4 April, 2020

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State Repression With Focus On War Crimes

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Crooks Pronouncing CJ Crooked

Sadly the CJ impeachment protests within Sri Lanka have become a whimper. Income tax officials suddenly pursuing the CJ is probably because someone vindictively asked them to. As Dharisha Bastians’ midweek column notes, President Rajapaksa informally constituted a three-man committee which debunked the three charges on which the PSC had pronounced guilt.

And yet, the President acted on that debunked finding by his parilamentarians described by Ranjan Ramanayake, MP, as consisting of cattle thieves, ganja dealers, gold chain snatchers in trains, and one joining his mistress to burn his girl friend and another killing Buddhist Monks at Arantalawa. Ramanayake might have added many others too such as UNP-ers involved in the 1983 cleansing and now with Rajapaksa.

Before we could recover from a President who rules us with his pack of crooks in parliament pronouncing guilt on a CJ cleared by the President’s own independent experts, it became evident that the President had lost track of reality – he told newspapermen at Temple Trees that the impeachment had done good to the country rather than damage it!

Foreign Interest, Tamil Hope

Even if Sri Lankans refuse to rise up against tyranny, there were signs that foreign powers would. Almost as soon as the President claimed positive effects from the impeachment, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore announced that they will deliver a sharp public rebuke to Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in March for failing to pursue those responsible for abuses in 2009 and that “the impeachment of the chief justice contributed to the decision to ensure that the record (against Sri Lanka) stays fresh in Geneva.”

A new confidence among previously forlorn Tamils was visible when Tamil refugees in Mullaitivu defied the intelligence services to meet an Australian opposition delegation and tell them their woes. A three-member U.S. delegation which called for the prosecution of soldiers suspected of killing civilians, met Tamil leaders in Jaffna who say the delegation was quite explicit that they are serious about UNHRC action. Showing the deterioration in its relationship with the government, the delegation was openly expressive in its meetings with TNA, Church and local government representatives of its regret that the government had not acted on the LLRC report and views that Tamils’ situation had recently deteriorated precipitously.

These developments gave hope and relief for Tamils looking for an end to their troubles. Appropriately parliamentarian Arianenthiran successfully conducted several meetings in the East to remember the over 100 civilians murdered by the army in Kokkadichcholai on 28.01.1987, one of a series of calamitous government actions that India could not ignore and led to the 1987 intervention. India which has a legitimate interest in the welfare of Tamils must forcefully join the US in the upcoming sessions and not water it down. Minister Ranawaka’s removal from Power and Energy may be to please India over his obstructing the 500 MW Sampur power plants and influence her UNHCR stand. India surely is too wise to not see the ruse after years of obstruction.

In further signs of chaos, even as the Defence Secretary, receiving the recommendations of the Army under the National Action Plan, claimed that no surrendering LTTE-er disappeared, Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that based on evidence received by the LLRC such disappearances cannot be denied. With Defence denying the obvious and a purporting Chief Justice who defended the government’s dark record in Geneva, any war crimes inquiry by Sri Lanka has no credibility. The UNHRC must take over.

Rising Intolerance

As Tamil hopes rise, so does Sinhalese intolerance. Ellawala Mettananda Thero betrayed his arrogance towards Veddas – the national anthem in Tamil is totally unacceptable because the uncivilized languages of jungle-men would also need to be accommodated, he argued. Encouraged by Presidential attitudes, a Rs. 650,000 statue of Virgin Mary which had been installed on the 26th in Avissawella, was set ablaze on the 28th. Seventy-five Sinhalese families were settled in Murungan with funds from the People’s Bank. The Government withdrew some Rs 560 million allocated for the Northern Province only from TNA-controlled local councils, to be spent by Governor Chandrasiri.

Students from Jaffna and the University Teachers’ Association President have gone quiet after the former’s arrest and the latter’s grilling. MP Sritharan is being worked on; Tamils believe that so called pornography and explosives found in his office were planted. A panicking government seems to be going after their parliamentarians who did not vote for the impeachment. An ejection from government may be the best thing for such principled people who lost their conscience after joining the government.

