Categories
Foreign Affairs

Sri Lanka Monk Self-Immolation Highlights Anti-Muslim Sentiment

Tissa

J.S. Tissainayagam

The suicide by a Buddhist monk who set himself on fire in Sri Lanka to protest the slaughter of cattle has been hailed as an act of great self-sacrifice and compared to acts of self-immolation by Tibetan Buddhist monks protesting China’s repression in Tibet. Nothing could be more ill-informed. In fact, it is one more step by Sri Lanka’s chauvinist Sinhala-Buddhists to undermine the Muslim political base.

The monk, Bowatte Indraratne, who had been campaigning against the Muslim halal method of slaughtering animals, was also a politician. He was a former elected member of a local government body representing the extreme Buddhist political party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). JHU’s leader Champika Ranawaka lost no time in exploiting the incident to advance the party’s agenda. He said the government should bring in legislation to ban the slaughter of cattle, and religious conversion. Christians have come under pressure from Buddhists for proselytising, a charge they deny.

The campaign to stop the slaughter of cattle and instances of violence against Muslims are not isolated events in Sri Lanka. These are steps to politically disempower Muslims are uncannily reminiscent of the way the Sinhala establishment tries to destroy the Tamil power base.

Persecution of Muslims is taking a particularly virulent form today. But in the past too Sinhala leaders viewed Muslims with suspicion, as they did Tamils. The control they exercised was a blend of coercion, political manipulation of Muslim elites and the policy of divide and rule.

Coercion of Muslims by Sinhalese was applied mostly through violence and intimidation. In recent memory are rampaging Sinhala mobs targeting Muslims in Mawanella (2001) and Beruwela (2002). Other disputes occurred over land, like Deegavapi in 1999.

Political manipulation of the Muslim elite compelled them to take decisions detrimental to their community. In 1956, Muslim politician and diplomat Sir Razik Fareed campaigned with Sinhala leaders to deny Tamil as an official language of the State, despite a large majority of Muslims being Tamil speakers.

Adopting a policy of divide-and-rule, Sinhala leaders forced Muslims – especially in the East – to view Tamils as enemies, which led to Tamil-Muslim clashes. The Sinhala-dominated military used Muslim home guards to target Tamil civilians in the East. The rift was magnified by the LTTE expelling the Muslim population in Sri Lanka’s North.

With the military phase of the conflict with the Tamils coming to an end in May 2009, Sinhala-Buddhist nationalists realised they now had the luxury of investing more resources in suppressing Muslims. Further, with President Mahinda Rajapakse intent on consolidating power, extreme nationalism was a good vehicle.

The government has made no secret of its connections to extremist civil society groups. Relations between government officials and the principal vehicle of Buddhist bigotry, the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS), are so fraternal that Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the hawkish head of the Ministry of Defence and brother of the country’s president, graced an important occasion of the organisation. The BBS plays a similar role as the Shiv Sena does to the pro-Hindu regimes in India.

As mentioned above, the objective of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism is to demolish Muslim political power in Sri Lanka. It is no different from efforts to destroy the Tamil power base in the country from the 1950s. The three examples below demonstrate the similarities.

The BBS has opposed the certification of food as ‘halal’ and Muslim women wearing the hijab. These cultural practices are important markers of Muslim identity. The BBS’s campaign is not only to demolish what distinguishes this group’s identity, but also the power its members derive from that identity. For the Tamils, the primary marker of identity is language. That is why Sinhala nationalism sought to undermine Tamil by denying it official language status and placing obstacles to Tamil-speakers’ access to higher education and State employment.

Second, mosques and Muslim-owned businesses have come under assault. It is important to note the significance of both in the political lives of Muslims. The mosque is a forum for political mobilisation. The strength of metropolitan Muslims in Sri Lanka is their success as a merchant community. And they have used their wealth to buy political power. Therefore attacking mosques and commercial establishments is a way to undermine the Muslim power base. In the case of Tamils, assessing that their political base was territorial concentration in the country’s North and East, Sinhala leaders took to dismantling it by settling large numbers of Sinhalese in those areas.

Finally, let’s look at the government’s use of counterinsurgency laws to stifle freedom of speech and political opinion. On May 2, Azath Salley, a well-known Muslim leader, was arrested (and later released) under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). He was detained for an interview he gave to an Indian magazine where he said that Muslim youth should take to arms. But the reasons appear deeper than that. Salley openly criticised the government for anti-Muslim racism. But more than all else, Sally heads a political party which advocates Tamil-Muslim political dialogue to resolve mutually important issues. This, by definition, excludes government and the Sinhalese.

The government arresting and later releasing Salley is reminiscent of the then government criminalising Tamil parliamentarians who even advocated democratic secession. This legislation – the Sixth Amendment to Sri Lanka’s constitution – suppressed democratic dissent and left armed rebellion as the only option to give effect to Tamil demands.

Therefore, the self-immolation by Bowatte Indraratne protesting cattle slaughter had a sinister motive. It used religion as a weapon to undermine the political base of a minority community in Sri Lanka. If steps are not taken to check this trend, Sri Lanka’s Muslims could be facing a future of persecution and violence.

*J. S. Tissainayagam, a former Sri Lankan political prisoner, was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard and Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in the United States. This article is first appeared in Asian Correspondent

Print Friendly

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Reengineering The Nation

“….establishing a complete series of methods which will allow the controlling oligarchy……to get people to really like their servitude. This is the, it appears to me, the ultimate in malevolent revolutions”. –Aldous Huxley (The Ultimate Revolution)

mahinda-f-colombotelegraph

In the course of his current Ugandatour, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was reportedly enchanted by the servile conduct of the Ugandans he came into speak to with. According to the political column of last Sunday’s Rivira, the Lankan President asked his Ugandan counterpart, “When we appear at them (Ugandans) it is clear that they have a very obedient nature. How did you handle to make them so obedient?” President Musevini’s response was that this servility was a relic of the Colonial ethos, when White Masters kept their Black and Brown Subjects in total subjugation.

In a democracy uncritical obedience is a unsafe vice. Despotic rule can’t survive without uncritical obedience. Colonial rulers treated colonised peoples as political infants incapable of handling independence. Tyrants too regard their subjects as eternal political-minors, incapable of dealing with freedom.

Foremost amongst the freedoms considered unsafe by actual and nascent despots is the appropriate to info, the freedom of the individuals to know what is happening in their personal nation. Over the years the Rajapaksas have managed to subdue most of the print media. At present, websites are their major targets. In this month alone, de facto banns were imposed on numerous web sites which includes Gossip Lanka and Lanka Eagle.

The Rajapaksa worry of a free of charge and critical media is comprehensible. The Siblings have a lot to hide.

Take land grabbing. At present this is a major dilemma confronting not just by the Tamil individuals of the North but also by the Sinhala people of the South. Parallel to the stealth campaign of demographic reengineering in the North, the Rajapaksas are conducting an even more secretive operation of class and partisan-political reengineering in the South. Their ultimate aim is to create a new demographic which will render tough any democratic/electoral resistance to Familial Rule.

In the North, private lands are getting expropriated to create new army camps and military cantonments. For instance, according to Parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran, the regime is utilizing the Land Acquisition Act to expropriate 6,400 acres of land to build a military cantonment in Jaffna: “….the notice says that the claimants are not traceable! The owners of these lands live just outdoors the so known as illegal Higher Safety Zone, in camps maintained by the government itself. They have lived there for over 25 years. And although their title to these lands were checked and cleared by a Committee appointed by the Supreme Court in 2006, they were not permitted to go and resettle on the false assertion that de-mining was not comprehensive. That it is false is demonstrated by the sight of soldiers cultivating these lands….. Now abruptly, the government has shown its true face: these lands will be taken and given to other folks to occupy, who will turn into voters in the North. Equivalent notices have been issued in the Kilinochchi Distrct also. In the Eastern Province, guidelines have gone out to obtain all the land that the military deems needed for its purposes”[i].

These cantonments and military bases are getting superimposed on a Tamil terrain to break the current ethnic contiguity of the North, thereby to render devolution not possible and to maintain Tamils in a continued state of subjection. Its other – and no significantly less important goal – is to make it possible for the Rajapaksas to win elections in the North, with a minimum quantity of violence and malpractices.

Most Sinhalese are indifferent to the situation of land-grabbing due to the fact they see it as a Tamil dilemma. The Rajapaksas would want this ignorance – and the consequent indifference &#8211 to last as lengthy as achievable. The plight of Colombo’s poor, who are facing the danger of becoming evicted from their houses en masse, has received some interest but the plight of the Sinhala peasants of Ampara who have been chased away from their classic lands is virtually unknown. In 2011, the Lankan Navy grabbed far more than 1,200 acres of land close to the tourist hot-spot ofPanama consequently thousands of Sinhala villagers of Shasthrawela, Ragamwela, Ulpassawela, Horowkanda and Ella lost their properties and their signifies of livelihood. A comparable fate has befallen the fisher-folk of Kalpitiya.

When the state requires more than private land for development purposes, it is obligated to provide the owners with either compensation or alternate lands. This is how successive governments in Sri Lanka carried out themselves, by and large. The Rajapaksas have developed a different method land grabbing is becoming carried out, added-legally, making use of the military. The situation is hence ‘militarised’ and garbed in the protective-attire of ‘national security’. This way the owners can be threatened at will, the Sinhala-language media silenced and environmental laws and archaeological regulations ignored. For instance, in Ampara, “though sanctions have been imposed by the Forest Department, Archaeological Department, Coast Conservation Department and Central Environmental Authority on carrying out any improvement operate on forestlands, the Sri Lanka Navy claims that such formalities are entirely discarded when the Defence Ministry approves their projects. Speaking on the construction work carried out by the Navy in Panamain the Ampara District, Navy Spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya stated that they have not followed any of these procedures nor would they require permission from the mentioned institutions as the building is becoming carried out on Defence Ministry land. ‘This is a Defence Ministry land and there is no necessity to get approval from any department to carry out any of our improvement function,’ claimed Warnakulasuriya[ii].

The Defence Ministry and the military are the law, not just in the Tamil-North, but even in the Sinhala-South. The ultimate objective of these acts of dispossession is to fill the Rajapaksa coffers, buttress the Rajapaksa dynastic project and render hard any powerful national resistance to Rajapaksa rule.

Atomisation

The Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim victims of land-grabbing have a issue and an opponent in common. Therefore coordinating their different acts of resistance into a single struggle tends to make perfect sense. However, rather of this essential and possible national campaign – ideally with the participation of the opposition parties – resistance is fragmented along regional/ ethnic/class lines.

The Siblings do not want the Sinhalese to understand that they are not immune to Rajapaksa-injustice. The Siblings do not want the Sinhalese to realise that the military, far from becoming ‘our boys’, are Rajapaksa tools (just as the Tigers served not the Tamil folks but Vellupillai Pirapaharan). The Siblings do not want their Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim victims to uncover the typical ground and mount a coordinated resistance. The Siblings want to atomise Lankans along ethnic, religious and class lines, to avoid a united opposition to familial rule from coming into getting. The only Sinhala-Tamil-Muslim unity they want to market is a unity in apathy and indifference.

The Rajapaksa project aims at the psychological reengineering of the Lankan people. They want an ignorant nation which equates distinction with danger. They want a men and women more concerned about hemlines or eating habits than land-grabbing or kid abuse. They want a nation seeped in mutual-suspicion and habituated into obedience.

