Rajan Hoole’s Stand
When one’s community is wrong, to say so is difficult and painful. When the majority is wrong, they control the newspapers, the literature and public opinion to the extent that they can easily spread untrue slanders and make one exposing one’s community out to be a madman or an agent in the pay of evil forces. Three of the internationally best-known whistleblowers are Edward Snowdon, Chelsea Manning and Julian Asange. They stood up to state wrong-doing. The charge of raping a woman who was fast asleep and allegedly continued to sleep as she was raped against Asange shows how far states will go to repress dissent.
When my brother Rajan took a bold stand against the LTTE’s outrages, he was branded a traitor by many Tamils even as the Tamil Guardian, then edited by a Tamil family friend, carried untrue stories of his living in an army camp. A relation asked me if it is true that he is kept by the President in a 5-star hotel to write his reports. Under the LTTE’s Goebbelsian propaganda, the Tamil intellect was dead. Heritage history was supreme. The best of Tamil intellectuals ignored that University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) also detailed violations by the Army. Coverups of our faults, cripples the intellect of the whole community.
One day an Assistant Lecturer close to me stormed angrily into my office at Peradeniya and berated Rajan for saying that few died in the Navaly SS. Peter and Paul Church Bombing on 9 July 1995. After checking I produced for him the report stating that “about 130 civilians died in shelling alone during the first few days.”
Subsequently nearly all my Tamil Katubedde batchmates now in Australia wrote to me a letter signed by them that the UTHR Reports are untruthful and must stop, and that they hold me responsible. My room-mate from then who unfailingly wished me on my birthday and who signed that letter hardly keeps in touch. I had no community.
Subsequently after the LTTE drove me out as VC of Jaffna, I happened to meet E. Saravanapavan in 2006 or 2007, then a Member of Parliament, in Toronto. He offered me the friendly advice that one cannot win when one stands up against ones own community and that it is better to go along. That might be the reality.
However, I believe it is wrong to go along with ones community when it is wrong. To stand up against our own community when it is wrong is a matter of duty. That comes with a cost, and I can only pray that those who stand up have the strength to survive.
University of Jaffna
I returned to Sri Lanka to live with my people, but I still feel the pinch of going against the Tamil community. Sympathetic members of the community even today introduce me as one who was not able to take up his VC appointment, even though the courts declared me former VC and got my salary paid for the relevant period. VC Vasanhi Arasaratnam, immediately took down the board in the council Room listing VCs saying repairs were due. It took the next VC, S. Srisatkunarajah, to list me and send me invitations sent to all former VCs for the convocations, and finally the Museum in Navatkuli also had me up with former VCs and my photograph.
Heritage propaganda continues as educated Tamils in New York bombarded my mother-in-law when I returned home in 2010 that I came back to Sri Lanka on the CIA payroll.
In 2010 I had been appointed to set up the Engineering Faculty for Jaffna. My committee received reports from K.K.Y.W. Perera and Lakshman Ratnayake to choose Jaffna as a site because to be successful the faculty must have access to industry. But VC N. Shanmugalingam wanted Kilinochchi, the LTTE’s dream of Ariviyal Nagar (a copy of the not-so-successful Dubai Knowledge Village).
As I predicted, Engineering at Kilinochchi is a failure (although the students competitively admitted being clever will do well in life).
Although a Senior Professor in Electrical Engineering at Peradeniya when I was vacated post on the day I returned in December 2008, in August 2015 I applied for Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at Jaffna since a professor application would have taken me beyond my retirement age because of the slow speed at which Sri Lanka processes such applications. But amazingly the Committee chaired by VC Vasanthy Arasaratnam, Sivasegaram (SJ in these columns who talks high principles), and his students – the Department Head Thiruvaran for whom I wrote one of my strongest references when he went to the US, JB Ekanayake my friend and Head at Peradeniya and an Engineer from CEB) signed that I was unqualified to be Senior Lecturer.
At the time, Carlo Fonseka raised the question why, and in an affidavit filed with the University Services Appeals Board he stated that the UGC Chairman Mohan de Silva reported VC Arasaratnam’s position that in Jaffna a Christian is unacceptable in a senior position. It did not occur to de Silva that it is illegal.
It woke me up to the realization that in Sri Lanka, there are no principles, the only guiding principle even at the level of UGC Chairman being earning the goodwill of the powerful and those who can be useful.
The staff shortage in jaffna’s engineering was terrible as those recruited left. A. Atputharajah who replaced me as Coordinator for Engineering swore to friends that so long as he was there, he would not let me step into the Faculty. After he had a heart attack and took on reduced duties, the situation was that a few lecturers were teaching 4 courses at a time when the normal load was two.
