13 April, 2024


Naked Power, Suppressed Dissent, A New Innings

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Flight of Reason, Wisdom

Reason and wisdom fled the President as he purported to sack the CJ on a finding that has no standing in law. Resistance weakened as the state used thugs and every sinew to taunt, threaten and slander dissidents.]

Bowing before naked power, the BASL promised to work with the purported CJ. In a sop to its grandiose pronouncements on boycotting an illegal appointee, BASL promised to skip the appointee’s ceremonial induction! After declaring the process illegal, how can the BASL work with an unlawful CJ? As The Island explained, “The BASL will have to cooperate with the new Chief Justice as official work of the Judiciary will have to continue independently.” The BASL’s copout had marked similarities to FUTA’s over the 6% GDP demand for higher education.]

Presidential power does wonders. A woman close to me was in an INGO when the tsunami struck. Being the senior-most person on site – the foreign managers were away for Christmas – she was asked to give the left over budget of $2 mn for tsunami victim relief. She personally delivered the cheque at the Prime Minister’s office. The money ended up in the Hambantota fund. By the time questions were raised, Rajapaksa was President and NGOs were being threatened. Her organization, having to work with the President to remain in Sri Lanka, confirmed that the funds were indeed for Hambantota.

Individuals cannot stand up when INGOs will not.

Posturing on Genocide

BASL and FUTA dashing hopes reminds one of Tamil excitement over international intervention over war crimes as the only means of political liberation. The Human Rights Council met twice raising hopes; but the first time there was praise for the government and the second time an inane watered down resolution. The US reassessment of GSP-Plus also came and went without action. The CJ matter has diverted attention from next March’s meetings.

Obama’s promise in Jan. 2009 through Susan Rice “to challenge the international community so that we see no more Rwandas, and no more Darfurs, and God forbid, what may come in the future,” was believed by many. Prabhakaran by Feb. 2009 was calling his US contacts to ask if Hillary Clinton would save the Tigers. But Mullivaikal came and neither God nor Obama forbade the slaughter.

Such speeches without action have given confidence to the Rajapaksas that they are safe from the West so long as they keep markets free.  However Tamils pin hopes on the government’s rogue-elephant behaviour riling the West and India so much that the West with India will act on their pronouncements for a change.

India’s Jaffna Consul V. Mahalingam, like Chamberlain towards Hitler, claimed this week that India is working quietly to get the university students released even as he seemed to concede Sri Lanka is stalling on the harbor, airport and housing for war victims projects to sabotage Tamil relations across the Straits. (The university is open but students are not attending.)

Frederica Jansz’s timely interview on Al Jazeera this week was a reminder to the US on the parlous state of press freedom in Sri Lanka, and to India about China’s unrestricted donation of US$9mn to the President and a further gift to his son (Leader 17.07.2011). Surely these gifts were for something.

JICA Facility Idling

In the meantime government has a free hand to dispense with minorities as it wishes and to feed the President’s vanity. Thus the modern Rs. 2,900 mn facilities at Jaffna Hospital by Japan’s JICA for the people of Jaffna – not the President – and completed in October, is idling for Rajapaksa to open it on Pongal day as Douglas’ invitee in a vainglorious circus. He ultimately decided not to come and the costly facility continues unused. The doctors struggle without facilities and are under pressure for the allegedly high death rates. The people may lose the services of 10 specialists who returned from the UK to serve and are subject to army harassment, assaults and anonymous threats.

Hassan Ali: Minorities in Sri Lanka

The silver lining is Hassan Ali, Secretary of the SLMC who did not vote for the impeachment despite being in government. He is outspokenly critical about the SLMC collaborating in Rajapaksa’s grab for untrammeled power and voting for the eighteenth amendment in return for promises never fulfilled since. SLMC Ministers in the Eastern PC have no power, he complains. Collaboration, he says, reduces collaborators to nothing, putting the Minister of Justice in Douglas’ situation – the President’s footstool.

When Ali’s son immigrated to the US, Ali was asked why. His answer: “There is no room for minorities in Sri Lanka.” When a powerful government man’s son has no future, what of ordinary Tamils?