They want a nation which, unconsciously, cooperates in its own subjugation and undoing.


[i] DBSJeyaraj.com

[ii] The Sunday Leader – 12.five.2013

Print Friendly

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Lessons For Sri Lanka: Pakistani Voters Snub Religious Extremists

I want to be the rainbow 
From the inside out
To show all my colours
Colours that define me
Colours that make me whole
But it’s so hard
For I wear many masks
The truth sets me free 

Miriam WandiaKaloki – from her poem  ‘Masks’ in Human Rights and Culture  (AHRC) Vol 4 Issue 13

Pakistan went to the polls a couple of weeks ago. Though the full results are still not known, it is clear that Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League has won sufficient National Assembly seats to be able to form a stable government in Islamabad. His party will also be able to form a government in Punjab Province. The incumbent Pakistan People’s Party dominated by the late Benazir Bhutto’s family was badly beaten at the election to the National Assembly but will continue to rule the Province of Sindh.  Pakistan’s cricket legend Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice (PTI) took control of Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa (former North West Frontier Province) and had an improved result from previous National Assembly e3lection. In the fourth Province of Balochistan, a regional party seems likely to control the majority of seats. Significantly, to ensure a fairer poll, the Election Commission conducted the National Assembly and all the Provincial Assembly polls on the same day.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa waves during a photo opportunity with high-ranking military officials after unveiling a monument for fallen Sri Lankan soldiers in the town of Puthukkudiriruppu

Mr. President, victory over whom?

What was noteworthy about this election was that it was the first time since Independence in 1948, that an elected government was allowed to complete its term in office. In all previous instances, no elected government was allowed to complete its term of office. It was always interrupted by a military coup. So 2013 will be momentous in Pakistan’s political history in that one elected government is about to be inaugurated in office to succeed another following a democratic election, Nawaz Sharif who seems set to take over as Prime Minister was earlier removed from office 1n 1999 in a military coup led by General  Musharaff. Ironically. in 2013 when Nawaz Shariff is installed as Prime Minister, Musharaff will be serving his time in jail, following a Supreme Court order delivered before Nawaz Sharif’s election.

This is the third time Sharif is to serve office in Pakistan as Prime Minister. David Blair and Rob Crilly writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph have stated that Sharif’s first term between 1990 and 1993 ended in ignominy when he was sacked for corruption; he was a steel magnate tainted by many allegations of dodgy dealings. During his second term, between 1997 and 1999, he re-wrote the Constitution, made laws making it obligatory for MPs to vote for the party line, and sent mobs to threaten the Supreme Court Judges. Along the way, he armed the Taliban in Afghanistan, gave Pakistan the nuclear bomb, and blundered into an undeclared war with India – the Kargil affair in 1999 when he sent Pakistani troops deep into Indian-held territory. But he was not able to rein in the powerful Army who sent him off to Saudi Arabia. The Press described his government at that time as ‘one of the most inept in Pakistan’s history’.

Time can change political  leaders

But time changes men and women and also popular sentiment about their political lesders. Most Pakistan voters felt that during his decade long absence from the Pakistani political scene, Sharif had matured a lot and is now committed to ‘managing the economy and pursuing political reconciliation both domestically and in external relations. The Dawn, one of Pakistan’s leading daily newspapers wrote that Sharif’s election was a hugely important moment in Pakistani history. Sharif fought a campaign ‘to be proud of’. Though relentlessly attacked from all sides, he ‘resolutely kept his focus on what needs to be done to solve grave national issues’, the dire economy, crippling power shortages and endemic tax evasion. Most Pakistan voters seem to have believed him to be sincere. Though he had courted the Taliban in his previous terms, the voters thought he was best poised to tackle the Taliban. He has plans to start immediate talks with ‘all sides’, including the Army and the Taliban to end the violence. He is also keen to mend fences with India with whom there has been no durable peace since partition in 1947. He has already invited India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his swearing-in as Prime Minister. He probably knows that political reconciliation at home and with the neighbours will not be easy. While attempting reconciliation, he will have to be constantly looking over his shoulders at both the powerful Army as well as at the equally powerful insurgent Taliban movement. But he is now politically more mature to handle this.

The election that Sharif brought Sharif to power was not without controversy. The Taliban engaged in widespread violence and intimidation and did not allow all the candidates to campaign freely. Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan however seemed to have been spared the wrath of the Taliban and seemed to have been allowed to attend and address election rallies. Not so lucky was the Pakistan People’s Party. Bilawal Bhutto Zardar, the young son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, the current Chairman of the PPP, had to confine himself to speaking through video messages from his exile in Dubai. Imran Khan has referred to intimidation of many of his supporters that prevented them from going to the polling booths to exercise their franchise. Most of the acts of violence and intimidation were by the religious extremists, including the Taliban. But the Pakistani voter defied these extremists to go to the polling both. The turn-out at this election was over 60%, the highest ever in Pakistan’s turbulent electoral history. Imran Khan has said that his party intends to challenge the poll results because of the widespread intimidation. But it unlikely, given the record turn-out of voters, the margins of victory and the regional trend in voting which resulted in victories for all parties at the provincial assembly elections, that there was massive intimidation and/or vote-rigging  Sharif has told Imran Khan to show the ‘sportsman’s spirit’ by accepting the results!

Imran Khan himself is now recovering in hospital from a fracture in his spine caused by a fall from an election platform a few days before the election. There was, of course, no suggestion, that the fall was caused by any act of sabotage. But one of Imrqn Khan’s leading supporters was shot dead two days after the election in what was clearly a political assassination. Kahn has accused one of the parties of religious extremism as being responsible for this killing. The problem with Pakistan is that it was founded on the basis of religion. Mohamed Ali Jinnah, their independence leader, who initially stoked the flames of communalism, died soon after independence from British rule. Had he lived, he may have been able to contain religious extremism as he was by nature a liberal though ambitious politician. Pakistan, unlike India, did not have outstanding liberal visionaries like Gandhi, Nehru, Rajagopalachari, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad and Humayun Kabir to direct the energies of a post-independence people in the path of religious and linguistic harmony.

Lessons for Sri Lanka

The first transition from one democratically elected government to another in Pakistan’s political history has lessons for Sri Lanka. The Supreme Court of Pakistan played an important role in clipping the wings of the powerful Army when the Army asserted themselves to interfere with democratic governance. The Supreme Court was also held he powerful President accountable for maintaining the rule of law. Pakistan is a partially failed state with the economy in a crisis state. There are twenty-hour black-outs which deal a crippling blow to industry. Tax evasion is a huge problem with the middle and working classes having to bear the brunt of falling resources for development work. The Army had enjoyed too much power that it tended to interfere in civilian affairs with disastrous results. Violence has reached levels when even Test playing cricketing countries avoid Pakistan as a venue for their matches. Corruption is becoming endemic. These problems, which the new Sharif government is now required to tackle. will require a change in the culture  of a people. They have for over sixty years been plagued by military coups and corrupt politicians. It will need enormous courage and a singular vision on the part of the Nawaz Sharif government to change all this. Having been away from the political scene for over a decade, he comes in as a new broom with the vision and the  capacity to bring about the changes that are necessary, despite his previous government being considered inept. Only time will tell if he can deliver. He was elected because the voter believed that he could do so, that he had shed his previous image as another run-of the mill Pakistani politician,

The problems the Pakistani people now face are common to the problems that we in Sri Lanka have to contend with. As in Pakistan, they have been caused primarily by corrupt and inept politicians, who used religious and linguistic extremists and/or used the language of extremism to cover up their own corruptness and ineptness. There are increasing signs that the voters in Sri Lanka are increasingly losing patience with those promote religious, linguistic or ethnic hatred. Two weeks ago, the government observed ‘Victory Day’, an annual event to celebrate the crushing of the northern insurgency. They were bypassing the LLRC recommendation that instead of this display of triumphalism, National Day 4th February include a separate event to express solidarity and empathy with all victims of the conflict and to commit ourselves to peaceful future. The government appointed LLRC also wanted the practice of singing the National Anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil, to the same melody, to be continued and supported. These two eminently suitable and easily implementable recommendations have been, obviously deliberately, ignored.

Dr Rajasingham Narendran, who can hardly be accused, even remotely, of being an LTTE fellow traveler, and who is regularly quoted by the state media, has written a detailed critique of the triumphalist speech of President Mahinda Rajapakse at the recent ‘Victory Day’ speech. One hopes that the Island will be bold enough to publish the full critique. But this column wishes to quote a few samples from it. Words in bold are from Rajapakse’s speech:

“Today we have the fourth opportunity to celebrate with dignity the great victory of our Motherland.”

Mr. President, victory over whom?   I raise this question in terms of the word ‘Conquered’ used in a war memorial in Mullaitivu.  Was it a victory over the LTTE or the Tamils?  Motherland!  Whose?  I did not see any opposition figures in the podium?  There were also no representatives of the Tamils, who were liberated by the armed forces, on the podium. I also did not see any Hindu priests, Christian padres or Muslim Moulavis on the podium, except for a handful of Buddhist monks.  The absence of Sarath Fonseka, the man who led the army from the front, at this function and his name and role not being even mentioned were glaring omissions that portrayed the smallness this great country is being reduced to.

Further, the language in the inscription on the war memorial at which flowers were laid was only in Sinhalese. Why?  What does this imply in terms of the word ‘Motherland’ used by you? Is Tamil not the language of the ‘Other’ children of ‘Mother Lanka’?   Why were these inscriptions not also in Tamil- an official language and English- a link language? What is the message this government is conveying?

“We know that those who had ceasefire agreements that betrayed the country to the Tigers are making every effort to make us forget the heroism of this nation.”

This is a very unfair and inaccurate statement.  It is the last ceasefire agreement signed with Norwegian mediation that exposed the LTTE for what it was to the Tamils and helped weaken it from within.  It was an important prelude to what the last war achieved.

“Similarly, this era should go down in history as one that carried out a major transformation to prevent the occurrence of war again.”

What sort of major transformation?  Are increased militarization and surveillance the only answers? Should not the political needs, concerns and fears of the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims be addressed in a more Statesman-like manner? Isn’t it important to remember that each one of us is a child of Mother Lanka and the weaker in political terms, need special care from your government, which at the moment is in charge of affairs here.”

Why were warnings against commemorating the war-dead among the Tamils, issued by the military and not the police?  Why has not the government organized official events to commemorate all the  riot/war / insurgency dead in this country?  If the government can publicly celebrate victory, why can’t the Tamils publicly commemorate the innocent victims of war?

Why should  almost 7000 acres of land that was commandeered for reasons of war  25 years back from their owners, be not returned to the rightful owners, four years after the war ended?  What is the moral justification for acquiring these lands?  Will this help with reconciliation or win the hearts and minds of the Tamils?  How will these acquisitions prevent the recurrence of war?   Do you understand that the Tamils will not want a war in their midst for the next thousand years?   You have to know what the Tamils think, better and trust their good sense. They have learned more lessons the hard way than you and your government have learned.

