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  ‘They bombed my school’ – An eyewitness account of the Nagarkovil massacre

  ‘They bombed my school’ – An eyewitness account of the Nagarkovil massacre

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Article Author: Aran Mylvaganam-22 September 2020I was 11 years old. It was just after lunch on Friday the 22nd of September 1995. That’s when we heard a large aircraft circling our village. The Sri Lankan Air Force dropped the first bomb nearby the school.

I heard my friends screaming and running and then all of a sudden the whole place was chaotic. I can still see it.

When I ran out of the school, the first thing I did was hide in a massive tamarind tree. There were many other children under this tree. We were all wearing white uniform. My house is not far from the tree, it’s directly opposite, and my mum was calling our names – all the kids’ names – and so I ran to her. I joined her and two of my younger siblings and dad.

At this point we were surrounded by large smoke, followed by a bang. There were several bombs dropped over the school, tamarind tree and other parts of the village.

We ran away from the scene towards the Murugan temple where the shaken local priest took us into the mulasthanam – the interior of the temple.

Once the plane had left we returned to our house only to find my brother fighting for his life after being cut in half by a bomb shrapnel. My friend Gopi was hanging on the tamarind tree by his intestines. Three of my cousins were killed on the spot – one was just six years old. We picked her up in pieces.

I still hold horrible images of my schoolmates being killed that day. The tree, the school, the children, were all gone.

On this day Sri Lankan Government killed 39 people, mostly school-aged children.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was the President of Sri Lanka.

25 years on we maintain our rage and will continue to carry these memories to destroy Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and the genocidal state.

– Aran Mylvaganam.

A survivor of the Nagarkovil massacre and the current spokesperson of the Tamil Refugee Council.

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 FR Petition Filed Seeking Special Legal Rules & Guidelines On Exercise Of President’s Power Of Pardon 

 FR Petition Filed Seeking Special Legal Rules & Guidelines On Exercise Of President’s Power Of Pardon 

SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

A fundamental rights (FR) petition was filed at the Supreme Court (SC) seeking the formulation of special legal rules and guidelines to govern the exercise of the power of pardon by the Executive President and to ensure that it is exercised in a transparent and accountable manner, and following publicly disclosed, specified, objective criteria, while duly recognizing the rights of victims. 

The petitioners have prayed for the apex Court to direct the Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Legal Reforms, in consultation with the Commissioner General of Prisons, the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses (NAPVCW) and other stakeholders to formulate the said special legal rules and guidelines while also taking into consideration the views put forward in this regard by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka.

The action SCFR 228/2020 was filed on 21 July. The petitioners are Ruwan Laknath Jayakody, Rukshan Fernando and Kavindya Chris Thomas. Counsel Pulasthi Hewamanna will be appearing for the petitioners with Attorney-At-Law (AAL) Harini Jayawardhana, on the instructions of AAL Ishara Gunawardena.

The Attorney General (both in his capacity as the AG and on behalf of the President for acts committed by the latter in his official capacity), the Commissioner General of Prisons, the Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Legal Reforms, the Secretary to the President, and the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses, have been named as the respondents. 

The petitioners claim that the recent trend in the exercise of the power for the grant of pardon by the President under Article 34 of the Constitution, has been unreasonable, arbitrary, irrational, capricious and ultra vires, motivated by irrelevant considerations and in disregard of the relevant factors, and made for collateral purposes, contrary to the rule of law and in violation of the principles of natural justice. This is not to mention the absolute lack of transparency and accountability in these exercises.  

Thus, the petitioners contend that if special legal rules and guidelines are not formulated to govern the exercise of the power of pardon under Article 34, there is a real likelihood of an imminent infringement of their FR as members of the public, and also the violation of the rights of victims and the public in general, under Article 12(1) of the Constitution on the right to equality before the law and the equal protection of the law. 