In January Dean Pirapaharan asked me to teach and I agreed. Head Thiruvaran raised the legal issue that he with Sivasegaram and the VC had signed in 2015 that I was unqualified to be Senior Lecturer and now to to invite me to be Visiting Senior Professor would put them in legal jeopardy. Dean Pirapaharan asked me about it and I told him that I would not talk about it.
I thereupon heard officially that the Department Head Kanahasundaram Ahilan (for whom too I wrote a very strong reference when he went to the University of New South Wales for his doctorate) was desperate to assign visiting lecturers since department staff members had more than three subjects in the forthcoming semesters due to the recent resignation of staff members. However, when he discussed assigning classes for me with department staff members, with Atputharajah in the background, a few department staff members threatened Dr. Ahilan that they will not accept more than two subjects if he appoints me against their wish. That is, by going I would take care of 2 courses, but as a result of communal backlash, more than 2 courses would have no teachers.
Again, I realized that I was not a part of this community, however qualified I was, and no one would stick up for me, however much I had helped them.
Indeed, there is no one to take up the interests of the bright students to ensure that they had good teachers. After my return I have published 3 engineering books by western publishers. These books remain unused by me and my students. Instead, in the absence of teachers, graduate students in America give our Kilinochchi students zoom classes!
The Anglican Church
Likewise I have listed the extensive corruption in the Anglican Church – spiritual, sexual and financial. I have written much so I will not dwell on it.
The Church is so vindictive and petty that it has been reduced to caste insults. The Archdeacon of Jaffna and St. John’s address their letters to me at 88 Nayanmarkaddu Road instead of at 88 Chemmany Road, a prestigious street running by the palace and original temple (now St. James’ Church) – implying a low-caste status to me in Nallur where many addresses follow caste names.
My name has been crossed out of the address list for invitations by the Principal I am told, and as a result I got no invitation to this year’s Easter Bajanai .
Thus, even with the Christian community in which I was nurtured, there is no guarantee of community.
The Sinhalese Community
Like any other community, the Sinhalese also face the issue of whether or not to stand up to wrongdoings by its own members. However, because the Sinhalese control most narratives, it is common to see the untruthful boast of the community as a long-standing democracy, suppressing the histories of the estate Tamil community and the repression to which it was subjected.
Another example is how the Sinhalese see one of their most horrible families, the Rajapaksas, as heroes protecting the Sinhalese people and voted for the Rajapaksas despite all their corruption and numerous murders.
Something the Sinhalese generally refuse to face up to is the murders committed on 9 May 2009 ignoring all the photographic evidence of executions from independent reporters and reports by the UN. Even after agreeing to the UNHCR to put murderers on trial, there is now outright denial that those murders happened. Few Sinhalese are willing to demand justice for Tamils. Even when they agree that murders happened, few Sinhalese will say so.
Many Sinhalese human rights worker friends too have this blind spot. Friends whom I thought liberal, have tried to persuade me that the actual death toll at Mullivaikal is about 10,000. During the Aragalaya protests which many portrayed as pro-democracy with loud noises objections over corruption and repression, I did not see anyone calling for war crimes trials or raising the issues of Hindu Temples being taken over as Buddhist sites or finding the disappeared. We Tamils were not their community. The cold-blooded murdering soldiers are Sri Lankan war heroes rewarded with high office with no protest from anyone. Few have objections to Buddhism as state religion. The killers of Tamils and Buddhists were the Sinhalese community.
The Daily Mirror and its Horrid Editorial of 10 April 2023
Newspapers of the Times Group were always of high quality until communal passions made the editors cut out articles exposing Sinhalese atrocities. In the traditions of the New York Times and the Washington Post, we had come to expect exposures of all horrible members of society. Alas!
Early in June 2011, the UN Report by Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general, Yasmin Sooka, a South African human rights expert, and Steven Ratner, an American lawyer on the murders by both sides at the end of our war, was ready. On 13 April 2011 Al Jazeera reported that the report was still unpublished and had been given to the Sri Lankan Government for observations. But even before the report was released, acting as the government’s agent, the Daily Mirror printed an outright condemnation of the report by the Bar Association that was passed unanimously including by Tamils who chose their community in voting for that vulgar resolution. Such is the quality of our Bar Association and the Daily Mirror. I wrote a rejoinder that was printed with some delay but it is not to be seen among the archives of the newspaper, although I tried through friends on the newspaper whom I trust to find it.
To me the most shocking was the Daily Mirror editorial of 10 April 2023 which I expected to reflect the highest values of man. It was titled “Of indicting presidents and covering war crimes.” It reflected the lowest tribal values of man. The purpose of the editorial was obviously to water down the iniquitous nature of the war crimes by our soldiers in Mullivaikal by saying other communities also engage in heinous crime.