Mano Ganeshan’s Analysis

Tamils are indeed vanishing as shown by Mano Ganeshan using recent census figures. I had estimated that Ceylon Tamils might be down to 6-8% from the pre-independence figure of 11% because of army and Tiger excesses and the fighting, and that Muslims might be (or soon be) the second largest ethnic group. I expected the census to provide proof of genocide. But when the figures came, they contradicted reasoned expectations: Sinhalese 15,173,800 (74.9%), SL Tamils 2,270,900 (11.2%), Muslims 1,869,800 (9.2%) and Indian Tamils 842,300 (4.1%) for a grand total of 20,263,000.

That SL Tamils – relatively educated with low birth rates and mass migrating – remain above the 11% at independence is astounding. Thanks to Mano Ganeshan’s research we know that a fast one was pulled in the census – officials considered only Tamils living in plantations as Indian Tamils. From the astronomical growth in SL Tamils and the incredibly low growth in Indian Tamils from 1981 (by when the effects of Srimavo-Shastri repatriation were over), Ganeshan concludes that a large number of Indian Tamils have reclassified themselves as SL Tamils, and if not for this the Muslims would be the second largest community. Most Indian Tamils living in the big cities and North-East had also reclassified themselves, some as Sinhalese.

Tamils are doing so badly that Education Ministry figures show the North-East accounting for 50% of school dropouts:  of 1,26,000 students who dropped out of school in 2011, the highest are from the North (38,321 or 30.4%) and the East (24,614 or 19.5%).

Commission of Peace and Justice

Explaining Tamil evisceration is the well thought out memorandum of the Commission for Justice & Peace of Jaffna’s Catholic Diocese to their Bishops’ Conference, declaring that the actions of the Government and the Security Forces are alienating the people and making them lose confidence in a peaceful and just Sri Lanka.

They highlight the occupation of lands by the security forces, allocation of northern lands to Sinhalese funded by the state, continuing plight of  political prisoners (naming the women Thirumakal in detention without charge for 18 years and Kathaye detained in 1994 and deceased in prison recently without medical care, and Nirmalaruban and Dilruckson who were tortured and killed), accountability over missing civilians estimated by Bishop Rayappu Joseph as numbering 146,000, and the fate of those who surrendered and went missing including Fr. Francis Joseph (81), the former Rector of St. Patrick’s College.

They list continuing humiliation in the ban on any function for those killed in the war, about 1000 Tamils being put under surveillance (eventually to be arrested and “rehabilitated”), the recruitment of Tamil women to the army by chicanery, the appointment of soldiers to teach Sinhalese to Tamil children who have no English, maths or even Tamil language teachers. Terrifying is the army’s requirement that parish priests submit a “year plan” for 2013 listing all functions and liturgical celebrations, and school principals obtain permission for any function however small.

As Tamils struggle to put life back together, diaspora sections are stirring the pot, wanting MP Sritharan (who like Sivajilingam is being subject to searches) to take over the TNA, and character assassinating MPs Sampanthan and Sumanthiran. Those abroad making no sacrifices must not presume to judge the TNA or BASL or FUTA who are on the ground. These brave souls keep battling, and documenting government’s criminality. Dissidents may retreat. But history shows that their resolve will strengthen with time. A new innings will begin.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Adding to the concern of the Writer Tamils are likely to end up as the 3rd largest community, the recent Census statistics announced is the population growth (1981-2011) of the 3 major communities, is likely to form part of heated national debate soon viz:- Sinhalese 34.7% Tamil 34% and Muslim 74%


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    1. JICA facility idling: ”government has a free hand to dispense with minorities as it wishes and to feed the President’s vanity” ????

    Approaches to equity in post-Tsunami assistance. Sri Lanka: a case study, Mandeep Kaur Grewal(DfID, UK), November 2006:
    ”…Within several days of the tsunami, Trincomalee’s District Secretary echoed the practice of his counterparts in other tsunami affected districts by engaging with a range of local stakeholders to form a coordination task force. By February 2005, presidential instructions arrived, requiring the District Secretary to seek ministerial approval for each task force meeting, effectively replacing this body with a special Council for the Reconstruction of Trincomalee, which involved approximately 70 members and was headed by ministers based in Colombo. The Council’s creation compromised district coordination efforts while providing no effective alternative, with the new Council meeting fewer than three times over 2005. The example of the District Secretary, who was undermined in developing a standard coordination process that other districts were able to implement, contrasts sharply with Hambantota’s housing experience, where conventional bureaucratic norms and systems of accountability were set aside, allowing the district to respond comparatively faster in planning reconstruction. The post-tsunami period in Sri Lanka brought more sharply into focus the serious shortcomings of over-centralized policy development and implementation, although this has long been informally recognized as undermining the prospects for development in Sri Lanka.”