In the petition, three instances of Presidential pardons being granted have been cited. These are namely the pardon of the General Secretary of the Bodu Bala Sena, Galagodaaththe Gnanasara who was convicted of contempt of Court and sentenced to rigourous imprisonment, and the pardon of the Royal Park murder convict who was sentenced to death, Don Shramantha Jude Anthony Jayamaha, both by the former President Maithripala Sirisena, and the pardon of the Mirusuvil massacre convict who was sentenced to death, Sunil Rathnayaka, by the incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

As per Article 34(1) of the Constitution, with regard to any convict, the President may grant a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions. In the case of the granting of pardons to those condemned to death, the President as per the proviso to Article 34(1) of the Constitution, has to obtain and send the trial Judge/s report/s to the AG for advice, which in turn must be relayed to the Minister of Justice who will in turn forward the report/s and the said advice along with his/her (Justice Minister’s) recommendations, back to the President, and due regard must be given by the President to such procedural safeguards. Also, Section 3(q) of the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015 as Amended, holds that the victim of a crime shall have the right and entitlement “in the event of any person in authority considering the grant of a pardon or remission of sentence imposed on any person convicted of having committed an offence, to receive notice thereof and submit through the Authority (the National Authority for the Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses) to the person granting such pardon or remission, the manner in which the offence committed had impacted on his/her life including his/her body, state of mind, employment, profession or occupation, income, quality of life, property and any other aspects concerning his/her life.

In the grant of the pardon to Gnanasara, the petitioners note that the independence of the Judiciary has been undermined and that the due process concerning the protection of the victims of his crimes has not been followed, and that this pardon appears to have been made for extraneous purposes, thus impinging on the rule of law. 

In the grant of the pardon to Jayamaha, the petitioners claim that it is ultra vires the powers of the President and that extraneous, undisclosed considerations and irrelevant factors had been considered in the grant of this pardon, and furthermore that the mandated Constitutional process in relation to the pardoning of a death row convict has not been followed. Also, in this case, the requirement under the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015 to serve notice to the victim’s family of the consideration of the grant of a pardon and to provide an opportunity to make a representation concerning such, has not been followed. Moreover, the selection of Jayamaha from over 1,000 convicts on death row awaiting the death sentence and who have been languishing in prisons for lengthy periods has been done in the absence of any proper justification. 

In the grant of the pardon to Rathnayaka, the petitioners claim that the crimes for which he was convicted constituted war crimes under international law. Also, the petitioners note that this pardon had prejudiced the rights of the victims and their family members as the statutory requirement under the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015 to serve notice to the victim’s family of the consideration of the grant of a pardon and to provide an opportunity to make a representation concerning such, has not been duly complied with. Incidentally, Right to Information (RTI) requests made under the Right to Information Act, No. 12 of 2016 as Amended, by the first and second petitioners from the Presidential Secretariat and the Ministry of Justice, seeking the report/s of the trial Judge/s, the advice of the AG and the recommendations of the Minister of Justice, received no response from the Presidential Secretariat other than an acknowledgement of receipt. As it does not appear that consideration has been given to the severity of the crime or the rights of the victims, the petitioners thus note that there were no reasonable grounds warranting this pardon. 

The petitioners state that the failure to follow such Statutory requirements cause grave prejudice to the rights and entitlements of victims, and their dignity, whereas, as per Section 3(a) of the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crime and Witnesses Act, No. 4 of 2015, victims are to be treated with equality, fairness and with respect to their dignity and privacy.

The petitioners believe that the power of pardon is necessary in that it provides for the possibility of rectifying miscarriages of justice and recognizing mitigating circumstances. However, the petitioners believe that the purposes of incarceration such as the rehabilitation of a convict, the suitability for re-integration of a convict and the need to prevent any further injustice or negative consequences to the victims and witnesses, must be given due weight in granting pardons by the Executive President. 

