19 November, 2018

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Rule Of Law: First Step To Invigorate Democratic Institutions & Advance Nation Building

By Kopalasingam Sritharan and Rajan Hoole

In the crucial presidential election of January 2015 which led to the new Government’s joint sponsorship of the historic UNHRC Resolution, gives us a unique opportunity to put behind us practices, mores and preoccupation with narrow ideologies that turned the attainment of Independence in 1948 into a hell of mediocrity, bloodshed and corruption.

Confronting our violent past with honesty, embarking on a truthful retelling of the ethnic conflict, acknowledging the crimes committed by parties to the armed conflict, providing closure and justice for the victims are inescapable tasks if Lanka is to herald an era of democratic governance, just peace, and equality for all peoples of this country. Indeed, these were precisely the messages behind which the majority of Sri Lankans united – twice within the lapse of eight months. There can be no excuse for yet another missed opportunity.

Rejection of Universal Norms and Demise of the Rule of Law

The French Revolution of 1789, driven by the insolvency of Louis XVI’s government, went through phases of war and a reign of terror, crashed once more on the rock of more calamitous insolvency, giving way to the rise of Napoleon in 1799; who in turn fared no better with the economy. For all it cost the French people in lives and destruction, Immanuel Kant deemed the Revolution a milestone in the progress of mankind. Its Declaration of the Rights of Man left with us the rallying cry: Liberty – Equality – Fraternity, which has echoed far and wide ever since. In France it meant the culmination of ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, where the state became secular and the Calvinist (Huguenot) and Jewish minorities realised equality.

sri_lanka_tamil_womanThe first article in the French Declaration: viz:- “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good”, comprises today the cornerstone of human rights and humanitarian law. What we in Lanka wished to be after Independence in 1948 was ours to fashion. By rushing into the Citizenship Acts we ensured that Liberty – Equality – Fraternity had little resonance in our intellectual or political life ever since. The Acts which de-citizenised and disenfranchised the migrant Indian labour on our estates, who were key to our solvency, was contrary to natural justice and international law as the late Senator Somasundaram Nadesan ably demonstrated. We became a law unto ourselves. It is this position that the Privy Council sanctioned in its 1953 judgment on disenfranchisement by shielding the impugned Acts under the rubric of sovereign equality of states – states that delude themselves into believing that they are immune to all checks. The abysmal standard of debate among the proponents of the Citizenship Acts in singling out an exploited community for abuse (e.g. as immoral carriers of disease), and the personalities involved (including the vast majority of Tamil and Muslim MPs), made it clear that we had moved from colonialism to feudalism.

As the French did during the Revolution, we have suffered enormously, but little was done to change our two extreme nationalist camps remaining the controllers of our discourse, awaiting the next crisis to unloose their incendiary genius. One portent of hope is that despite the Government’s local ambivalence, the recent UNHRC report and resolution has been hailed by many leading public figures across our ethnic divisions as an opportunity to reconcile and move decisively towards the rule of law and greater justice for all peoples.

The demise of the rule of law is evident in the scandalously sluggish pace at which the wheels of justice turn in Lanka*. That has to do with our rejection of time-tested international norms. Consequently decision-makers at all levels, from the judiciary to the administration and our universities, rather than be guided by the rules, await the signal from upstairs – the sure road to burgeoning delay and administrative collapse.

A common symptom is the absence of recourse to justice in blatant instances of abuse of power in our institutions that should have been rectified quickly at a low level. The delay, expense and uncertainty in going to the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal are unmanageable for most victims, especially the young. We tried to confront the world with our appalling standards under the illusion that mere sovereignty will protect us. The world has hit back with a friendly warning that we dare not ignore.

Our courts will gain the maturity to impart justice impartially only when we command the openness to accept and incorporate precedents from the history of jurisprudence whose effects we have seen to be benignant. To go back to the Citizenship Acts, we have the precedent of 1608 AD from English Common Law, by which our sovereigns in the relevant period, George VI and Elizabeth II, were bound. Lord Edward Coke recorded in his widely respected Reports:

“Everyone born within the dominions of the King of England, whether here or in his colonies or dependencies, being under the protection of – therefore, according to our common law, owes allegiance to – the King and is subject to all the duties and entitled to enjoy all the rights and liberties of an Englishman.” (Calvin’s case)

This judgment in Calvin’s case was in respect of the rights in England of James I’s Scottish subjects. The case was argued using examples spread widely over time and space. A clinching argument appealing to Natural Law was taken from the Book of Acts (circa 50 AD): “So as hereby it is manifest that Paul was a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, in Asia Minor; and yet being born under the obedience of the Roman Emperor, he was by birth a citizen of Rome in Italy in Europe, that is, capable of and inheritable to all privileges and immunities of that city.”

