Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sri Lankan Government ideological war against the Tamils

The most casual observer of the Sri Lankan state’s conduct can see that the situation today is the continuation of war by other means.

By war, I am referring to the systematic and ideologically coherent practices of the state against the Tamils and other non-Sinhalese. What we see today is the intensification of structural violence against the Tamil people that began from independence.

By violence I do not mean just disappearances, abductions, murders, rapes and torture, although these are continuing, as we know. I mean more the structural practices of the state, aimed at limiting and suppressing the thriving of non-Sinhala people. We are familiar with some of these: colonization, erasing of Tamil usage in state practices, and the efforts to limit and destroy the socio-economic possibilities for Tamils.

None of this is new. It is part of efforts of the Sri Lankan state, since independence, to break down all resistance to the Sinhala national project. What is this project? To turn Sri Lanka into a modern day realization of an ancient myth that the island belongs to the Sinhalese and in which the minorities have a subordinate existence. As such, anyone who stands in the way of Sinhala majoritarianism – including principled Sinhalese who are not supportive of that project – are destroyed.
The recent parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka have once again brought to power the southern party that most aggressively espouses a Sinhala majoritarian view. It is a case of history repeating itself. It is a carbon copy of the 1956 elections. Then, as now, as the Tamils sought a political arrangement between Tamils and Sinhalese, the Sinhalese voted into power a party that vehemently rejected any compromise with the Tamils.

While constitutional changes are almost certainly in the near future, as the President’s party almost has the required two thirds majority, only the blindest of optimists see these changes as possibly positive towards addressing even basic Tamil grievances. Those who suggest this do so with no regards to either the historic evolution of the Sri Lankan state or the contemporary realities of Sinhala power today.

Let us be clear, change in Sri Lanka cannot come from within.

The last elections prove how overwhelmingly the structural bases of power serve Sinhala nationalism. The JVP for example lost several seats purely because its core platforms of Sinhala nationalism and anti-market economics were more convincingly taken up by the UPFA and President Rajapaksa.

In a contest between the UNP and the SLFP – both of which are essentially Sinhalese entities despite the token Tamils – the party that more aggressively pursued the Sinhala national project has won convincingly.

What we see now is another phase in the further entrenching of the Sinhala people’s dominance over the non-Sinhala.

It is not merely a question of human rights abuses, or lack of media freedom, or lack of governance. Rather, it is a specific kind of governance. This is why the Sinhala people – as in 1956 – are with Rajapaksa and his party.

To repeat, the core driver of Sri Lankan politics continues to be this Sinhala majoritatian nationalism.

This mass ideology predates independence and has now been entrenched in the mechanisms of the state. It is now carried forward in the state bureaucracy, the composition, practices and strategies of the military, the directing of international aid and state investment to some places and not others, and so on.

This Sinhala majoritarianism remains the central obstacle to the constitutional recognition of the Tamils, and other Tamil speaking peoples, as having a rightful place, equal to the Sinhalese, on the island.

And until it is confronted and checked, a truly democratic and peaceful Sri Lanka, one which treats all communities as equal, will remain an impossible dream.

It is worth noting that the ascendancy of this Sinhala majoritarianism has taken place while the country has been in the close embrace of the international community. After several decades of ‘engagement’ by the liberal West there still isn’t a hairsbreadth of liberal space in Sri Lanka. Indeed, it can be argued that Sri Lanka has headed successfully in the opposite direction.

Thus the war continues in Sri Lanka through politics. And as long as the war continues, there will be resistance. Some of us focus on media freedom, others are more driven by human rights concerns, or the humanitarian or developmental needs of the oppressed. But unless all of us recognize that the problems we are opposing stem from a strategic logic embedded in the state, we cannot succeed in our objectives.

We do not believe the course of Sinhala majoritarianism will change from within. Every effort by the Tamils to negotiate or reason with this majoritarianism has resulted in further violence. Look at the history of constitutional change since independence, for example.

Sri Lanka today is in a state of flux. As the Sinhala-dominated and supported state continues to wage war on the Tamil speaking communities, various forms of resistance will emerge, not only from within, but also from without. Today, the Tamils problem is being assessed and reflected upon in far more spaces across the world than ever before in our history.

As long as the oppression of Tamils continues, so too must the struggle for Tamil rights.