The power of pardon under Article 34 of the Constitution is also subject to the FR jurisdiction and therefore must be exercised in trust for the people, and for the public good. The President has no unlimited power and his powers are circumscribed by the Constitution itself. It must be noted that the power of pardon is a special and unique one, which is vested with an individual who has the ability to weigh considerations which are not limited by the bounds of the black letter law and therefore, the exercise of such power involves considerations of kindness, mercy, forgiveness and absolution together with considerations of the good of the public as a whole. Additionally, the exercise of the power of pardon by nature involves intervention in the work of the Judicial branch, the Executive branch and the Legislative branch of Government. 

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  Tamil MP commemorates Manmunai massacre amidst threats

  Tamil MP commemorates Manmunai massacre amidst threats

22 September 2020Threats posed by Sri Lanka’s intelligence forces prevented the remembrance of the Manmunai massacre which took place on September 21, 1990, in which 18 Tamil civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan Army and Muslim Home Guards in Puthukudiyiruppu in Manmunai North, Batticaloa.

TNA MP P Ariyanethiran held an individual vigil at the monument to the victims in Manmunai, on the thirtieth anniversary of the massacre. While the massacre is usually commemorated by locals and families of the victims, the threats made by intelligence personnel prevented an event from taking place.

This month, several attempts to commemorate the anniversary of Lt Col Thileepan’s fast unto death were banned by Sri Lankan security forces. Last week, M K  Shivajilingam, a former member of the Northern Provincial Council, was arrested as he attempted pay tribute to Thileepan in Nallur.

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SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE TWENTIETH AMENDMENT BILL – ASANGA WELIKALA

SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE TWENTIETH AMENDMENT BILL – ASANGA WELIKALA

22/09/2020

As the Twentieth Amendment Bill is brought before Parliament – and challenged in the Supreme Court – there are two critical sets of questions we need to seriously consider. These are, firstly, how will the Bill once passed change the nature of Sri Lanka’s constitutional democracy, and secondly, does the government have a mandate to make these changes? There reflections build upon the preliminary assessment of the Bill I have offered elsewhere. A comprehensive comparison of the current provisions of the Constitution with those of the Bill is found here.

HOW WILL THE TWENTIETH AMENDMENT CHANGE CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY?

The changes proposed in the Bill will change the character and quality of Sri Lankan constitutional democracy for the worse, possibly even to the point of destruction. In order to sustain this assertion, we need to start with a key conceptual point. A constitutional democracy is the type of government that balances two central competing ideas: ‘consent’ and ‘constraints’. Consent refers to the idea of popular sovereignty; constraints refer to the idea of government limited by laws of general application.

States based on the concept of popular sovereignty hold that governments that are periodically elected to serve the public, and the more permanent constitutional arrangements through which government itself is established, must be founded on the freely expressed consent of the majority of the population. In order for a democracy to be regarded as a constitutional democracy, this principle of majoritarian rule must be balanced by the constraints that are imposed by the constitution and the rule of law. It is only when both these features are present that we can call a country a constitutional democracy.

In the written constitutions of modern constitutional democracies, these two fundamental principles are given effect through a number of common devices. One is the separation of powers between the three major branches of the state. Another is the declaration and protection of core fundamental rights that ordinary laws, as expressions of a temporary majoritarian will, cannot normally override. The third – and one of the least understood factors in Sri Lankan debates – is that consent and constraints underpin the design of executives in systems of government; differently in presidential or parliamentary democracies, but with the same underlying goals in mind. These establish internal checks on executive power over and beyond the tripartite separation through which the executive is held accountable to the legislature and the judiciary.

Thus, for example, in the logic of our system understood in the best possible light, the popularly elected President must exercise his executive powers together with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, with an independent and professional public service, with the Constitutional Council, and with the independent commissions. These constraints internal to the executive must be present for any presidential system to remain a constitutional democracy. If they are absent, or are to be dismantled as the Twentieth Amendment Bill proposes, the less democratic that system will be.

THE CENTRAL PROBLEM WITH THE TWENTIETH AMENDMENT

The central problem with the Twentieth Amendment is that it attacks both cardinal principles of constitutional democracy. By removing virtually every established constitutional limit on the powers of the executive presidency, it attacks the idea of constraints. The system of unlimited rule by one person it will introduce is not an expression of popular sovereignty, but the cession or alienation of sovereignty from the people to the will of one person.