Print Friendly

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Make All Men and women Component Of War Commemoration

Jehan Perera – colombo telegraph

Jehan Perera

The government’s decision to celebrate May 19 as a day of victory and the country’s second Independence is another one of its actions that has polarised the Sri Lankan people.  Whether by accident or design, it is ironic that through its continuing actions the government that reunified the territory of the country should also be the one that fosters the divisions between the people.  I was in Mannar on that day that marked a watershed in the modern history of the country, and saw that the Sri Lankan people were divided in their attitudes.  There was no collective remembrance of loss, but a reinforcement of the separation that has overshadowed the post-Independence era.

While the government was celebrating with military march pasts and air and sea shows in Colombo, in Mannar there was real action that was reminiscent of what happened during the war.  A group of people who had gathered to commemorate those who died in the last battle, were prevented from doing so by armed military personnel and police with guns pointing.  It is reported that 15 of them were arrested and only released on bail late at night.   Earlier the state media had reported that such commemorative meetings were illegal and warned anyone commemorating the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was liable to be arrested.

However, the Tamil political parties in the opposition said they staged the remembrance for those who died in the final battle.  This was where the top LTTE leadership were killed.  In this charged context, the decision of the Catholic Church in Mannar to commemorate all victims of the war was pragmatic.  Whenever Tamils have tried to commemorate the death of their loved ones, the government has taken steps to prevent this.  The military in particular is sensitive to commemorations of the LTTE being held in the guise of commemorating the civilians who lost their lives.  However, the reality is that the two groups of LTTE and civilians were often mixed.  Especially in the last days  of the war, the LTTE forcibly recruited  children, some as young as 12, and this included the children of Mannar.

Contrasting Realities

Mannar is the only one of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts that has a Catholic majority.  With its unique cultural attributes, it is a celebration of the country’s cultural and religious diversity which must not be made into a weakness when it is a strength.  Unlike the Tamil political parties who had called on the people to commemorate the war dead amongst the Tamil population, the Bishop of Mannar requested the clergy in the area to commemorate all victims of the war, and not just those who were Tamil.  By implication, this would have included those of all three ethnic groups, the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, and also the fighting personnel on the two sides, the government and LTTE. It is a testament to the strength of Sri Lanka’s diversity, that it was a minority group that decided to commemorate all who lost their lives as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the President.

This year’s victory celebration by the government was focused on the valour of the armed forces and the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE. President Mahinda Rajapakse viewed the military parade and pledged that there will be no room for those who tried to divide the country. He said, “We will not allow a single inch of the land that you won by the sacrifice of your life to be taken away.”  The past fortnight saw a build up in the mass media to remind the people of those days of blood and bombs and how it all has ended.  The contrast with the peaceful situation of the present will continue to bring in the votes of a grateful nation.

But the unfortunate reality is that the support of the Sinhalese majority for the war victory and the government’s celebrations has not been matched by any kind of equivalent support from the Tamil minority.  They too have been beneficiaries of the peaceful situation that has followed the end of the war.  They are now safe from the ravages of child recruitment and terror tactics that the LTTE brought to bear upon them.  But they also wish to mourn their loved ones who are no more with them, to find out what happened to them, and also to regain their dream of enjoying equal rights in which they also have the right to decide.  These are all matters on which the government appointed LLRC has made recommendations on but are not being followed by the government.

Way Forward

Four years after the war’s end the political solution that the leaders of government promised during the time of the war has yet to materialize.  The LTTE has been replaced by the Sri Lankan military who govern them in conjunction with the civilian administration. The Northern Province, where the first gunshots of the war were fired and where the last of the rebel fighters fell, has still to enjoy the right of elected provincial governance even to as limited an extent as the other eight provinces do.   A government ally has filed action in the Supreme Court calling on it to abolish the system of devolution of power for the entire country.  In this context, there is increasing skepticism whether the promised Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year will actually take place.

The civil war ended in 2009 but four years later the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation and to heal the wounds of war.  At the present time it also appears that Sri Lanka is moving backwards, and not forwards, in terms of securing the Rule of Law.  The impeachment of the Chief Justice process eroded the rule of law and usurped the pre-eminence of the Supreme Court in its role of interpreting the constitution.  This has impacted negatively on the rule of law and by extension the protection of human rights and political accountability.  There is also the rise of inter-religious tensions fanned by government allies.   A new dimension of inter-communal unrest is the rise of Buddhist extremism that has targeted the Muslim community and taken on an open and frontal confrontational approach.

Sri Lanka could have been a very different country today.  There is a need to recognize that although the civil war ended in 2009 the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation through an inclusive process of political negotiations and a sincere effort to heal the wounds of war.  If the recommendations of the LLRC appointed by the President had been followed, the government could have changed course last year.  Government leaders would have ceased to further engage in ethnic triumphalism and instead focused on commemorating all victims who lost their lives in the senseless conflict.  They could have utilized the occasion of May 19 to resolve that never again would such bloodletting be permitted to take place.  This would have been a commemoration that all Sri Lankans, respecting multi ethnicity, equal rights, and the safety and dignity of all, could have taken part in as a united Sri Lankan nation.

Print Friendly

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Preparing For Northern Elections And Winning Hearts And Minds

Jehan Perera – colombo telegraph

Jehan Perera

The A9 highway that bisects the Northern Province and leads to its capital of Jaffna would be the best advertisement for the government in its election campaign to win the provincial council elections scheduled to be held in September. The dramatic improvement in the highway and the network of roads that connect to it have enhanced the quality of life to all who make use of them, be they the businessman or landless labourer, northerner or southerner.  But the A9 highway, which was once called the highway of death on account of the thousands of lives it consumed during the war, also shows why the government cannot win those forthcoming elections unless there is a change of course.

The huge military checkpoint at Omanthai, which was once the border between government and LTTE-controlled territories in the north, still stands like an ageing dinosaur. All vehicles traversing the road at this point have to stop to be checked.  At the best it means getting out of one’s vehicle and giving one’s identity card and vehicle number to be written down in a register.  But sometimes it can mean having one’s bags poked and opened for inspection.  Passengers in private vehicles are usually spared the hassle of getting down to be checked, but those travelling by bus have to disembark and line up to be checked. This war-time practice serves as a reminder of the war and the division of the country.

A police officer who flagged down our vehicle and requested a short ride was present when this exercise took place.  He explained that the roots, or is it seeds, of militancy still remained in the people of the North and needed to be guaded against.  The visible surveillance serves as a reminder to them that the government is watching and it is better to keep out of trouble.  Viewed from the other side the visible presence of the military in the North is a constant reminder to the people that they are mistrusted and being treated differently.  It also sends a harsh message that the North is still not fully integrated with the rest of the country, remains a potential threat, and hence it is under a state of military occupation, even if largely benign.

Military Presence

The large military presence in the Northern and Eastern provinces, even after the war, has been a source of grievance to the people living in those parts. The issue of the military presence has re-emerged in full force due to the government’s decision to acquire over 6000 acres of prime land in the Jaffna peninsula to set up a regional military headquarters.  It is reported that as many as 25 Grama Niladari divisions (which means more than 25 villages) will be affected.  Thousands of people will be affected, with an estimated 29,000 still in camps for the displaced.  The military has said that this land is being acquired under relevant law, and this is done in other parts of the country also.  But given the large territory and population that will be affected, and the lack of transparency in military affairs, it has also given rise to fears of army-sponsored Sinhalese settlements in the North.

It is noteworthy that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission has recommended the de-militarisation of the north and the full restoration of civilian administration.  The two resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and again in 2013 call upon the government to implement the constructive recommendations of the LLRC.  The LLRC was very specific on this issue, especially in regard to land issues, which is at the heart of people’s sense of belonging and security.  The LLRC said that many people who were displaced in the war had lost their title deeds and other documents proving their ownership or rights to use the land.  It recommended an expert and civil administration to restore to the people what had been theirs.  It also said that land policy should not be used to effect artificial changes in demography and the ethnic composition of the population.

The refusal of the military authorities to permit the Leader of the Opposition and a delegation of opposition parliamentarians from entering the area to see the situation for themselves is bound to send an adverse message to the Tamil people and to the international community about the ground realities in the north.  It highlights the lack of transparency that accompanies military affairs, which is why the military is unsuited to engage in civilian affairs. Unfortunately the indications of a shift in government policy towards the demilitarization of the north are bleak at the present time.  The government has recently added a second compulsory checkpoint in the North in addition to the one at Omanthai.  This is one at Elephant Pass at the entry/exit point of the Jaffna peninsula.  This latest checkpoint was announced a few days ago in the context of the sudden upsurge of politically motivated violence in the North which saw events organized by opposition parties broken up allegedly by security personnel in civilian attire.

Government Concern

The acts of violence that have started taking place against opposition activities in the North, as occurred with the Uthayan newspaper and TNA meetings, can be a harbinger of things to come.  The government’s determination to win the Northern Provincial elections reflects the government’s concern that it will pave the way to political and international challenges with the establishment of an opposition Tamil-led administration with a democratic mandate.  So far the government’s chief response to its local and international critics has been that it is the sole elected authority in the country entitled to speak on behalf of all the people.  Every time it wins an election it reminds its detractors that whatever they may say, it has the democratic sanction of the people.  An opposition and Tamil led provincial administration in the North would have a corresponding legitimacy to speak on behalf of the people who elected it.

Already two constituent parties of the government have expressed their opposition to these elections being held.   The All Ceylon Muslim League headed by Minister Rishard Bathiuddin has objected to the elections being held until all war-displaced Muslims are resettled in the Northern Province.  The National Freedom Front headed by Minister Wimal Weerawansa has stated that these elections can lead to an outcome that is detrimental to the country’s unity.  He has also said that the system of provincial councils should be scrapped and replaced by district councils.  Interestingly, President Rajapaksa himself articulated this vision of district-based devolution several years ago until local and international pressure caused him to withdraw from this position.  It is possible that views such as these are being floated to justify a postponement of the elections.

However, too much is at stake for the government to now seek to either abolish the provincial council system or postpone the promised September elections.  The President’s promise to hold the elections by September this year is noted in too many international documents, such as the joint communiqué signed by the Prime Minister of Japan and President Rajapaksa following his visit in March to Japan, and also in the UN Human Rights resolution on Sri Lanka which was also passed by a large majority of countries in March this year.  With the provincial elections to be held in September, there is still time for the government to make the shift that would make it more attractive to the northern voters.  De-militarisation of the North would come as the first priority accompanied by the resettlement of displaced people in their own lands.

Print Friendly

Categories
General

More than 1000 US foreign military bases but commotion more than Sri Lanka’s internal military

“I emphasized the importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North, and full respect for human rights” – thus said Robert Blake, an US official flying regularly to Sri Lanka bringing messages from his Government. Interesting as the statement is, it raises one simple question – in which international law book does it say that the US can have over thousands of foreign military bases while US can dictate to a sovereign nation on how to place its military inside its country? This is the question Sri Lankans like to ask and have answered. When the nations legally made to host these US foreign installations oppose US presence, what “accountability” does the US have for respecting the calls of these natives – since The “Status of Forces Agreement” has guaranteed that US cannot be held accountable for their crimes in any country that the US has bases in.