UN failed to protect Tamil civilians - Lord Patten

Patten's comment on the candidates during Sri Lanka's Presidential elections reflects his views of Sri Lanka as a state with alleged complicity in war-crimes, and that International Community has to exercise strong economic pressure to constrain Colombo's behavior within international norms.

In a New York Times article in January 2010 Patten said that public in Sri Lanka is "faced with a choice between two candidates who openly accuse each other of war crimes," and adds, "[w]hoever wins, the outside world should use all its tools to convince the government to deal properly with those underlying issues to avoid a resurgence of mass violence....In short, this means not giving Colombo any money for reconstruction and development until we know how it will be spent. And if we see funds not being used as promised, it means not being afraid to cut them off untilwe know how it will be spent."

It is widely understood that the failure of a state to protect its own citizens is the threshold condition that triggers the R2P responsibility on the international community.

"The State has a primary responsibility to protect the individuals within it. Where the state fails in that responsibility, through either incapacity or ill-will, a secondary responsibility to protect falls on the wider international community. That, in a nutshell, is the core of the responsibility to protect (R2P) idea" and that "Sri Lanka is anything but an R2P," Gareth Evans, President, International Crisis Group, said during the eighth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture at International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) in August 2007, well before the large scale massacre carried out by Colombo in May 2009.

Lord Patten's statement implicitly acknowledges that scale of the killings of Tamil civilians crossed the threshold levels to call for R2P intervention, and thereby, has added further fuel to the calls by several rights organizations for independent war-crimes investigations in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s military massacred as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final onslaught against the Liberation Tigers in 2009, according to a former United Nations official with detailed knowledge of events.

Sri Lankan Army bulldozed all the cemeteries.

It was heartening to hear President Mahinda Rajapakse identifying reconciliation and development as the priorities of his new government. However, it is crucial that both processes should unfold with the active involvement of Sri Lanka's citizenry, rather than being imposed from above by an omnipotent state. We seem to already have plenty of intimations of the latter.

On 19 March 2010, Sri Lanka's Daily Mirror carried a brief article on its front page startlingly headlined, "Government to wipe out LTTE [Tamil Tiger] landmarks". The rationale for this, according to the secretary to the ministry of tourism, George Michael, was that the "LTTE and the violence which affected the public during the war should be forgotten". Fortified with such logic, the government has bulldozed all the LTTE cemeteries in the Wanni and is now proceeding to demolish the homes of Velupillai Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders. A few weeks back, the Thileepan memorial near the Nallur temple was defaced with the collusion of the Sri Lankan army. While the homes of LTTE leaders will be replaced with hotels and resorts, according to the ministry, we have also witnessed the erection of several state-sponsored "victory monuments" to commemorate the defeat of the LTTE in the north.

I am dismayed by the government's myopic and misguided understanding of memory, and its brutal disregard for the feelings and emotions of a people who have undergone unimaginable and innumerable horrors for the past three decades. The primary response to the war we endured should not be bulldozings and demolitions and exhortations to forget, but rather to ensure that we never again descend into that hellish abyss. To do this, we need to reflect on the circumstances that led to this war and make sure we do not repeat the mistakes made in previous decades.

In this regard, the UPFA government's efforts to develop the neglected northern and eastern provinces and limited use of the Tamil language by government officials are steps in the right direction – but much more work needs to be done to offer parity of status to the minorities in this country.

Bulldozing cemeteries and demolishing homes in the name of development and the promotion of tourism will only further alienate the Tamil citizenry and stall any attempts at reconciliation. Such memorials, in particular, play a crucial role in all societies. They function as repositories of memory, suffering and grief, and often help to translate the unthinkable to the thinkable. While the LTTE undoubtedly appropriated these cemeteries and the rituals of mourning associated with the dead to promote and disseminate a violent form of Tamil nationalism, we must also remember that those buried there have fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters. Bulldozing and obliterating these cemeteries not only deprives the kin of the dead a place to commune with their lost loved ones, but also displays a callous disregard for both the dead and the living. It is also a telling indictment of us as a nation that we do not have any memorials to the civilians who have died in this war, as well as in all the anti-Tamil and anti-Muslim riots that have taken place in this country.

On 21 February 2010, a group of academics at the University of Jaffna sent a letter to the director general of the department of archaeology appealing for his intercession in thwarting the further destruction of the heritage of Jaffna. They also alerted him to a variety of historic buildings, including temples, schools and presses, in Jaffna earmarked for demolition under the road development authority's current programme of road expansion in the north.

