2 October, 2020

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Law Entrance Issue And The Politics Of Silence

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

When any news on Sri Lanka in the ‘world press’ comes with a caveat such as ‘Sinhalese who are mostly Buddhist and Tamils who are mostly Hindu’, communalism becomes painted in lines bolder than reality on things political.  There is a communal reality of course, but when it is used as a marker, nuance is lost.  It is a phenomenon that communalists don’t necessarily object to for there’s a lot of political mileage to be gained by coming under spotlight.

It is not uncommon therefore for ‘ethnic’ and ‘religious’ to be painted on things that are not necessarily ethnic or religious.  One of the outcomes of this state of affairs, interestingly, is a marked aversion by some to point the ethnic or religious of ethnic and religious things respectively.  Indeed when the ethnic and/or religious does assert itself/themselves they are downplayed or ignored altogether.  There are holy ethnic cows and holy religious cows, apparently.

Now it can be argued that such things are left alone because there’s been so much fire that adding more fuel cannot help douse.  If that were the case, then it would be hands-off for all communities, all faiths, all ethnicities.  There are people who are like that, i.e. those who don’t feed the rabble-rouser and who, even if reference to identity cannot be avoided will employ reason and responsibility so that the rabble-rouser will not benefit but the public will be better informed.

The politics of selectivity in these matters is interesting in and of itself.  Take the fiasco regarding the Law Entrance Examination (LEE).  Statistics show a steady increase in the intake of Muslim students.  Does that indicate a ‘Muslim Hand’?  No.  We cannot conclude this.   It can be argued that Muslim candidates have got more serious about exam preparation than Muslims of an earlier generation.  Nothing wrong there.  This year’s intake shows Muslin-intake not as ‘improvement’ following recent pattern but a veritable jump.  ‘Muslim-hand’?  No evidence, as of now.  Better to presume ‘none’.

What is being questioned is the integrity of the entire process.  There are allegations of ‘leak’ as far as the Tamil Medium papers are concerned.  The Law College, Ministry of Justice (Rauff Hakeem, a Muslim who is a leader of a ‘Muslim’ party, is the subject minister, but that could be coincidence) and the Examinations Department are playing toss-the-ball.  That’s not a ‘Muslim thing’ but a general response to problem common to all departments and ministries.  The ‘Muslim-hand’ allegations come with reference to the ports recruiting Muslims in numbers not corresponding to ethnic percentages when a Muslim was subject minister and the foreign service likewise being ‘Muslim-loaded’ under A.C.S. Hameed.  Relevant? No.  Separate issues.

If the Tamil language paper has leaked and if the majority of Muslims took the Tamil version, then it is natural that they would perform better.  If this was the case it could be because whoever was guilty of leaking wanted Muslim candidates to perform better (the ‘leaker’ could have been a Muslim) or because the ‘leaker’ wanted to make a fast buck (in which case his/her ethnicity, religious faith etc., is irrelevant).

The jury is out on all these matters and as long as the jury remains out, those who want to pain ethnicity to the story will only become stronger.   From a purely rights point of view, it is a serious matter, especially since it is all about the law, law students and lawyers.  We can envisage a situation several decades down the line where some (let’s say ‘deserving’) individual is made Chief Justice but is found to have entered Law College after sitting an examination that remains under cloud.  That individual need not be a Muslim, let us remember.  This is not an O/L paper leak.  It is a competitive exam and far more important than competitive examinations such as the Grade 5 Scholarship exam.  Foot-dragging is not just unfair for the candidates (including those who ‘passed’) but dangerous for post-conflict harmony among communities.

Be that as it may, what is strange is the total silence on the part of many who treat even the slightest error on the part of exam-holders as though it were a national calamity.  Why?  Is this issue a touch-me-not because there is suspicion that some group other than Sinhalese or Buddhists might be up to hanky-panky?  Is it a fear that calling out minority groups would make the callers-out being identified with those who are routinely called ‘Sinhala Buddhist Extremists’?    Is it a similar ‘fear’ that stops the otherwise vociferous political commentariat from saying anything negative about the Saudis even as they lambast the Foreign Employment Bureau and the regime over Rizana’s execution?

Ravaya has been silent for the most part.  Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Jehan Perera, J.C. Weliamuna and other anti-regime hawks haven’t found this juicy enough an issue to chew on.  Such people focus on the protests led by Buddhist organizations.  That’s fair enough, but it doesn’t warrant silence on what appears to be serious flaws in the process as evidenced by contradictory and vague statements issued by the relevant authorities of the relevant institutions.

Standing for minority rights does not mean giving minorities a blank cheque. Neither does it warrant silence when minorities benefit from error, simply because they happen to be a minority.  Whenever foul mouthed people calling themselves ‘Buddhists’ or racist Sinhalese indulge in racism, there are many (mostly non-Sinhalese and non-Buddhists) crying foul, as they should. If they are asked ‘Are all non-Buddhists and non-Sinhalese saints?’ or ‘Would you ever or have you ever criticized racism on the part of non-Sinhalese or fundamentalism on the part of non-Buddhists?’ they are silent.