Jaffna Library

With strengthened communalist determination there is now an attempt to rewrite history. How the Jaffna Public Library was burnt down is undeniable. According to the Presidential Truth Commission on Ethnic Violence (1981-1984), it was a wanton criminal act committed by a contingent of policemen who had been in Jaffna in connection with the DDC elections (Para 70). Rajapaksa himself in 2006 fingered the UNP. According to Rajan Hoole’s book The Arrogance of Power, Gamini Dissanayake, Cyril Mathew, Festus Perera, G.P.V. Samarasinghe, Chandrananda de Silva, and Colonel Dharmapala were present. Many policemen were brought into Jaffna under DIG Edward Gunawardene who organized the burning. Gamini Dissanayake (who threatened “If India invades this country, the Tamils will be killed within 24 hours” and had declared that “the leader of the Naxalites is Vijaya Kumaratunge”) addressed the election staff. He told them, narrates the book, to close the polling booths at 10.00 AM and cast the remaining votes, and when an innocent underling asked “For whom should we cast them?” Dissanayake replied, “Why, to the animal [the Elephant] of course!”

Yet, just a fortnight back at a grand ceremony, based solely on the memoires of the very man named for leading the police arson, Edward Gunawardene, the blame was shifted to the Tigers who were still insignificant in 1981. Apologies were offered by the avuncular Carlo Fonseka, Kumaratunge’s favourite uncle, for having thought Gamini Dissanayake guilty.

Gunadasa Amarasekera, while rewriting history, thanked Gunawardene for defending the Sinhalese and claimed a heritage that honored honesty and integrity, and defended justice. Amarasekera was following the government’s pattern – after killing 70,000 Tamils in Mullivaikal, forming a PSC to promote inter-religious and inter-communal harmony! Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella’s warning of severe action against those disrupting communal harmony, given the government’s own behavior, is really a warning to minorities that any protest against government communalism will be punished as communalism.

Presidential Advisor on English and IT, Sunimal Fernando’s plans for a trilingual Sri Lanka when Tamils cannot record a statement with the police in Jaffna in Tamil as already provided in law, will mean Sinhalese being pushed down Tamil throats further – as when Governor Chandrasiri ordered the Madhu Zonal Education Office sign to be redone with Sinhalese preceding Tamil.

Ripping Off Bare-bodied Priest

Jaffna is a posting for Sinhalese to lord it over Tamils like the Governor – and lucrative too. When a policeman was killed during the war in Jaffna, an ASP was assigned to take care of his personal effects which he found to include very large sums of money in his mattress. Today money can be made without any personal danger. News-reports state that in Ariyalai East, contractors carry away 25 tractor-loads of sand for a fee of Rs. 10,000 to soldiers. The land is denuded. In these circumstances DIG-North Eric Perera’s statement that crime in the North is out of control and he is taking action seems disingenuous – his men never respond when telephoned upon seeing the tractors.

Further, Sinhalese together with health authorities are making good money threatening fines for puddles and unhealthy tea boutiques. Shocking was the Rs. 30,000 fine on a Hindu Priest at the Puththoor Junction in Meesaalai. A clean Priest, many go to him on special religious occasions asking him to cook their auspicious foods. His offence was cooking bare-bodied without a chef’s hat. However, I recall the Iyer at Temple Trees (usually Babu Sarma) cooking Pukkai for the President on Pongal, barebodied and without a chef’s hat.

Post Script: PC North Elections due in September pose a problem. Douglas Devananda not contesting for the CM post would be cowardly, but if he gives up his ministerial post and contests, defeat is certain and he would be diminished. Returning to cabinet as a defeated provincial candidate would be awkward. In solution, he has just announced his wanting to contest and the President has said he cannot afford to lose Douglas from the cabinet. Either way, what they do would be interesting to watch.

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    Looks like reconciliation is going at full speed in the north and east.

    There is no hope for the Tamils as long as Rajapaksa remains in power. Regime change by any means is the only answer.

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    I accompanied a relative recently to the Kilinochchi police station. The police insisted on recording her complaint in Tamil, even though she submitted her written complint in English. The complaint written in English was pasted as an appendix to the hand written complaint in Tamil in the complaints book. A Tamil policeman was assigned to take down the complaint in Tamil and the complainant was permitted to make corrections and amendments before signing it. A similar complaint made at the Kilinochchi DIG’s office was also made in Tamil and written by the complainant herself.

    This personal experience, raises doubts about some or all the information being provided to Prof. Hoole, who now lives in the US.

    My hats off to Prof. Hoole however, for highlighting and exposing the attempt to whitewash the criminal politicians, including Gamini Dissanaike, involved in the burning of the Jaffna library and shift the blame on to the LtTE. I know Prof. Carlo Fonseka wielded much influence on the president to appoint Prof. Hoole, the Vice. Chancellor of the Jaffna University, although it proved futile as Douglas Devananda’ s influence on the president remains formidable. Prof. Hoole in this instance has done right by pointing out his friend and patron, Prof. Carlo Fonseka, has erred in believing the contents of Edward Gunawardene’s book.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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      I normally do not engage in the discussions after my own articles but these comments from Dr. R. Narendran force me to. Two points.

