22 September, 2020

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Prospects For Human Rights And Reconciliation In 2014?

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Both the world and Sri Lanka most probably enter the New Year with a melancholy feeling. Of course we greet each other to the contrary, hoping that everything would go well. The formidable challenge before the world in 2014 or for the years to come would be the ‘global warming’ and the consequent or unrelated ‘natural disasters.’ We lament on them when they occur and then conveniently forget about them all, engaging in our own day to day preoccupations, mostly conflictual.

Tsunami disaster just few days before the dawn of the New Year of 2005 was the best example. We all communities became instantly united when the Tsunami struck us on 26 December 2004, but then soon went back to our disastrous conflicts, one against the other, not only on ethnic and religious grounds, but also on the pretexts of politics and even personal grounds. We have been excellent in blaming each other without contemplating on our own follies of bigotry and foibles. That is how we came about of an Eelam War IV.

On the issue of global warming, we are condemned to ‘death by thousand cuts.’ It is slow and suffocating. The Liberal government that came to power few months back in Australia is determined to do away with the ‘carbon tax’ which was previously introduced to discourage the gas emissions to the atmosphere. Removal of the tax is argued to stimulate the economy, and of course it would, but at what cost? This is the logic everywhere. The long term wisdom is sacrificed to short term economic or other gains.

The year 2013 ended painfully for many people, especially for the poor, the destitute and the marginalised. All of them constitute more than half of the world population of now over 7 billion people in this small planet. The civil war continued in Syria without resolution, thousands and thousands of new refugees fleeing the country. South Sudan, the most recent new state, created under the patronage of the UN, just few years back, plunged into fears internal conflict just recently, hundreds of people newly killed, proving perhaps the creation of new states per se might not be the best solution for conflicts.

More dramatic were the events in Moscow. The ugly head of terrorism is raising its head again and even to the glee of the authorities because then they can continue their restrictions on freedoms of the people on the pretext of terrorism threat.

The end of 2013 in Sri Lanka was not without incidents, although it appeared superficially so. Three churches in the South were reported to be attacked on the Christmas eve by the religious bigots, BBS goons or not. A similar incident occurred in Potuvil, a Sufi shrine being attacked by a rival faction of the same Islam. The religious intolerance is not simply ‘black and white,’ only limited to the Buddhist fanatics, although they are the most menacing. There is intolerance within the same cluster of faith as well. When some churches are attacked, the other churches appear to keep quiet.

Most of the attacks are on the ‘Assembly of God.’ One may consider that some of the pastors are themselves being ‘bigots.’ However, the other religious groups have no right to attack them or their places of worship. Freedom of conscience, worship and propagate one’s own religion peacefully are constitutional rights. As the things have been continuing for a very long period now, the impunity with which they operate is a disgrace for the government and the law enforcement authorities. Perhaps their culpability is the reason for the silence.

Whatever the misgivings that we have about the Ancient past of Sri Lanka, religious tolerance and freedom of conscience were protected even under some despotic kings. The blend of Buddhism and Hinduism at the level of people’s worship was one result of that situation. This was the case in many Asian countries, even when the West was engulfed in religious wars and bigotry.

The year 2013 was not at all a smooth year for Sri Lanka. It started with a bad taste by impeaching the Chief Justice arbitrarily. The independence of the judiciary has been the main casualty since then, apart from the continuous personal harassment of Dr Shirani Bandaranayake. When the judiciary was suffocated, the prospects for human rights became bleak and bleak, the grievances accumulating without legal redress whether it was freedom of expression or the freedom of the journalists. The harassment of journalists continued unassailed particularly in the North. The torture in police custody increased as figures shown by the Human Rights Commission.

The major human rights event in the year in the South undoubtedly was the Weliweriya incidents and the shooting in August. It was an incident related to the environmental protection that we have highlighted at the beginning in this article and in this case the ground water pollution, whatever is the actual reason. It was admirable that the people protested without being submissive like in most of the other cases of rights violations. The event also revealed the heavy weight of the armed forces, and the defence establishment, in the present state apparatus, without allowing the civilian issues to be handled by the police.

Weliweriya could have been an eye opener for those who cannot understand the adverse consequences of the heavy presence of the armed forces in the North. There is a parallel. But unfortunately it was not apparently the case because of the ethnic prejudices of the majority of the people. It also should be an eye opener for the armed forces itself. As a professional army, it should refrain from interfering in administrative or civilian matters in the North and point out that to the higher political authorities. I remember some army officers very clearly expressing the view during the failed peace process, and even before, that their task is only defence and it is up to the politicians to resolve the ethnic conflict.