There’s something wrong here and it doesn’t help.  There’s a monster waiting to get out of a box.  There are errors of commission and errors of omission.  We are seeing both.  From all quarters.

*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com .

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    Law Exam papers had been reached to a Tamil – tuition master in Colombo, before the exam and The muslim students who came first, 2nd and 3rd had sat adjacent to each other.

    I heard, long ago, Jaffna had the same style exam writing for the Advanced level examination

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      This is only a rumor, and has no basis in fact as yet. Please provide proof as the allegation is very serious! No investigation has come up with this yet after 3 weeks of CID involvement.

  • 0
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    If you think there’s something wrong here, why don’t you ask your lord and master His Hex-A-Lunacy Percy Jilmart to appoint a commission? And after the commission hands over their report to him, His Hex-A-Lunacy Percy Jilmart can take a decision according to his conscience like he did with the Chief Justice fiasco. ;)

  • 0
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    Now we have a Chief Injustice who can give a good ruling. Why not give everyone full marks like the O levels. A few more satisfied lawyers will help bolster the regime.

  • 0
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    Malinda

    You try hard to keep communal politics out of this. We agree. We need both a tighter but transparent process, second we need the government to fast track the investigation.

    In the meantime the law college has a duty to explain with some background so that we can prevent rumour mongers having a field day.

    While it is common knowledge that an unusually high percentage of Muslim students passed, I wish we could know the percentage of Muslims who sat compared to the previous years.

    My understanding is that a large number of students sit these competitive exams as opportunities are limited.

    In fairness to the students who passed and those who were unable to get through it is essential that the government clears the air. Sooner the better

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    AT THE TIME “BANDA” CAME TO POWER ON “SINGALA ONLY”

    IT WAS “SINHALA MARIKAR” WHO WAS THE ATTRACTION.

    TODAY YOU SEE ANOTHER MARIKAR HEADING “THE SINHALA” CHANNEL OF SIRASA TV.

    JUST OPEN ANY NEWSPAPER AND YOU WILL SEE THE BEST ENGLISH IS BY MUSLIM
    JOURNALISTS.

    GO TO ELECTRONIC MEDIA- LISTEN TO ENGLISH OF MUSLIM TV PRESENTERS NOT
    JUST IN SRI LANKA BUT AROUND THE WORLD.

    IN THE PROFESSIONS, IN PUBLIC SERVICE MUSLIMS HAVE REACHED POSITIONS BY
    BY HARD WORK AND COMMITMENT.

    ONLY IN POLITICS “UNQUALIFIED, BULLSHITTER” MUSLIMS ARE THERE LIKE
    THE SINGALAYAS TOO.

    IF MUSLIMS ARE WEALTHY, IT IS BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD IN BUSINESS.

    NOW THERE IS “B.B.S” STAGING DEMONSTRATION AGAINST MUSLIMS AND
    DEMANDING CLOSING OF SAUDI EMBASSY, WHILE STILL, SENDING THEIR
    WIVES, MOTHERS AND SISTERS TO SAUDI. WHAT ABOUT THE MILLIONS
    COMING AS AID.WHEN SINHALESE WILL COME TO THEIR SENSES IS, WHEN THEIR
    MONKS WILL GET BACK TO TEMPLES AND PRACTICE BUDDHISM OF LORD BUDDHA.
    NOT THE BUDDHISM OF THE YELLOW ROBED MAFIA.

    YOU CAN KILL THE TWO MILLION MUSLIMS IN SRI LANKA, STILL IT WILL NOT MAKE EVEN A “DENT” IN THE NUMBER OF THE MUSLIMS IN THE WORLD
    WHICH NOW STANDS AT 2.2 BILLION.

  • 0
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    Malinda writes:

    “Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Jehan Perera, J.C. Weliamuna and other anti-regime hawks haven’t found this juicy enough an issue to chew on.”

    Malinda, do you know the why?

    For Pakiyasothy and Co who are funded to work for the vested interests of the neo-colonial powers in the West, it would not be ‘politcally correct’ to raise their voice against the minorities. The West will never allow their lackeys to touch any subject relating to the minorities. That is the reason why these guys were silent on the atrocities committed by the LTTE.

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    I agree to all what has been written here. A very good article !

  • 0
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    ALL THIS “HA-HO” BECOZ’ MUSLIMS HAVE DONE WELL.

    SIMPLE SOLUTION, IS TO HAVE A FRESH EXAMINATION.

    EXAMINATION DEPARTMENT CANNOT CONDUCT EXAMINATION WITHOUT “LEAKS”

    FIRST SEAL THE LEAKS. KICK-OUT THE MINISTER BANDULA.

    HIS REPLACEMENT MAYBE EVEN WORSE. WELL, IN THIS COUNTRY THERE ARE NO
    SOLUTIONS ONLY MORE AND MORE PROBLEMS AS LONG AS WE HAVE THE PRESENT
    RULERS.

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