      First, Dr. Narendran, if I am right, lives in Colombo and yet he makes the mistake of assuming that Carlo Fonseka tried to make me the VC. He is wrong. Prof. Fonseka tried unsuccessfully to get me reinstated in my post at Peradeniya from which I had been unlawfully vacated while on leave. Prof. Fonseka studiously avoided getting involved in the VC matter. I wonder how Dr. Narendran knows as he claims he does that “Prof. Carlo Fonseka wielded much influence on the president to appoint Prof. Hoole.” I equally wonder how, living in Sri Lanka and thereby having a special hold on the truth, Dr. Narendran can make such a terrible mistake.

      Two, let me elaborate on the alleged inaccuracy of my claim that police statements are not recorded in a language the people understand. In Aug. 2011 a police party came to my office at the University of Jaffna and asked me for a statement on a complaint by Douglas Devananda. As I made my statement it was recorded in Sinhalese. I said I could not sign that without knowing what is written. They were insistent that it was an accurate translation. Finally a senior academic who had joined us politely told them it is not fair to ask me to do that. It was at this point that the police team went away. The next day a statement was recorded in Tamil. On two separate previous occasions when I lost my passport and my daughter lost her national identity card, we went along with statements being signed without understanding what we were saying because we were in a hurry and could not afford to displease the police.

      Dr. Narendran should have the experience and perception to understand how ordinary people handle policemen. Occasional experiences like the one he cites, are those of the powerful English educated people, their power being accentuated in the minds of the police by Dr. Narendran’s presence or their being known to someone agt the police station. A complainant being allowed to record directly a statement in the police book as Dr. Narendran recounts is extremely out of the ordinary and might even be a violation of police regulations. The complainant must have been a powerful person indeed to be allowed to record directly in the police book.

      I expect Dr. Narendran, living in Sri Lanka, to know exactly what ordinary people face.

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        My wife just reminded me of the traffic ticket I got in Jaffna in 2011 while going on the motorbike with her. A copy of the ticket I gave the LLRC in Jaffna in my testimony before it at the Kachcheri. The ticket was in Sinhalese in bad handwriting with a deadline to respond which I missed as a result of being illiterate in my own Jaffna.

        Although we had the missing insurance, even with the help of my wife (who as a government servant had passed OL Sinhalese) we could not make out what they were saying. My wife says they were talking either “Naattuch Chingalam” or Sanskrit which was very different from what she had studied in the late 1970s.

        Perhaps they would have spoken kindly to Dr. Narendran in Tamil.

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          Dear Prof Hoole,

          Thanks for your response. I spend almost equal times in Jaffna and Colombo. Whether I have a grasp of the ground situation, will be for the discerning to judge. I related only my recent experience.

          Further, an article written for the Sunday Island by Prof.Carlo Fonseka a year or so back is yet posted in the Lanka Academic Website. I reproduce it below to elucidate the readers. Let them decide whether I have been imagining Prof. Carlo Fonseka’s role in your recent affairs in Sri Lanka:

          “Returned academic
          excellence vs entrenched academic mediocrity
          May 12, 2011, 12:00 pm

          article_image

          By Carlo Fonseka

          Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole

          At one point in your very perceptive editorial of 10 May titled ‘Pay them more; make them work harder’ you refer to President Mahinda Rajapaksha’s appeal to ‘expatriate Sri Lankan experts including academics to return and help develop the country’. Then you ask rhetorically: ‘But who will want to answer his call, return home and settle for a pittance?’ Please give me a little space to tell The Island the story of two such persons – Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole and his wife Dr. Dushyanthi Hoole, who answered the President’s call and the consequent unhappiness they have had to endure.

          Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole is a proper ‘double doctor’. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the Carnegie Mellon University (a highly ranked institution in the field of computation). He also secured a rare higher doctorate, namely a Doctor of Science Degree (DSc) from the University of London. He happens to be the only academic in Sri Lanka of pre-retirement age with an earned DSc (as opposed to a honorary DSc) from a world class university. His research has been so high-tech that he has been a consultant, among others, to NASA on the Space Shuttle, IBM on data storage devices, and the US Defence Contractor Northrop on the B-2 Stealth Bomber. He is the only Fellow in Sri Lanka of IEEE, the world’s largest professional organization in which the grade of Fellow is earned only by invitation and not by application. His wife Dr. Dushyanthi Hoole a chemist, is a distinguished academic who obtained her PhD under Nobel Laureate George Olah. Having highly qualified themselves abroad, they both returned to Sri Lanka in the mid 1990s, ready to work for the comparatively measly salaries offered by our university system. I had the privilege and pleasure of getting to know them well when Prof. Ratnajeevan and I were members of the UGC. While you rightly urge paying academics more and making them work harder, I am aware of the way that Ratnajeevan exercised his capacity for work, even without the huge material incentives he enjoyed in the US.

