18 November, 2019

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The Complex Challenges Our Society Now Faces

By JC Weliamuna

JC Weliamuna

Ven Sirs, Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen

It’s with mixed feelings that I have got up to speak.  I am pleased, honored and humbled to accept this award and to join the long admired and respected past recipients.  Let me at the very outset thank the board & the Governing Council of the National Peace Council and its staff, in particular its Chairman Mr. Tony Senewiratne and the Executive Director Dr.  Jehan Perera, for selecting me for this award. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised with the award. I am so pleased that some very special persons were able to come and share this evening with me.  I greatly appreciate presence of all of you.

With my somewhat unsafe and challenging experience for half a century, I thought of using this opportunity to share with you some of my observations on the complex challenges our society now faces, and offering my thoughts on them.

To go back to a few decades, I was in primary school when the 1971 insurrection struck the South, when we saw dead bodies floating in rivers. I recall very well the 1983 July riots, which I witnessed in Colombo, where a large number of Tamils were killed and their property destroyed, followed by the notorious 6th Amendment, chasing the Tamil political leadership away from the main stream of politics. Disappearances, dead bodies and destruction continued in late 1980s and beyond.   Then, we saw bloodshed all over the country – mainly in the North and East – in a bloody conflict, where thousands died, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned.  This is what my generation witness in our youth.

Between 1989 & 1993, as a young lawyer handling quite a large number of legal aid – pro bono – cases, I appeared for thousands of victims of human rights abuses – Sinhalese and Tamils alike beyond geographical, religious or ethnic boundaries. I had the opportunity of interviewing hundreds of detainees for the purpose of documenting and preparation of their cases. Among them were hundreds of torture victims whose fateful experience speaks volumes of our nation- our values, our society, our politics and how we treat our own citizens. If we are to learn about life, contemporary politics, governance, rule of law or humanity, probably those dreadful and heartbreaking experiences of victims and their families will give us the correct version of the foundation of our society and our nation today. Present day screams of thousands of families of forceful evictions and displacements, in the guise of development, building hotels, military camps and beautification will tell us the unashamed disregard to ignore the governance and basic socio-economic rights of our own people.  It is those unforgettable experiences that kept me asking the purpose of my life and gave me the determination to stand up for certain values.  I do not mind failing – in fact I have had enough failures – but I cannot afford not to try and do something about it.

I also had the opportunity of closely working with and, sometimes initiating  several networks, locally, regionally and globally. Among them were student movements, trade unions, rural-based community organizations, media groups, anti-corruption movements, human rights groups and – more recently –  lawyers’ movements and protection networks.  Transparency International, global and local, was among my strongest affiliations.  What I clearly saw, with my experience in those networks is that human rights, governance, accountability, rule of law, moral and ethical standards are all interconnected and interdependent.  In my view, even the ethnic conflict, resulting in major violations of human rights by all sides, demonstrates the stark reality of collapse of governance structure of our country.

I do firmly believe that no institution is capable of meeting expected objectives without determined individuals at leadership level, with a committed vision for integrity. Integrity of individuals is as important as Institutional integrity.  I refused to accept that formal education and qualifications alone give that integrity to an individual; they need to cultivate more within. If you disagree, please look at the present day University administrations and Regulatory Bodies in Sri Lanka, which have been ruined due to the appointment of such low level folks.

I also see the close connection between abuses of human rights and corruption. In fact,  today, we can, with concrete evidence,  strongly argue that the worst forms of corruption such as kleptocracy, is a crime against humanity. It is not difficult to conclude that ruthless terrorists as well as authoritarian regimes are on par as regards corruption and abuses of human rights. They have no respect for well established principles of rule of law. On the contrary, they want a captive population to respect their will as the rule. They are perhaps the greatest threat on establishment of a decent democratic and peaceful country.

From my childhood, I was influenced by different individuals, teachers, friends, philosophers and leaders, who had different ideologies. I was  influenced by street dramas of Gamini Hattotuwegama,  work of  Sucharitha Gamlath, the greatest judge of our times,  Justice Mark Fernando  and Parliamentarian & lawyer Sarath Muttetuwegama and,  for a long time, by my mentor and my senior RKW Goonsekere.  I can give a long list of such excellent individuals.

