18 June, 2019

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Terrorism, Extremism And Hypocrisy

By Rajiva Wijesinha

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha MP

LTTE Terrorism: Musings of a Catholic Priest is a timely publication at a time of increasing polarization. It is a collection by Rev Fr Vimal Tirimanna of his writings over the last few years about the conflict that has torn Sri Lanka apart. It continues to do so even now, despite the destruction of the LTTE, precisely because the balanced and essentially religious approach Fr Tirimanna advocates is lacking, conspicuously so in many of those who claim to be religious.

In his introduction Fr Tirimanna notes how the Catholic Church also contributed to the problem, through the failure of many of its members to strike a convincing balance. He notes the reason for this, when he claims that it was ‘certainly the right thing to do’ to aim for balance. But the failure to condemn LTTE terror openly, ‘on the wrong presumption that it would hurt the Tamil sentiments’ as he puts it, led to the Church losing its credibility.

Fr Tirimanna is unequivocal in his condemnation of terrorism, and he argues with great erudition and the citation of numerous authorities that the Catholic Church can have no truck with terror. At the same time he makes clear his understanding of the reasons for terrorism, and notes the need to deal sympathetically with the grievances of the Tamils that were the result of the majoritarianism he also condemns. Indeed he makes it clear that democracy needs to be inclusive, and that in the modern world ‘special consideration’ is needed for the minorities and that they ‘need to see themselves as being protected, especially in the Constitution of the country’.

Through this clear enunciation of principles that promote pluralism, Fr Tirimanna makes clear the destructive impact of the fundamentalist assertions on either side, namely ‘ that Sri Lanka belongs only to the Sinhala Buddhists and that north and east of Sri Lanka is exclusively the Tamil homeland’. He shows also the need for sensitivity to avoid conveying such perspectives, as when he wonders whether it was appropriate to celebrate victory in battle through a tamasha at Independence Square – while categorically asserting the moral obligation of the government to liberate areas held by the LTTE, and noting that the security forces deserved credit for their achievement. In short, he never loses sight of the distinction between the LTTE, which he felt had to be defeated militarily, and the Tamil people on whose behalf too the government was acting. This needed – and still needs – to be conveyed, and he makes clear again and again the need to bend over backwards to get this message across.

With regard to the LTTE he notes both the moral need to have negotiated, and the equally valid moral need to deal with them conclusively when they had made it clear they had no interest in negotiations. In this regard he makes clear the flawed approach of the Wickremesinghe government, though his harshest criticism in this regard is reserved for G L Peiris, whose equivocations over this period he condemns roundly – ‘what happens is that at the end of every session of the peace process between the government and the LTTE, the government spokesman comes out with a rosy picture which is full of equivocation, then, he also never hesitates to attribute exclusively to himself or to the government the “immense success” of the peace efforts. When those of us who have not been victims of amnesia can still recall that it was the same gentleman who for some six years painted a similar rosy picture not only of the economy but also of the peace process of the then PA government, one wonders what sort of credibility the government commands with regard to the peace process. This sort of calculated hoodwinking and avoiding of vital issues may not last long, for people have a limit to their patience’.

This President’s patience with Prof Peiris seems to have no limts, as was the case with both his predecessors as Heads of Government. What is even more tragic about this is that he should be taking the lead, given his experience in the field, with articulating the government’s ‘vision for a political solution to the national crisis’, which Fr Tirimanna notes Robert Blake, in the days when he was more on our side than not, recommended to further isolate and weaken the LTTE. Prof Peiris does seem to understand one way in which we should be moving, for Fr Tirimanna quotes from a lecture he delivered in 2010, about ‘a need for power sharing mechanism in the Centre as well….There are many ways of achieving that objective, one of which is a bicameral legislature’.

But the total hollowness of the man became apparent when he did not put this idea forward in negotiations with the TNA. After I stressed the need for us to put forward our ideas, he did bring forward a proposal, but he failed to follow it up, just as he failed to follow up on my suggestion about strengthening local government, even though the TNA responded positively to both suggestions.

Another villain Fr Tirimanna identifies, in addition to the extremists on either side he condemns, is the Bishop of Mannar. More circumspectly than he exposed Prof Peiris’s shortcomings, he makes it clear that the Bishop should not have had the Madhu statue removed deeper into LTTE held territory, just as he makes clear that the demand that there be a peace zone around the Madhu shrine was disingenuous given that the LTTE had violated this and was quite likely to ‘reinfiltrate and reoccupy’ it.

