Monday, September 20, 2010

‘Elusive international justice snatches away desire to live’ says surrendered rebel leader's wife

Tamil Net

“We expected some country to step in to resolve the crisis... We believed that a dawn would come, a solution would come through [international] mediation after all the hardships we went through. But, nothing happened. Everything went out of hand for us to end up in the army-controlled area as living corpses. All countries have betrayed us,” told 40-year-old Ananthi Sasitharan, the wife of Elilan, the former Trincomalee Political Head of the LTTE, to BBC Tamil Saturday after complaining to the LLRC that SL President should know the whereabouts of her husband and fellow LTTE officials surrendered through a Catholic Priest in Mullaiththeevu on 18 May 2009.

When asked whether she was concerned about repercussions for stating her views publicly from Vanni, the mother of three responded: “I am not afraid. I am prepared to face anything since we don't now live with the zest for life.”

The wife of former LTTE Political Head of Trincomalee Elilan, from Vanni told BBC Tamil Service Saturday, after appearing in front of Rajapaksa’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that held open hearing in Vanni, that her husband Mr. Elilan and other senior LTTE officials Yogaratnam Yogi and Lawrance Thilakar, both of whom took part in negotiations earlier, and LTTE Political Wing Deputy Chief Thangkan, former Jaffna Political Head I’lamparithi, Head of Administrative Unit Poova’n’nan, Piriyan and Theepan were among those surrendered to the Sri Lankan forces under the coordination of a Catholic Priest at Vadduvaakal in Mullaiththeevu on 18 May 2009 in front of her eyes.

But, till now, there is no news about any of them.

Although the proceedings by Sri Lanka's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) were being to be held in front of the public in former LTTE strongholds Ki’linochchi and Mullaiththeevu, the Sri Lankan government has refused access to BBC reporters to be present for reporting the proceedings without providing any reason, the BBC Tamil said in its broadcast Saturday.

A striking feature in the whole interview is her language, always speaking in terms of collective self, as “we”. This Eezham Tamil psyche that is seriously concerned more about the sufferings of the nation than individual miseries was also noticed by psychiatrist Daya Somasundaram who has described the phenomenon in the following words in a research paper titled “Collective trauma in the Vanni” published in International Journal of Mental Health Systems in July 2010:

“There are hardly any spontaneous complains of individual symptoms or suffering. Even where a person talks of his or her personal agony, it is framed in general terms, reflecting what happened to the family or community […] The family and community are part of the self, their identity and consciousness. The demarcation or boundary between the individual self and the outside becomes blurred. The well being of the individual member is experienced as the well being of the family and community.”

TamilNet’s english translation of BBC Tamil’s interview with Elilan’s wife, Ananthi Sasitharan, follows:

Mrs. Ananthi Sasitharan: My husband surrendered to the army along with other LTTE officials and combatants in front of my eyes in Mullaiththeevu on 18 May 2009 and I have urged the [LLRC] Commission to locate him for me.

BBC: At what place?

A place in Mullaiththeevu area beyond Vadduvaakal Bridge. It was there they all surrendered led by Fr. Francis, the principal of an English school. We, the wives of the surrendered, are searching for them but there is no information about them.

BBC: Where is this priest?

He too is missing. I asked another priest when I saw him in Vavuniyaa but he said that Fr. Francis is missing and they are searching for him.

BBC: Who were the other important persons who surrendered along with Elilan?

Ananthi: Political Wing Deputy Chief Thangkan, Head of Administrative Unit Poova’n’nan, Piriyan, I’lamparithi, Sports Wing Chief Raja and his 3 children, Lawrence Thilakar, Yogi, Theepan, Kuddi and Holster Babu. I can name only these persons. Though I knew many others I do not know their names.

BBC: Did they take away only those who surrendered or did they take you along with them?

I went behind them with my children. The army officers identified my husband and called him “Mavilaa’ru Elilan”. The army officers who stopped me on the way said that I being a government employee should go along with the people and that my husband will be released later.

BBC: Did they bring you to Vavuniyaa camp?

