can do as they want – there are no longer any limits and this Gazette makes that power official.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, May 10, 2010

SRI LANKA: President to take over Attorney General's Department

According to a report in the Daily Mirror newspaper on May 4, 2010, there are moves to bring the Attorney General's Department under the direct control of the president. A gazetted notice to this effect is expected to be released soon. The exact meaning on how the department is to be brought under the president is not yet clear. However, it is clear that this move to bring the Attorney General's Department, which is the department with the power of prosecution of all serious crimes, as well as the power of providing legal advice to the government, under the control of the president will violate the very notion of the institution of the Attorney General, as it was understood within the legal framework of Sri Lanka.

However, the move comes as no surprise. The very nature of the absolute power concept contained in the executive presidential system of Sri Lanka incompatible with the independent functioning independence of public institutions.. Absolute power dictates that all institutions be subordinated to the will of the absolute ruler.

Since 1978 the institution of the Attorney General's Department has been subjected to serious undermining. This has been documented by observers and human rights organisations in considerable detail. However, despite of this undermining the institution has remained an independent entity and to a greater degree the officers of the institution have tried to maintain the old traditions which go back to about 125 years. The previous attempts to undermine the institution have seriously damaged its credibility and particularly the office of the Attorney General himself has lost public confidence.. However, this new move will damage the institution substantially and above all it will damage the image of the institution as it will be seen as one directly controlled by the executive president.

The direct interference to the prosecution function by this takeover would be that this particular function will be politicised. It was understood in the past that the prosecution function will be based strictly on the considerations of law. When the inquiring officers from the police investigate a crime and hand the file over to the Attorney General's Department it is the duty of the department to examine as to whether, in terms of the law, there is a case to prosecute, and, if such a case exists to proceed accordingly. The exercise of prosecution in this manner meant that this function would be exercised purely on the basis of legal criteria respecting the equality of all before the law. If the law requires a person to be prosecuted he or she will be prosecuted and if the evidence is insufficient there will be no prosecution on the basis of any extraneous considerations. However, if the department is under the president it will have to take orders from his office on matters of prosecutions. This will be particularly so in terms of political opponents of the government and orders of the higher office will have to be obeyed.

In recent times, particularly in relation to the cases of Tissainayagam, the journalist, and Sarath Fonseka, now a parliamentarian and the former commander of the army, and the opposition candidate in the last presidential elections we have witnessed the emergence of political prosecutions. However, in all these cases it was the duty of the Attorney General's Department to advise the government on the basis of the law as to the justifiability or otherwise of these prosecutions. However, in the future, if the prosecutions are to take place under the orders of the highest office then the prosecution function will undergo a transformation.

There are political systems of that nature where the executive office decides that for reasons that are convenient to the executive as to whether a case should be prosecuted or not. In such instances the considerations will not be purely one of law but also other considerations will bear on the issue. Particularly in the context of Sri Lanka where political antagonism is used to persecute opponents, the rising of many cases for political reasons can be predicted. The victims will be those who are directly involved in the opposition or their supporters and those in the media civil society organisations that function as critical voices relating to matters of concern to society.

The second important implication of the presidential takeover of the Attorney General's Department would be the misuse of the functions of non-prosecutions or nolle prosequi, which is a prerogative of the Attorney General. The Attorney General has the power to withdraw a prosecution at any stage or to decide non prosecute even where there are legal reasons to proceed, on the basis of special considerations. On these issues, the Attorney General is not obliged to give reasons. The Supreme Court in some cases has postulated that in such matters the Attorney General has to use his discretion within proper legally justifiable criteria.

However, when orders from the highest office have to be obeyed prosecutions can be withdrawn, particularly if, in these prosecutions, persons who are of the government or its supporters are the accused. For example in actions relating to corruption these may be withdrawn if the accused is a government politician or a person in whom the government has some interest. Similarly in cases of political violence and other instances the prosecutions may be withdrawn for political expediency.

Of course it may not only be for political reasons as the government can also use their powers to withdraw other cases in favour of the persons in whom the government has some interest. The use of a pardon for a person convicted a murder charge 9 a government Politian’s wife) is quite well known. This kind of abuse can become a frequent issue and once the facility exists it is quite natural that many persons will use their political influence in order to have prosecutions withdrawn. Particularly in human rights related cases involving torture and those of extrajudicial killings and the like, in the future the possibility exists that the case may be withdrawn if the accused has sufficient influence with office of the executive president.

On the issue of being an advisor to the government the Attorney General will have less freedom to give such opinions purely on the basis of law when the department is directly under the control of the executive.

Furthermore, contrary to certain comments that this take over is being done for administrative reasons there is no reason to take the department under the control of the president purely for such purpose. The reason for such a political move has to be political.