The year 2013 also marked some positive developments. The holding of the Northern Provincial Council election in September was one. The holding of the CHOGM in November and the interaction with the other Commonwealth leaders was another, although some on the other side missed the golden opportunity and some wagged their fingers unnecessarily. All in all it was good. It was during this time that the President promised to investigate the ‘war crime’ allegations. Now it is up to him to ‘walk the talk’ pending the Human Rights Council sessions in March.

Following upon the holding of the NPC elections, it is of paramount importance that the government allows that Provincial Council to function properly without interference through the Governor or the military. There is no question that the government has improved considerable infrastructure and initiated some development projects particularly through the Ministry of Economic Development. That is the main message of the President for this New Year, unfortunately without any mention of reconciliation. There is no doubt that development, if properly done, is fulfilment of human rights. But that to happen, especially in the case of the Northern and the Eastern provinces, the people’s participation should be there. That could only come through the Provincial Councils and their elected representatives and not from selected individuals on a political basis.

In the New Year, the government should prove that it is serious about its declared policy of reconciliation. There is one symbolic gesture that it can do even before the March human rights sessions. That is to resolve the prevailing ambiguity on the language issue of the national anthem. Sri Lanka undoubtedly has been one of the few countries that allowed the bilingual singing of the national anthem in both Sinhalese and Tamil since 1951. There are many countries now following perhaps Sri Lanka’s example. Even after Sinhala became the only official language in 1956, the practice continued without interference. But the present government, whatever the reason, put this policy into jeopardy in December 2010 while both Sinhala and Tamil are official languages since 1987.

The inconsistency and vacillation of the government on reconciliation are amply demonstrated by this ambiguous policy, irrespective of the LLRC recommendation on the subject. After the formation of the NPC, the Chief Minister has reinstated the custom, by rightfully singing the national anthem in Tamil in the Northern Province. They also hoist the national flag without any qualm. These were not the practices during the LTTE times. The government should now reciprocate without procrastinating. Otherwise, the prophecy of Colvin R. de Silva might prove even in this case. When what he said is rephrased it might read as follows.

National anthem in one language, two nations; national anthem in two languages, one nation.

My suggestion for the national anthem this New Year would be little more than having it in two languages or two lyrics. It might be akin to what Minister A. L. M. Athaullah has apparently suggested during the Cabinet discussions in December 2010. That is to have in one text but in both languages; one verse in Sinhala, then the next in Tamil. In this way both communities should be able to sing the national anthem also in the other’s language.

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Rulers fail to realise that the sovereignity of the nation lies with the people. Entrenched in power they feel that they can ride rough shod over the rights of the people and impose their writ. Maybe for a time, but nothing in this world is for ever. Gen Charles de Gaulle once said ‘the cemeteries are full of indispensible people’.

    The rulers may think that they have tryst with destiny and that they have been chosen to give life to the ancient mahawansa order. The realities of the present day world are quite different. The order of the day is for reconcilliation, cohabitation, tolerance, peace and harmony. Without these ingredients any development effort will come to naught.

    Further the govt cannot implement a one sided development agenda using the military, without the involvement of the people at provincial level. The people are the key and are the major stakeholder. Without their participation there can be no success. They cannot be excluded.

    • 1
      0

      How can the Prez be made to change in 2014:

      ” …In each, the party previously in opposition gained decisive power on a platform that promised fundamental change. After each election, there were missed opportunities for initiatives that could have addressed many concerns of Tamil community members, while simultaneously respecting the concerns of all but the most radical Sinhalese nationalists. In each instance, however, Sri Lanka’s political leaders chose not to expend their political capital in this way but instead, to accede to demands of the radicals. … it will be useful to seek lessons from periods when Sri Lankan political leaders, like President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had such overwhelming political support that they were in a position, if they chose, to expend political capital by taking concrete steps toward communal reconciliation. …” – Prospects For Post Conflict Reconciliation And Development In Sri Lanka: Can Singapore Be Used As A Model? Prof John Richardson, Text of a presentation at Global Asia Institute Speaker Series (2010), National University of Singapore, Prof John Richardson, http://groundviews.org/2010/11/05/prospects-for-post-conflict-reconciliation-and-development-in-sri-lanka-can-singapore-be-used-as-a-model/