Ananthi: Yes, after half an hour after the surrender we were taken to Oamanthai in a truck by another route. There were no contacts (with my husband) after that.

BBC: After the surrender have you seen or talked to your husband at least once?

Ananthi: No, not at all. There was no contact by letter or any other way. No one had even said to me that they had seen him.

BBC: Some former Liberation Tiger combatants have been released. Did any one of them say they had seen Mr. Elilan?

Ananthi: I did ask them but they said they had not seen him. Some disabled were released and I also approached them. Even now I continue to ask everyone being released but they say that they do not know anything.

BBC: [Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms Minister] D.E.W Gunasekara has said that the families of the persons surrendered had been informed of the persons held in detention. Were you informed?

No. I met DEW Gunasekara in Ki’linochchi with my three children and gave him an appeal explaining my situation. He did not give an answer then. A month later I received the copies of my appeal and a letter forwarding my appeal to another ministry. So far I have not heard anything from these ministries.

BBC: Now you have witnessed before the commission. Do you believe any thing positive would result?

Ananthi: President himself is unable to say anything about it [the whereabouts of Mr. Elilan]. What can this Commission do? This is only a ... [edited]. It looks as though I have said these things to them only for the consolation of my mind.

BBC: You were in the Tiger control area during the last phase of the war. It is alleged that Tigers caused inconveniences to the people like child conscription and there are allegations of Tigers shooting people who tried to get out of the area. Did the commission ask anything about this when you witnessed before it today?

No, they did not. [During the height of the war] we were all living in open-air bunker. We were not able to monitor the activities. Earlier, all the people supported the Tigers. Now, when they have come into army-controlled area, they speak in favour of the army.

BBC: What really happened at the last moment?

Ananthi: We expected some country would step in to resolve the crisis... We believed that a dawn would come, a solution would come through [international] mediation after all hardships we went through. But, nothing happened. Everything went out of hand for us to end up in the army-controlled area. We came as living corpses into army-controlled area. All the countries have betrayed us. [inaudible].

BBC: Didn’t persons like Elilan try to escape to another country?

Ananthi: No. They did not attempt [to escape] and they did not want their families to go. It was their loyalty... they said that let us face whatever that happens with our people. Even we didn’t think about leaving him [husband]. How could we?

BBC: You earlier said that your husband had been identified by the army as Maavilaa’ru Ezhilan when they took him away. Even some among the Tamils blame that Maavilaa’ru episode was the reason for the war and allege that Elilan did not handle the issue properly... Was there any pressure due to that, either before in the LTTE-controlled situation or now under the army control?

I know about our society. I have lived with it for 40 years. The decision to lock the Maavilaa’ru [sluice gates] was not been taken singly by Elilan, had it? It was the decision of the Central Committee. It is a lie even if some say that the issue was not handled just because it [the gate] was locked. It was a matter that had to be decided by the people in charge... If Elilan does something good he gets praise and even if a small mistake occurs he gets blamed. This is typical of our people, isn’t it?

BBC: You as the mother of three girls, what is your present situation and theirs? How do their lives and yours go?

I am a government employee and so I look after their education and other needs. Though I am able to do this I cannot do anything about their mental stress... they had seen death in the war ... they had walked crossing over the bodies of the dead ... they are greatly affected mentally... I cannot fulfill their desire to see their father ... however I manage to cater to their other needs like education etc.

BBC: Have you any idea or guess as to where Elilan is or what had happened to him?

Ananthi: There is no possibility of anything [dangerous] happening to him. One thing should be made clear... Had he gone missing in the battlefield then I would think that he had been killed by army shells or Kfir attack. Where could he be when he had surrendered himself to the army on the 18th in front of my very eyes? This is not something that the President does not know... I believe that Elilan is detained in a secret location. The army unlikely would have had the intention of killing him as the war was over.

BBC: Can you remember the place where the surrender took place? Can you witness about it before a commission in the future?