Particularly on matters such as amendments to the constitution and legislation it is quite likely that the office of the president would not want to hear objections to any move on the basis of law from a department that the president himself controls. Thus, the capacity to give independent opinions on issues will be seriously hampered. In that manner the benefit to the public of having the Attorney General's views on legal issues will also be lost.

In a country were the rule of law system is already very seriously damaged, this move may destroy what might remain of any such system. Constitutionally this move will affect the entire issue of the separation of powers because in the exercise of the independence of the judiciary the existence of an independent Attorney General's Department is essential.

When the officers of the department come directly under the president these officers will also be disqualified for appointment as judges in the future. At present attorney generals could be appointed as Chief Justice directly because of the position that they hold in the official protocol system. However, once the department is totally under the control of the president it is unlikely that the public would have little confidence in any kind of independence in person appointed from the department. Once the independence is lost, in real terms or even in the public perception the appointment of such officers to the Supreme Court or the Appeals Court will be highly damaging to the notion of the independence of the judiciary. Former employees of the chief executive being appointed to the Supreme Court will naturally severely damage the image of that court.

Under these circumstances a public debate on this issue is essential and the public does not take interest at this stage it may have a lot more to lose in the future.

© Asian Human Rights Commission

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Monday, May 10, 2010

The Origin of Sivaram: A brief history

by V. Sivasubramaniam / Translated by Sachi Sri Kantha - In 1926, Swami Vipulananda returned to East Ilangai to serve the Tamil community needs for education and religion under the auspices of Sri Ramakrishna Mission. In those days, a few educated and economically enriched families supported Swami’s services. The families of Sabapathipillai Udaiyar and Darmaratnam Udaiyar were prominent for this service. Members of these families had built some primary schools to teach Saivaism and Tamil, before the arrival of Swami. After his arrival, Swami built many schools, on behalf of Sri Ramakrishna Mission. The patrons of Saivaism then handed over the schools that they had established to Swami. One demerit in those days, there were no trained teachers for teaching Saivaism. In Batticaloa, there were two teacher training colleges then. As these were owned by Christian missionaries, students belonging to Saivaism were not admitted there.

During this period, Dharmaratnam Udaiyar was a member representing the Batticaloa South, in the Second Legislative Council. He donated a land belonging to him at Addalaichenai to the government, and established a teacher training college. Mr. S. Dharmaratnam Udaiyar had an extended family, that included children, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. As he was wealthy, his children had schooling in colleges that levied fees for education. His son Puviraja Keerthi was sent to Cambridge University for education. After his return from Cambridge with graduation, Udaiyar arranged a marriage for Puviraja Keerthi to his younger sibling’s daughter Maheswari. Among the four children the Puviraja Keerthi-Maheswari couple had, Sivaram arrived as the second child on August 11, 1959. As education in mother tongue was enforced by the government, though Sivaram studied in Tamil at school, he became fluent in English as it was used by elder folks in home mileau. Furthermore, he also enriched his English skills and knowledge by reading many books collected by his father.

The successive deaths of grandpa Dharmaratnam and father Puviraja Keerthi did affect the welfare of Sivaram’s family. But, due to the care of his mother Maheswari, he was able to overcome such losses. While Sivaram was studying at St. Michael’s College in advanced level classes, he wished to gain more knowledge on Tamil grammar and literature; as such, with some of his friends he joined my tutorial classes that I was holding. It was my habit of grazing beyond the lesson plan and syllabus, and they were enthralled by my trait. After sitting for university entrance exam, they qualified for university entrance. Sivaram received placing at the University of Jaffna. In that year, one girl student who received entry in the University of Peradeniya, for personal reasons wished to join the University of Jaffna. Then the universities permitted mutual transfer among new entrants, who could switch their allotted spots. She was looking for a student, who was willing to transfer to the University of Peradeniya. When this student approached Sivaram, he was willing to consider her request favorably. By the time the necessary paperwork was completed, nearly three months had elapsed. Then, he had joined the University of Jaffna. Subsequently, Sivaram moved to the University of Peradeniya and was there for two months. Then, he had returned home, losing his interest in tertiary education. His mother became worried, and though she advised him on the merits of higher education, Sivaram was not in a listening mood.

The mother approached me and told “Master, you should somehow advise him to continue his studies in any discipline and get his degree first. After that, I don’t care, what he does on his own. When Sivaram met me a few days later, I too advised him along the lines of what his mother had pleaded to me. “Even if you don’t care about it, to satisfy the wish of your mother, you need to do this. Whether one likes it or not, a university degree has become the medal for evaluation in the society. As such, you need to consider our plea”, I advised. He listened to my plea silently without any comments. Then, for few more minutes, we passed time in silent. Little later, Sivaram left me saying, “Sir, I’ll leave now and return later”.