          In 2006 Prof. Hoole who has a deep love for Jaffna where he was born and bred and schooled, was appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna. He was, however, prevented from assuming office by the die-hard LTTE supporters in the Jaffna University. The reason was simple: the Hooles have been the most consistent and principled and open opponents of the LTTE among the educated Tamils. They are willing to work with their Sinhalese brethren. For this reason they are regarded as traitors by many Tamil university people. Given this background, in the face of death threats, the Hooles with their children fled Sri Lanka in March 2006.

          After the LTTE menace was decisively eliminated in May 2009, the President invited expatriates to return and help to build a new Sri Lanka. The Hooles responded to his call and despite their previous bitter experience with both internecine Tamil politics and petty Sri Lankan academic politics, returned to their motherland. Before doing so, they sought my advice and having consulted H.E. the President himself and obtaining his support and assurance, I persuaded the Hooles to return. I did so because as a long standing member of the UGC I knew how understaffed the University of Jaffna is. Partly under my persuasion the Hooles returned to Sri Lanka on 2 September 2010 with their children whom they wanted to grow up and live and serve their motherland.

          True to his word, the President ordered their reinstatement by a letter dated 13 September 2010. He did so, on the basis of orders against the University of Jaffna and the University of Peradeniya issued respectively by the University Services Appeals Board (USAB) and the Human Rights Commission, in favour of the Hooles. But the university authorities have resorted to various delaying tactics. My friends in the previous UGC will testify how much I urged the implementation of the President’s order not only on grounds of justice but also as part of the President’s quest for reconciliation and his objective of promoting excellence in our university system. But to no avail.

          The Hooles are a classic example of how our university system works against academics of high caliber. Despite our cries about the brain drain, our university system is generally allergic to academics of exceptional quality, especially if they have distinguished themselves abroad. What comes to my mind in this context is a line from Shakespeare’s play Othello. The envious Iago’s grouse against the admirable Cassio is that: “He hath a daily beauty in his life / That makes me ugly”. In a system with many mediocrities those of exceptional quality make the mediocre look ugly! So the mediocrities do their damndest to eliminate the truly exceptional.

          But let me return to the case of the Hooles. The present administrators of the Jaffna University have responded to the President’s instructions by re-advertising the post and asking the Hooles to apply and then go by the normal process despite the unusual situation. Although the highly qualified chemist Dr. Dushyanthi is the only applicant, the university has not found a time to interview her for the advertised post for past several months. As for Prof. Ratnajeevan, I gather that the Jaffna University’s Computer Science Department is repeating the old decision that Prof. Hoole is an engineer and not a computer scientist. This is the very decision which was faulted and overturned after lengthy hearings by the USAB. (Be it remembered that the Founder Director of University of Colombo School of Computing was a pure mathematician, the much lamented Prof. V. K. Samaranayake, who is regarded as the father of computer science in Sri Lanka).

          After his return Prof. Ratnajeevan was unemployed for a long period. Then he was given a tenuous temporary appointment until further notice. This too was done by the UGC. In the meantime, I am oppressed by a sense of guilt for having advised the Hooles to return. Why on earth did I persuade the highly qualified Hooles to leave their highly paid jobs in the US and returned to their motherland! I did so only because I wished to improve our university system to which I feel so indebted for all it has done for me.

          As a devout Christian perhaps my dear friend Jeevan should be able to derive some consolation from the reflection that in those days the custodians of Jewish culture and tradition preferred the murderer Barabbas to Jesus, the Saviour.”

          Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

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            Dr. Narendran,

            There is nothing new here. I had a confirmed position at Peradeniya. My wife had a confirmed position at the OU. Under the UGC’s rules confirmation transfers from one university to another. We both had contested applications for professorships at Jaffna

            Prof. Fonseka was trying to get us reinstated and transferred to Jaffna

            Prof. Fonseka’s article cited by you had nothing to do with the Jaffna Vice Chancellorship. You inaccurately claimed that Prof. Fonseka wielded influence to have me appointed VC Jaffna. Your document just does not establish that and is an attempt at obfuscation.