Exact US foreign military bases: Keep Guessing
It is believed that the US has over 1000 foreign military bases in over 120 nations and territories while UK and France have a further 200 in their former colonies. Inside these territories and nations the US bases and outposts are equally shocking. The number of US personnel currently stationed number over 160,000 and excludes US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and Kwajalein Atoll. All bases functions as storage facilities for weapons including nuclear arms, training, intelligence gathering, “echelon” bases monitor all email, phone and data communication traffic, extra-judiciary transport, imprisonment and torture of which Guantanamo Bay is the best example.
World War 2 gave US the excuse to strategize and establish a global network of military bases to protect its interests and those of its allies. Ironically, much of the security concerns US has today results from its own self-destructive actions and bullying approach. But, the “security factor” has been used to install bases in East Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Thus, the bases are crucial for US, NATO and EU and are perfect to overthrow governments diplomatically or militarily. The shocking military invasions numbering over 300 over the past century have been launched from these foreign bases thus the need to understand the threat posed to national security of any country entering the “enemy” list or “economic target” list.
The US has divided the world into 6 territories – 4 are located in the US and the other 2 in Stuttgart where the European Command territory stretches from Greenland to Alaska including Turkey, while the AFRICOM oversees military operations in Africa. EUCOM and AFRICOM is authorized to command US missions from Germany. Germany is the center of US military intelligence in Europe. Its not just foreign bases that the US has secured. What about the buildings, the heavy infrastructure, the storage tanks, the runways, rail lines and even pipelines that the US secures in all of these nations and territories?
To add to the confusion has been the numbers of private security contractors like Blackwater (Xe) who are based in all of the locations that the US troops are in. It is they who carry out the drone attacks and have been responsible for much of the mayhem taking place in the Middle East through their mercenary services.
Bases in Iraq and Afghanistan
The number of US bases in Iraq (505) were revealed only after US troops were preparing to leave Iraq. Officially, we are told that the US has removed troops from Iraq but does this not include the Dept of Defense staff currently in Iraq? The bases in Afghanistan is over 1500 counting all the forward operating bases, checkpoints, mega-bases, military installations and other logistical support facilities. The number of US troops stands at over 100,000 if not more. In 2002 NATO had 800 bases in Afghanistan. We may never know the exact numbers as at present but the Afghan bases are not reducing! Another question is why would US and NATO desire to have bases with sophisticated offices and gigantic airbases only along the gas and oil pipeline that is being built?
Why is it that the entirety of US bases in Afghanistan are all located along the route of the gas/oil pipeline? Why has opium production increased by a staggering 3100% (from 185tons before arrival of US in 2001 and now 5800tons in 2011) – Afghanistan accounts for 90% of opium and cannabis supplies to the world? What about the precious minerals like lithium, gold, iron, copper and cobalt that has also been discovered? Opium, morphine, cannabis, heroin, codeine, thebaine are all sought after by pharmaceutical companies.
Unknown to most of us Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush region is the home to rich soil – uranium, copper, lithium, gold and iron ore worth upto $ 3trillion. Hajigak area is said to contain 1.8tons of iron ore. Lithium is rare but needed for cell phones, portable computers, electric car batteries and so Afghanistan certainly has much to offer the mining industries!
The 9/11 attackers were not Iraqi’s nor had they links to Al Qaeda, neither did Iraq have WMDs but Iraq was attacked. US attacked Iraq to secure 115billion barrels of oil reserves! US spends $ 900billion per year on destruction when 49m Americans live in poverty and 46million depend on food stamps to survive and 4m are homeless.
Are there geological treasures in Sri Lanka in particular the North and East apart from the natural harbor?
Europe
US has 293 bases in Germany  – why is it necessary for the US and UK to have bases in Germany or Japan 65 years after World War with over 70,000 US troops currently in Germany, more than 45,000 US soldiers in Japan and close to 30,000 US troops in South Korea?
The largest overseas US base is in Ramstein Air Base where US sent 40,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2009 – soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are flown and then sent to Landstuhl the largest  US military hospital. Ramstein is used to cover 3 continents (51 nations) and has the largest US military shopping center and a 350 room hotel. There are 20 nuclear weapons at Buchel guarded by 50 US special forces troops.  Over 80% of supplies of weapons, troops and other logistical requirements are routed via Germany. In 2008, there were over 1350 military transport landings in Leipsiz including 500,000 GIs en route to or from Iraq and Afghanistan. German-owned DHL has the exclusive US Army contract for courier services in Afghanistan and Iraq. Commercial airports like Hahn and US training at Grafenwohr is also provided.
Though the reunification agreement of the early 90s gives Germany the right to cancel US bases the Stationing of Forces Agreements with the US makes it unlikely that Germany would prohibit or restrict US military bases as Turkey did following the Iraq invasion though majority of Germans opposed the Iraq invasion.
The Netherlands is another US ally and hosts 7 US bases with nuclear warheads including 2 undisclosed locations that functions are reconnaissance flights over Colombia. All US arms and materials enter US without going through Dutch customs. All pilots flying on KLM have signed contracts that declare they have to take direct orders from the US air force in case of a war.
Asia – Countering China and Pilfering Resources
Following the Korea war the US has over 100 bases and facilities in Korea. Cases of US crimes in Korea are many yet US soldiers are never accountable and are instead repatriated where military court generally declares them “not guilty” or passes the most lenient of judgments. No damages can be claimed by the victims as the guilty enjoys legal immunity.
Iran and Pakistan have also begun building an oil and natural gas pipeline traversing Afghanistan and the pipeline has completed the Iranian portion and is now at the Pakistani border. Iran, Pakistan and even Afghanistan are all looking to push US away. While the US has been doling blood and money into these nations the people hate the US and are now looking for partners in China. US is seeking to include India into its periphery.
Rising demand for closure of US bases   
Much of the outcries to close foreign military bases is due to their impact on land, water resources, communications, environment and health, cultural identity and the crimes that take place with foreign troops violating humanitarian international laws but having a carte blanche and immunity.
The military bases are located in strategic places, not only from the political and economic point of view, but they are placed near natural resources such as oil, water and biodiversity.
The US appears to care less over the rising numbers of calls for the closure of its military bases on the grounds that the facilities are undermining international peace and security as they are stations meant to prepare for war. Let us not forget that it was the US bases in Germany, Turkey, Diego Garcia, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Gulf States that facilitated the Iraq invasion. Aerial bombings on Pakistan are launched from Diego Garcia, Ecuador base is used for covert military actions on Colombia, Iraq and Turkey bases functions as intelligence missions for Iran and Syria.
Iran is aware that it is being watched from US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan while 8 of its neighbors are also hosting US/NATO bases. Moreover Iran is also faced with threats from US-backed nuclear powers of Israel, Pakistan and India and nuclear warheads in Turkey.
These foreign bases are causing social and environmental problems – rises in rapes by US soldiers, crimes, pollution, health hazards caused by testing conventional and non-conventional weapons are grounds for the opposition. The tragedy is that the agreements signed to enable the presence of US troops in these countries makes US soldiers unaccountable and immune from all local laws.
Nevertheless, it has not deterred residents from crying foul – activists and locals protested against expansion of US base with a new landing strip in Italy, the people of Okinawa, Japan are continuing their opposition that 30% of the island of Okinawa is being used by the US military since World War 2 and Okinawans even blocked the construction to a new base which was stopped in 2008 by a US court on ecological grounds. Residents of Okinawa have increased their opposition due to 12 MV-22 Osprey aircrafts operating in highly populated areas (Iwakuni, Yamaguchi, Ginowan and Okinawa) following crashes in Morocco and Florida. The Status of Forces agreement is a hindrance to the Japanese Government taking any action though US moved 4700 marines to Guam and 3000 to Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. Okinawa is important to the US because of its vantage on China, Taiwan and North Korea. However Futenma base (in the city of Ginowan which has over  90,000 residents) is unlikely to be ever moved off Okinawa. The plight of the Okinawians is made worse because Okinawa has only 4 seats in Japan’s lower house therefore the people’s verdict is of little consequence to political decisions.
Africans strongly opposed the US Africa Command with a headquarters costing over US$ 500m with close to 2000 US troops in Djibouti.
Natives from Puerto Rico (Vieques) were expelled from their homes to make way for a US bomb testing range that used 2/3 of the island and protests resulted in US navy withdrawing in 2004.
In 1973, under the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) all citizens of Diego Garcia were rounded up, put on ships and sent to Mauritius following a US-UK deal allowing US to have an airbase in Diego Garcia. However, the Chagossian natives have won court cases in the UK to their right to return by that right has been blocked by British executive orders.
A RAND Corporation study reveals that 57% of all Germans want a complete withdrawal of US troops from Germany.
There are numerous local campaigns and movements like the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases and the No Bases Network that are continuing the fight to resist military bases overseas and making progress internationally. The closure of the Manta military base in Ecuador is one such success story.
Costs Incurred
The cost of running over 1000 military bases overseas is over $ 100billion annually and excludes costs for Iraq and Afghanistan.  
Of the 2012 Federal Budget 59% – USD553billion has gone towards military and homeland security. 2% on Agriculture, Justice and Energy, 4% on Dept of State, Urban Development & Housing, 6% on education and healthcare &15% on other. In 1990 the national debt was $ 3.2trillion today it is a whopping $ 15.7trillion and counting (a 500% increase in 22 years).The next question is how or who has benefited from $ 11.5trillion spending on war?19 hijackers who pulled off 9/11 has resulted in US spending $ 3trillion on wars and denying the American people their own freedom and liberties. Yet the irony is that since 1941 the US has NOT being attacked by any foreign power to warrant spending on the military. It then appears that much of the hate the US administrations and its media enjoy promoting amongst the masses are self-created. With the creation of nuclear missiles that should be ample security! The current reliance of pre-emptive wars has made the US financially defunct and internationally mocked by those aware of the truth.
Meanwhile, globally the world spends $ 1.7trillion annually on designing new ways to kill, 13m die every year from starvation, 925m are undernourished, 1 child dies every 5 seconds due to hunger (16,000 daily deaths and 6m deaths cer year) – the cost taken to make a missile could give lunch to a school for 5 years! Does US elect representatives to allocate 44% of taxes towards killing?
It is the Politicians and not the military that start wars often coerced to do so by the super rich whose avarices and sadisms forces Governments to leave the fighting role to the poor. People are simply pawns and they die like dogs while millions is spent on devising lies to feed the world. Then comes the patriotic speeches for the bravery of the troops who had been sacrificed.
Over 6500 US soldiers have died while close to 50,000 are badly injured. Suicide rates of soldiers have increased by 80% – 300,000 that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered post-traumatic stress disorders.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has suggested to cut US troops in Europe and Asia by one-third which would save America $ 8.5billion in 2015 will the US close its bases?
The Violent Truth
What America needs to understand is that if it thinks the world hates America it is because American Governments are killing innocent people – none of them are “terrorists”. America is spending trillions for the past 11 years and who has benefited? American taxpayers are footing the bill, American soldiers are sacrificing their lives and body parts to enable a handful of companies to reap gigantic profits from drugs!
The US became the sole superpower in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union – why would it want to go to wars without provocation and spend trillions? What kind of an acceptable excuse is it to argue that the US arms industry is employing millions and benefiting the US when all that they are doing is to make weapons that are meant to kill and create a supply for those weapons?
Invasions with military action has nothing to do with security of nations but everything to do with pilfering nations by a handful that uses politicians to order wars and invasions so that their corporations could walk in and plunder the natural resources of nations is what todays wars, terrorism and R2P is all about.
US tax payers are paying for numerous foreign invasions putting their country in debt while a handful of elite global powers are reaping the benefits and US envoys play puppet diplomatic dictators to former colonies!
We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”  
Dwight D. Eisenhower
We know more about war than we know about peace, we know more about killing than we know about living. We need to now change.

by Shenali Waduge

Categories
General

Only Gotabhaya considered a military victory was possible – Erik Solheim

By Colombo Telegraph – “No one particular, could be with the exception of Gothabaya Rajapaksa, but he’s the only particular person I can mention who considered a military victory was achievable. I was quite hard to say extremely close to Indian intelligence and an tremendous sum of time all through this process and never, ever did any Indian official hint that a military victory was achievable until mid 2008.

