By S. Ratnajeevan Hoole –
Elmore Perera has described how the President claimed that he did not appoint his “good friend” and then senior-most justice Shirani Bandaranayake as CJ when he made Nihal Jayasinghe CJ because Ranil Wickramasinghe had misdirected him by saying that 25 years of judicial service was required. Rajapaksa then asked Lalith Weeratunga to produce Ranil’s document and after Weeratunga vigorously checked his files for 2-3 minutes, the President directed him to “send it to Mr. Perera tomorrow.” Perera never got the letter despite several tries and believes the document never existed.
India, the UN and the world, after having been strung along for 3-4 years with promises of a devolution package, have finally been told on Independence Day that there will be no devolution but “equal rights to all communities.” What is equal rights for Tamils when we do not know the language of government, we are frightened of the armed forces, the little safety we have in numbers in our areas is threatened by state-sponsored Sinhalese settlers, and Hindu temples are demolished to build Buddhist temples? What are equal rights when we are killed, and our killers are appointed ministers to lord it over us?
India by now should know they are dealing with a habitual, incorrigible, inveterate prevaricator.=
India has the legal right under the Indo-Lanka Accord – and the obligation to Tamil parties who, trusting India, accepted it – to insist that Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, plural society; that each ethnic group has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity to be nurtured; that the Northern and Eastern provinces are historical habitations of Tamil speaking peoples; that elections to Provincial Councils are held; that the emergency be lifted; that security personnel be confined to barracks; that Tamil and English also be official languages; that all paramilitary personnel be withdrawn; and that India will underwrite and guarantee these resolutions.
It is no secret that India helped Sri Lanka crush the LTTE. If India can be used and tricked so easily by a rogue government, and still have nothing to show for it, India is reduced to a joke, with ambitions to be a permanent member of the Security Council, while lacking the required skills and powers.
Sovereignty and Geneva
As Independence Day approached, the absence of the national flag in the Tamil regions, and the forces ordering shops to sell flags and homeowners to fly them, pronounced the deep divisions within.
Many of us, especially Tamils, now say that under a corrupt regime that does not respect the judiciary, there is no sovereignty to speak of. We would therefore welcome international action by the Commonwealth and UNHCR. The TNA has accordingly called for stern action, arguing it is necessary to persuade our government to discontinue its harmful agenda against Tamils.
Prospects seem good. James Moore of the US State Department who led a high-powered team to Colombo had expressed confidence that India would back the US’s Geneva resolution insisting on the “prompt” implementation of the LLRC recommendations. China, Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia having been rotated out of UNHRC membership augurs ill for Sri Lanka. Sonia Gandhi writing to Karunanidhi that she shares his concerns over the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils is suggestive of Indian support. Callum Macrae’s third documentary on Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields is being done in consultation with Frances Harrison and Benjamin Dixie for release before the Geneva vote.
Reluctance to Act against States
It is unclear, however, that nations would act forcefully for human rights. States somehow feel reluctant to punish errant states.
Reports indicate that India needs time to study the resolution. After watering down last year’s resolution as the price for its vote, if India now dithers on insisting on its implementation, it would seem that India is not ready to wield the immense responsibilities of a permanent seat on the Security Council. Tamil Nadu Governor K. Rosaiah, however, does not lack the resolve that his Prime Minister seems to. He urged Manmohan Singh to impose economic sanctions on Sri Lanka and take steps to ensure that those displaced by the ethnic conflict returned to their original homes and are allowed to live with dignity, self-respect and equal constitutional rights on par with the Sinhalese.
On the other hand, India’s former Chief Justice J.S. Verma was to arrive on a fact-finding mission for the International Bar Association, but Colombo cancelled his visa, The Sunday Island claimed, “out of respect for the former Chief Justice of India.” Yet Verma tried to save Colombo embarrassment, saying he himself cancelled the trip. But Colombo let him down in justifying the cancellation!
Jehan Perera predicts that Geneva will be a disappointment to those hoping that the UNHRC will insist on accountability, and that without new mechanisms, the resolution will reiterate the old, emphasizing its implementation. Betraying Colombo’s nervousness, this respected Perera who is circumspect and not given to histrionics, has had an intemperate tirade launched against him in an editorial by a once stately newspaper. Professional jealousy was evident in alluding to Perera gaining “a little learning at some Ivy League talk-shop,” meaning Harvard.
If India is not firm, South Africa could vote for Sri Lanka where it has growing investments, and influence other votes. Australia’s stand also seems vague as one branch of the federal government documented war crimes in Mullivaikaal, while another appeased Colombo to stop boat people.
Minority Management Policy
There have been rumours that a young MP involved in a law college exam controversy was smuggling Tamils out of Mullaitivu for Rs. 300,000 and because of his connexions only one boat out of five is nominally caught. In apparent confirmation, the respected Australian based on conversations with “several Australian officials” reported that “a senior Sri Lankan government official … known to be close to President Mahinda Rajapaksa” is personally “complicit” in people-smuggling. Australia has denied the report confirmed by several officials, indicating their instinct to save face for governments, however obnoxious, in Geneva.
Academic writings allege a government “Minority Management Strategy” of containing minorities below 10%; other sources say 7%. People smuggling is part of this strategy. The current population of Jaffna Peninsula, 600,000, would have been 1,200,000 without the war. Fifty-two villages outlying Trincomalee have been fully cleansed of Tamils by the security forces. Tamils have been managed. Are Muslims next?
Change of US Policy?
John Kerry replacing Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State makes changes in US policy possible. Kerry is critical of Clinton’s approach, speaking of the need to re-evaluate US’s relationship with Sri Lanka, and “for time [for Sri Lanka] to implement change without losing face.” It was the classic formula the US used to prolong dictatorships in Latin America, South Africa and Rhodesia. But it is unlikely Kerry will act quickly enough to change US plans for Geneva already in play.
Overseas Tamils: Reconnecting?
Overseas Tamils have an important role in Geneva. However, with no real stake in Sri Lanka, TamilNet has blamed Bishop Thomas Soundaranayagam for thanking the army for organizing a Christmas function and its development work.
The army runs Jaffna. The Bishop’s is a complex task of looking after the spiritual needs of the people (including Sinhalese), their physical welfare and the Church as an institution. He cannot, like TamilNet, launch one-sided tirades.
The army asked for a Christmas party. The Bishop had to oblige. He thanked the government for the roads as a preface to his subsequent “nevertheless” statements on “the dark spots”, i.e., the closure of the university, violence, alcoholism etc. I think most Tamils would say the Bishop spoke for them when he said “we do not want war again” but “we request the government to accept us as equals.”
An elderly Hindu gentleman commented, “It is because the Bishop is balanced that foreign delegations come to him to find out how we Tamils are faring. They take the Bishop at his word. He is the only one so bold and honest in Jaffna.”
Tamils abroad, to give meaningful direction to their activism, need to reconnect with their Sri Lankan brethren by discerning their perspectives.
The text below is added by Colombo Telegraph – 20.15PM – 09-02-13;
Frances Harison contacted Colombo Telegraph and said Channel 4 people haven’t done their film in consultation with her and she hasn’t even seen it.
Added 23.03PM -09-02-13
If Frances Harrison says so, then my information was wrong. It seemed such a noncontroversial piece of information that I did not double check as I should have. I can now see how it can be embarrassing or even troublesome to Ms. Harrison. I sincerely apologize. S.R.H. Hoole