We were first held fenced in by barbed wire in an open place when we had passed Vadduvaakal bridge in Mullaiththeevu. Then we walked to another open space where there was a small building and it was in that building they surrendered... I am not sure whether I will be able to identify the place now…

BBC: Do the family members of other persons surrendered know their whereabouts?

No, they don’t. I keep meeting them in public places ... We keep going to the offices of ICRC and Human Rights Commission. But so far we haven’t had any information of those who surrendered [with my husband].

BBC: You are speaking so very bravely to the media. Do you have any fear of its consequences?

Not at all. I do not care for any repercussions. I am not afraid. I am prepared to face anything since we don't now live with the zest for life. This is what I told the [LLRC] commission too!

© Tamil Net

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Sri Lanka's ex-army chief vows to fight back from jail

Agence France-Presse | Yahoo News

Sri Lanka's ex-army chief and opposition leader Sarath Fonseka on Sunday rejected his conviction at a court martial and said he would fight against a proposed three-year jail term.

Fonseka, in a statement released through his democratic National Alliance (DNA) party, said he did not accept Friday's verdict in a court martial which held he was guilty of corruption in defence procurement deals.

DNA spokesman Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the party rejected the court martial process as seriously flawed and would make a formal appeal to the civilian Court of Appeal "as a matter of routine".

"There is no justice in the country and we can't have any faith in the judiciary, but we will make a formal appeal as a matter of routine," Dissanayake told reporters in Colombo.

The military tribunal recommended that Fonseka be jailed for three years, a decision that is widely expected to be ratified by President Mahinda Rajapakse on his return from New York later this month.

Fonseka, 59, who became a national hero after leading the military to victory over ethnic Tamil separatists in May last year, fell out with Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him at January polls.

The culmination of the war effort last year was the killing of separatist supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran and his senior military commanders in a campaign that has since been dogged by war crimes allegations.

"If I am jailed for something that I did not do, I will work with more determination than what I displayed in destroying Prabhakaran. I will work to ensure that injustice is defeated," Fonseka said in his statement.

"There will be no mercy for those who worked to tarnish my honour."

He was arrested in February and remains in military custody.

Despite his detention at the naval headquarters in Colombo, the authorities have been ordered to escort him to parliament where he won a seat at April general elections.

His party said they will file a formal appeal in civilian courts on Monday against a first court martial verdict in August that stripped Fonseka of his pension and title.

It held that he had dabbled in politics before he quit the army in November to challenge his former commander-in-chief Rajapakse. The two men had squabbled over who should take more credit for crushing the Tigers.

A second court martial convicted him on the procurement corruption charge.

He also faces civilian charges of employing army deserters, as well as revealing state secrets -- offences that carry a 20-year jail term.

Fonseka has also angered the government by saying he would willingly testify before any international war crimes tribunal. Rajapakse has vowed to prevent any such probe.

The United Nations estimates that at least 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the final months of fighting between government troops and the Tamil Tigers.

© Yahoo News

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Monday, September 20, 2010

China footprint bothers Delhi day after Lanka blast

By Sujan Dutta | The Telegraph

When dynamite ripped through the fishing village of Karadiyanaru in eastern Sri Lanka, a former LTTE stronghold, on Friday and killed 25 people, officials in New Delhi’s South Block and army headquarters burned the phone lines to find out what caused it.

Had remnants of the now-decimated LTTE succeeded in a desperate act of sabotage? As the body count, initially estimated at 60, was revised by Colombo to 25 and Sri Lanka began an investigation into what it believes was an accident, the focus has gradually shifted to the presence of the Chinese.

Among the 25 killed were two Chinese engaged in building roads near Batticaloa. Prima facie evidence suggests that the explosion ripped through the local police station when one of them opened a container of dynamite that was kept close to another container of detonators.

In Delhi, it was the presence of the Chinese in the island nation that immediately sent officials poring over maps of eastern Sri Lanka in the region around Batticaloa, where the LTTE had battled to the last and where the Sri Lankan armed forces are said to have killed hundreds in the opaque war that ended last year.