Again from one of Coke’s judgments: “…when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it and adjudge such Act to be void.” This would also be the position under Roman Dutch Law, which is the operative law in Lanka. One wonders how the Privy Council, which advises the Queen, sanctioned the Citizenship Acts which turned an entire community of the Monarch’s subjects, to whom protection was owed, into ‘stateless persons’ with no rights or claims anywhere.

Impunity and Sovereignty

The Supreme Court of Ceylon in endorsing the Citizenship Acts acted under extremely bad precedents that went far to discredit the rule of law. Once we decided that it is only our ‘sovereign’ standards that matter and no one has any right to inhibit our folly, communal violence, blessed and even actively supported by our leaders, had no checks or recourse. Justice Sansoni’s report on the 1977 violence gave a harrowing description of the involvement of some senior police officers, but deliberately shielded the highest by failing to take cognizance of the evidence about the incendiary radio message from Jaffna Police Station which claimed fictitiously that Sinhalese and Naga Vihare were under attack in Jaffna. Far worse violence in July 1983 was denied even the benefit of an inquiry.

Impunity of this kind cost the country dearly. There is an old precedent to the 2009 White Flag case – the July 1983 Welikade Prison Massacres. Killing prisoners Kuttimani and Thangathurai was the Government’s gift to Prabhakaran of unchallenged leadership of the Tamil militancy. Those who knew Kuttimani and Thangathurai assert that they were the only two persons who could have curbed Prabhakaran and were moderate enough not to impose a long-drawn and fatally destructive war on the community.

We little dreamt that the cruelties war imposed on civilians in Vietnam and Cambodia would soon be our lot. From the 1980s, cameras and eye-witnesses have captured similar scenes in Lanka and even worse of breast-feeding mothers being ripped by shrapnel, entire families bombed in bunkers and the weakest in rural villages brutally hacked. No community can claim innocence. If we do not want this to happen ever again, we will only do ourselves a favour by inviting judges and investigators of known integrity without reserve to help us to deliver a measure of justice that is owed to the victims. Our own record is hopelessly tarnished.

In the massacre of 27 Tamil inmates of Bindunuwewa rehabilitation centre by a politically instigated mob in October 2000, while armed police stood by, the High Court brought shaky convictions against five persons including two police officers. The Supreme Court threw these out in May 2005. Testimony from senior journalists of high level instigation involving a leading provincial politician, points to the purposeful incompetence of the entire justice machinery.

The Chief Justice’s judgment of 15th September 2006 on the appeal under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights by PTA detainee Singarasa highlighted Sri Lanka’s cavalier disregard for the Covenant its President had acceded to. He said ‘rights under the Covenant are not rights under the law of Sri Lanka’, at a time the UN’s role was crucial for us.
Since the sovereignty of a state is created and sustained by its people as an instrument for their commonweal, justifying and masking the state’s abuse of its citizens employing a flawed understanding of sovereignty, is disingenuous and dangerous.

Commission of Inquiry: Failing the Victims and Imperilling the Witnesses

When the war began in 2006, the ire of the international community was directed against the LTTE for ditching Norway’s initiative. What brought the change were the highly repulsive acts of impunity by the Defence Ministry, in particular the killing of five students in Trincomalee and the ACF massacre of aid workers. The Government agreed to a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) incorporating an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons. Witnesses in 2007 first testified at closed door sessions with the CoI’s team of police investigators present. From then on good witnesses were systematically intimidated. Police officer Shanmugaraja, a witness to the ACF massacre, was warned before the closed door session that if he let the side down his family would suffer. He played safe before the CoI.