It is by articulating this conceptual basis of what is required by constitutional democracy that we can assess and understand the potential effects of the Twentieth Amendment Bill. How the Bill adversely impacts on constitutional democracy, and instead promotes unlimited and arbitrary government, can be demonstrated across four facets of institutional relations in the new system of government it proposes to establish.

THE POLITICAL EXECUTIVE

The political executive will no longer be an institution of shared power between the President, and the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Prime Minister and Cabinet will become mere servants of the President, not collegial members of the senior political executive of the country. The restriction on the President holding ministerial portfolios will be removed. The restriction on the number of Cabinet and non-cabinet ministers will also be removed. The cumulative effect of all these changes will be to promote ministerial servility to the President, and reinforce the will of one person over the whole political executive. The current President has already shown a preference for ruling through legally questionable ad hoc bodies such as presidential task forces, appointed without any requirement of transparency and consultation. The weakening of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet will buttress this type of authoritarian governing practice.

Key state officials and independent commissions will no longer have the security of appointment by an independent process overseen by the multiparty Constitutional Council. The Parliamentary Council, which is to be re-established in its place, cannot constraint the President because its observations on appointments are not binding. Officials in the public service, in the administration of justice, and in the electoral, human rights, and public financial accountability institutions, will have every incentive to serve the dictates of the President rather than the public interest.

The constraint that Parliament cannot be unilaterally dissolved by the President for four and a half years of its five-year term is removed. The President will be able to dissolve Parliament, entirely at his own discretion, after the first year of its term. By giving such an unconstrained power to the President, any Parliament that thwarts the will of the President can be brought to heel by the threat of dissolution. Elections are an expensive business and few MPs will relish the prospect of early elections; the incentive then will be to conform with the wishes of the President. In this way, the most democratically representative of the central institutions of the Sri Lankan state will be suborned to the will of one person.

There is a second way that Parliament’s constitutional role in holding the executive to account can be undermined in the new framework. The removal of the cap on the number of ministers permits the President to appoint large numbers of MPs to ministerial positions. In this way the President can certainly buy the loyalty of MPs within his coalition, and it may even be a way to co-opt opposition MPs. In a political culture in which patronage distribution in the form of ministerial appointments is already a serious problem, this change will again remove any incentive MPs have to fulfil their constitutional role and instead create a corrupt marketplace for the exchange of patronage and the evisceration of dissent.

PRESIDENT IS INTENDED TO BE ABOVE THE LAW

The Twentieth Amendment Bill removes the limited but important principle that the President’s official actions can be challenged by recourse to the fundamental rights jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. This is a limited but proportionate and effective mechanism of ensuring the legal accountability of the President. Removing this mechanism is a clear signification that the post-Twentieth Amendment President is intended to be above the law.

The most senior judges of the country – the judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal – will be appointed by the President subject only to the non-binding observations of the Parliamentary Council. In effect, this does not serve as any meaningful constraint on the presidential power of appointment, and thus invites the politicisation of the senior judiciary. The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) supervises the minor judiciary and consists of the Chief Justice as the chair and any two other Supreme Court judges appointed by the President. This removes the current condition that the other two members of the JSC must be the two most senior judges, or the senior judge and next senior judge with experience in the courts of first instance. This is again a direct invitation for the President to exercise favouritism. Taken together, these two changes will severely undermine the principle of judicial independence, the most fundamental of all constraining principles in a constitutional democracy.