I also have long list of admirers – and for  decade I have admired  Voltaire to Martin Luther King, Lord Buddha to Jesus Christ, Gandhi to Nelson Mandela;  it took quite some time for me to frankly realize that there is nothing called unadulterated or pure ideology, theory or religion and that no one great vision is less superior to the other. Those great leaders live in our hearts and guide us on peaceful and unarmed liberation. Fortunately, I was never a prisoner of a particular political ideology and I deliberately took the path of civil liberties, knowing very well the risks involved.

The civil liberties are too precious to let go and we cannot let the state agencies and elected leaders to be our “sole trustees” of those liberties. They are co-partners of the civil society in protecting civil liberties and the day political leadership claim supremacy over individual and collective liberties of the society, we allow them to destroy us. It is quite easy for a bunch of leaders to manipulate a system of governance, unless the society is determined to collectively oppose it. We face this challenge today more than ever before. How do we foil this at this 11th hour? I believe the only way to do it is to speak out loudly about it, to resist it and to offer alternatives. Open discussion, debate and expression of views – fearlessly – is the only answer.   For this, I am prepared to stand in the firing line and take any risk in life.

If there is anything more seriously alleged against Sri Lanka, it is the failure to tolerate dissent and often we are called “a rogue state”. It is our collective duty to remind our leaders that we should not be “a rogue state”.  We often boast about traditions and say that the quality of our nation should be judged by how we venerate our teachers, elders, monks & priests, bosses and leaders.    A nation cannot be accurately judged by how it treats the powerful and the highest level of individuals but by how it treats the lowest, the helpless, the opponents and the minorities.

Let me also briefly share with you my observations on Sri Lanka’s potential to overcome her major challenges. In my view, we can reach any global standard on social, economic or any other indicators, if we tap three opportunities or prospects, which are readily available in abundance.

Let me be a bit unconventional on this.

Firstly – tap the diversity. We have diverse cultures, communities, religions and disciplines but we do not see this diversity as strength and often reject such ideas with prejudices.

Secondly – tap the human resources. We have precious human resources – not only for employment purposes but to safely extricate our nation out of the mess. This will be a reality, only if the willing and able are not discriminated and are guaranteed  of their due place.   It is time that Sri Lanka honestly welcomes thousands of individuals and their families,  who were made to live in exile due to the conflict. I have no doubt that a greater portion of those individuals, particularly Tamils, are willing to return, if they are reassured of a lasting reconciliation, guaranteeing with dignity.  We urgently need to engage in credible initiatives for this.

Thirdly – tap the commitment & dedication of the people. We have a quite a large number of committed individuals in the wilderness, who can guide our nation to establish a courteous civilization. They are not connected to power.  There are also millions of people who are committed to establish an ethical society, provided they have the freedom to do so, without political restraints and reprisals.

However, to tap these three prospects, the leadership of the country – not only political leadership but religious, societal and community, corporate, media, academic – needs a paradigm shift. In my view, it is our duty to prepare the society for that shift. It will not fall on to our lap. When things are most awful in our respective fields, there is no better solution than to stick to the basics.

Finally, a word to those who are totally disappointed about our country because of economic insecurity and not having a future for their children. It is not for me to blame you.  You have many options; but I have a duty to request you not chose the option of leaving the country, without first making your contribution to make this place worth living for generations to come. Before taking such a decision, please think about the free education that you have received, without which most of us may not have been here in these positions today. Here I did not talk about who are compelled to live in exile or those who migrate for other reasons.

As I close, I would like to once again thank the National Peace Council, for giving me this award. Thank you Dr. Ariyaratne for your kind words. My parents who are now deceased, continue to live in my thoughts. They never interfered with my choices, but always guided me to be where I am today. I had many friends but most of those who stood up with me against the tide had rough times in their own lives as well; our interactions were mutually enriching, for which I am grateful to all of them, though I do not have time to name each one of them.

My wife Subodhya’s understanding, and tolerance, which my young children are also fortunately beginning to learn, has helped me to sustain my commitment for a shared vision to make this place worth living.  For this big thank you to my wife.

Thank you all once again for coming over and sharing this memorable evening.

*Acceptance speech of JC Weliamuna, Citizens Peace Award – 18 September 2013

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Latest comments

  • 1
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    We salute you Sir, and we need more people of your caliber to leave our country to be a better place for our next generations. Once again you are a true son of mother Lanka. Our hats off to you for the great courage, and the hard work you are doing to put the country and the people on the right path. Please don’t rest or take a break till your last breath, until your well and good mission is accomplished for the good of humanity.