Few days later, Sivaram returned to me. “Sir, I wish to learn Tamil from you. You should teach me the sangam literature and Tolkappiyam [the earliest Tamil grammatical treatise]. Among the sangam literature, I like to learn Purananooru [External 400] poems.”, he said. I saw a definite determination in his tone. I was a bit surprised when he said, “I want to learn Purananooru poems”. I was reminding myself some lines Swami Vipulananda wrote 37 years before this boy was born.

While receiving training in Chennai Sri Ramakrishna Mission as a bachelor with the name Swami Prabotha Saithanyar, he had written a series on the theme Merrisai Chelvam [‘The Western Wealth’] in the Senthamil journal published by the Madurai Thamil Sangam. The first article of this series appeared in September-October issue of 1922. Swami had written, “As far as I know, there is one book that all Tamils can study without any caste or religion based conviction. It is Purananooru.” He further stated, “Isn’t it because this book of poems describes the lives of real soldiers who fought battles with beautiful lances and contain verses from Vanchinak Kanchi? That’s why, we treasure these poems.”

Not knowing the sentiments expressed by the Swami, this young guy expressing similar sentiments as that of Swami, was a real surprise for me. I wish to reminisce one challenge that was issued by Sivaram. He wrote a letter to two professors who were then teaching at the University of Jaffna, and sent them separately. Until he died, Sivaram didn’t mention to me, about these letters. Few years later, a friend of Sivaram told me that he had come to know that the letter was written in English, and it contained many questions. While one of the professors had died sooner, the other one had kept the letter of Sivaram without responding.

As Sivaram wished to study Tolkappiyam and Purananooru among the sangam literature, I thought him by combining the Purathinai-iyal in Tolkappiyam and Purananooru jointly. The earliest expositor of Tolkappiyam, ILampoorananar had chosen 83 Purananooru poems to illustrate Purathinai-iyal. Similarly, he also had used 73 venpa poems from PuraporuL Venpa Malai, that appeared after sangam period. Sivaram wanted to learn those texts as well, and I thought many poems, as was his wish.

The expositors of Tamil grammar split the sangam literature into aham (interior) and puram (exterior). Love and married life were the themes of aham. Among other human traits, apart from heroism, war, other respectable items such as philanthropy, friendship, respect to elders, gratitude, poverty alleviation are included in puram. Sivaram learned many poems with interest. After completing Purananooru lessons, as per Sivaram’s wish, I chose few poems from PuraporuL Venpa Malai and explained them. Years later, he wrote a beautiful essay ‘Senchoorukkadan’ [The loyal duty served to recompensate for food care by a patron] was based on 184th poem of PuraporuL Venpa Malai. It was one of Sivaram’s favorite poems.

Another of Sivaram’s favorite poem’s was Purananooru (number 235). It begins with the line ‘Siriyakad perine – Emakeeyu Manne’, of sangam poetess Avvai. Her favorite patron and king Adiyamaan had died in the battle field, from the lance wounds that had pierced his chest. After hearing this news, poetess Avvai wails. She remembers the time when she was the recipient of the king’s feast. When kaL (liquor) was served, Avvai sang: “Siriyakad perine – Emakeeyu Manne; Periyakad perine – yam paadath than mahizhunnu Manne”.

I read Avvai’s poem and asked him, ‘Do you understand the words ‘Siriya kaL, Periya kaL’? He also read the commentary to the poem and replied that the commentator also had written ‘Siriya kaL and Periya kaL’. I explained that ‘Siriya kaL’ means the liquor like wine that arrived from Greece in small vials to Tamil Nadu. ‘Periya kaL’ refers to local liquor from coconut and palmyrah saps that were stored in big pots. He was so pleased to hear this explanation. The word that appears repeatedly in this poem ‘manne’ ‘manne’ is exclamatory ‘Aiyo in Tamil’ (a word of pathos). Impermanence of life in this elegy is further explored in Mannai kanji poems of Tamil poets. When he was in western nations, wherever he was feasted by his friends, I heard that Sivaram would delight his friends by quoting this Puranooru no. 235 poem.

After he completed his Tamil tuition with me, the Tamil militancy exploded and Sivaram was sucked by that militancy flood. However, he didn’t fail to pick up and use pen as a weapon. Until he was assassinated, that pen did not rest. After his death, there appeared many eulogies and appreciations. One of the professors, who was mentioned above, also contributed his share. Even in that particular piece, that professor without specifically stating the questions sent by Sivaram to him, merely noted that the depth of his questions were in ocean-piercing range, and as such, I failed to sent my reply to him [Sunday Thina Kural, May 8, 2005].