The presence of the Chinese in Hambantota, on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, was well known. The Chinese are building a port in the strategic town where their merchant vessels and cargo carriers sailing to and from Africa can make a victualling (for food supplies) stop. Ironically, six years back, Colombo had proposed building the Hambantota port in a joint venture with India but New Delhi had let the offer pass.

The presence of the Chinese in Batticaloa highlights how strongly Beijing has been occupying strategic space in the island nation that New Delhi had vacated in the years before the LTTE was defeated. Also, all maritime traffic headed to and from ports in India’s east coast to Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand sail not far from the town.

India has always been sensitive to traffic to the Sri Lankan port of Trincomalee in its northeast. Batticaloa is almost just as important. “We have such close relations with Sri Lanka that neither the Chinese nor anyone else (read Pakistan) can displace us easily but we know how their presence has increased,” one senior official in South Block asserted.

“It is not fair to assume that we are panicky about Chinese presence around us,” the Indian official emphasised. “But it is important that we sustain relations with Sri Lanka and make up for lost ground.”

Through the years of the war with the LTTE, New Delhi kept up a steady exchange with Colombo but categorically refused to sign a defence cooperation pact that Lanka wanted. India also refused to supply lethal weapons — given the sensitivities of its own Tamil population — but the army, air force and navy persisted with training and surveillance programmes for the Sri Lankan armed forces.

Since the middle of this year, however, India has practically launched a charm offensive on Sri Lanka.

Admiral Nirmal Verma was the first Indian service chief to visit a memorial to the 1,200-odd soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF, 1987-1990) who were killed in the war with the LTTE. The army chief, General V.K. Singh, himself a gallantry medal winner from that war, visited the island nation for five days earlier this month.

Visits by the air force chief, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar are on the anvil. External affairs minister S.M. Krishna is due to visit next month after foreign secretary Nirupama Rao’s tour this month. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited New Delhi and Shimla in June.

The flurry of high-profile exchanges marks a huge effort by India to regain lost strategic space on the island that was occupied largely by China and by Pakistan in the run-up to the war that decimated the LTTE.

The Indian and Sri Lankan navies have robust co-operation and also co-ordinate the patrolling of the Palk Straits.

Foreign secretary Rao supervised agreements to open Indian consulates at Jaffna and Hambantota, significantly increasing Indian outreach even as the Chinese footprint in Sri Lanka expands.

© The Telegraph

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Until the ‘South’ learns what democratic rule is…

By Kusal Perera | The Sunday Leader

This is all about politics in the Sinhala South. Sinhala politics that decide the country’s future. Tamil-Muslim aspirations may live in the periphery, at the mercy of the Sinhalese. That does not necessarily mean the majority of the Sinhala people could live a contented, democratic life. How could they? Where are their political instruments that could prevail on governance that’s restricted to Colombo ?

Imagine a Sinhala leader of a “Sinhala thinking” political party who has to live with an ultimatum issued by a group of his own party members? Imagine also the plight of the political party that gets relentlessly dragged on in apolitical conflicts, with the leader too manipulating his own party constitution and decision making committees? Imagine also a political party that has no political programme to adopt and implement as the alternate party, staking claim for power at every election?

That being the opposition, in government, what relevance has all those UPFA member parties in decision making, as a responsible collective? There are 11 political parties excluding the latest cross overs from the opposition. They do play a noisy role in defending the government at every turn. But do they actually have any role in decision making?

Just one important reference on their relevance. No elected MP to parliament was provided with even a copy of the 18th Amendment in advance. It took a Tamil National List MP from the Opposition to raise the issue with the Speaker. MPs are there to vote and not to deliberate and discuss nationally important issues. Their political parties weren’t important either. Who then decided the necessity of the 18th Amendment? Neither the government parliamentary group, nor the member parties of the ruling UPFA that includes the SLFP too.