    • 1
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      Congratulation and hats off Weli! You deserve it.. keep up the courage and commitment and the game will be yours.. but there is much work ahead..
      An EXIT STRATEGY for the Corrupt and Criminal Rajapassa family that is turning Lanka into a military dictatorship and will behave like Syria’s Assad or Mubarack before they give up power needs to be developed – URGNETLY. Civil society needs to do two things:
      1. Start a discussion on CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS and engage the international donors who have been actively supporting or remain silent about the militarization of the country by Gota the war criminal. Indian and China are militarizing Lanka because of their own interest but this is detrimental to Democracy Within the country. Civil society should hence call for Lanka to be a “demilitarized zone of peace in the Indian Ocean”, now that the LTTE is gone. The World Bank and IMF that preaches “good governance” and “Do No Harm” (aid should not fuel conflict) in transitional contexts has been funding and subsidizing the expansion of the Ministry of Defense via the UDA. This MUST BE STOPPED and WB closed down! UN claims to be expert in DDR – Demobilizing and reintegrating militaries after conflict has been remarkably silent on the need to DOWNSIZE and right size the military of Sri Lanka, so civil society MUST speak in one voice on this matter and loud and clear – Sri Lanka needs a ROAD MAP FOR DEMILITARIZATION TO RESTORE DEMOCRACY and donors need to help civil society rather than funding that clown Vasu’s Ministry who hasn’t got a clue about social integration..
      2. Civil society must also formulate a clear EXIT STRATEGY and plan for PEACEFUL REGIME CHANGE for the CORRUPT and Criminal Rajapassa brothers, sons, extended family cronies who are looting Lanka and are following the Prabakaran model of dictatorship for life. For this, a critique of political culture of dictatorship within ALL POLITICAL PARTIES and the NGO sector needs to be developed and VOTER EDUCATION on need to clean up corrupt governance across the board is important. The culture of geriatrics holding onto positions of power – particularly in the leftist circles – viz . the dead leftists like Vasu and Ranil in the UNP as well as in the Colombo NGO sector needs to be challenged.. this rotten culture of never giving up power is pervasive in political culture – both govt and NGOs!

      • 0
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        Good Idea : 1 ) Lanka as a demilitarized zone of Peace in Indian Ocean 2) Road map to demilitarize and DOWN SIZE the military. This should be the call by Lanka CIVIL SOCIETY and a should be a condition for aid.
        Problem is that there is NO STRATEGIC THINKING in the NPC and NGOs and civil society in Sri Lanka which is highly DONOR DEPENDENT. It is the US, CHINA, INDIA are all into militarizing the region to sell weapons and feel like they are super powers..

        The fact is also that Lanka civil society is NOT doing its job – particularly the so-called peace NGOs which are working in a re-active rather than proactive mode and lack a a STRATEGIC VISION for demilitarization.
        Indian and China are militarizing Lanka because of their own interest but this is detrimental to Democracy Within the country. Civil society should hence call for Lanka to be a “demilitarized zone of peace in the Indian Ocean”, now that the LTTE is gone.

  • 1
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    Congratulations.A well deserved award. It is a pity that we could mention starting from S.Nadesan, Q.C.only a few who stand firm for the rights of the people.What more can we expect in a country where some Human Rights defenders turn violators of it overnight.

  • 1
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    A very well-deserved honour, Mr. Weliamuna. I dream of a day to come when people of your caliber and dedication to justice will be honoured by the Sri Lankan state, and not just by NGOs. But for now, know that you are respected and admired by those who know your excellent work.

    • 1
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      It is because of very few people like you in this country that some semblance of democracy still survives.
      You are like that little spark of hope that the famous Tamil poet Bharathi mentioned in his poem call “Agni Kunchu” meaning Little Spark which lit up and engulfed the dark forest destroying the evils in it.
      Keep up your good work, you have the support of all right thinking people who have genuine concern for the welfare and progress of this country irrespective of their race or religion.

  • 1
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    Noble sentiments……..as long as they are not manipulated in order to fulfill contracts of powerful vested interests for cheap dollars….