Sivaram continued to expand his knowledge by reading Tamil and English books. The beauty of Sivaram’s writings is that all of them had a research perspective. Without proper citation or reference, he never wrote a line. After he developed as a foremost Tamil thinker and a well known media expert, he traveled to foreign countries and discussed the issues with professors. He wrote many pieces in English. But there wasn’t any change their minds. After returning to the island, he came to see me. He said, “Sir, I’m not going to write in English hereafter. Those dolts don’t understand anything.” He was resenting the attitude of foreign scholars, who appreciated his writings in English, but not doing anything on behalf of Eelam Tamils.

Subsequently, Sivaram’s features in Tamil appeared in newspapers such as SariNihar, Virakesari and Thina Kural. Furthermore, he also published a weekly Thina Kathir. After few months, the office of that publication was destroyed. Thina Kathir had to stop. I told him, “You should attempt to fill the gaps in the Ceylon history. For example, the British captured Kandy in 1815 and brought the entire island under their control. However, in 1819 there was a riot against the British. To demolish this riot, the then British governor Frederick North brought troops from South East Asian lands and overcame the rebellion. I don’t think, nothing more has been researched on this theme. You should research this.”

We talked for a while, and Sivaram took leave. After taking a few steps, he stopped and turned towards me and told “Sir, I’ve begun to write a book. I’ll dedicate this to you.” Both of us didn’t know that would turn out to be our last meeting.

A note by the Translator: Two years ago, I solicited and received the following tribute to journalist Taraki Sivaram (1959-2005), by one of his mentors V. Sivasubramaniam from Batticaloa. Sivasubramaniam Aiyah, a nonagenarian, is one of the respected Tamil scholars. Among the many merits of Sivasubramaniam Aiyah, I should mention that he is a devoted protégé of Swami Vipulananda (1892-1947), the first professor of Tamil at the University of Ceylon, and he qualifies as a prominent Vipulananda scholar. In one instance in this tribute to Sivaram, Sivasubramaniam Aiyah mentions about two professors then teaching at the University of Jaffna, though not identifying them by name. The Tamil society in Sri Lanka is a small one and those who are aware of the scene can grasp that these two Tamil professors were none other than Prof. K. Kailasapathi and Prof. K. Sivathamby. Prof. Kailasapathy died in 1982. Sivasubramaniam Aiyah’s tribute to journalist Sivaram was in chaste Tamil, and I have done my best to translate it into English, without mangling the context and the meaning.

© Sangam

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Tissa Underground

By Raisa Wickrematunge - Senior journalist J. S Tissainayagam remains incognito – hiding in a safe house, despite a Presidential pardon, according to close family members.

Tissainayagam’s father Martin Jayaratnam Tissainayagam told The Sunday Leader that his son was not staying with them. “His lawyers don’t want him speaking to anyone. He is under protection, though he has been pardoned,” Tissainayagam Snr. said. He added “We ourselves haven’t seen him for some time.”

Tissainayagam’s wife, Ronnate, is currently overseas – and could not be contacted for comment.

In parliament on Tuesday, several MPs commended the decision made by the President. Some said that the reason for the delay in issuing the pardon was due to Tissa lodging an appeal against his conviction.

Tissainayagam was sentenced to 20 years Rigorous Imprisonment on August 31, 2009. Convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the harsh Supreme Court decision had many media organisations calling for his release. Tissainayagam was convicted of inciting communal disharmony by printing, editing and circulating a magazine called North Eastern Monthly. Arrested and jailed since March 2008, he was released on bail in January this year.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Tissainayagam pardon has to be legally ratified

By Rathindra Kuruwita - Lawyers representing veteran journalist J. S Tissainayagam who was pardoned by the president on May 3rd will meet officials of the Attorney General’s (AGs) department in the coming week to discuss his pardon said lawyer and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M. A Sumanthiran.

“The pardon was an announcement by Minister of External Affairs Prof G. L Peiris but so far the pardon has not been granted. I don’t think that the government will go back on its word after making a public announcement,” Sumanthiran said.

The TNA MP added that they have withdrawn their appeal seeking the release of Tissainayagam so that the presidential pardon can be affected. He added that there are still a lot of procedural steps to be discussed and they will meet AG department officials to discuss the matter.

“He is on bail right now pending appeal but we had to remove the appeal so that he can be pardoned. There are still some procedural steps to be taken and we are in discussion to effect those. We will start discussing the terms of this pardon with the Attorney General’s Department in the coming days.”

© Lakbima News

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