UNTRAMMELLED POWER IN THE EXECUTIVE PRESIDENT

The Twentieth Amendment framework described above, by comprehensively weakening power-sharing, checks and balances, and accountability within the executive, between the executive and the legislature, and between the executive and the judiciary, will establish a system of government that will formally concentrate untrammelled power in the executive President. Such a formal system will give rise to a proliferation of informal practices that will further worsen the situation. By removing the most basic forms of accountability constraints and encouraging impunity, it is a system of government that will produce authoritarianism, corruption, exclusion, lawlessness, and a violently repressive state. By the time these  consequences start being felt in society at large, the entire institutional framework of constitutional democracy will have been debilitated. They will not therefore be able to perform the role of channelling and managing social discontent. When there are no institutional means for this purpose, social discontent will turn into political conflict. Faced with such challenges to its authority, in both Sri Lankan history and experience elsewhere, there is only one known way an authoritarian presidential state reacts: with the disproportionate use of state violence. When the regulatory institutions of constitutional democracy are not there for the exercise of the state’s monopoly of legitimate violence, there will be nothing to differentiate between the use of authorised coercion to enforce public order (which is legitimate) and state terrorism (which is not). This will then create more and more political conflict, paradoxically rendering a constitutional framework justified on grounds of order and discipline into one of unmanageable instability and volatility.

The relation between society and the authoritarian presidential state envisaged by the Twentieth Amendment will debilitate constitutional democracy in another highly significant way, and that is by destroying what little remains of the unstated rules of civility, restraint, proportion, tolerance, and accommodation in Sri Lankan political culture. The concentration of the power of the whole state in one person creates the conditions for the moral debasement of not only that person and his supporters, but also society as a whole. All non-state institutions that must enjoy some autonomous existence from the state for the functioning of constitutional democracy – political parties, the media, universities, the private sector, the clergy – all become not only excessively politicised, but politicised around the pleasure of one person.

The public orthodoxy of obsequious conformism that this will create signifies not merely the loss of human dignity, which under such a system, many if not all of these institutions will more or less happily trade in for the corrupt benefits of the system, at least in the short term. The more insidious effect of this social transformation will be that we may collectively forget how to be the citizens of a constitutional democracy, making the task of re-democratisation even more of a challenge when the inevitable collapse of the post-Twentieth Amendment Constitution will come under the unwieldy weight of its top-heavy authoritarianism. Previously we have self-corrected bouts of authoritarianism in Sri Lanka because the essential constitutional and non-state institutions have been there, battered but serviceable, to serve smooth transitions back to relative democracy. The danger posed by the Twentieth Amendment is that it has the serious potential to obliterate this institutional resilience and social capital necessary for democratic self-correction. This constitutional misadventure will thus create not merely a crisis of state, but in doing so, rob us of the limited cultural resources we have to sort out the mess its architects will leave behind.

IS THE POPULAR MANDATE A CONSENT TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY?

For some, this will not be a question at all, or one that is easy to answer. In both the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2019 and 2020, the SLPP won decisive victories with significant majorities in both vote share and seats. While issues other than constitutional change influenced the outcome of these elections, that the SLPP planned to roll back the Nineteenth Amendment was explicitly known well before it obtained power. There are also other reasons giving credence to the view that the public rejected not merely the Yahapalanaya dispensation but also its main achievement, the Nineteenth Amendment. Almost from the day it was elected in January 2015, the Yahapalanaya government demonstrated its inability to rise to the task of delivering on the remarkable mandate for democratisation it had won. The bond scam allegations, the constitutional coup crisis, and Easter Sunday wrecked its credibility on anti-corruption, good governance, and national security competence. Under difficult conditions, its economic delivery was inadequate, and its inability to manage or communicate anything ensured it received no credit even for the reforms it did enact, even though again it failed to deliver a new constitution. All of this in turn, it is possible to argue, was connected to the hydra-headed design of the executive under the Nineteenth Amendment. In all these ways, a plausible argument can be made that a rejection of some sort of the Nineteenth Amendment does reflect the majority view in the electorate at present.

Nevertheless, if we go back to the conceptual framework of constitutional democracy set out at the beginning of this discussion, and use that as the basis to assess the way in which the government has interpreted its mandate, we find many significant reasons for pause. If we accept that framework, and we further accept that the people may have voted to remove some of the constraints on the executive presidency in the interests of strong government, we nevertheless have to also accept that it is practically inconceivable that they would have voted to deprive themselves of their sovereignty. To put it in less abstract terms, even if in broad terms it is accepted that there was a rejection of the Nineteenth Amendment because of the electoral toxicity of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo, what precisely in that framework was rejected?