Rev. Sornarajah, Methodist minister in Mutur, was confident at the 2007 closed door session and was identified an excellent witness. He had met the ACF victims about 9.00 AM few hours before the massacre and his testimony discredited the JMO’s timing as early morning. The Police worked on him and he came for the commission hearing in May 2008, a broken man, and was intimidated again during the tea break. Back in the hearing, he wept saying he feared for his life. Commissioner Dr. Nesiah rose and escorted him out to reassure him. The counsel for the Army photographed this and demanded the sacking of Nesiah for interfering with a witness and this was done.

The IIGEP team arranged asylum for witnesses under threat including Shanmugaraja and Sornaraja. On 14th July 2009 the Chairman of the CoI went public alluding to LTTE as the killers and exonerated the State. As though this did not carry conviction, days later the counsel for the Army got the Police to summon the families of ACF victims to Fort Frederick, Trincomalee, and got them to sign letters of gratitude in English to the President blaming the LTTE for the killings.

Troublingly, the DSG directing the hearings, instead of being impartial, introduced PC Shamugaraja’s crucial affidavit as coming from one who found asylum in Australia, contradicting his earlier testimony before the closed door session. The DSG could hardly have been ignorant of intimidation by the Police at the CoI itself. An alleged excerpt in the Press from the Commission’s unpublished report on the ACF case attacking Rev. Sornarajah read like an anonymous petition: “One wonders whether all these “theatrics” and uproar were to facilitate his seeking asylum.” This was not disowned by the CoI. Crude intimidation of witnesses was not isolated. The CoI would have known of above half a dozen instances including two fatalities.

The CoI fiasco gave no comfort to the Government. It had shown no sympathy for witnesses testifying at immense risk. Victims gained nothing from the process. The Commission of Inquiry demonstrates that spurious accountability mechanisms conceived to breast the geopolitical tides – to buy time, divert attention, and hoodwink the international community – largely serve to obfuscate the truth and pile further suffering on the victims and the witnesses.

In order that we are not held hostage to extremism, the truth must be brought out and digested by the people. We already see that the UNHRC findings have silenced many apologists for the LTTE. The government’s strategy of marketing the UNHRC resolution to the Sinhalese as a ‘victory’ by placing a spin on its contents is bound to backfire in the long run. While the UNHRC resolution’s recommendation of international participation in the judicial process divides Sinhalese opinion, there is little popular resistance to the idea that human rights abuses need addressing. Given this context, instead of trying to stage-manage the Sinhalaese extremists, the government must convince its constituencies of the need for accountability and truth telling. Conflicting statements about the nature of the accountability process will undermine its credibility and victims’ confidence in it.

In order to avoid pointless half measures, it is important to understand that it is our failure of integrity that resulted in the recent UNHRC resolution. The Government’s history of blundering disingenuousness led over time to the denouement at Geneva. It is of no use pretending that our institutions are other than feudal or that character and independence are held in high regard, while in fact signals from above are the very staple of our officialdom. Our law enforcement institutions are too steeped in majoritarian nationalist chauvinism and hardly command the trust of minorities. Once we had built a firm place for the rule of law, we may advance well-founded motions against our bête noirs, the US, Britain and India, at the UNHRC and be taken seriously.

A thorough implementation of the UNHRC resolution will not only take us forward in the journey towards a just peace but also reinvigorate our judicial and law enforcement institutions. In that, the resolution is not just about Tamils: it is about pulling Sri Lanka out of its fatal decadence that survives and thrives from one election to the next.

*Basil Fernando, Sense and Nonsense on Judicial Matters

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Latest comments

  • 5
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    Ranil, Maithri: Please listen, take note and act.

    • 6
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      Sri Lankan rulers since independence believe in bending the law, whether it be local, international, or the common law.

      To do otherwise will make them become the miracle of Asia!

      Habits die hard, and I wouldn’t expect otherwise.

  • 8
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    Very true. Reforming our state institutions to be independent, apolitical, just and accountable to the populace is beneficial to all, not just the minorities.

    However given the politics in SL, how can we save the hens when its foxes who are guarding the cages? Is replacing one set of foxes with another going to liberate us?

