3 March, 2024

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Reconciliation Process Requires Fairness & Equal Treatment

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

Minorities for the most part live in some apprehension of the power of the majority. At their worst, majorities can inflict violence on minorities, such as in the form of riots. While minorities may resist, they tend to be at the receiving end. In democracies, minorities will invariably face the problem of majority rule, as the majority’s view of what is important will tend to take precedence over what the minority thinks as being important. Therefore, concepts of rule of law and fairness are most important to minorities so that they are treated as equal citizens in practice. The 19th century political theorist John Stuart Mill, who warned against the “tyranny of the majority” also asserted that “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.”

Ensuring equality and justice through institutional safeguards becomes paramount in upholding the principles of democracy for all citizens. Recent developments in Sri Lanka are generating apprehension and anxiety amongst the ethnic and religious minorities. These include the disregard for the concerns of the Catholic Church regarding the Easter bombing, the arrest of Pastor Jerome Fenando and the resistance to the TNA;’s nominee to the constitutional council. The arrest of Pastor Jerome may seem a small problem and a problem of an individual who went too far in what he said about other religions and in particular about the majority religion. But his arrest under the ICCPR Act for spreading religious hatred sends a message to all religious and ethnic minorities that the government can clamp down on them and treat them more strictly than it treats those of the majority community and in a way that violates the principle of equality of treatment.

Pastor Jerome belongs to a numerically small group of evangelical Christians who are viewed as controversial even by the mainstream Christian churches. But the circumstances of his arrest is indicative of the sometimes step motherly attitude of the government towards ethnic and religious minorities. He was arrested despite obtaining a ruling from the higher judiciary that he would not be arrested upon his return. The government has shown itself willing to disregard judicial orders previously too, when it did not heed the judicial order not to block funds for the local government election. This is most unfortunate as it erodes the good work that numerous “reconciliation mechanisms” set up by the government are trying to do to bring about reconciliation among the general population on the basis that the law protects all equally.

Asymmetric Justice 

The main accusation against Pastor Jerome was that he hurt the sentiments of the majority religion by claiming that the founder of his religion was the model for others to follow. Accordingly, he was arrested by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on charges of making offensive statements that led to religious disharmony. The Magistrate had noted that sufficient facts have been filed before Court suggesting that the suspect had committed an offence under the ICCPR by delivering a sermon at the Miracle Dome which belongs to him. The Magistrate had also noted that the prosecution had filed facts before the Court that the suspect’s statement had caused tension between Buddhists and followers of other religions.

On the other hand, the treatment meted out to Pastor Jerome was more severe than that to a venerable Buddhist monk. TNA Member of Parliament (MP) M.A. Sumanthiran has questioned the lack of action by the Police against Ven. Sumana Thera for allegedly making threatening statements against the Tamil community. MP Sumanthiran had questioned why the Police had not taken immediate action against Ven. Sumana Thera. Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Leader MP Mano Ganesan had also accused the Thera of inciting racial hatred and violence. “Ven. #Ampitiya #Sumanarathana Thero says… “If not every Tamil person will be cut and killed. We will cut every Tamil in the south and die”. Isn’t this in clear breach of ICCPR Act Section 3? Over to Mr. President!” MP Ganesan said in a post on X.

There are two other important issues on which minority sentiment is being disregarded by the government. The Easter bombing is now coming into its fourth year with no proper investigation which has been noted by Pope Francis who urged the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka not to give up on the search for truth and justice. Successive governments have appointed committees to investigate the matter and the present one has pledged to do so but with no substantive progress in apprehending the culprits. Those who had been named in the reports of these committees as being derelict in their duties have continued in office and to their promotions. Significantly, a recent public opinion survey by Verite Research shows that more than half the Sri Lankan population – 53% – believes local political forces were involved in the Easter Sunday attacks carried out in 2019.

Far Horizon

Another issue on which minority sentiment has been ignored or negated is in regard to the unfilled vacancy in the constitutional council. This is the highest ranking oversight body in the country which is meant to ensure that only independent persons with integrity are appointed to powerful and important state institutions, such as the higher judiciary, elections commission, police commission, human rights commission, national audit commission, public service commission and bribery and corruption commission. However, the vacancy in the constitutional council that ought to be filled by the Tamil National Alliance as the third largest party in parliament has not been given to it on the specious ground that there are other political parties that claim to be the third largest.