    JCW talks about a ‘rogue state’. We must stop for a moment and ask the question who call us a ‘rogue state’. Answer to this question would provide a glimpse of the foundation of the value system JCW’s noble sentiments are built on.

    JCW also talks about some ‘international standards’. Again the same question. Not sure whether JCW is careful enough not to allow his nobel aspirations to be manipulated to maintain the present destructive and criminal world order.

    I spent my younger days through the same volatile and violent environment. I have become a sceptic of the pious through the personal experiences during those troublesome years (unfortunately). So my sentiments could be harsh….

    • 1
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      Oh dear Leela, Now we know how you have become a lunatic BBS+Jarafuckse maniac.
      Down with jarafucksa! Bangawewa pawlfuckse!

      Days are numbered in any case of your southern village idiots.

    • 0
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      For some Reason, I don’t trust him.

  • 0
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    Congradulations

  • 1
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    You deserve it Sir, It is a very rare occassion to honour people like your calibre. People of quality are hard to get as some give up their honesty for position and money as mentioned.You have the support of people who are honest and with intergrity. Wish you long life to carry out the task you are committed to do for the society. We are proud of you.

  • 0
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    J.C.Weliyamuna even had two grenades thrown at his house on 27 Sept.2008,as he appeared for the complainant Mrs.A.S.S.Pathmini Peiris,in a fundamental rights case.
    http://www.article 2.org/mainfile.php/0801/338/
    This case is interesting – shows the state of human rights in sri lanka.
    We need many more lawyers like him.
    He richly deserves this award.

  • 0
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    Mr Weliamuna provides a selfless and sterling service to the poor people who’s lives and rights are under threat. May the Almighty protect him and give him the strength to continue his good work.

  • 0
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    Sorry – correct link is:-
    http://www.article2.org/mainfile.php/0801/338/

  • 0
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    Sir, You are a true hero to our country. Your voice became a voice for the voiceless, Helpless, and powerless.

    Please keep fighting for their rights, liberty and justice against the Most powerful, Greedy, corrupt and selfish Monsters who are ever ready to destroy anybody who gets in their way.

    Also please spread your vision, light and message across and mould the next generation of Liberators who will stand by for Truth, Justice and Laws of the Nation in the midst of Powerful unjust suppressors.

    Please have your voice herd to rescue our Madam CJ Dr.Shirani Bandaranayake who is been kept under House Arrest by the Most Powerful Regime in the World.

    Please keep doing your good work to our society while spreading your message across among the young and we pray for your safety, good health and long life.

    May God and Triple Jem Bless you and your family.

  • 0
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    Whats this joke?This Jehan Perera character,Paki,Waliamuna etc all belong to the same club.That is in fleecing foreigners in the guise of promoting HR in Srilanka.A set of $$$ Kakkas.When Prabakarn was on a killing rampage these fellow were silent.When school kids at Kabithigollewa were murdered they were silent.When innocent pregnant mothers’bellies were ripped opened they were quiet.A bloody hell of a set of HR activists!Not worth wasting my precious on a set of $$$ Kakkas!

    • 0
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      Lie, lie, lie till you die:

      The latest version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5skvIvPr28#t=736

      • 0
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        Lie,lie,lie till you die.

        Great News broadcast revealing Sri Lanka’s Politikkas and a great presentation.

        Could have been more interesting if included much interesting BBS, Ravana and Rawaya drama actors and Hambanthota comedy show masters.

      • 0
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        Most probably comments coming from the defeated Tamil terrorists.Lick your wounds.Sometimes life can be so cruel!

    • 0
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      That is what I thought.

      They all preach and their agenda is different.

  • 0
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    JC has either made or sees the challenges complexed due to his crooked manupilations in order to satisfy his pay masters and It’s with mixed feelings that he had to get up to speak.

    OMG, this POT crack immediately identifies & thank the kettles for selecting him for the honour.

    Oh !!!!!! how surprised can he get? As they say, You scratch mine and I will scratch yours.

    Lal is right ..Quote “we need more people of your caliber to leave our country to be a better place for our next generations.” The mouth will lie but not the tongue Mr. lal…………

    Lenin Jayasinghe the brother of Jangiya….You are off target. Quote: “as some give up their honesty for position and money as mentioned.” – JC held his honesty & sold his sold to his Paymasters.
    Lenin… To OSM, you R a postal joker.