  • 7
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    The will be NO TRUTH seeking with regard to crimes against minorities or the people of Sri Lanka at large, as long as the corrupt so called Justice Minister who has blocked all investigations into the goings on of the Jarapassa regime and said that he would not let Gotabaya be arrested, remains in place. Indeed, Ranil WIckramasinghe has aided and abbetted WIjedassa in subverting the law when Wimal Weerawansa should have been locked up for having 2 passports.
    The politicians of the SLFP and UNP who are the biggest law breakers in the land have IMMUNITY and IMPUNITY form prosecution – conferred on them by Ranil and Wijedasa who act as King and jester in the Parliament of corrupt morons in the Miracle of Modayas!

    BOTTOM LINE IS Wijedasa Jarapassa must RESIGN or be forced to resign. Otherwise not a single corrupt politician like Sajin vas who or Duminda Silva will ever be held ACCOUNTABLE.

    He is a corrupt criminal and blocking all the corruption investigations against criminal politicians. here is absolutely NO JUSTICE with this so called justice minister in the Ayahapalanay govt. in the Miracle of Sinhala today! The only positive thing is that racism is not parading the streets in the name of Sinhala Buddhist patriotism. There is a nexus of corruption between Wijedasa Jarapassa, the AGs office and the CID which have failed to bring to trial a single corrupt politician of the Mahinda Jarapassa regime. Wimal Weerawansa and his wife who had double passports and took houses for relatives is still on the lose spreading hate speech. Meanwhile Sajin Vas Gunawardene has been freed to go overseas and hide his looted billions. Today Sobith Thero’s dream of good governance and anti-corruption agenda has been buried by the likes of Wijedasa Rajapakshe who should be sacked. Civil society must go on the offensive to against corrupt politicians and the Sirisena-Ranil regime that is protecting them.

    • 5
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      Dear Don Stanley,

      Thank you for that courgeous outburst. Yes, we must have the courage to speak out, and admit our own past mistakes. In 2010, my registration as a voter was in the Colombo District. I voted for Wijedasa Rajapaksha. I had been at a loss as to whom to vote for. Ravi Samaraweera told me that Rajapaksha was a true gentleman.

      This year I voted for Ravi in Uva. He came second in the Badulla District and is again a Member of Parliament. I have no regrets about what I did this year. However, I fear that 5 years ago I made a mistake. In public affairs, it is very important that we keep our allegiances floating.

      However, it is important that we commit ourselves to supporting people while they are still around. So I honoured Ven. Sobhitha, and today I will speak out in support of Dr Vickremabahu Karunaratne, and Anura Kumara Dissanayake, and Rajitha Senaratne, and Maithri, and the authors of this article. It doesn’t matter in what order we place them. Let us unite to establish justice in this land.

      I began writing a long response this morning. I have posted it incomplete. Please bear with me while I get my facts together.

  • 3
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    CT,

    Thank you for having posted this article. I was going to post it.

    Let us now wait for the negative comments from the people who don’t read articles.

  • 2
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    Magna Carta 800 Global Tour – Sadly Kote in Colombo or Maha Nuwara ( Kandy ) or Anuradhapura not chosen

  • 2
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    Magna Carta 800 Global Tour – Sadly Kote in Colombo or Maha Nuwara ( Kandy ) or Anuradhapura not chosen

    http://immersive.sh/foreignoffice/j21mF4HkTf     

  • 2
    3

    Well,

    By rushing into the Citizenship Acts (1948) we ensured that Liberty – Equality – Fraternity had little resonance in our intellectual or political life ever since.

    This is kind of indigenous observation. The call to “Tamilakam” has been made already by the sole Tamil leadership in 1922. This call has kept resonating ever since.

    It has far higher aims in view, namely to keep alive and propagate these precious ideals throughout Ceylon, Southern India and the Tamil Colonies, to promote the union and solidarity of Tamilakam, the Tamil Land. We should keep alive and propagate these ideals throughout Ceylon and promote the union and solidarity of what we have been proud to call Tamil Eelam… All this requires heavy outlay of money for which I trust the Tamil Community, and especially its wealthier members here and in the Federated Malay States, will contribute liberally.”

    http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/39348

    So I would assert the “Fraternity” has already been broken by the Tamil leadership.