    2. A few diaspora streaks who condemn Sumanthiran or TNA shouldn’t be taken seriously. There is a healthy support for TNA among the diaspora. Anyway the govt has a duty to serve the people in Sri Lanka justice, irrespective of the ramblings among the diaspora.

  • 0

    As usual, the author has vomited his Tribalism. The funniest statement is that Hassan Ali guy sent his Son to US to thrive as a Muslims as, according to him, Sri Lanka is not for minorities. Hooli had the courage to say that while he is living in the USA for several years. Everybody knows the fate of muslims in the USA after the 9/11.

    Another one is the other Tribalist he talking about -Joseph Rayappu. Rayppu talks about Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka and then again he criticizes Australia for not giving asylum to Tamils migrating to Christmus Island but being sent to Nayaru-EELAM (instead of keeping in Christmus Island).

    His worst worry is the Army’s inquiring about what the Tamil Christian priests are doing and what their intentions are. In LTTE days those priests could be labeled as suicide jacket transporters. These days, who knows what they have in mind, may be start the “NEW-LTTE” war.

  • 0

    Development of the country is proceeding mainly with roads and infrastructure. Human capital is being disregarded as it is not relevant to the ambitions of the family. This is similiar to what happened in other dictatorial regimes where a few prospered at the expense of the many. Democracy, human rights, rule of law and good governance may be seen as an impediment in this context.

    Professional associations such as BASL, FUTA, OPA have adopted a non-political stand. However this is not valid anymore. Politics pervades every sphere of activity and to be apolitical is being selfish and turning a blind eye on what is happening around you. We should expect more responsibility from the educated cream of society. The main problem is tha weak opposition which does not provide any alternate leadership solution.

    Amongst the minorities the TNA and Tamils are fighting a lone battle. The SLMC and other muslim parties have joined the govt as did CWC and are able to enjoy some benefits for themselves and the community.

    Thus society is deeply divided and this is to the advantage of the regime. They may prosper while some profit and others make do with the crumbs.

  • 0

    I would disagree with Mano Ganeshan’s and Hoole’s analysis of the census.

    The Sri Lankan Tamils as per the 2012 census were 11.2% while the ‘Indian’ Tamils were 4.2%. The distinction of Sri Lankan and Indian is increasingly a non sequitur, one foisted by interested parties to keep the distinction alive.

    The Low Country Sinhalese and Kandyan Sinhalese were merged for the very first time for census purposes only in 1981. The categories of Ceylon Moor and the Indian Moor were likewise merged for census purposes. The same happened to what was until then the separate categories of Dutch Burghers and Portuguese Burghers.

    There should likewise be one category i.e. Tamil. The Indian Tamils are being assimilated – either to the Sri Lankan Tamil mainstream in the Vanni or to a lesser extent the Sinhalese mainstream in places such as Negombo, Kegalle, Ratnapura and parts of Uva. We have to respect the fact that many Indian Tamils seek to reclassify themselves as Sri Lankan Tamil or to a far lesser extent as Sinhalese. It is for the individual concerned to decided how to define himself or herself. If he or she defines himself/herself as Sri Lankan Tamil – so be it. It is unavoidable. The Indian Tamil census category would eventually disappear as a separate category. Many ‘Indian’ Tamil politicians are concerned because they would otherwise lose their vote bank.

    If the combined Sri Lankan and Indian Tamil population is 15.4%, then this category remains significant.

    This means that the Sri Lankan Tamil (either with or without the ‘Indian’ Tamils included) remains the second largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka despite a significant Muslim population growth.

    The Muslims are 9.7% if one goes by the religion classification (not ethnic). This is an important constituent of the Sri Lankan population. But they are still the third largest ethnic and religious group for now at least.

    What is striking is the decline of the Christian population in Sri Lanka despite all the cries of evangelization. Christians were 8.95% in 1953 (and significantly higher in the census prior to that). This has now declined to 7.4%. There used to be more Christians than Muslims in Sri Lanka but that is no longer the case. There are 949,000 Sinhalese Christians and 504,000 Tamil Christians.

  • 0

    yes yes professor………you are absolutely right ………….will see in future by critical intervention with present………

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    [Edited out]

    • 0

      You are pathetic. Obviously you do not come from a good family.

      • 0

        Please do tell us about your good family. Are you to be seen anywhere in the internet?

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