  • 0
    0

    This is a fitting honour to an honourable, courageous and fearless man, who continues his mission to educate the people and to stand up to the forces of shameful socio-economic, institutional and political manipulation in our dear country.

    Well done Sir, and I wish you all good luck in your endeavours. You are a shining example to us all.

  • 0
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    Hi give this a publicity please.. at least one state seems to have awaken..

    GHANA LAWYERS SLAM SRI LANKA OVER JUDICIAL INTERFERENCESeptember 19, 2013 11:08 amBookmark and Share The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has questioned Sri Lanka’s eligibility to chair the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo in November this year over the dismissal of its Chief Justice.

    “Sri Lanka has demonstrated complete disregard for the Rule of Law and judicial independence,” Nene Abayaateye Amegatcher, President of the GBA, said at the 2013-2014 Annual Conference of the Association in Ho.

    “If the Commonwealth is to maintain its credibility, it must live up to the values it proclaims and take decisive action against the repressive action of its member states including Sri Lanka,” he said.

    Nene Amegatcher said Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake’s dismissal was based on “an unfair impeachment process that was ruled illegally by the Supreme Court,” of that country, GNA reported.

    He said Chief Justice Bandaranayake’s dismissal “constitutes a direct attack on judicial independence, undermining the ability of the Sri Lankan legal system to provide accountability and end impunity.”

    Nene Amegatcher, therefore, called on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to reconsider Sri Lanka’s position as Chair of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

  • 0
    0

    You deserve this honour. Congratulations.

  • 0
    0

    My heartiest congratulations, Sir.
    May God the Almighty protect you from the evils of the Rajapakse regime.
    By the way, beware of the white van menace, we still can remember what happened to Mr. Wijedasa Liyanaarachchi in 1988.

  • 0
    0

    Congratulations Sir , you deserve this honour. We need people of your caliber to take our country forward.You are respected and admired by many .May the good Lord Bless & protect you always !!

  • 0
    0

    My heartiest congratrulations for a well deserved award.

  • 0
    0

    Sir, I am one who has left the Country in disgust and also for the sake of my children….if I knew that there were people like you around I may NOT have left.

    If you choose to get involved in Governance and have a method to make REAL changes to the system in this Country, I will return and work for nothing !

  • 0
    0

    mr.Weliyamuna, We need people like you to lead this country and redeem it from the dark depths it has sunk. Please provide the leadership to people like us who are watching the atrocious deeds comitted by the ruling politicians and their acolytes with anger and outrage and are helpless to act to act against it.

  • 0
    0

    I have no words to express my appreciation for the words of wisdom. Today everything I read only angers and fills me with disgust and find no reason to be proud to be a Sri Lankan and a Sinhalese. But reading your speech has lifted my spirits and am proud there are people like you who could save our country from the distruction it is heading towards. May God be with you.

  • 0
    0

    Most of the comments prove that the people in Sri Lanka can be tricked very easily.

    Lawyer Waliamuna launched a campaign with some others against the unlawful removal blocking of the CJ from performing the duties of the office of the CJ. They in fact declared 48 hours token strike (stoppage of work) with whichPresident Rajapakse was very happy.

    Thereafter Rajapake appointed Mohan Peiris as the CJ when there was no vacancy for the post. Mohan Peiris took oath that he would uphold the rule of law and that he would perform the office of the CJ according to law.

    Even the most junior lawyer knows that accepting the office of the CJ, when the officially appointed CJ’ removal was nullified by two judgments by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, Mohan Peiris committed a serious wrongful act that is plainly against the rule of law.

    What the Waliamuna and and his group then did. They can deceive the gullible lot, but cannot fool or insult the intelligence of the right thinking people.

    For them Waliamuna and hid group is just a bunch of people with NO INTEGRITY will to uphold the rule of law. These self centred group is more concern of their private gain rather than their public Duty.

    As Justice Weeramanthy Correctly classified this type of self centred lawyers, they are nothing more than a Group of Machiavellians who take morality in public and practice completely the opposite in private. This is amply proved with their post conduct. Now this shameless group have the audacity to appear before the de facto CJ Mohan Piers as Mohan Peiris had committed no wrong.

    God bless Sri Lanka, particularly when this type of people are given recognition as if they are the saviours of the Nation.

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