    The matter is far more serious given there where no widespread Tamil settlements in Ceylon prior to 1700 – the tail end of Dutch occupation.

    http://jaffnahistory.com/Northern_Province/Sinhala_Villages_of_Jaffna_1695.html

    The demography “Ceylon Tamil” was introduced to census only after 1915. That was on an orchestration of Arunachalam – the “TamilKam” guy above. So the Tamils who were settled in the north in 1700 become “Ceylon Tamil” in 1915 without an official act. The same Tamils later becomes “Tamil Eelam Tamils” afterwards even trying to create a separate state after colonized into Ceylon by the Brits.

    What is needed therefore is some simple honesty first.

    • 1
      1

      ” Tamil Colonies “

      Hmm. Must be Fiji, British Guyana etc, or does it include Sri Lanka too. Did the British colonise the world to benefit the Tamils at the expense of the locals.

  • 12
    1

    I’ve just read this sentence above: “In the massacre of 27 Tamil inmates of Bindunuwewa rehabilitation centre, . . . the High Court brought shaky convictions against five persons including two police officers.”, and I can tell you a personal anecdote about one those Police Officers who was initially sentenced to death, but whom I met about thrice in quick succession, about three years ago, when he was HQI, Bandarawela, after his reinstatement. More on that below.

    This is all that I know of Kopalasingham Sritharan:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopalasingham_Sritharan

    Michael Hoole I know very much better:

    https://vimeo.com/43541217

    Note that the Vimeo video has been made three years ago. Hoole and I have known each other since January 1963. There were only about seven of us, possibly just five, in the English Literature class, in the little boarding school at Gurutalawa; four hundred boys on fifty acres of land. I was the best at Literature (the only subject I took an interest in, after my father died on the 18th of February 1963) ,but how much more powerfully than me he writes today! However, when he speaks, it is in the same objective, factual way as he employs in the Vimeo.

    A lot of Tamils have now turned against “Hoolie” as they have begun calling him. They say that he writes what he does because of his frustration at not being able to continue as Vice-Chancellor of Jaffna University. I was wanting to counter the misunderstandings, but somebody did point out about four days ago that it was his brother, Samuel “Jeevan”, who was the Vice Chancellor, Jaffna, and who also writes separately to Sunday Telegraph and to the papers. Since so many seem to be bothered about such irrelevancies, here is the Hoole genealogy.

    http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lkawgw/gen5039.html

    It shows him and Prof. Daya Somasunderam to be first cousins – we still need a guy to scream about Hoole’s nepotism! Actually, given the sort of things that he writes I was surprised to find him bothering about “family trees” and teased him about it. “Some relation has put it on”, he said – and has made him a Professor. No, he never got there! He spent fifteen years hiding in Sinhalese areas in Sri Lanka but, just last month, a very old relative of his told me that he was “the boy who was in Canada”. I contradicted it, and then she said, “Yes, we knew that he was in Sri Lanka, but we used to say “Canada” because he was not safe from the Government”. Actually the greater threat to him was from the Tigers. Rajan Hoole was so long out of service, (until the Tigers were defeated in 2009), that he retired only as “Senior Lecturer”.

    I asked him about “He was trained as a classical pianist” in his Wikipedia entry, since that was news to me, although I knew that a niece of his (whom my daughter knew), Niranjala Joseph, was a very fine pianist. “That’s a bit exaggerated”, he said. He just doesn’t stage manage these things. When I look at the latest revision of his Wikipedia entry, I find “Gurutalawa” left out of the list of schools that he had studied in, although it was there earlier.

    Michael’s younger brother, the late Charles, was also in Gurutalawa for just one year, 1964. Here’s a different genealogy, for Charlie, managed by ex-Vice-Chancellor, “Jeevan Hoole”. “Michael Richard Ratnarajan Hoole” doesn’t appear there at all. I won’t be able to check on that, because after I talk to him for ten minutes, he quietly says, “P—-, shall we continue this conversation later?” His speech is always subdued, as in the Vimeo. Anyway, I feel that he may well have asked Jeevan, whom I have never met, and who “manages” that site, to desist from putting his name there.

    http://www.geni.com/people/Charles-Ratnamuktan-A-Hoole/6000000011484223747

    It was at this point that I finally got through to Hoole on his landphone, having tried that and his mobile (which he finds irritating) a number of times. He had heard the phones ringing while he was bathing. He confirmed his “innocence” in many of the matters mentioned above. I also told him that unlike in the books that he has written (including this installment which is part of a book written long ago: https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/rule-of-law-first-step-to-invigorate-democratic-institutions-advance-nation-building/) he has allowed a number of typos to remain here. He told me that Kopalasingam Sritharan lives in a foreign country. Obviously, he told me which country. It is not for me to reveal it, since these guys’ lives are still in danger.