This is now history. It wasn’t so with the SLFP that led the coalition government in 1970. It is said, the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation would not have come about in 1971, though recommended by the Bibile – Wickramasinghe Commission, if the SLFP Central Committee did not decide on it and the two constituent parties in government, the LSSP and the SL Communist Party did not stand firm. Madam Bandaranaike as PM was said to have been under tremendous pressure from drug cartels and is said to have asked Minister T.B. Subasinghe to drop or delay the project. It was not possible. The political parties in power had decided to go ahead.

That was then. What’s happening to these political parties now? How relevant are they in Sri Lankan politics? Over the past decade or two, political parties have turned out to be mere tokens in handing over nominations for elections with a low deposit, that otherwise would be too high for independents. Thereafter, it is the leader and not the party that decides on political stands on all issues the country is faced with and needs answers for.

It is to their advantage, that this society does not behave politically. Whatever the party label, no Member of Parliament was voted in on principles and on a political programme at the last 2010 April elections. The calibre of people now in parliament who sit on either side of the Speaker, is ample proof of the responsibility, or rather the irresponsibility, this society holds at such elections.

It is in such context that Sri Lanka is being ruled by a regime that keeps accumulating power. This regime under the 1978 Constitution has thus discarded party politics in governing the country. The two previous Constitutions that kept the head of state as prime minister responsible to the parliament, could not in any way discard party politics in ruling the country. The constitutions then had the systems arranged so, in establishing a democratic tradition, to first have issues discussed within the party, even before sitting at the Cabinet meetings.

That democracy and political party facilitation was one aspect in governance that Jayewardene wanted curtailed, when he assumed the post of Executive President in 1978. He made certain, his hand will not be held by party decisions. Yet it was his matured political stature and seniority in the party that weighed heavily in towing his own path.

This being a complete change from the previous democracy that held collective responsibility in governance, not only in the Cabinet, but also in extending it to the party that governs, Madam B. hastened to state in the National State Assembly on 4 October, 1977 [quote] “We oppose this Bill firmly and unequivocally. It will set our country on the road to dictatorship and there will be no turning back” [unquote] when JRJ moved the amendment that established him as the first Executive President of Sri Lanka.

Today, 33 years after Madam B’s prophetic statement, she is being proved right by her own SLFP leader as Executive President. Her SLFP that firmly and unequivocally opposed this presidency, for it would set the country on the road to dictatorship, has turned the same SLFP along with other partners in government, into rubber stamps, providing approval and legitimacy to all that is done under the hand of President Rajapaksa. He stands unopposed by any in the SLFP.

This Constitutional arrangement of state power does not allow for two centres to check on each other for excesses. Not even as the elected parliament and the elected president. Therefore it cannot afford to allow a party as in the past to have political authority over its constitutionally established governing systems. This arrangement makes the President the almighty power in the party by default, making the political party a petty, backyard collective.

For the first time after the 1978 Constitution, it was Chandrika as SLFP leader who tried to keep her political authority over the presidency, with Rajapaksa as their SLFP candidate. Once elected, President Rajapaksa proved it does not work that way with the 1978 Constitution. He took over the party with ease and Chandrika had to leave not only its leadership, but the party as well. The take over was so complete and politically ruthless, Chandrika was even removed from the backdrop at the SLFP anniversary held recently. He is so ruthless that as President, Rajapaksa has simply left the SLFP to grow wild as its foundations laid for the new party head quarters are and the members to follow his dictates.

This leaves local and provincial party members and sympathisers wholly alienated from party leadership. They don’t have any say any more in the party. The irony is that such leaders promise democracy and transparency in governance and the Sinhala South believes, it would happen. Worst is, when the South smells that foul, it sits back to argue, “dictators” can be “benevolent”. Their biggest icon in proof of “benevolent dictators” is Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who was lucky running a commercial city with four million people, instead of a country.

There is a fundamental error here in the South. It does not have a political leadership grown within a democratic party system. UNP is a party that was structured by JRJ to go along with his 1978 Constitution and for 32 years, had no democratic functioning. The Athulathmudali-Dissanayake led revolt against Premadasa in 1991 was precisely due to Premadasa the “party dictator”. It is therefore logical that it is being ruled and is being challenged within, by those who resort to scheming and manipulations and have no political programme.