            Let us not change the subject please.

            Also please talk to any member of the Tamil public who has tried to file a statement with the police and ask how many of them received the royal treatment you got.

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              Prof. Hoole,

              I am quite aware of the details about your efforts to be reappointed the Jaffna University VC and the subsequent developments, including the public debate in London, on your way back to the US. Considering the altruistic interest Prof. Carlo Fonseka has taken in bringing you back to Sri Lanka with the blessings of Mahinda Rajapakse, it does not make sense to me that he had no interest in returning you to the Vice Chamncellorship. He was quite right, if he had promoted your cause, as I believe he did. You would have been the most qualified VC this country had. I had of course doubts about your temperamental suitability for the job. On which I have been proved right. If I remember right you also met the president at the temple trees and was promised the VCship. There is no need for me to obfuscate, as my initial statement was to stress your uprightness, despite your relationship to Prof. Carlo.

              Further, your rexperiences on the police front relate to 2011. My experience was in late 2012. Many things have changed in the north since your departure from Sri Lanka and are yet changing- mostly for the better. I was not given special treatment , because I went in as an ordinary citizen and was a nobody to the police officers. Incidentally, while at the Kilinochchi police station, I also noticed that all statements were being recorded in Tamil and Tamil-literate police officers were overloaded with the task. I also learned that the magistrates were insisting on complaints being recorded in Tamil from Tamils, when the cases came before them in the northern province.

              Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

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      RN is always rising on the occassion to serve the master’s needs!

      Why not set up a permanent post near temple trees and throw flowers as the master walks by! It would be like doing Dhana for our RN ever ready to pleaee

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    Even if probably I agree on many things you said, your words are very dangerous.
    “Even if Sri Lankans refuse to rise up against tyranny, there were signs that foreign powers would.”
    Rajapaksa is a tyrant, no doubt about that. But if you must engage the Sinhalese, this is the point. What you are suggesting is precisely the kind of foreign intervention that is first no possible under this geopolitical scenario and second it would be wrong. Military intervention of foreign powers to overthrow government is colonial and imperialist. I understand the will to a regime change, but advocating for this route is self-damaging.
    Finally India has a legitimate interest in the well-being of Tamils, as it has one for the Sinhalese: both under the imperialist control of New Delhi. For India, Sinhalese could come from Orissa: what is important is grip on power. Tamil diaspora is convinced that only because there is Tamil State in India, India sides with them: wrong!

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    Dr Narendran stated that Professor Hoole is not temperamentally suited to be the Jaffna University VC. Hoole’s unbalanced and irrational comments in CT opinion column clearly proves Narendran’s asertion.

    Like all other pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora he wants the intervention of the western powers in Sri Lanka to bring about a regime change. This shows he is no different to Rudrakumaran or Father Emmanuel.

    He laments that the CJ impeachment protests within Sri Lanka have become a whimper. That CJ was no saint for the ordinary Sri Lankan folks to die for her. MR made her the CJ and removed her on seeing her aligning with the NGO mafia that was planning a judicial coup against him. That was self preservation by the political animal in MR.

    Professor Hoole wants India to side with the Americans in passing a resolution against Sri Lanka at the forthcoming UNHRC session. If India sides with US at the UNHRC it will only help diminish India’s influence in Colombo. I hope it will not make the same mistake again. Instead India should make use of this opportunity to get MR agree to the full implementation of the 13th amendment in the spirit of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord which should include constitutional amendment for the merger of Northern and Eastern provinces.

    Mere UNHRC resolutions against Sri Lanka will not help solve the Tamil problem. The answer is internal settlement. MR should be asked to sit with all the leaders of SL Tamil political parties (not just with TNA) and arrive at a settlement package.

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    Its absurd to wish everything will be all right with a regime change. We have the right set of rulers we deserve most and I hope Dr.N. too would agree with me. Why should we worry about the C.JJ or impeachments ? After all they hold office at the pleasure of the crown and not as birth right.

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      Mano,

      What this country needs is a definitive and unambiguous set of rules to govern the political game and a set of powerful referees to monitor the games. Close scrutiny by an independent and objective media- the video cameras- would be an added blessing. The unruly players can then be brought in line. What is wrong in our country is that the players are dictating the rules of the game and are beginning to change the referees during the game. We the people are not enjoying the game any longer, but are part of the melee in the playing field.

      Dr.R.N

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