    I asked him if they worked with “Google Drive”; he had heard about it, but didn’t realise its possibilities. I berated him for his ignorance; he said he didn’t mind being ignorant about certain matters. I then told him that his entire family were famous for their eccentricity; “Paul” has a PhD in Computing. One of my friends (a Sinhalese, now in Australia) had shared a Peradeniya University office with Paul and had been driven nuts by the guy. Then a man who was Vice-Chancellor, Sabaragamuwa University, for a long time, told me that he had had the worse experience of sharing a flat in London with Jeevan. Rajan was a bit concerned for my friends, but didn’t mind the charge of eccentricity.

    Anyway, the upshot of all this was that I’ve had my longest ever telephone chat with Hoole. If you find it a bit distracting that I refer to these brothers by various names, the explanation is this: those little schools in which we studied used to pride themselves upon being modelled on British Public Schools. We were expected to use only surnames. When we had to distinguish between the brothers, we used “Michael” and “Charlie”. “Ratnarajan” seemed such a long and outlandish name for us who knew no Tamil; however, he is married to his cousin (they have no children themselves), and she had called him “Rajan” even in childhood.

    The long chat was tolerated because he was willing enough to learn from me how to use Google Drive, after I told him that it was the most obvious tool to use if Sritharan and he were collaborating on certain articles. So, what we have in this man is a very modest and humble guy, albeit possessed of great intelligence; although as kids we used to play on his unusual surname and call him “Fool”.

    I think that this has taken too long to write. I’d better post this and later tell you about the Bindunuwewa “incident”.

    • 6
      0

      Sinhala_Man,

      Here is the other Dr Hoole in action.

      http://dailynews.lk/?q=2015/11/16/local/mahinda-deshapriya-appointed-chairman-elections-commission

      Mahinda Deshapriya has been appointed as the Chairman of the Elections Commission while, Naleen Abeysekara and Ratnajeevan Hoole has been appointed to the Commission.

      This news should give his numerous enemies something to talk about.

      BTW are you sure that Dr Rajan Hoole has retired or did I misunderstand you?

      • 4
        0

        Dear Rogue Ayer,

        Thanks. That was news to me about Ratnajeevan’s appointment to the Election Commission. I’m very glad to hear it.

        The problem with us humans is that we each imagine that we have THE answer to any given problem, and so we refuse to accept what somebody else has suggested. Also, we have such short memories, and expect perfection from others without seeing the “beam in our eyes”.

        I retain a good deal of faith in Maithripala; he wants to do the right thing. I have yet to relate the story about that Police HQI: in what fear we all lived a year ago!

        Yes, Rajan has retired (this year), but his wife, Kirupa, continues to work as a “Senior Librarian” (I’m not sure what the exact designation is).

        May I correct a couple of mistakes that had crept in to what I posted yesterday? I’ve just called the Sabaragamuwa Professor – he, simple man that he is, was in the canteen. It was with Charlie, not Ratnajeevan, that he had shared a flat in London. Also, in giving a link to the book that is being serialised – he has just given the whole book and it is CT that decides how much to put on each time – I had erred, but I’m sure most people knew where to go:

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/democracy-does-it-have-any-meaning-for-the-tamils/

        Your response indicates that I have had reasonable success in drawing attention to the very human qualities of this great man. “sinhalese buddhist” and Don Stanley have shown appreciation of the more important substance of this blog, but I’m disappointed that this fine article has not stimulated a a wide-ranging discussion on the nature of Justice and its dispensation.

        The comment by “Copy, Paste and Comment” may have puzzled those readers who did not know that the article appeared in yesterday’s “The Island”. I hope that he, and others, will forward this link to others.