TNA MP Sumanthiran speaking in parliament said, “There is a deadlock situation in the Constitutional Council, and everybody knows about this. A deadlock situation, when one seat is still vacant. If that had been filled, there wouldn’t have been a deadlock. So, the country must know, that while you wax eloquent saying all are equal and everyone in this country has equal representation, to a body like the Constitutional Council which is a very important body, you still deprived us of our place. And how can you face anyone and claim that this is governance in the right way. So today I am raising this as a serious issue. Not just filling a vacancy in the Constitutional Council, but as a serious national issue. We have complained for several decades that we have been left out of the national life of this country. Being kept out of the Constitutional Council is another reflection.”

The basic principle of a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society in which all ethnic and religious communities find political representation in the constitutional council is being negated by the very government that tries hard to convince the international community of its genuine commitment to the national reconciliation process. It is coming up with new laws, such as the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation bill and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission bill. But the basic precondition for reconciliation, which is the trust and confidence in the way the law enforcement authorities conduct themselves and the manner in which those who will head those institutions are selected remain unsatisfactory from the minority point of view. Regardless of the words and the new laws that are passed and institutions that are set up, national reconciliation in the absence of fairness and equal treatment to all remains akin to a dream on the far horizon.

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Latest comments

  • 22
    0

    Has the CID or any other law enforcement body ever arrested, harassed or filed charges in a court of law against any individual for “Hurting the religious sentiments” of Hindus, Christians, Catholics or Muslims?

  • 21
    3

    Jehan, for a moment, I was disappointed that, there may be no more entertainment, for this year. HALLELUJAH ! here we have the show man, getting arrested on his return. The SHOW must go on .

    • 24
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      I had mentioned numerous times, this whole show is nothing but a political / religious/ racial SHAM. Typical Lankan Circus. The ones who should have been arrested long before are still free to continue harassing minority. Theros threaten , yearns for Hitler and burns constitution in public but nothing happened. Even yesterday one Thero ordered that Deshabandu should be made permanent IGP. The cardinal Politician is now crying foul. Pastor himself is a born again Show Man / who makes a living out of his own shows. Lankan politicians play them around to their liking. If at all Jerome seems decent among all. The guy works for his living isn’t it ???

      • 3
        1

        Chiv, Both the pastor and his family have to earn their daily bread for their living. Now the pastor gets free food from prison but the family is not looked after in that way. Theros are not in the same plight as they dont have families

        • 0
          0

          Agree.

  • 17
    2

    We are here talking here about reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We did not start using this word” reconciliation” not now but started in 2009 after the end of war between Sri Lankan Tamils (LTTE) and Sri Lanka Government. LTTE. You cannot ignore only LTTE in this process because they are equally important partners because it was accepted by Sri Lanka and international community that they represented Tamils in all discussions that happened since 1985.
    The fact is Sinhalese politicians and religious leadership personally benefits by racism and fundamentalism and even Sinhalese people are still influenced by them. So, it is no real meaning for many.

    • 4
      21

      Is it not time that people started blaming all but themselves?
      Reconciliation was in consideration much earlier than 2009.
      The campaign “A Brick and A Book” for rebuilding the Jaffna Library was one such.
      It is unhealthy to attribute evil motives to attempts to bring people together.
      There is especially a need to unite people as oppressed by class, gender and identities other than the ones that one is obsessed with.
      Should non-Sinhalese ask themselves some of the questions that they ask the Sinhalese?
      *
      What makes it possible to resurrect the dead to reactivate LTTE fund raising, notably with backing from BJP proxies in India.
      Not all seems to be resistance to oppression is about resistance.
      Who are the beneficiaries?

      • 7
        0

        “Should non-Sinhalese ask themselves some of the questions that they ask the Sinhalese?” When did you, the Sinhala Chauvinists’ washer, last time, or rather first time apply those to you?

        ” What makes it possible to resurrect the dead to reactivate LTTE fund raising, notably with backing from BJP proxies in India.” So, you anti West propagandist, because the stealable Tamils’ saving is dried, want IMF loan, in addition to the $400B spent, for your Appe Aanduwa for modernize the Genocide Machine and then, you want that loan paid by your enemies the Tamils diaspora? Last week alone three people were killed in prison by your rapist police force? Did LTTE kill uninvolved citizens (or the people the Sinhala Buddhist Government did not use as cannon fodder in border villages and Mosques) at a rate like that?

        ” Who are the beneficiaries? Please at some point stop these questions, advertise your anti-Tamil stand to Sinhala Buddhist rulers & show your idiocy in open space, start writing articles and articles to create war literature as Dr. WAW is begging you. Open your hidden mind to people to recognize, challenge and enlighten you. Why are you hiding and seeking in these questions without answering the questions you are asking to pretend to make people realize the ingenuity of the Sinhala Buddhist government.