Then they started, I observed the change in Mr.M.K.Narayanan and others and gradually shift into the position that may be, state may be the government can wipe out the tigers military victory.”Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim said last week

“Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years, for their business interest part of that they tried to manipulate all. We may be fool but no so foolish that we understand that they tried to manipulate.” Minster of the Environment and international Development Erik Solheim further said.

Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years, for their business interest part of that they tried to manipulate all. We may be fool but no so foolish that we understand that they tried to manipulate.

Eric Solheim made this remarks last week in Oslo seminar followed by the launch of the evaluation report of the Norwegian Peace effort in Sri Lanka. Theevaluation has been performed by CMI in Bergen and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, and deals with the Norwegian peace effort in Sri Lanka between 1997 and 2009.

Following is the full text of the speech made by Erik Solheim

Let me start by thanking Mr.Gunnar and his team for a very valuable and interesting report.  I’ve not been able to study everything at this stage, we will go through it, all the big and small parts…the big and small issues which are covered by the report and see to what extent I can inform and to see what I can do to assist Sri Lanka in the future and more importantly how this can help Norwegian efforts in other peace processes.

Norway is involved in one way or other in may be 20 peace processes in world and very few of them, at the moment, not as a main actor as in Sri Lanka, but in supporting the parties and supporting other international actors in bringing peace so it’s very valuable to look into all these experiences which are experience, this may be the first time, certainly, it isn’t normal, that one involved in the peace process is commissioning a report in to all the positive and negatives of what happened.

Norway should have withdrawn from the peace process 

I broadly agree with most comments made and had one major reservation and let me start with that. I think indeed that Norway should have withdrawn from the peace process when it was clear to everyone that the government of Sri Lanka wanted a final military victory.

Every one knew that, was no doubt in Washington, or Beijing, or Colombo or Vanni about that. No one was in doubt of that. Indeed at this point we should have withdrawn. I think it is extreme arrogant why, because the Tamil Tigers asked us to continue, the government of Sri Lanka at least, in some extent, asked us to continue. A complete civil society and all the peace groups in Sri Lanka asked us to continue. The United States of America asked us to continue. India asked us to continue. The European Union asked us to continue. Neither I nor Vidar Helgesen, should sit in Oslo and make the decision that when everyone else in the world asked Norway to do best under the most difficult circumstances, even when its war, even so many people are killed, we should try to withdraw.

. If Pirapaharan had not forced Tamil voters to abstain from elections in 2005 everyone knows that Ranil Wickramasinghe would have been elected the president, not Mahinda Rajapaksa, Everyone knows that. That would at least have been a major change in everything what happened after that.

I cannot disagree, more. I think it’s very arrogant because it’s putting Norway far above everything else. It’s about our reputation, not about what we’re asked to do.  All those who are suffering from this war. Except for that major reservation, I agree a lot about what has been presented by Gunar hear.

If there is another, not major reservation, it is the following. We should be very cautious with determinism believing that the outcome of Sri Lankan events had to be what it actually was. Richard Armitage is at the first floor hear, I think he and myself agreed that the American Independence war by George Washington would have taken a completely different turn if George Washington had be hanged as a terrorist and the UK would have gone over at least 50 more years.

It was so close to a southern separation during the civil war in America in the 1860’s and was not far away. Very close. You can just make a few changes in a few of the battles or moving the election of 1860 away from the fall to the spring and the outcome would have been completely different.

If Pirapaharan had not forced Tamil voters to abstain from elections in 2005

This occurs in most important events in Earth’s history and the tendency by researchers by what actually is the end, had to be the end, I take a reservation with. Let’s mention a few of the “ifs” in the peace process of Sri Lanka. If Mr.Pirapaharan had not forced Tamil voters to abstain from elections in 2005 everyone knows that Ranil Wikremesinghe would have been elected as the president, not Mahinda Rajapaksa, Everyone knows that. That would at least have been a major change in everything what happened after that.

 

If Balasinham had not died of cancer, it may or may not have made a major difference; I think it would have made a major difference because after Balsinham’s death, the LTTE leadership made all the mistakes.

If Mr. Balasinham had not died of cancer, it may or may not have made a major difference; I think it would have made a major difference because after Mr. Balasinham’s death, the LTTE leadership made all the mistakes.

Prior to that they were quite clever both in the political and military field in the 3 years after Blasingam’s death, it was not one single meaningful political or military initiative from the Tamil Tigers.

Not one and there is no other way of explaining that influence of Balasingham’s disappear and Pirapaharan was alone to make decisions. So to say. If  Karuna was not split, it was not, I think, in the invertible,  it was basic from personal characteristics, not very nice, but it was what happened and it made an enormous change .

If Chandrika Kumaratunga or the other actors had to be able to move one or two months after the Tsunami, it was a completely new set up in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Tigers assisted the army. The army assisted Tamils. Was really a new beginning but it was drawn out, drawn out, the momentum was lost and basically nothing happened.

If we had been able to achieve a major change or development here I think everything would have been very different. Not necessarily, exactly what we had hoped for but it would have been very different.  And I can continue with a number of other such if, So I think we have to judge historical events on the basis of the available information at that time, not when we know what happened. But that’s hard when we don’t know exactly what happened because what happened was not necessarily what had to happen. Then, let me add one or two other aspects. No one believed there was a military victory possible.

Gothabaya Rajapaksa the only exception

No one. May be with the exception of Gothabaya Rajapaksa but he’s the only person I can mention who thought a military victory was possible.

No one in Colombo thought it was possible, I was very hard to say very close to Indian intelligence and an enormous amount of time throughout this process and never, ever did any Indian official hint that a military victory was possible until mid 2008. Then they started, I observed the change in Mr.M.K.Narayanan and others and gradually shift into the position that may be, still may be the government can wipe out the tigers military victory.

If Karuna was not split, it was not, I think, in the invertible, it was basic from personal characteristics, not very nice, but it was what happened and it made an enormous change .

Before that no one thought it was possible, the United States thought it was impossible, USA, India and Colombo thought it was impossible so again complete change from what we all based the peace process on until that point.

Then coming to what can be learned. Because there are a number of these issues which are reflected in the report and also by  Gunnar. Obviously have to be patient, that’s very obvious part of the peace process starting with the belief that this can be resolved in a few months time.

The Indians told us, please be patient, if you cannot be patient go away, get out of the way you will only complicate matters. This will take a decade at the minimum. So we learned to be patient and you need patience in any peace process.

Then you need to get the international context right, as was covered by Mr.Gunnar may be at the end the government won a military victory because it much better understood the international situation and tiger leadership. Mr.Rajapaksa understood it was basically possible to build up a coalition of China, Pakistan, Iran, and a number of new actors in the Sri Lankan context to get on one hand, military support from these new actors but on the other hand also using these new actors to put pressure on old actors in the sense that it would be very much more relaxing to see China coming in a more major way in Sri Lanka.

That was very clever international diplomacy by Rajapaksa out fuling that way the Tigers in … that way… so in the international context it’s very essential. Other issues the inclusiveness. Have to say that we were fighting throughout to particularly include the Muslim community in Sri Lanka in a much broader way in the peace process and to every one else that was not easy mainly because the Tamil Tigers were very reluctant to see a separate Muslim dimension to the struggle, but very very important in all peace processes to be as inclusive as possible.

The three main issues in my perspective in the peace process 

Then I would come to the three main issues in my perspective in the peace process which we have to contemplate for future situations. Number one, the peace priority list is weather are there other ways to influence the Tamil Tigers leadership in a more effective way than we did. You may please recall Norway was the only access to Pirapakran. background, I met Pirapakaran may be ten times and absolutely no tiger in

If Chandrika Kumaranathuga or the other actors had to be able to move one or two months after the Tsunami, it was a completely new setup in Sri Lanka.

that background, none. During the peace process, except for Norwegians, Mr.Krish Paten from EU meet him onece, and Akashai from Japan, may be once, or twice, except for that it was just Norwegians. Mr.Lars combined thirty hours with during this peace process. He spoke only Tamil and my Tamil is limited so it was a relatively limited time. I think it was completely wrong …. That other actors did not want to speak to him unless he behaved well. The more people that need to speak to Pirapakaran the better.

The government would have been reluctant to that because that would have been a recognition of  his role that I think the more the LTTE would have been opened up, the moel actors that would have been able to meet in a international community mole the more likely a success would have been.
That’s right what Gunnar said, when Balasingham negotiated to do so call Oslo declaration which they said LTTE will explore Federalism where Milinda and myself who wrote that document here in Oslo Balasingham accepted it and took it to Pirapakaran, he refused it. It was not public at that time but it is very clear he refused it. Because he was realizing to federalism. But still have been ……. or influence in LTTE Leadership. In reality that Mr.Pirapakaran, more that is the most, that is the number one crucial issue. Blasingham told me that please understand Mr.Pirapakaran is a war lord. he is not in a democratic society not understanding international community not understanding the base in Europe and USA.

Blasingham told me that please understand Mr.Pirapakaran is a war lord

He is ……. in a war load. May be studying the war lords, chins history in the early part of the …. the best parallel to study Pirapakaran, Balasingham hinted. Its not my idea. if that the case more have been done to open up their ice, their understanding of the world and should be have done that more on that matter I thing that was completely wrong that USA, Europe and anyone else ask me please you behave well very long period of time we will talk to you. So we should have talked to them all the time as much as possible 24 hours if possible. This is the number one status issues.

It may, People may thing that up on this from world assistant,  stutterers, tactical experience, it may seen as very personal oriented but the reality was Pirapakaran was the LTTE, without Pirapakaran LTTE will have existed and all major decisions whatever type will be made by Pirapakaran. No one else. he will of course speak with some of the military leaders definitely consulting with Balasingham but ultimately he will make decisions and it was very hard, I never heard any Tamils giving and wanted advice to Mr.Pirapakaran I thing that would be very difficult to any Tamils to knock at door to going to Pirapakaran and say that you are on a wrong path you shouldn’t do this and that.Only person should do that Balasingham. Because he was 10 years senior.

Second issue very much covered by Gunnar. There are two parties in Colombo. UNP and SLFP they had a long long history of not working together. During most of the peace process Chandraka was the President Ranil Wikremesinghe was the Prime Minister and they were not speaking … and they were both believing that they are whatever they do possible to do in their my or in their situations.

. Blasingham told that please understand Pirapakaran is a war lord. he is not in a democratic society not understanding international community not understanding the base in Europe and USA.

Should have been done more on that regards. We felt that it was outside Norway mandate. We felt other mandate was to negotiate that those in power in Colombo where ever they are and the Tamil tigers and that intervening on that would be intervening mean that domestic affairs in State of Sri Lanka.