    • 3
      0

      I’ve got to write about that HQI, briefly, at least, but first:

      I’m surprised that the issues raised by these articles don’t receive the extensive discussion that they deserve. Perhaps reading them is painful, but people are so concerned whether that island should be called “Nagadeepa” or “Nainativu”. Strange! Kandy, Chilaw, Negombo, Batticaloa – and Jaffna! – all have quite different English and Sinhala names – I just don’t know what they are called in Tamil, except for Yaalpanam!

      Surely, people ought to know things like, Japan = Nippon; Spain = Espanol; Germany = Deutsche; etc. We Sri Lankans seem to have a proclivity for inane debates! The government said that it was “unpatriotic” for us to refer to “Bombay Onions” and “Mysore Dhal” and “Ceylon” – and we have we have agreed to change our linguistic habits!

      But about HQI, Inspector Karunasena, briefely:

      About three years ago, walking down Hokandara Road, having visited a Haputale friend who used to hang out somewhere there when in Colombo, I picked up a “dual-sim phone”, cheap “Chinese”, display broken. I showed it to a phone repairer almost directly in front of “Big-city Cargills”, Dehiwela Road, Maharagama. He managed somehow to find out that it was a “hamuduruwo’s phone”. I must have called the monk with my phone, and gave him the exact address of my Maharagama home. The monk was obviously greatly relieved and happy, and said that he would come the next day; I told him that I’d be getting back to Bandarawela two days later.

      The monk didn’t come the following day, but I think there were a few calls from him during the next couple of days – some with probably him (this is with hindsight that I speak) pretending to be a layman. Not wanting to burden the others in my house with this problem, I, rather thoughtlessly, perhaps, carried the phone up to Bandarawela. Then the trouble started. When was I getting back to Maharagama? How dare I delay? Did I realise with whom I was messing about? There were the telephone numbers of important politicians in the sims etc. This in the course of the following four days or some, some of the last calls being from the OIC of the Maharagama Police Station, warning me that I was liable to be arrested for retaining stolen property etc.

      Just about the day after I left Maharagama actually, the monk had visited my home there, and shouted lots of threats when he found that the phone was not there; the language of the underworld, and gestures to match – not obscenities.

      Well, I started getting scared; visited the Bandarawela Police, made a statement there and asked them to take charge of the phone – by now confirmed by all to be a very cheap one. They wouldn’t take it, and after another call from the irate monk, I went in search of the man in charge of the Bandarawela Police, known as the HQI, Inspector Karunasena. He was just wonderful!

      I think that it took another day or two for us to hit on a solution. The HQI must have decided that I neither looked nor talked like a thief, but, perhaps, the most germane question he asked was how the monk knew that I had the phone etc. I said that I had told him all details.

      Well, the HQI told me that he would send the phone to the Maharagama Police through a courier service, simple as that it was – and he was going to pay for it! I thought that it was my duty to pay (since I’d been an ass!), but there was no way he would relent in his kindness.

      When a Police Constable (or was it a Sergeant?) took charge of the phone, he rang the monk. Were both the sims there, he was asked. I had not messed around with the phone – I don’t think that I’m even now able to confidently open somebody else’s phone. Yes, they opened it, and told the monk.

      During my rather traumatic visits to the “cop shed” I had commented on what a contrast it was between the rowdy monk and the cultured policeman, whereas their personalities should should have been interchanged. That’s when a sergeant told me that Inspector Karunasena had actually been sentenced to death over “Bindunuwewa”. I was incredulous. I knew where that camp had been, and I had heard about “the incident”.

      There – for all it is worth – what I know.

      Our experiences are limited; I told Rajan, two days ago about the (Immanuel) Kant whom he had referred to, and how Kant had never travelled more than ten miles from Konnisberg during his eighty years on this planet:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant

      Before speaking to Rajan, I had actually “re-looked” at that entry, and told him that the popular story was not actually totally accurate, but I’d told it to a couple of others long ago ignorant of the recent revision of the Wikipedia entry. I’m sure Wittgenstein (he was the ‘language-is-the-source-of-most-misunderstanding guy’) would have agreed.

      By the way, our computers, when connected to the Internet, get set to the exact time. You’ll have to do a bit of searching to find out how the people of Konnisberg set their clocks two hundred and fifty years ago!

      Rajan knew both the Kantian legends; so he’s not as ignorant as I have made it out a couple of days ago!

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