  • 16
    2

    “Pastor Jerome belongs to a numerically small group of evangelical Christians who are viewed as controversial even by the mainstream Christian churches. “
    Yes, even the Cardinal himself took his time to visit the Evangelical church in Batticaloa that took the bomb meant for the Catholic one which happened to be empty. But he lost no time visiting Glyphosate Ratana who was on a fake hu ger strike against Muslims.

    • 16
      2

      old codger

      “But he lost no time visiting Glyphosate Ratana who was on a fake hu ger strike against Muslims.”

      Didn’t the Ratna/ cross dresser Ranjith (https://www.onlanka.com/news/cardinal-malcolm-ranjith-visits-ven-athuraliye-rathana-thera.html) couple remind you of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)?
      https://www.originalfilmart.co.uk/products/gone-with-the-wind-spain

    • 8
      14

      oc
      Can numerical smallness be a cloak big enough to cover all crimes?

      • 11
        2

        SJ,
        “Can numerical smallness be a cloak big enough to cover all crimes?”
        No, but don’t you think all scoundrels deserve equal treatment, no matter the colour of their robes?

        • 2
          9

          oc
          “no matter the colour of their robes”
          May I suggest a slight rewording?
          “no matter the colour of their robes or the donning of any”

          • 1
            0

            SJ,
            Amen

      • 7
        0

        “Can numerical smallness be a cloak big enough to cover all crimes? “

        The best candidate to answer that question is you. You palm offed to readers, who has no idea of a poisoned mind whose only goal is disturbing political discussions on the name “Free Media” campaign against CT.

  • 11
    2

    old codger

    “But he lost no time visiting Glyphosate Ratana who was on a fake hu ger strike against Muslims.”

    Didn’t the Ratna/ cross dresser Ranjith (https://www.onlanka.com/news/cardinal-malcolm-ranjith-visits-ven-athuraliye-rathana-thera.html) couple remind you of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)?
    https://www.originalfilmart.co.uk/products/gone-with-the-wind-spain

  • 5
    0

    The author quotes John Stuart Mill “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.”
    .
    Let me rephrase: “The worth of a society, in the long run, is the worth and rights of the individuals composing it”.
    .
    Author conveniently ignores the lady stand up comedian who was also arrested under ICCPR Act. I wonder if it’s because unlike most others he refers to whose rights have been violated, she has no political voice?
    .
    The day the society is concerned of each and every individuals’ rights will only be the day that it becomes just.
    .
    Not everyone has strong political affiliations and protecting the most disadvataged and the most vulnerable individual is the only way to ensure a society of equals.

  • 13
    0

    Ranil’s character ……… moral, ethical, “Buddhist”-upbringing ……. or whatever ……. displays/exemplifies what’s wrong with the nation.

    A majority of citizens have the same characteristics ……… to some degree/varying degrees

    This is our essence. This is who we are.

    The faults are not in the stars ………….


    If Martians wipe off the Lankans and settle in the country ……… will the national character change? …….. Or will the Martians adopt/take-on the Lankan character? …….. Perhaps it’s something in the Lankan water ……..

  • 15
    0

    This divine man Jerome is more powerful than Jesus himself according to what he claims. He can heal any disease even those who were given to death by doctors. He has even woken up dead people. He has a following of thousands of learned, “intelligent”, divine people. Even Uncle Mahintha is his close pal. He built such a huge miracle dome to do the impossible. Blinds he make them see. Paralysed he could make them walk and run. Deaf he could make them hear. With all these supernatural, paranormal, super divine powers Ranil unle shoudl ahve used his powers to uplift Mother Lanka that is fully bogged down in corruption, crime, ignorance, poverty, starvation and stupidity. Divine Jerome would have just did the trick only if Ranil uncle and his jokers could have visited the Miracle Dome and knealt in front of him. But my only concern is that how this God man could not salvage himself from these ordinary, illiterate idiots from being arrested and what made him to come back from his hideout in Singapore. His mother too prayed to Lankan modayas and even to a most divine Buddhist priest yet it did not work. Now Jerome the divine’s victorious look has changed into a sheepish look.

  • 18
    1

    So much hot air being aired yet again, in a backdrop where there is no justice even for the majority. Imagine the plight of the minorities then. This fellow should write instead, about how this utterly corrupt, unethical and criminal system can be dismantled, and a clean, young, educated set of political activists can take over, and imprison or otherwise dispense with those parasitic monsters who destroyed our beautiful country.