This letter is reflective of broader debates carried out in Jaffna – in Tamil newspapers such as the Uthayan, Thinakkural and Valampuri – concerning the need to secure the cultural heritage of Jaffna in the face of the postwar development of the north. Personal appeals have also been made by the vice-chancellor at the University of Jaffna and a delegation from the All Ceylon Hindu Congress. Sadly, all appeals seem to have fallen on deaf ears: no reply has yet come from the director general, nor any invitation for further consultations with the governor or project funders.

The new government's first step towards reconciliation should be the inclusion of Tamil and Muslim citizenry of the north in the formulation of a consensual and viable development plan for this war-torn region. And that plan must secure the integrity of its cultural and emotional heart.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jaffna Tamils Decry Development Plan of Sri Lankan Gov't

Two cyclists from the minority Tamil community are shooed away by government soldiers as they approach this northern Sri Lankan city’s only Buddhist temple while President Mahinda Rajapaksa is paying a visit.

But when a family from the majority Sinhalese family ambles toward the guards, they are treated more amiably.

These twin incidents during Rajapaksa’s rare visit to Jaffna on Apr. 1 illustrate the contrasting ways in which soldiers from an army made up largely of Sinhalese treat the majority and minority ethnic groups.

Nearly a year after the war ended, burnt out, shell-shocked buildings can be seen lying side by side with spanking new ones for banks or financial services as Colombo firms rush to grab a share of the new business opportunities in Jaffna.

But youngsters and city elders clamor for a different kind of development. "We need to be able to own rather than be bystanders (to development)," said a city businessman, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

Nirmala (not her real name), a high school student, said banks and financial services are not helpful to the Jaffna Tamils.

"A lot of banks setting up branches here are employing people from Colombo. We don’t have jobs. On the other hand, the banks take our deposits, but getting a loan is difficult because the banks want collateral, which we don’t have because our properties have been destroyed or have been taken over by the army for military purposes," she said.

Nirmala was one of a group of 30 16- to 17-year-old high school students who met with IPS recently to discuss their future in an environment where livelihood and employment opportunities are scant. They were unanimous in saying that the people of Jaffna are not part of the development that the government is carving out for the north.

Most of them want to go abroad for studies and live there permanently. "There is no future here. We will always be second-class citizens,"

Perceptions of widespread insensitivity of the Colombo establishment to the city residents became more pronounced when a group of businessmen and bankers flew into the city in late March to lay the foundation stone for a new 80-room hotel being built by a Colombo bank.

Few Tamils from Jaffna were invited to the event and all the speeches were delivered in English even if the majority of the 700,000 people speak only Tamil. Furthermore, local residents questioned the location of the hotel as it is close to a sacred Hindu temple, visited by millions of Tamils every year.

"How can you sell alcohol or meat in a sacred location?" asked Arudpragasam Sivathamby, a taxi driver. Outside the same temple premises, dozens of Sinhala traders are doing business, in some cases displacing the Tamil merchants, causing resentment among the minority ethnic group.

"This is causing a huge problem," said Tamil parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran.

Development is only seen in the form of banks, finance companies and consumer firms opening up in Jaffna while job-creating industries or factories are still inexistent.

Tamils are hoping for a greater role in power sharing. However, Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan, a political scientist from the University of Colombo, said that is not a priority for the government at the moment. "The government won a commanding majority at the recent parliamentary polls, and trying to appease the Tamils is not the biggest priority at the moment," he declared.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unspoken Genocide in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has presented model genocide, a model which has successfully massacred hundreds of thousands of civilians without any witness. A war without witness is what Sri Lanka has presented before the world as a model. This model has now given strength to the rest of the oppressing governments of the world and shown ways of how to oppress in a more brutal way without having to worry about international or national criticisms.

Genocide does not only mean killing. And the Sri Lankan Government did not only take the lives away. The Genocide against the Tamils in Sri Lanka did not start very recently. It has been systematically implemented in various forms from time to time. It is that systematic implementation which reached its peak in 2009.

When dealing with war crimes, the international community is focusing only on a few of the issues, especially at the end of Eelam War 4, at Mullivaaykkaal in May 2009.

But, there have been an ongoing record of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, for a long time in the island of Sri Lanka, and the pattern of this long record has to be analysed by anyone investigating the War Crimes.