The hypocrisy and double standards of those others too who opposed the destruction of the LTTE by our forces is clearly exposed by Fr Tirimanna. He refers to the quite disgusting cover ups of atrocities in Iraq by the BBC and notes Chomsky’s comparison of the coverage of the killing of a priest by the Communist government in Poland with the comparative neglect of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador, ‘a friendly client state’ of America. He notes the anomaly of condign criticism of Karuna and Pillaiyan by those continuing to urge negotiations with the LTTE, in effect to ‘hand over a part of the country to a ruthless group of “terrorists” who can never be converted’. And he notes that doubtless the Opposition would not have been so harsh on Karuna and Pillaiyan had they joined the Opposition – which is surely true, as I realized when I was urging Ravi Karunanayake to compromise with President Kumaratunga back in early 2004. His point was that there was no need to do so, since that would mean compromise with the JVP, which he thought the public saw as beyond the pale – whereas the UNP together with the LTTE supported TNA was bound to do better in any election if President Kumaratunga had the temerity to call one.

But while Fr Tirimanna is quite clear about the need to have overcome these equivocal approaches to terrorism, and the importance of what the Rajapaksa government achieved in getting rid of the LTTE forces in Sri Lanka, he is also clear about the need for Reconciliation. In the last chapter of the book he looks at length at the LLRC recommendations and makes it clear that government will fail in achieving lasting peace if it does not swiftly act on those recommendations. He talks about the need for both restorative justice and structural justice, and urges swift constitutional reforms that would ensure ‘minority participation in the day-to-day running of the affairs of our nation’.

In short, this is a thorough account of the crisis and its aftermath, sharp in its analysis, affecting in its universal sympathy, forceful in its moral perspectives. But as with all such balanced and principles approaches, I fear that the extremists on either side, and the equivocators he assesses so critically, will continue to dominate us and, to cite the words with which the book concludes, ‘we may be condemned to repeat our tragic history all over again’.

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Latest comments

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    Rajiva, what did GLP do to Dayan and you? Please answer that question before you write anything about him or our bad ‘foreign policy’.

    Dear CT, don’t give room for self-whoring political nut cases the room to further their personal petty fights.

    Wijesinha, please start blogging, and let me know so that I can read your nonsense for comic relief.

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      I read your comment and could not help laughing. In fact, the question should have been answered by both DJ and RW not making any round abouts :) why to beat around the bush ?

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    Rajiva writes…..
    After I stressed the need for us to put forward our ideas,……..

    I did this ……I am amazing ……Rajiva
    I did this ……I am amazing……Dayan
    I did this ……I am amazing…….Tamara
    Everyone else …especially the ministry of foreign affairs……useless !!!

    All three are the same ! Self promotion is the name of the game ! Rajiva in particular complains about GL Pieris and constantly praises Dayan (which Dayan does too) but forgets that both Dayan and Tamara are political appointments to the foreign service !!!

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      These 3 are classic examples of ‘intellectuals’ who were used and rejected by the regime, when they refused to conform anymore. The sad part is they have no where to go. The official opposition is…… well you know about them.

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    When you are out for sale, all you have to talk about is the price. Look at professional sportmen, look at the call girls, look at GLP, look at Rajiva. If Kudu Amare (or thing of a similar title and a nick name) has the dough, he would also have Rajivas of the world in his corner.

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    What does Fr Tirimanna say about the slaughter of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians by the military? He rightly condemns LTTE terrorism but appears to gloss over state terrorism. Or, has Rajiva conveniently left this part out of his review of the book.

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      “He rightly condemns LTTE terrorism but appears to gloss over state terrorism”

      You forget that the SL army defeated terrorism with zero civilian casualties and no rapes. The devious tamil diaspora in the west, of which I am unfortunately a member, are spreading some hateful propaganda through Channel 4 news about crimes being committed, especially at the end of the war. Our dear President Mahinda has tried to make his presence felt in England by trying to chair a debate at the Oxford union but was blocked by LTTE supporters so had to leave. However his attendance at the old white Queen’s Jubilee celebrations did much to impress the British govt.The attack on the TNA-backed Uthayan newspaper is a good way to stamp out any attempt separatism and will be much appreciated, especially in the West. We remain hopeful the Queen, Stephen Harper, Cameron and Manmohan Singh will all land together at Mahinda Rajapaksa Airport for CHOGM later this year

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    I’m tired hearing this GLP bashing… i am sorry but this is a type personality disorder!

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    Ita good that the good Father T talks of LTTE atrocities lest some forget and think they a angels, BUT has the Catholic fahter forgotten about the Point Pedro school massacre by the Army when blew a classroom with kids in 1985 or the Kumudini boat massacre in Jaffna by the Navy in 1986 or the hacking of passengers near Rambewa in Sept 1984 in a Jaffna bound luxury bus by allegedly by the army?

    or what about the aerial bombings starting from about 1986 and claiming all dead were millitants when it was not the case

    who will talk of all that

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    My God, all these educated people are so good and brilliant, its because of them this country is in this pathetic state and plight. Simply, they all for their pecks and positions, wouldn’t give a dame to the country and people. If other wise and are genuine, why don’t they make effort to check the excesses of Rajapaksa & Co as all of them float in same circles.Its sad and shame that they failed to make any change in the life of ordinary people instead all of them in one gang suck their blood.