In proposing to do away with it, how did the drafters of the Twentieth Amendment Bill decide that they have a mandate do all the things described above, but do not have a mandate to remove the two-term limit on presidential office, the reduction of presidential and parliamentary terms from six to five years, and the fundamental right to information? Even if the voters decided that the structure of power-sharing between the President and Prime Minister under the Nineteenth Amendment made for an inefficient system of government for Sri Lanka, is it conceivable that they voted to politicise the judiciary and police, to undermine the independent commissions, to remove the cap on the number of ministries, to weaken the public audit, and generally to do things that would increase the scope for corruption and bad governance?

Is it possible that, if the Twentieth Amendment Bill had been subject to public debate before either of the elections won by the SLPP, the people would have decided to remove so many of the constraints on government in such ways as to effectively surrender their sovereignty and their constitution to the goodwill and genius of one man’s rule? There are no doubt sections of the electorate to whom this may not present a problem. And Sri Lankans are an emotional people who like to register their political preferences in dramatic ways. In 2019 and 2020, they wanted to deliver a deserved kick to Yahapalanaya; just as much as they did to their most impassionedly loved President of recent times in January 2015.

But, in the final analysis, there must surely be significant doubt cast upon the proposition that a rights-bearing population that is accustomed to an eighty-year old tradition of electoral democracy would, as a whole, consent to the destruction of their constitutional democracy in the ways contemplated by the Twentieth Amendment Bill.

(Courtesy of Groundviews)

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Establishing private sector export houses to support SMEs to secure overseas markets

Establishing private sector export houses to support SMEs to secure overseas markets

Making products or services export ready and having access to international markets are the main deterrents for SMEs to become exporters or indirect exporters. Export houses therefore can play a dynamic role to fill these gaps – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara

Wednesday, 23 September 2020
Sri Lankan SMEs achieve approximately 5% of national exports. In comparison, Indian SME exporters make a contribution of approximately 40% of national exports. In more developed countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia too, approximately 20-25% of the SMEs are either direct or indirect exporters.

This article outlines:

(a) The reasons why Sri Lankan SMEs have been less successful with compared to the SMEs in other exporting countries and areas of improvements that are required.

(b) Role of the proposed concept of export houses can play to boost the Sri Lankan SME exports.

(c) Two strategies proposed to be considered by the Minister.

Areas that require improvement for the SMEs to be successful in exports 

  • Practise sound export management principles
  • Create a competitive, market-oriented strategy
  • Effectively market and brand products
  • Build reliable supply networks
  • Design, produce and maintain consistency in quality products and services adapted to markets
  • Inadequate collateral, banks do not consider the project idea viability to lend at competitive borrowing rates
  • Embrace information and communication technologies, invest in research and development, and acquire appropriate technologies

Role of export houses

Making products or services export ready and having access to international markets are the main deterrents for SMEs to become exporters or indirect exporters. Export houses therefore can play a dynamic role to fill these gaps by undertaking the following activities:

  • To act as an intermediary for SMEs or to play the role of a buyer/exporter 
  • Function as a coordinator between the cultivators, manufacturers, service providers, indirect exporters and overseas buyers 
  • Provide storage facilities, cold rooms, bulk transport vehicles/facilities 
  • Improve SMEs understanding of the export process and international markets
  • Spot suitable market opportunities, potential and trends
  • Design cohesive marketing strategies based on the unique strengths of their products adapted to target markets
  • Brand, promote and prepare for sales of their products
  • Meet with potential buyers , participating at exhibitions, B2B meetings and creating the way to transact business
  • Optimise supply chains and logistics;
  • Improve value addition
  • Are aided in fulfilling the requirements for appropriate quality standards and related certifications
  • Decide on suitable packaging solutions
  • Deploy information and communication technology and e-solutions to improve overall performance
  • Overall linkages in logistics, with shipping and forwarding companies