My view is that the War Crimes, carried out by the Sri Lankan military with direct and indirect help from various actors of the international community, are part of a systematic programme and should also be investigated for the context of the patterns rather than singled-out events.

It is also equally important to understand that a systematic and prolonged genocide doesn't take place without a deep mythology behind it.

Like the hatred against the Jews in Europe throughout many years had resulted in the Holocaust, which led to the Genocide Convention, we also see clear evidences of a racial mythology originating from the Buddhist chronicle of Mahavamsa in the island of Sri Lanka.

The dangerous dimensions of the racism caused by the Mahavamsa mindset, which attacks the Tamil people who cherish secular values, should be objectively analysed by the investigators.

A structural analysis should be an important part of the investigations, if the investigation should become meaningful for all the victims of the past and the future.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sri Lankan government sold prostitutes from China and Russia to pass budget

During the past years the government auctioned prostitutes from China and Russia in Parliament to get the budget proposals passed, then the Parliament was similar to a ‘New Year sale joint’ and he would not be embarrassed to reveal it now said Minister Dulles Alahapperuma.

Speaking at a press conference held today (1st) Minister Alahapperuma said, “As Parliamentarians we are not embarrassed to reveal these things. During months of November in past several years the Parliament was like a ‘sale place.’ Like New Year sale or Christmas sale we had ‘Diyawanna sale.’ Everything was on sale there. Dollars were traded. Agents from embassies went to and from. Everything happened there.

Prostitutes from China and Russia too have been sold at ‘Diyawanna sale’ during 2008 budget. That is how we had to protect our power,” said Minister Dulles Alahapperuma.

Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam

TGTE announced Independent Election Commission and Election Process for UK.

TGTE Country Working Group, UK has reached important mile stone by announcing the appointment of Independent Election Commission and Election Process for UK in the formation of Provisional Transnational Government of Tamileelam.

The announcement was made in the Open-Day Launch event which took place in Concorde Club, Crane Lodge Road, Cranfield.

The event commenced with traditional oil lamp lit and followed by a minute of silence observed in remembrance of those who laid down lives to the emancipation of Tamileelam.
It was well attended by representatives of BTF, BETFPE, G.E. Society, BTCA, Harrow Councillor, Siva Yogam, White Pigeon, SAGT, TNC, TIC, T4T, TNPF, ACT Now, MTA and Hendon Tamil School including people who have long standing in communities and invited common public. All attendees welcomed the announcement and appreciated the importance of reaching the mile stone.

Abarna Sanjeev of TGTE Country Working Group, UK, introduced Election Commission members:

1.Mr. N. Vijayasingam – Former Adviser to the European Union, New Delhi, former adviser to Ceylon Workers Congress, Srilanka and former governing councillor, University of Jaffna.
2.Mr. Claude Moraes – Member of European parliament was re-elected to the European Parliament for London in 2009, where he also led the London Labour list. He is Deputy Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, and is Socialist and Democrats Group Spokesperson for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
3.Mr. Ivan Pethurupillai – Retired Senior Executive with Royal Dutch Shell Oil Group in London.
4.Mr. Keith Sonnett – Deputy General Secretary Unison. Extensive experience in election arrangements and verification of process both home and abroad.
5.Mr. S. Sriskandarajah – Solicitor and Human Activist.
6.Ms. Anne Hock – MD for Popularis, A specialist company in the management of Ballots and Elections.
7.Mr. Balasuntharam – Retired AGA, Srilanka
8.Mr. Mike Griffits – Former Chair Labour Party and National Political Officer Amicus/Unite.
9.Mr. Chinniah Pathy – Engineer presiding officer for Bexley Council at a number of local and parliamentary elections.
Dr. Vasanthakumar of TGTE Country Working Group, UK, introduced Mr. Vijayasingam and ceremonially appointed Mr. Vijayasingam as the independent Election Commissioner.

Election Co-ordinators, Mr Suren and Mr. Guna, presented the Election Process with an aid of Power Point presentation. A question and answer session followed in which Dr. Vasanthakumar, Election Co-ordinators and Election Commission members responded to the questions.

Election Commissioner, Mr. Vijayasingam, made strong commitment to run the election in independent, transparent and fair manner.
Questions and answer session extended after the traditional Sunday roast lunch which every one seemed to have enjoyed was served by Concorde Club.

The event came to conclusion with vote of thanks by Dr. Ratna Pushparajah.