Mr.Fox that UK’s Minister of Defence, he just left his post, made so called FOX agreement in late 1990s you should cover that. There was lots of efforts that Indian and others to bring by two parties together but should have been Norway should have forced to …. may be we should have done that more to ask both parties to do like India and UN to do it, would have been very very difficult.  Very critical issue I do not know what extend discuss it the peace agreement was in the beginning before the cease fire agreement should more effort have been done bring Chandrika into that. Because that was done right after Ranil Wikremesighe made political victory he was on the political assurance, very strong and very popular at that point. Chandrika was as you said sidelined.

Should more have been done to bring Chandrika in to that agreement 

That’s true, should more have been done to bring her in to that agreement at the beginning, mover mental that has been lost but it is a critical issue of course if there has been a two party agreement in Colombo with their LTTE that would have made enormous different that’s very clear. But I think that was outside to Norway to archive it. May be we should have been done more to try to convince others to act will be lots, possibly has been done more. The last issue like to bring that also coved the issue of communication. Its true that Norway became very unpopular at least that peace process has lasted long partially in …… Nationalists Sinhala groups, that’s very clear. I thing that main reason for that with optics whenever someone saw Mr.Pirapakaran or LTTE …. to Norwegians because no one else going there, so other, I will be there or Ambassador or Johan or someone else, I mean if Pirapakaran or Balasingham or Tamilselvan, whether it was on TV normally the Norwegian with his side, it gave important to Sri Lankans that Norway was very close to LTTE. Since no one else LTTE did this. This was optical reason was why this became an issue.. but still we should have discussed, may be better media strategy. However of course, that party not wanted Norway to have a high profile. they wanted to be a process between that LTTE and the government they wanted us to make comments particularly when they have agreed some things but did not want Norway to be seen as speaking behalf of its self… defending its own role on this on media and that.. that clearly told that was what the parties want to see and still I mean is an issue, definitely need more consideration whether it should have play that or done more on this. Other issue in commutation is their one group. I am very clear we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy in Colombo in Sri Lanka and Mahanayaka in Kandy and others, the very important spiritual leaders in Sri Lanka. We were clearly adviced by Chandrika Kumaratunga not to spend too much time on the Buddhist clergy.  So  this not our idea, she was telling not to do it,. We wanted to do, but told not to do.. …… itself and don’t interview in this … leave that to us. At least to that inside today we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy because of their loyalist on the Sinhala side was so so important. so these are some of the issues for discussion. There are many big and small at the end two big one that finding of the issues of the peace process was should more have been done to reach out to Pirapakaran to get him at end to accept a federal states. that other was should more have been done bring together UNP and SLFP, Ranil and Chandrika, if we have been able to do very different or one or other this too, that would have been a completely different process these are the two essential questions.

 If you want to receive support from USA will you kill any USA president? 

I don’t think that war on terror was a main problem here, On one hand LTTE made enormous mistakes, the reason why the war on terror became so important in Sri Lanka was that LTTE made high profile assassinations against Sri Lankan politicians, it gave them nothing on any political or military point of view. Why in hell killing Rajiv Gandhi. Animus blander, if you want to receive support from USA, will you kill any US president? India was the main source of support to Tamil Tigers, why then killed? Rajiv Gandhi was a outstanding Indian Prime Minister.This was animus mistake, Whenever Pirapakaran told us stop killing, he keep (strikes) his words, that’s more than I can say that Sri Lankan Sinhala politician,

I am very clear we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy in Colombo and Mahanayaka in Kandy and others. The very important spiritual leaders in Sri Lanka, we were clearly adviced by Chandrika Kumarathunga not to spend too much time on the Buddhist clergy

Pirapakan always did. One example right after Mahinda elected president, LTTE started huge number of killing against Sri Lankan army soldiers then we went to Pirapakaran he promised to stop it. He stopped it. There was no killing by LTTE then the Government started killing different Tamils. Then too LTTE responded. Government that point insisting the killing. LTTE did not start the peace process at the weak point. They started the peace process at the peak of power. LTTE was ever powerful at 2000 and 2001.

LTTE did not start the peace process at the weak point

LTTE was too close to capture Jaffna peninsula, LTTE distorted Bandaranayaka airport in Colombo, bringing the economics of Sri Lankan state to zero. There was a peak of the power they started peace process, We Norway had good relation with Government in Washington and Norway embassy in Oslo. Their is not one critical remarks what so ever on WikiLeaks on Norwegian role on peace process. There USA cannot do it, will not do it, its very common Norway doing it. We have been …… bringing ….. killing by Sri Lankan state, I will give you ample of examples, MP. Pararajasingham good friend of mine was killed in Xmas day in a Christian church, Obviously this was by Sri Lankan state.One of the main famous Editor in Colombo Lasantha Wickaramatunga, another friend of us through peace process known very well killed by state of Sri Lanka.

Absolutely there is no doubt about that, that should be condemned and who was responsible for this crime should be brought to courts.

It was absolutely right to regret the ban of LTTE the point of views of Norway, how could you play as a mediator if band one organization you should talk to that group is impossible, I thing that banning the LTTE is not a good idea, because I … to that …..that much …. that overwhelmed by LTTE to political come forward bringing them out in the light discussing with them and trying to convince top leadership that has to informs them self.That is the reason why took prevalence that in Europe very clear on so many occasion we not able to stop this kind of terrorist killing that provoke the EU.

Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years

Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years, for their business interest, part of that they tried to manipulate all. We may be fool but no so foolish that we understand that they tried to manipulate.

I still believe that this peace process should have taken a different cost… so I don’t think too high expectation may be from the beginning much more easy, but it was not right to do it, Expectations has gone very differently I thing it was right.

India though out had VETO power over the peace process, Milinda and myself went to Delhil many time but I don’t know how many times has been at the airport and New Delhi meetings whith Indian Intelligence and others, there was no major steps on the peace process what so ever taken without informing India same times they tacis excess may have disagreed India was throughout Informed.

That was very simple, they want that view, India for most important friend in Sri Lanka. USA is important also, for USA India and Sri Lanka is a co-Interest.

USA never ever realize their relationship with India, for example for Sri Lanka. If India on board, ultimately USA basically flow. Even what nation’s …… to SLMM they give a list of the national they will aspect we will respect from that.

Watch full video;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MtYY9QNrrIU

Categories
General

Defence Seminar 2013: Secretary Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision for Sri Lanka

Making the keynote address at the 3rd consecutive Sri Lanka Army organized ‘Defence Seminar-2013 on the theme ‘Post-Conflict Sri Lanka: Challenges and Regional Stability’, held from 3rd to 5th September at the Galadari Hotel, Colombo, Secretary Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa delivered a spectacular and visonary speech to the more than 300 participants including 66 foreign delegates from 29 countries.
The 1st Defence Seminar focused on Lessons Learnt by the Sri Lankan Defence establishment in defeating LTTE terrorism.
The 2nd Defence Seminar focused on Post-war efforts to create lasting peace and stability examining steps under 5 areas of Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Reconciliation.  
Secretary Defence on Sri Lanka’s immediate post-war challenge successes  
1.         Accommodating and ensuring the welfare of nearly 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons
2.         Demining and Reconstruction of Infrastructure/facilities – nearly 5000sq.km of land demined. 
3.         Resettling the IDPs in their places of origin (All IDPs in welfare camps were resettled from October 2009 – August 2012) inclusive of other displaced persons. This achievement took 3 years and 3 months after elimination of LTTE.
4.         Rehabilitating nearly 12,000 ex-LTTE cadres and
5.         Reintegrating them to society.
Independent Surveys 1:
UNHCR survey confirmed Sri Lanka’s resettlement success (Nov 2012-Mar 2013) assessing Sri Lanka against global standard of Inter Agency Standing Committee Framework for Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons – Sri Lanka is mentioned under–
a) access to personal and other documentation without discrimination
b) family reunification
c) access to effective remedies and justice
d) safety and security
e) access to livelihoods
f) participation in public affairs
Note: Only 29% of respondents had negative views on military presence.
Independent Surveys 2:
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Field Mission survey (May-June 2013)
§  ‘remarkable improvement in infrastructure development in many sectors including transportation, communication, roads, railways and health facilities’
§  Survey observed that there was no visible presence of armed military personnel in uniforms that military support was primarily for ‘immediate and development needs of the population’ (building houses, shelter, water, sanitation, scholarships for schools and children, vocational training, organizing tours for people of North to visit other parts of Sri Lanka) – efforts to help civilians return to normal life.
Independent Surveys 3: Foreign Researchers/Dr. Kruglanski & Dr. Gelfland of the University of Maryland
§  LTTE cadres showed reduction in support for violence after rehabilitation program
Other successfully completed post-war challenges:
§  Setting up Livelihood Assistance programs
§  Material Assistance programs – donation of fishing gear, utilities for farming, provision of livestock and seeds for agriculture
Secretary Defence on shifting military from combat with terrorists to cooperation with civilians/society:
§  Gradual reduction of military camps/troops but military will remain for strategic security reasons.
§  Engineering battalions engaged in reconstruction and national development programs
§  Redrawing internal security policies and procedures and expanding intelligence units
§  Handing over to police the maintenance of law and order – establishment of more police stations and recruitment of Tamil speaking police personnel
§  Helping restore civil administration mechanism
§  Disarming former armed groups
§  Civilian properties in the process of being handed over once legal proof of ownership is established.
§  Removing restrictions previously placed for security reasons (movement in high security zones, limitation to fishing, restrictions in trade of classified items) Palaly cantonment is open to all with free access to airport and Kankasanthurai harbour.
§  Releasing detainees for involvement in LTTE activities while a handful remains in detention for prosecution. Database of all detainees available with police. Lawyers, family, Human Rights Commission and ICRC given access to them
§  Repealing of Emergency Regulations in August 2011
Secretary Defence responds to allegations against Military : Number of Civilian Casualties
Number of civilian casualties (during final stage of war) ranged from 7000 to more than 40,000. The allegations were all guestimates without sources and ignored independent and credible sources (Dept of Census & Statistics/UNICEF/LLRC).

If LTTE had 30,000 approximate cadres at the start of the Humanitarian Operation and nearly 12,000 surrendered to the Armed Forces either the remaining had been killed, they are posing as civilians or have fled the country.

It must be also noted that Sri Lanka lost nearly 6000 of its personnel in combat while 20,000 or so were injured. Such a number of casualties in the army could not have happened if the enemy was not engaged in intense battle with the Sri Lankan military during the final stages of the war.

Department of Census and Statistics ‘Enumeration of Vital Events’ in Northern Province (June-Aug 2011) field data collected in July 2011 by 2500 Tamil and Muslim Government servants from North. Report revealed:
a.  7896 deaths due to unnatural causes (Jan-May 2009) included LTTE cadres killed in action,
b.  2635 persons reported as untraceable (parents/next of kin had not recovered their bodies or knew their whereabouts)
c.   Of 2360 cases investigations reveal that 1625 persons had been forcibly recruited by the LTTE.
d.  Only 26 instances of people reported by the next of kin who had surrendered to the Security Forces and subsequently disappeared.
Secretary Defence on reasons for civilian deaths/missing  
§  civilians killed by LTTE trying to escape to Govt controlled areas,
§  civilians detained and killed by LTTE for other reasons
§  civilian deaths from being forcefully used in combat by LTTE
§  civilians deaths from crossfire
§  civilians reported dead but likely to have escaped or illegally migrated overseas. An unknown number of persons have left Sri Lanka and are now living overseas. The countries hosting them have not revealed their details to the Government of Sri Lanka.
§  deaths not occurring during Humanitarian Operation but reported to claim compensation
§  false reporting
UNICEF with Probation and Child Care Commission of North and Government Agent of Vavuniya – Family Reunification Project (confirms and corroborates with Sri Lanka’s findings)
§  2564 tracing applications received by July 2011
§  1888 applications related to missing adults
§  676 applications related to missing children
§  64% parents of missing children claimed LTTE had recruited their children.