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    Rajiva,

    The statement “we may be condemned to repeat our tragic history all over again” itself is a confession that terrorism is nothing more than a natural response that is to be expected because of the particular actions of the Government. When you agree with that statement from Fr. Tirimanna’s then you are indeed conceding that the Government acted wrong in the past, and if they continue to act the same way, they should indeed expect a revival of terrorism. Similar sentiments have been voiced by several internationals as well – the US, India, UN, Commonwealth, etc. So then why are we still holding LTTE as the original, sole and ultimate source of the last 30 years of tragedy? Do you see the irony in this?

    You keep boasting that you three (Dayan, Tamara and yourself) had better foresight about the futile path the Government was taking.

    Also, in the article above you call to question the Church’s credibility. Here below I am repeating a question that I posted in the comments in your previous article couple of days ago. Would you care to defend your credibility first?

    Can you specifically list one or two articles you (and Dayan) have published in Public Forum that you think are most illustrative of your critical view and insight of any aspect of the Government’s policies?

    Please limit it to publications between 2010-2011 or perhaps even till mid-2012, and not the more recent ones written after things started falling apart for the country and for you all personally.

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    I’ll tell you one thing, Catholic church & other protestant churches were busy getting more converts to their religions, Eelam/LTTE War was only a pond of troubles waters they did fishing, & surely those churches would certainly welcome another war, even if it dislodges Tamils for good, from Lanka.

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    The statement “President patience with Prof Pieris….”, what patience its the direction of the President that Pieris follows. Pieris is a paid servant with no heart or mind. He wants his position, the same way, Rajiva is still with the Government. There is no difference between Rajiva and Pieris, both are good to be tied on to one bullock cart.

    Bishiop of Mannar moving the Madhu statue deep into LTTE territory was the correct move at that time. We have seen what the Army has done to various religious places of worship. We have seen how the army has treated schools, hospitals, civilians, priests and places of worship even cemeteries. If the Madhu statue was moved into the army camp then there is no guarantee that we will have the statue today.

    What LTTE did was wrong, no sensible Tamil or Muslim or Sinhalese will support LTTE. But LTTE actions cannot be compared to the action of the government. The action of armed forces should be above board as they are part of the government and LTTE is a terrorist organization. If this fundamental concept is not acceptable to the government of Sri Lanka, then Sri Lankan government too becomes a terrorist organization.

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    Another now-useless intellectual.

    BTW what happened to reconciliation? If Dr Rajiva has any honesty left, he should resign from his parliamentary seat.

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    There is another collection of human rights violations by another catholic priest Rev Fr.X.J.Karunairatnam available only on the Web so far.
    He was killed and is now no more.
    http://nesohr.org/files/Lest_We_Forget.pdf

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    Father you have read Ma Hinder Chindanaya. It says only sins are committed by LTTE everything else is humanitarian operations. Armen sorry Hey Man

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    why does good father talk about the state sponsored massacres in 1977, 1981, 1983. If he thinks those of 1956,1958 are too old. Why does nothe admit LTTE’s terror was response to state Terrorism, even he thinks eye-for-eye of LTTE;s action may not be justified in the Christian faith but that of the response of the state is justified including that of the brutal torture and massacre of civilians is justified

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    What a lot of racialist rants going on here. While Sinhalese trying to justify, Tamils try to remember what Army did. This is like in a small class where children complain who hit the other first, and how hard the other hits or trying to justify why he behaves so. How hypocritical we are, but not to condemn all forms of violence.
    I think, this sort of psychological inclinations towards violence is part of our beastly nature. That is why we need the common law in a country where everyone comes under that. In developed countries, not that these people are kind or innocent but they all have a strong legal system and a strong image building mechanism ( pure marketing) to justify whatever they have done. For an example though US or UK invade any country, they are able to justify and build their image as they own more than 80% of the communication and news agencies.This is the reality. That is why Boston bombing is a huge hit while US bombed Pakistan border villages killing more than 40 people including dozens of children.This in fact happened a few weeks ago. But it is not news.

    What Sri Lanka( People both Tamil and Sinhala) needs is not wasting time in throwing stones at each other, but asserting a strong legal system where a accepted level of democracy is immediately implemented.
    In addition I feel sorry for the Tamils who have migrated to other developed countries to protect their cultural values and most importantly the language.What we see is the clear hypocracy where both Sinhalese and Tamils have lost their traditional values along with culture and language due to Migration.I meet so many Tamils who live in UK and the as they reach second or the third generation they are fully turned to the English way of life while having a black skin. Therefore how I see is, Sri Lanka should be our country where we learn both Sinhala and Tamil freely. It is the homeland of whoever born here and love this beautiful land.Let mother Lanka nature her children, and they will all protect her in the future. People be sensible stop arguing and urge the government to instill law and order and one constitution for every citizen.

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    If LTTE were terrorists, we Sinhalese are angels. ;)

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    I have run a desk if was working for ASIO or ASIS which I never have, I would resign. Number two would take as many Tamils as I can as refugees, Number three if you threaten me with boats you would find frigates off your coast.

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