    • 1
      10

      “This fellow should write instead, about how this utterly corrupt, unethical and criminal system can be dismantled, “
      LP, do you really expect “this fellow” to have the foggiest idea?

      • 8
        1

        “LP, do you really expect “this fellow” to have the foggiest idea?
        How many times have we asked you to reveal your super ideas which you purposefully withheld to Siri Ma O, to politicians and the public now? Isn’t it your mistake of withholding them, now forcing the Rowdy Royals to make the Evil Emperor their messiah?

      • 8
        0

        He may not have the FOGGIEST IDEA, how to dismantle the CROOKED, UNETHICAL AND CRIMINAL ORIENTATED SYATEM!!??
        However, knows well How to “Fresh Off the Boat”, ATTITUDE (FOB) you, me and everyone in this forum!!
        GO ROUND AND ROUND, “PROVERBIAL MULBERRY BUSH”!!!???

  • 8
    9

    Get to the basic. Is there a god ? Where is he hiding ? Is he in Gaza ? Is he in Israel ? Is he in a dome ?

    If there is no god – what is Jerome up to? Living a great, ego filled life on the stupidity of the people !

    Same with this Jehan guy , He is at every Western embassy cocktail party in Colombo. His passport will show how much he travels in the world because of his peace talk. Some years back I even saw him in London giving a talk to about 25 bogus refugee types.

    Jerome eats because of God. Jehan P eats because of his Peace Council.

    The real Jesus lived a very poor life and suffered horribly. Has Jerome or Jehan ever said no to the good things their con job brings them ?

    • 1
      7

      deepthi silva, you ask ” Is there a god” No. There is the creator God or you wont be here. Wait till you meet him. I hope it wont be too late.

      • 6
        5

        David the empty head ! God loves intelligence ! Will he love a small minded fool like you ?

        Have you heard of evolution ? Yes even dinosaurs evolved. much later monkeys evolved..

        You may too !

  • 6
    0

    He may not have the FOGGIEST IDEA, how to dismantle the CROOKED, UNETHICAL AND CRIMINAL ORIENTATED SYATEM!!??
    However, knows well How to “Fresh Off the Boat”, ATTITUDE (FOB) you, me and everyone in this forum!!
    GO ROUND AND ROUND, “PROVERBIAL MULBERRY BUSH”!!!???

  • 6
    0

    “Therefore, concepts of rule of law and fairness are most important to minorities”
    It’s wrong to say that rule of law is important to the minorities.
    It is Very Important to each and every one in the country as well as for other countries to deal our Government.
    GoSL talks about reconciliation etc only to satisfy foreign countries so that they can get GSP+ or foreign loans and aids. The minorities had been deceived since independence and do not trust any political parties or governments
    We need to cleanse the Department of Defence and Judiciary for the start

  • 5
    0

    We don’t have to agree with Jerome but he’s entitled to his opinion….

    There are many like Gnana Akka, Indika the blind astrologer or many places of strange places of worship who says stuff and make a living…

    Politicians, Cricketers and many ordinary people goes behind them as a last resort….

    Most of their logic is against Buddhist teachings and some happens within Buddhist temples with the blessing of the monks….

    Even some monks do these kind of things inside temples….

    You all know how certain monks have spread hate in Lanka….

    A monk going against the teachings of Buddha repeatedly after pointing their mistakes is way worse than this….

    I believe this has nothing to do with the religions but the political parties who thrives with religious hate…

  • 1
    0

    //This fellow should write instead, about how this utterly corrupt, unethical and criminal system can be dismantled, and a clean, young, educated set of political activists can take over, and imprison or otherwise dispense with those parasitic monsters who destroyed our beautiful country.//

    Cassius, says to Brutus, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” This line suggests that it’s not fate, but rather our failures, that lead to our downfalls.

    The fault is not with the rulers, the fault is with the people who elect them year after year. Nothing will happen in Sri Lanka as long as the present crop of corrupt and inept politicians holds power. Sri Lanka will not be able to climb out of the economic abyss unless there is absolute equality before the law.

    Father Jerome has been hauled before the courts for spreading religious hatred among citizens of Ceylon. But what about Ampitiya Sumanarathana Thera who openly threatened to chop all Tamils into pieces? This is a more heinous crime than the claim by Pastor Jerome that only through Jesus that salvation is possible.

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