Since America is leading the war crimes effort, the editorial is an anti-American tirade. The Editor attacks the US Criminal Justice System. It cites a Pew Resesearch finding that 87% of Blacks and 61% of Whites believe that the US criminal justice system treats Blacks less fairly. An objective assessment would have mentioned some study on how Tamils are treated by the Criminal Justice System here. How many people killed in the 1983 riots were prosecuted? How many massacred in the Welikada riots had their killers punished when many of the killers were identified and one who carried the cut-off head of a prisoner by his hair was elected to parliament, presumably as a Sinhalese hero.
The sordid Daily Mirror editorial exposes the distasteful sexual antics of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump. It was a complete exaggeration – no, an untruth – to say that Americans called their presidential philandering grave crimes. But any word from the Daily Mirror on the necrophilia on the beaches of Mullivaikal by our hero soldiers whose photographs are available of the Internet with no attempt to identify them? Anything on our then Chief Justice being found by the police near parliament without his trousers in a motorcar with a married woman as detailed in The Sunday Leader?
The editorial criticizes the US – rightly – for having taken upon itself the role of global policeman and claims that “this newspaper has always condemned acts of terrorism committed by whom-so-ever it may be. There are no doubt [sic.] innocent civilians were killed during the conflict.” That is completely untrue. I can cite examples of many civilians being killed by our army in cold blood, without a word of condemnation from the Daily Mirror. What of the pardoning of Tamil-child-killer Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake?
In fact, the editorial under discussion sadly endorses Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ridiculous claim that they fought the war without the loss of life of a single civilian with the human rights charter in one hand and the gun in the other! It is a lie that even the Rajapaksas have turned their back on, admitting the number of civilians killed, even though their number is smaller than what is widely reported.
Having said that, the Editor brings in the use of nuclear bombs in Japan at the end of the war. I am a pacifist and would let thieves take whatever they want rather than shoot them. However, it was only in 1977 that Protocol I was adopted as an amendment to the Geneva Conventions, prohibiting the deliberate or indiscriminate attack of civilians and civilian objects. Moreover, the Editorial was obliged to mention the counter argument that the bombing was justified at the time as being moral in order to bring about a more rapid victory and prevent the deaths of more Japanese and Americans, particularly if the bombings prevented an invasion of the Japanese mainland, saving more lives than they took in the bombing.
The editorial is wrong in saying that the US has not charged civilians with rights violations. The Criminal Section of the Justice Department has enforced many rights violations by civilians under sections 18 U.S.C. § 241 ff.
In our book (Ethics for Professionals: A Human Rights, Internationalist Perspective (First Edition), Cognella, San Diego, CA. S. Ratnajeevan Hoole, Mariyahl Mahilmany Hoole, and Dushyanthi Hoole ©2019, 438 pages. Paperback list price: $ 104.95) my coauthors and I point to civilian military contractors being investigated in Bosnia for the use of children for sex and explain how civilians are no longer free of crimes in a war zone.
That same year, 2000, Congress passed the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which asserts that US federal courts can prosecute civilians working for the Defense Department overseas. Under the 2007 Defense spending bill, there is no longer any immunity for defense contractors. We also detail how the use of prisoners to build the Burma Pipeline through Karen land. It led to a multi-million undisclosed fine on the companies.
Another case in point involves an Ethiopian woman, Edgegayehu Taye, whose kidnap and torture in 1979 in Ethiopia came to trial in Atlanta, GA in 1993. She had been stripped naked, hung upside down from a pole and tortured by Kelbesso Negewo, an official under communist dictator Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam who deposed Emperor Haile Selassie favored by the West. To cut a long story short, Negowo was fined $1.5 million and deported although he had been given asylum by Reagan who favoured those opposed to communists.
The Daily Mirror editorial spends much space on lapses by the US in Iraq and by Israel in Palestine. We should all grieve for these lapses by powerful militaries. However, that others commit crimes is no excuse for us to do the same.
The last paragraph says that “A person could not be faulted, for wondering whether the spurious charges against past President Trump, is [sic.] designed to cover the ongoing atrocities committed by Israel in Palestine.”
Spurious charges? It shows that the Editor’s thinking is like at Fox News and he seems to think that undermining an election is ok just like President Rajapaksa and Prabhakaran joined forces at the 2005 election to give Rajapaksa his victory. What has deteriorated is not only the thinking of the Daily Mirror but also everything expected of a good newspaper.
As a people, as I have always told my Tamil friends, we must first be clean before finding fault with others. The Daily Mirror, I wish would fight for and practice that principle. That is how we can all develop as a community, fending for each other and what is right.