This Sinhala society in addition, is fashioned by majoritarian extremism that leaves out minorities as equals. That thus completes the sectarian life in the South. A life, that would have to think in terms of democratic alternatives outside the two mainstream parties, for a progressive change. But that does not leave the JVP as an alternative. That again is a vertically structured dictatorial entity struggling to find a future with a blood stained General. So, an intellectual dialogue to search for democratic answers for Sri Lanka’s diversity, is now on the cards.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Over 500 testify final days of Sri Lankan offensive


Civilians who survived the final days of last year's fighting between Sri Lankan troops and the vanquished Tamil rebels testified Sunday about conditions in their shrinking patch of land as government troops closed in.

The testimony was given before a government-appointed reconciliation commission probing events surrounding the final eight years of the conflict in northern Sri Lanka, which stretched from 1983 to 2009.

The final days of the conflict drew significant international outrage, with many observers saying the Sri Lankan government was not doing enough to shield civilians from the fighting as it pursued eventually successful efforts to stamp out the Tamil rebels.

Parents looking for their children, wives looking for their husbands and families affected by the fierce fighting between government troops and Tamil rebels testified before the commission, which met in Poonkeryn, Kilinochchi, 320 km north of the capital.

More than 40 to 45 pregnant mothers and babies died as they were in a queue to collect nutritional food when they were hit by shells and aerial strikes, agricultural officer Nadarajaha Sundaramoorthy told the commission, although he did not say who was responsible for the shelling.

He said the incident occurred in Puthumathalan, 370 km north-east of the capital, where the Tamil rebels and civilians were cornered in the final days of the conflict.

He said his daughter was injured when a bullet went through her throat.

Another woman testified about her son, a former rebel who surrendered through a Catholic priest to the Army during the final stages of the conflict in May last year. She said she does not know his whereabouts.

V Kandasamy, another villager blinded during the war said people should never have this happen to them again.

Some the civilians, mostly women, came with photographs of missing persons and requested that the commission help them in their search.

The seven-member commission was appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa two months ago. This was the first hearing in former rebel-held areas.

They are looking for the reasons a 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire failed and into the events surrounding the final days of the conflict. They are also charged with making recommendations on reconciliation.


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Monday, September 20, 2010

Sri Lanka: The flood gates are wide open

By Frederica Jansz | The Sunday Leader

“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.” — Voltaire

Where do we go from here? The paranoia increases by the day. First came the reported disappearance of Prageeth Eknaligoda (missing since January 24 this year), then the statement made recently by reinstated Deputy Minister Mervyn Silva who reportedly stated at a function held in Kelaniya on Thursday, September 9 that “journalists should not write in a way which would ultimately force them to be hanged.”

Threats on another newspaper – The Sunday Leader, this time by the first brother, who told the BBC’s Anchor Stephen Sackur of Hard Talk that it was his right to have this newspaper shut down for having allegedly defamed him — caused a flutter of concern, again to be quickly forgotten. The white vans appear and disappear and people taken by them disappear, usually for ever. Bodies appear in swamps, people die in police custody. Or children are shot dead in cross-fire by police who are not only the most corrupt in this land but also the most inept.

And then there are the arrests. Emergency regulations, coupled with recently introduced anti-terrorism regulations are a blank cheque for authorities to ‘officially’ apply pressure on whomever they choose. There are many ‘lesser mortals’ who suffer in this manner, but let us consider a few of the better publicized cases.

Last week, The owner of J & J Printers, Jayampathy Bulathsinhala was detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, for printing ‘anti-Mahinda’ posters in opposition to the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. The office of Sarala Graphics (also owned by Bulathsinhala) in Nugegoda, was raided on the night of September 7 (Tuesday) by a team of policemen from a special unit at the Mirihana police. Finding that Bulathsinhala was not present, they arrested the eight workers present at the time — one of whom is a woman. Bulathsinhala is to be detained for a period of three months.