    • 3
      1

      2014 will see the Rajapaksa Regime on the mat! Things are falling apart – the centre cannot hold – the corrupt and criminal regimes’ thuggery is showing through..
      It will certainly be a better year than 2013 in Sri Lanka which began with the illegal impeachment of the CJ by the Parliament of corrupt politicians in the Diyawenna Oya..
      BUT
      The New year started with Jarapassa telling lies as usual and asking Sinhala Modayas to TRUST his corrupt and criminal government! Rajapaksa must think that we Sinhalayas are even bigger modayas than we actually are!
      Then, GL the crook, said that Sri Lanka has institutions and processes to deal with the war crimes – but the fact is that all DEMOCRATIC and INDEPENDENT institutions and processes have been DESTROYED By the corrupt Jarapassa military dictatorship and concentration of power in the uneducated and corrupt Jarapassa, family and cronies – the de facto CJ Mohan Peris and the criminal clown at the Central Bank Nivard Cabraal are good examples..
      Now the shit is hitting the fan big time.. so lets watch the fun and prey that CBK will emerge from retirement to rescue us!

  • 0
    1

    Prez Rajapakse atrociously ignores the 3-month wrangle between the elected Northern Provincial Council and the appointed Governor:
    President stresses need for national development, 31 December 2013,
    http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=95072

    Please ask him to read the interview:
    https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=wm#sent/14349525da0efab6?compose=14344f682923074c%2C1434ce9e891d05d9

      • 0
        0

        The Executive Director of LKIIRSS told the Virginia Tech audience:
        ”Today, these efforts are what enabled the Government to successfully hold Provincial Council elections in the Northern Province for the first time since 1987. This further reinforced the commitment of the Government in the democratic process to foster political reconciliation.” (He wouldn’t tell them that the elctions were held under international pressure of 4yrs)
        His Leader:
        ”I am also happy that we were able to restore total democratic rights of the people in the North which the terrorists deprived them of, for many decades and hold free and fair elections to the Northern Provincial Council” – Interviewing the President, 1 January 2014, http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/41008-critics-of-sl-have-a-misguided-notion-president.html

      • 0
        0

        LKIIRSS is not an independent think-tank – its Chairman is the Minister for External Affairs.

        What are the Tamils doing about the Virginia Tech talk by the Executive Director of LKIIRSS.

        What he was telling the audience he should have been telling Prez Rajapakse!

  • 2
    3

    “National anthem in one language, two nations; national anthem in two languages, one nation.”

    What a foolish thing to say!

    IF true, USA should have 2 nations, UK should have 2 nations, Australia should have 2 nations.

    What rubbish!

    National anthem in one language, one nation; national anthem in two languages, two nations.

    I thought the biggest joker was that Jaffna Tobacco Raja until I read this!

    • 1
      1

      Central Federal governments with regional states with their own parliaments:

      Australia has 8 state parliaments:
      http://www.auinfo.com/australian-states-australia.htm

      US – 50 states:
      http://www.infoplease.com/states.html

      UK:national assemblies in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.
      (Scotland will soon have referendum to see if it wants to go separate )

      • 1
        0

        But they sing their national anthem in ONE language!

    • 0
      1

      Fathima Fukushima,

      What nonsense are you fool ejecting, a bloody cockroach like you has no knowledge of National Anthems but knows the taste of excreta in toilet pits!

      • 0
        0

        Are you talking [Edited out]

  • 2
    1

    We can be reasonably sure that Channel 4 is going to release another video before March 2014. Instead of broadcasting all the footage they posses at once, they have shrewdly decided to release them little by little prior to important events.
    If they have the material depicting the capture of Isaipriya, and footage of her post mortem, they will likely have footage of her rape and execution as well. The “heroes” took videos of so many executions, why wouldn’t they video Isaipriya’s as well? Here are more possibilities of what we can look forward to seeing in 2014: Balachandran execution video, Duwaraka and Mathivathani post mortem photos, and/or execution videos.
    Maybe the GOSL should begin 2014 by issuing a pre-emptive denial of all events that will be depicted in the latest channel 4 video, before it’s even released!!

    • 0
      1

      Patriot, Ha..ha..ha…haaa! Bloody MARA and Leela bitch would be hauled to electric chair while they are embracing each other! What a new year!

  • 1
    1

    One of the few Sinhala leaders and intellectual who strive hard to put some common sense into the heads of our leaders in the south.

    • 0
      0

      Thanks Fr. Emmanuel. We should try our best from all sides.

      Laksiri

      • 0
        0

        Birds of a feather flock together!

      • 0
        0

        Some of the articles in CT need to be regularly translated and transmitted to the Sinhala masses.

        I always appreciate this author’s and some others’ input here.

    • 0
      0

      Unlike Tamil racist leaders of GTF who escaped from SL!

      Stateless fools!