Those making allegations against the Sri Lankan military may like to explain how any military should confront a non-state actor using asymmetric warfare strategies with no compunctions to safeguard civilian lives and oft times using civilians as human shields in order to attract external intervention and to once again gain themselves breathing space?

Those throwing stones at the Sri Lankan military may also like to explain why LTTE would deliberately and repeatedly launch artillery and mortar attacks at the military from No Fire Zones/ civilian installations like hospitals and churches which were created for the civilians and not for LTTE to place their weapons and ammunition or take refuge amongst the Tamil civilians?

Secretary Defence on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission Report  
§  LLRC concluded that there was No DELIBERATE targeting of civilians by Sri Lankan Military
§  LTTE responsible for violations of international humanitarian law
Secretary Defence on International Commentaries on Post-Conflict
§  Negative feedback on Reconciliation – lacked holistic perspective did not consider ground realities as reconciliation is a process and takes time to accomplish and cannot give overnight results.
§  Negative feedback ignored type of rule under LTTE – people of the North and parts of East had no democratic freedoms – no room for dissent, no alternate views, everyone disagreeing with LTTE were silenced. People living amongst LTTE were taught to hate the Sinhalese and the State. Removing 30 years of indoctrination inspite of resettlement, reconstruction and even rehabilitation is not easy.
Secretary Defence on Democratic Process in Sri Lanka (contrary to the statement by Navi Pillai claiming Sri Lanka was heading towards an Authoritarian rule)
§  Provincial Council elections held in Eastern Province in 2008 before the Humanitarian Operation ended
§  Local Authority elections for Jaffna Municipal Council / Vavuniya Urban Council in August 2009
§  Presidential Election held in 2010
§  General Elections held in 2010
§  Local authority elections held island-wide in 2011
§  Provincial Council elections to be held in September 2013 – the 1st after 1989 elections of merged North-East province through 13th amendment. North-East demerged in 2006.
Secretary Defence on LTTE-fronts continuing to pose threat to Sri Lanka
§  LTTE’s extensive international network remains intact and their propaganda needs to be effectively countered.
§  Extremist elements within Tamil expat community part of this network
§  Their intent is to divide Sri Lanka
§  Strategies used include winning international opinion for separatist cause, increasing international pressure on Sri Lanka, undermining Government efforts for reconciliation and economic development, attempting to resume conflict by reorganizing local militant activities
§  These LTTE-linked groups influence foreign NGOs, foreign parliamentarians and even fund local groups masquerading as democratic
§  The LTTE international network comprises
a.    Tamil Coordinating Committee based in Norway led by Nediyawan
b.    Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam in US led by Rudrakumaran
c.    LTTE headquarter group in France led by Vinayagam
d.    Global Tamil Forum led by Father Emmanuel who coordinates all above groups.
§  Foreign Service and Foreign Ministry despite lack of resources need to counter by communicating the true picture globally.
Secretary Defence on Threats from Extremist Groups (including those involved in previous insurgencies)
§  Groups attempting to mobilize people to take up extreme left wing causes
§  Groups radicalizing students / the public and encouraging them to take to the streets in protest
§  Increase in communalism amongst ethnic groups – increased insularity of ethnic groups may lead to fragmentation of the Sri Lankan identity into ethno-religious lines
§  Some in the Tamil community who identify more with Tamil Nadu than with fellow Sri Lankans.
§  Some foreign groups encouraging Sri Lankan Muslims to identify themselves with global Muslim community distancing them from integrating with other communities
§  Muslim fundamentalism spreading all over the world and in Asia and concerns Sri Lanka’s Law Enforcement agencies and Security Forces.
§  Extremist groups have been in transit in Sri Lanka and may promote Muslim extremism in Sri Lanka
§  Consequence of increasing narrow-mindedness of minority ethnic groups is emergence of hardline groups within majority community which will lead to further tensions and a vicious cycle affecting overall unity.
Secretary Defence on Organized Crime
§  Rise of terrorism and insurrection required state to procure arms and ammunition some of which have fallen into criminal hands.
§  Rise of underworld engaged in organized crime – drugs, armed robberies, kidnappings for ransom, financial frauds, seizing land illegally are a handful of activities that need to be tackled.
Secretary Defence on Media Freedom
§   Legitimate media channels, newspapers, websites freely operate in Sri Lanka
§   Some illegal sources also engage in false propaganda to damage the country’s image internationally.
§   Negative image campaigning will impact on tourism, foreign investment and even trade
§   Media organizations (every citizen and political group) must exercise their democratic freedoms with responsibility – they should not engage in unlawful activity under the guise of exercising their freedoms.
Secretary Defence on India and Sri Lanka’s strategic geographical location in South Asia
§   Continued inter-linking domestic issues between Sri Lanka and India (India’s sensitivity to events in Sri Lanka due to influence of Tamil Nadu state on Tamil issues especially at times of elections)
§   Bilateral issues – increasing incidents of illegal fishing by Tamil Nadu fishermen on Sri Lankan waters
§   India is the most important and powerful country in South Asia, but Sri Lanka is a completely independent sovereign nation which India is aware of
§   Critical that both India and Sri Lanka retain a meaningful and close relationship despite issues arising between them
Secretary Defence on Sri Lanka’s relationship with China
§  China’s involvement in Sri Lanka is purely diplomatic and economic
§  China has been one of Sri Lanka’s foremost development partners contributing richly to key economic development projects.
§  Sri Lanka’s relationship with China should not be regarded as a threat by any other nation.
Secretary Defence on Regional Issues Sri Lanka faces due to Sri Lanka’s geo-strategic position
§  Asian region becoming increasingly important in global affairs
§  India and China increasing economic and military development bring Asian region into global focus
§  Western Governments may attempt to influence Sri Lanka to align to their interests in the Asian region
§  Power politics between nations will affect Sri Lanka’s relations with these nations.
Secretary Defence on Maritime Security
§   Sri Lanka does not have land borders
§   Sri Lanka does need to protect its maritime security and prevent transnational crimes – drugs, smuggling, arms smuggling and human trafficking, maritime assets within Exclusive Economic Zone, safeguarding Sea Lines of Communication against piracy.
Secretary Defence on National Economy
§   War suppressed economic potential and held back Sri Lanka’s growth
§   History reveals that majority of problems were fundamentally economic (insurrections of 1970s, 1980s even LTTE manipulated economic aspect along ethnic /racial lines)
§   Post-war needs to address unequal development / rural underdevelopment and uplift standard of living in rural areas to standards enjoyed in cities.
§   Establishing highways to connect distant cities – reduce travel time.
§   Rural masses must not feel marginalized or feel economic compulsion to move to cities (education, healthcare, meaningful employment without leaving their places of origin)
§   Need to promote tourism, foreign direct investment, industrial development, value addition in agriculture, service economy
§   Retain talented young people and encourage them to remain in Sri Lanka.
§   Keeping with our traditional way of living develop our agriculture, animal husbandry and seek self-sufficiency.
§   Adapt 5-hub strategy to develop Sri Lanka as a Knowledge Hub, Commercial Hub, Naval and Maritime Hub, Aviation Hub and Energy Hub.
§   Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport is a long term plan to derive economic potential to maximize on volume of ships that pass through the sea lines making the Hambantota region as an industrial and transhipment cargo hub.
Secretary Defence on Sri Lanka’s Future
§  Being able to navigate present issues (national security, geo-politics etc) will determine Sri Lanka’s destiny.
§  Looking ahead positively and confidently without focusing on issues inherited from the past
§  People need to develop mentality beyond that of a developing nation shedding Third World Mentality.
§  All Sri Lankans must accept challenge and move forward together into a shared future as one Sri Lankan nation.
Secretary Defence on Safeguarding Democracy
§  Handling subversive elements from using modern communication technology (internet, global news media, mobile phones etc) to attempting to disseminate wrong information and arouse people negatively.
Secretary Defence on future challenges:
1.    Preventing the re-emergence of terrorism
2.    Establishing effective methods to project Sri Lanka to the international community
3.    Suppressing the emergence of other extremist groups
4.    Preventing further ethnic divisions and communal violence
5.    Challenges of maritime security and border control
6.    Curtailing the growth of organised crime, and
7.    New challenges in safeguarding a just and wholesome democracy.
Secretary Defence on way forward:
§  Secretary Defence on a Government obligations:
o   Ensure national reconciliation is achieved
o   Move Sri Lanka into the future together as one nation without fragmentation into groups based on ethnicity, religion, caste or place of origin.
o   Ensure all Sri Lankans have same opportunities and unobstructed access to state services
o   Ensure Sri Lanka is a peaceful, stable and rapidly development democracy.
o   Holding elections after restoring normalcy to North and East provinces
o   Issues delayed due to terrorism must be attended to
o   Economic issues as a result of global economic conditions need to be solved gradually instead of using them as political slogans.
§  Secretary Defence on People’s obligations:
o   People must move forward as a nation – united by what we have in common.
o   People must not stay locked in a post-conflict mentality
o   People must remove from ‘Third-World Mentality’
o   People must understand freedoms guaranteed through democracy must be exercised with responsibility. Ex: right to public assembly – freedom to demonstrate on issues that they feel are important does not give freedom to engage in violent protest, incite violence or act in other undemocratic ways. Then they would have exploited and abused their democratic freedoms. When this happens other people with vested interests use this to turn the situation to their advantage and project a negative image of the country internationally as well as amongst the locals themselves.
§  Secretary Defence  on Politicians/political Party’s obligations:
o   
Political parties must promote the interests of the nation without focusing on one group
o   Political parties must bring all ethnicities and cultures together into one Sri Lankan identity so that the nation can progress.
o   Main political parties must stop politicizing divisive issues for petty political gain
A fine picture of Sri Lanka’s future was articulated in the key note address by the Secretary Defence covering the immediate post-war challenges, the achievements of the armed forces in their new role of capacity building in cooperation with civilians and society. It has heralded a distinctly unique partnership one that combines the value-added logistical capabilities and discipline of the armed forces with the new challenges that face a Sri Lanka journeying towards a future without terrorism and ushering a new chapter in uniting nations of the Asian continent for regional stability, economic growth and overall a shared future.

Shenali D Waduge

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Weliweriya Shooting, Loved ones Bandyism And The Presidential Program

Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Presidency, of course is the problem! We are all concerned about the day to day happenings in the country, not so much of the Deraniyagala killing, but mostly of the Weliweriya shooting at present. The latter has overtaken by the former. But we should not lose sight of the larger picture and the key structural issues behind our predicament, if we need to genuinely seek solutions to our problems. Only passing comments on structural issues, either way, might not be sufficient. What we are facing is a systemic crisis without any exaggeration.