Chandana Sirimalwatte, Chief Editor of the Sri Lankan weekly newspaper Lanka, was detained by police around noon on January 30, this year. Lanka, the weekly Sirimalwatte edits, was closed down by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) for several days around the same time he was detained, but was ordered reopened when staff appealed to a local magistrate. Soon after he was detained, the BBC reported that it was told by the director of the CID that Sirimalwatte was being held under unspecified emergency regulations, because a recent article might have violated rules on government inquiries into terrorism. It did not specify which article was at issue.

The government has continued to put pressure on the media in the post-election period, especially on outlets linked to the opposition party. Several web sites have been shut down and remain inaccessible within Sri Lanka.

These regulations are measures through which attempts have been made to arrest and indict journalists and are in effect a damning blanket censorship imposed by the state over matters related to human security and human rights. Furthermore, it restricts the space for and ability of civil society organisations to engage in conflict transformation.

In the past year, since the government announced victory over the LTTE in May 2009, reports have drawn attention to the detention of more than 10,000 persons on suspicion of having been involved with the LTTE. Human Rights Watch reported that it “documented several cases in which individuals were taken into custody without regard to the protection provided under Sri Lankan law. In many cases, the authorities have not informed family members about the whereabouts of the detained, leaving them in secret, incommunicado detention or possible enforced disappearance.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross was reportedly barred from the main detention camps for displaced persons. Amnesty International expressed the same concern about an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 individuals suspected of ties to the LTTE who are or have been detained incommunicado in irregular detention facilities operated by the Sri Lankan security forces and affiliated paramilitary groups since May 2009.

The defeat of the LTTE in May 2009 created an exodus of refugees from the shores of Sri Lanka. Tamils, who have been held in detention centers with fist-tight security by Sri Lankan armed forces, have been escaping the centers to seek protection. Also, others who were already released, but live in their relatives’ homes or temporary shelters, risk their lives. They fear they will get arrested by the security forces again.

Since 1983, Tamil refugees have been seeking new homes to protect their lives and that of their families in foreign climates.

Tamils would not have risked their lives in the seas if they were allowed to live in peace with freedom in their homeland. They have no choice but to seek out to Western countries, so that they can experience equality and freedom. These asylum seekers do not reach other countries to exploit their resources or cause harm to the security of these countries. These people are genuine asylum seekers.

Among those arrested and detained have been the friends of the government, those who brought it into power. Those who helped it win a dastardly war. The Greek poet Aeschylus spoke of that poison that, in the end, springs in every tyrant’s heart; that he cannot trust a friend. That end the poet spoke of appears to have arrived sooner than anyone thought possible. And if ‘friends’ cannot be trusted, what can the rest of us expect?

Added to the boiling pot are reports attributed to a political bikkhu that this country should cast aside all thoughts of democracy and look for a dictator who will restore democracy! Hopefully, this observation by the sangha will not be seen as legitimisation for that particular move to be made.

This country is sliding towards anarchy and tyranny at an alarming pace. Bearing in mind the statement of the ancient fabulist that those who voluntarily put power into the hand of a tyrant must not wonder if it is at last turned against themselves and while it is dangerous to be right where the government is wrong, it is necessary for those who will speak out to do so. We have been too close to the brink too often to let this trend continue to its logical conclusion.

The flood gates are wide open. If we displease the government, we will all be accused, sooner or later, of being ‘unpatriotic’, regardless of whether our names are Mutthusami, Velupillai, Seneviratne or Outschoorn.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Is centralization of power going to help ?

By Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne |

I was invited by the Rotary club of Kandy-Metropolitan to deliver a talk on democracy and good governance.

Chandana Pathirana, as the organizer of the event told me in advance that many club members were interested in understanding the present situation; and my critical views will be of interest to them.This is a time for concern for everybody in this country; both the rich and the poor. Is centralization of power going to help or will it make matters worse?

I made comments to answer this main question of the day. Having listen to my talk patiently they started a live discussion and I was surprised about the content.

Business men and professionals digging into leftist political theory is something I never expected. There were two important questions that were raised from several directions.