  • 1
    1

    Educated people like Laksiri Fernando must find a way to let their writing reach the southern masses. As long as the people are ignorant,leaders like Rajapakse Brothers will reign this unfortunate country,opressing the citizens,killing press opponents and throwing out even the judiciary

  • 1
    1

    Educated? He has only a PhD, not education.He needs edification.

  • 0
    0

    Laksiri’s selective ‘religious intolerence’ conveniantly ignores the hundreds of hindu temples in the north and east looted of artifacts & statues,chariots set on fire,partially and alomst totally destroyed, temple priests assaulted and killed,and,times for poojas decreed by the army.
    Some temples have even been made ‘out of bounds’ totally,to the public.

    • 0
      0

      Howe about coming out with a list possibly with dates and details and maybe citations of where the info is available. Do something sensible without wasting your time braying like these Tamil Donkeys.

  • 1
    1

    Laksiri IS arguing with the Brain of a Donkey.

    You talk every thing whether you can understand it or not.

  • 0
    1

    3 Million Refugees in Syria,where two Wars waged by the Jews couldn’t match…

    Thousands killed in Sarin Attacks, Suicide ,and Car Bombs with the help of Foreign Funds and hired guns.

    Thousands dead and a half a Million Refugees in South Sudan.

    These are the two most recent countries where Democracy was restored and the full HR charter was introduced by Laksiris’ great mates in the West lead by PM Cameron….

    Poor Srilanka hasn’t had a car bomb or suicide attack since Nanthikadal.

    But worse things have happened in his ex motherland if we are to believe this eminent ex Lankan.

    For example the ex Chief Justice Shiranee gets redundancy.

    Three ” Churches” which as I understand are makeshift born again . pay as you earn outfits are allegedly attacked by Buddhist Bala Senas….

    One would have thought the major religion there is Catholicism , next to Buddhism..

    BTW, Did Laksiri sing the Aussie Anthem in Koori, while watching those magnificent Fire Works on the decking of the Sydney Opera House?….

    Happy and more prosperous New Year to Laksiri and his Western mates and peace and harmony to my fellow inhabitants…

    • 1
      0

      Over 1,200 Tamil women are NOT raped everyday by the forces.

      At this rate all Tamil women will not be raped by 2020.

      Don’t fall into Tamil propaganda.

      These are just damn lies spread by paid Tamil propaganda.

      There are more Tamil women than men in Jaffna – FACT.
      They have consensual sex with army personnel (ALL young strong men). That is not rape of Tamil women. There is a difference.

      Sinhala men are fairer in skin color than Tamils so Tamil women prefer them.

  • 1
    0

    “Poor Srilanka hasn’t had a car bomb or suicide attack since Nanthikadal”

    If you had said “after 2009, we killed, raped, abducted, disappeared,robbed, arrested were Tamils with occasional Sinhalese who question or bring to light our illicit deeds” That would be the TRUTH!!!

    Killing Tamils cannot be justified by saying that “it happens in Syria, Sudan etc. etcl.

    Are saying that Sinhalese can kill Tamils and no one question that?

    • 0
      0

      Killing and raping Tamils was legit for IPKF. So why not for others?

  • 0
    0

    Lets face facts no matter who says.

    “National anthem in one language, two nations; national anthem in two languages, one nation.”

    What a foolish thing to say!

    IF true, USA should have 2 nations, UK should have 2 nations, Australia should have 2 nations, Malaysia should have 2 nations, Japan should have 2 nations, Pakistan should have 2 nations, etc. etc..

    What rubbish!

    National anthem in one language, one nation; national anthem in two languages, two nations.

  • 0
    0

    LAKSIRI FERNANDO:

    These are the people that you [Edited out] of.

    [Edited out]

    “During the CHOGM in Sri Lanka, some British papers gave full publicity to PM Cameron s gimmicks in Sri Lanka. He was keen
    to be in the North than to participate in the summit. One paper carried a photo of him with Tamils with the heading, Tamils praise Cameron as a god . Another said, Cameron had heated discussion with the President of Sri Lanka . And so on.
    Now Cameron had been exposed in a Tamil Website named Athirvu . According to the website, a Sri Lankan Tamil by the name of Subaskaran Aliraja who owns a Telephone Co in the UK called Lyce mobile had funded the Conservative party at the last elections. Therefore obviously, he is indebted to the Tamil diaspora. The website had reported that Subaskaran had donated 420,000 sterling pounds to the Conservative party. So the website claims that Cameron s gimmicks about Tamils in the North and steering anti Sri Lanka propaganda while in Sri Lanka had been at the behest of Subaskaran. “

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