The President has not come up with any apology or even a statement after the brutal Weliweriya shooting. After all he is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (not his brother!) in addition to being the Head of State and the Head of Government. It is unlikely that he would, except perhaps through his Secretary. That is the ‘immunity’ he enjoys under the Presidential Constitution. This is not to say that a statement or even an apology would ameliorate the situation.

‘Family bandyism’ of the Rajapaksas or MR’s split personality (smile and thuggery) might explain the specific nature of the regime, but not the generic character of the regime-system. Anyway, his personality has changed a lot after becoming the President and particularly after the end of the war. Perhaps it has lot to do with the happenings at the last stages of the war. There appears to be a serious deterioration in the ethical and moral premises of the regime and the personality.

The way the regime operates today is not so much different to the regimes operated under the presidential system previously, with some variations, except that the present situation is much worse than before. We are familiar with the way the situation of the ethnic pogrom against the Tamils was handled in July 1983 under JR Jayewardene regime. That propelled the beginning of the brutal war for two and a half decades. We are also familiar with the way the second insurrection was quelled in 1989/90 under the Premadasa regime not to speak of other atrocities. Of course the uprising had to be suppressed but not the killings of Wijeweera or others after taken into custody. The Matale grave yard is supposed to belong to that period. It is only recently that some security personnel of the former President CBK finally were convicted harassing and assaulting two prominent artists those days. Perhaps only sane President was DB Wijetunga for a brief period! But even he was insane in his utterances like denying any ethnic conflict in the country.

Are those just questions of personalities? I don’t think so. I would argue that the presidential system was primarily responsible of course along with the personalities involved. Parliamentary systems also could become degenerated and Prime Ministers also could act like authoritarian Presidents. Margaret Thatcher might be the best recent past example. But that is not a structural condition. It is also possible that ‘family bandyism’ exists even under a parliamentary system unless other measures are not taken and unless the political culture is changed. That is also our past experience before 1978.

Parliamentarianism and Presidentialism are not polar opposites. But there is a fundamental difference in terms of representative democracy and that matters most for accountability, transparency, responsibility and finally for democracy itself. We use representative democracy because direct democracy is not practical and also perhaps people are not interested. In a parliamentary democracy people elect a general assembly called Parliament for primarily legislative purposes and an executive emerges or selected within that which is again responsible for that Parliament. This is the best system.

The executive is crucial in the state structure, whether parliamentary or presidential, because it is the body which guides and directs the bureaucracy and the armed forces which can easily trample on people’s human rights and whose services (in the case of bureaucracy) are crucial in delivering or not delivering necessary services to the people including ‘clean water’ in the case of Weliweriya!

The judiciary could be structurally independent in both systems; however the tendency to trample on the judiciary is high (or almost certain in some countries) under the presidential system than in a parliamentary democracy. Sri Lanka is a clear example for both.

In a presidential system, there are two (confusing) electoral processes. One is to elect a Parliament primarily for legislative purposes. Then there is another process to elect a President for executive purposes directly by the people. Superficially, this may appear more democratic, but that is not the case. The distance between the people and the President is so vast and not punctuated by intermediary process. A President’s responsibility to Parliament is only nominal if at all. This is the dangerous aspect of a presidential system which can easily create authoritarianism or much worse as he/she controls the military and the bureaucracy. I am only outlining the barebones in this article.

In a parliamentary system, the executive functions are pinned down to extensive procedures and these procedures are effective unless there is something basically wrong in party politics. In a presidential system there may be some procedures (i.e. COPE in Sri Lanka) but those procedures may or may not be effective. Most Presidents might be laughing at them.

The main point is that there are inbuilt structural reasons for any presidential system to become authoritarian unless there are strong constitutional traditions in a country. This is the very reason why even the US presidential system was criticised by Woodrow Wilson although he didn’t make any attempt to change it! Presidential system in the US was an evolution, but when it was introduced in other countries the very purpose was to have a strong government or a strongly ruler disregarding the rule of law and human rights. The following was what JR Jayewardene said about democratic freedoms and rule of law when he argued for a presidential system in the country (Selected Speeches, 1944-1973, p. 91).

A democratic system of Government includes what are termed democratic freedoms, the freedom to vote, freedom of opposition, freedom of speech and writing, and the rule of law, among other freedoms. Do these freedoms alone satisfy the people? I do not think so.

Usually there is no denial on the part of anyone who believes or defends a presidential system that there would be a democratic deficit as a result of a presidential system. In the case of Sri Lanka, however, this deficit is colossal. The shooting at Weliweriya and the Presidential system are interlinked. As the popular saying goes, ‘there is no point in shouting that the snake is biting (kanavo, kanavo!),’ if you put the fellow inside your sarong.

There is another constitutional factor relevant to Weliweriya shooting. Who is the Member of Parliament for the Weliweriya area? What was he doing? No one can answer this question I believe. In the previous representative system, it belonged to the Gampaha seat and it was SD Bandaranaike who represented the people in the area in Parliament in 1977. Those days there was a close connection between the people and the parliamentary representative and in any local issue, the MP intervened or mediated. This has almost completely disappeared to the thin air under the present Presidential Constitution. I recollect during my young days in the Moratuwa electorate how close and how responsible the MPs behaved with the people. This is the same where I live now in Australia, the electorate called the Green Way. In Sri Lanka, this has changed to create an authoritarian system even MPs divorced from the people not to speak of the President.

When the presidential system was introduced to Sri Lanka it was mainly defended on the basis of an economic argument. I happened to interview President Jayewardene in April 1993 and he opined that it was also created to defend the country from possible separatism that time. He said that there was a call to ‘do a de Gaulle.’ But the experience has proved otherwise. The country became ripped apart after the introduction of the presidential system. One may argue whether this is a direct result or not. It may be true that the presidential system perhaps facilitated the defeating of the LTTE quickly, but at a particular cost to democracy. The saying goes that ‘when you fall into the pit you have to come out from the same opening.’

President Rajapaksa has gone beyond de Galle or Jayewardene. In fact he has virtually ‘done a Mugabe’ with the 18th Amendment. With the massive military and the bureaucracy under his beck and call he hopes to continue to be the ruler of this country like President Mugabe in Zimbabwe unless it is stopped through a broad and a strong opposition through democratic campaigning. What is important is to end the vicious cycle of violence and violations by terminating the presidential system by an authentic parliamentary system with a fair system of devolution of power.

Print Friendly
Follow @colombotelegrap

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Sri Lanka: Beware Of A Quasi-Military Rule!

Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The Rajapaksa regime increasingly appears to consist of twin forces within it, one civilian and the other military. The so-called UPFA government or the Cabinet is only a façade for the regime which is based mainly on the military and the bureaucracy. The UPFA even with the old left parties within it only have a decreasing influence on the civilian part of the regime. The Parliament with a feeble opposition appears to supply humour and entertainment to the cynical public these days. These are the culminating results of the presidential system and the recent subjugation of the independence of the judiciary as part of that same culmination. Just recollect how the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) behaved on the question of the impeachment of the Chief Justice. It was farcical and demeaning to the hilt.

The most alarming immediate development is the deployment of military troops in quelling a civilian protest in Weliweriya on 1 August without any justification or the backing of even emergency regulations. In a protest of villagers, asking for clean water, the military intervention has killed 1 civilian and injuring 15 others. The question has been rightly asked who gave the orders. There is no point in asking even the person responsible to resign because that will not happen in current Sri Lanka. A participant in the protest explained the brutal behaviour of the troops equating it to the LTTE attack on the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy in 1988, reminiscent still in the public mind.

The military intervention in civilian life is reported to be a daily occurrence in the Jaffna peninsula very much pervasive and brutal. As the civilians have been so much subdued without much room to engage in peaceful protests like the Weliweriya villagers there has been no much opportunity so far for the military to use its fire power at least openly. One occasion to the contrary was when the university students peacefully engaged in remembrance or heroes day celebrations in December 2012. The harassments and brutality were quite extensive.

What has to be realized in the current context is that the people in the North or in the South are facing the same common enemy and that is the emerging danger of a military or a quasi-military rule in the country destroying all norms of human rights and democracy.
These are developments particularly aftermath of the end of the war and hopefully there would still be possibilities of turning the situation around peacefully and resurrecting democracy with the international good will and even assistance. After all, Sri Lanka is a member of the international community and the United Nations with obligations on human rights, democracy and rule of law. No one should shy away of working towards international solidarity on the Sri Lankan question.

It was understandable when the military strategy dominated the civilian affairs prior to the end of the war in May 2009 and after the LTTE completely broke away from the peace process in July 2006. The country was fighting against a ruthless menace of terrorism. However, as a democratic country, even during the war there were certain international norms that the government and the military should have observed. If the declared ‘zero civilian casualty’ was a genuine proclamation, then after the war that should have been accounted for through independent and reliable investigations of the alleged and obvious deviations from the international humanitarian law. That was not done.

It is a known fact that during the period between 2006 and 2009, the military in the country became doubled in numbers and equipped with high-tech equipment and training. What was obviously neglected was the education or training on human rights and humanitarian law. After the war there was no effort to demobilize the military. Instead it appears that the ordinary soldiers are being politicized and used for other missions. Although in the past the military in Sri Lanka has been a professional army with high professional standards, it is obvious that these have deteriorated especially among the middle and the lower ranks thereafter.

If the government wanted to maintain a disciplined and a professional army after the war, the first thing should have been done to investigate the slighted allegation against any wrong doing during the war particularly between 2006 and 2009 and punish or discipline the perpetrators accordingly. That is the period that matters most for the discipline and the calibre of the military at present. It is also a well-known fact that although the President gave promises to the UN Secretary General on the subject of accountability in May 2009 that promise was not fulfilled for some reason and this reason can be identified as the influence of the military wing of the regime over the civilian leaders.

Weliweriya is not the first occasion that the defence establishment unleashed its strong arm tactics against the civilians in the South not to speak of the much concealed military oppression in the North. In February 2012, the STF was deployed against the protest of fisher folks in Chilaw and killed one, seriously injuring 8 others. The most alarming was the military deployment for the prison riot at Welikada in November 2012 killing 27 and seriously injuring 40 others. It was a gruesome operation violating all international norms on the treatment of prisoners.

There are arguments that the regime or its security establishment is intervening in this manner to maintain and establish law and order in the country. This is not at all a reliable argument. If that is the case, then at least the police should have been intervened in preventing over 75 well- orchestrated goon attacks on religious places of the Muslim and Christian communities in the country during the last three years. At least the perpetrators should have been punished. The newest attack was on 19 July in Mahiyangana. There are all indications that there is close association between the defence establishment and the Sinhala extremist forces that are unleashed against the religious minorities.

These are also the two sectors that have been agitating against the holding of the elections to the Northern Provincial Council. Although the civilian political wisdom has prevailed on the question of holding of the NPC elections for the time being it is not clear in what ways that the attempt would be scuttled by the military wing of the same regime in the future. The most bizarre phenomenon in the current situation in Sri Lanka is that both the civilian and the military wings of the regime are led by the same family! It is most unlikely to perceive a serious split within this family given its past and its kinship cohesiveness.

Therefore, while the regime and with it the ruling politics will oscillate between civilian and military directions from time to time, the general course until the regime is democratically changed would be more and more towards a quasi-military rule in the country.

Print Friendly
Follow @colombotelegrap