1. If globalisation and global powers are behind the centralization of the political power in Lanka, is there any purpose of challenging it?

2. Can the opposition find a way out challenging the present powers of globalisation?

The second question was something I have answered again and again in the past. Are not Tigers terrorists? As such was there any other way of solving the Tamil problem except by repression?

There was no hurry; I had enough time to explain.

I said that India and global powers were behind the war against the Tamil struggle. In fact Tamil insurrection of the poor youth is one of the main results of following development strategies, pressed onto us by the multilateral agencies and the international money lenders.

In turn, same powers compelled Mahinda to use ruthless repression against the insurgents. That gave an ample opportunity for them to influence the Lankan regime in many ways. Result is a great devastation in the country with Mahinda becoming a puppet of India and global powers.

The development programme started by Mahinda regime consists of mega projects to facilitate the Multi National Corporations that would come to torch a massive industrial revolution in this country!

In the first place, the MNCs system is sick and has become an environmental burden on earth. Secondly it presses on us an organized structure crushing all existing work organizations, traditional living patterns, and natural resources.

Mass of people are displaced and dispersed without proper habitat. Not only workers and peasants but also national- local businesses will be very badly affected. This is what happened under JR and this is or worse will happen under MR.

The dictatorial powers assumed by Mahinda is firstly to give every help to the so called international developers arriving here. They need not hang around kachcheris, government offices, banks and police stations. All powerful president and his ministers will look into all such problems. In effect they will be above law and regulations.

Secondly in any event of a protest, strike or hartal the power of presidency will be used to crush it. It is true that some people argue that dictatorship helped to develop in many other countries. But there are no countries developed by being subservient to the present matrix of MNCs.

We are in a post modernist world where every moment has to be understood in the present context. Past is of very little importance in the present events tied to high technology. Unless we are prepared to think radically all we have will be sold without leaving any thing for our future generations.

World over people have opposed this capitalist corporate globalisation; but not the integration and coming together of world community.

Noam Chomsky said once,

" The term 'globalization' has been appropriated by the powerful to refer to a specific form of international economic integration, one based on investor rights, with the interests of people incidental. That is why the business press, in its more honest moments, refers to the 'free trade agreements' as 'free investment agreements' (Wall St. Journal). Accordingly, advocates of other forms of globalization are described as 'anti-globalization'; and some, unfortunately, even accept this term, though it is a term of propaganda that should be dismissed with ridicule. No sane person is opposed to globalization, that is, international integration. Surely not the left and the workers movements, which were founded on the principle of international solidarity—that is, globalization in a form that attends to the rights of people, not private power systems."

Surely the development programme in any country should be people oriented. The quality of life of the citizen should be the priority. In Lanka, in addition to workers the life of peasants, small producers and fishers should improve. Simply, the poor communities should get rich.

The Tamil national problem should be solved by political means. Tamil Tigers were part of the Tamil liberation movement. Some wanted to achieve Tamil liberation through the parliamentary politics, left advocated a struggle of masses; the LTTE followed the method of violence, armed insurrection.

Terror is a part of the armed struggle. If a person supports Tamil liberation it doesn't mean necessarily that he is advocating or supporting terror. One can reject the method of terror but agree with the political aim of Tamil autonomy.

It is ridiculous to think that after devastation caused by the war, the problem of Tamil national freedom is over. It is more acute than ever before; alienation of Tamils from the state of Lanka is more evident now. 18th amendment made even the implementation of the 13th amendment more difficult.

There is no way out for Tamil speaking people except a joint struggle with those who accept equality, autonomy and the right of self determination of the Tamil speaking people.

We have to think of a social democratic movement that can combine the struggles of all communities. The JVP and the General will never accept the autonomy of the Tamil speaking people. They are unable to break away from bigoted racism.

On the other hand there are some in the UNP who are prepared to break away from Ranil's neo liberal economic stand. Ranil tends to compromise with Mahinda regime because of common economic policies. Both believe that the decaying system of MNCs will help us to achieve an industrial revolution!

In that scenario the Social democratic group may play an important role in the coming period.


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