How Government can encourage a two-pronged strategy

Main strategy

By encouraging private sector entrepreneurs to set up export houses (companies) by offering the following facilities:

  • Grant concessionary loans to potential investors that are similar to what has been offered to SMEs with long grace periods to set up export houses.
  • Providing credit guarantees to borrow to install facilities such as regional offices, cold rooms, warehouses, purchase transport vehicles, reefer/cold trucks and localised collection centres.
  • By providing underutilised Government-owned building facilities in outstations, on free of rent basis or by charging nominal rentals. These facilities to be located in areas where agriculture, fisheries industry and other export manufacturing and services are active.
  • Grant tax holidays for periods over five years as securing export markets, product adaptations and eventual reaching exports volumes to become sustainable take a long period. In some countries such as Japan it takes about two years to enter markets and conclude sales.
  • Continuously support the participation through EDB concessions at overseas exhibitions and attending B2B meetings for at least for three consecutive years

Alternate strategy

The ministry in charge of the SME sector to set up a SME Exporter Support and Development Centre parallel to the National Small Industries Corporation of India (NSIC) that provides the following services to SMEs in India around the globe, every year.

  • Exhibition/trade fairs and buyer seller meets: The products of the small scale sector are displayed in specified trade fairs/exhibitions free of charge. Inquiries, specifications and samples received directly or through its specified indenting agents are passed on to the concerned small scale units for development and final offer. NSIC assists units to do costing and pricing for international markets and also assists them by providing technical information.
  • Absorption of marketing overheads and export promotion: NSIC also assists the small scale sector by providing assistance in negotiations with the overseas buyers by sending samples and for subsequent correspondence for procuring export orders at its cost.
  • Raw material assistance program: The export orders received by the corporation are passed over to the concerned associate units for shipment. For such orders NSIC also provides raw material assistance at concessional rates of interest as notified by Reserve Bank of India within specified norms and conditions of the corporation.
  • Assistance under leasing for technology upgradation: Small scale units which require technology upgradation for executing export orders are considered on priority by NSIC for providing necessary machines, etc. under its leasing scheme.
  • Preshipment advances: Also provides up to 80% of the invoice value on proof of despatch, as pre shipment advance at Reserve Bank of India notified rate of interest.
  • Assistance for shipping: Assists small scale units in making shipments and assists them to prepare all related/shipping documents.
  • Export incentives: All export benefits are claimed and passed onto the export units without any deduction or else NSIC gives the option to units claim the benefits themselves.
  • Export documentation: All export documentation with respect to shipping, claiming incentives, negotiations of documents and post shipment activities are done entirely by NSIC and the unit need not register itself with other export related agencies.
  • Assistance for project export: Also exports small industrial projects with emphasis on relevant technology to developing countries. Project formulation is carried out in-house by NSIC and plant machinery is supplied from quality manufacturers after due inspection.
  • To fast-track this objective, in view of the current role of the Export Development Board, and to avoid conflicts and overlapping of responsibilities, the main strategy will prove to be more effective as it will be a private sector, profit-driven initiative.

(The writer is a Member – CMA Sri Lanka COVID-19 SME Development Committee and Managing Partner, Strategic Management Alliance.)

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Viewing 20A through governance prisms

Viewing 20A through governance prisms

By Austin Fernando-September 23, 2020
(Former Secretary to the President)

Twentieth Amendment (20A) is reviewed by commentators from political, legal, journalistic, and religious angles. Not belonging to any such group, I do not venture to cover the multitude of discussions on 20A. My focus is to view 20A to understand how it affects governance and causes political contradictions.

In democratic good governance, there are essential elements, such as the rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensual oriented action, equity and inclusivity, accountability, and participation. Irrespectively, it is surprising to observe public administrators/their associations (except Auditors) in stoic silence on the 20A, though they will implement and experience fallouts of the 20A.

Ministerial Review Committee

The 20A created contradictory opinions even among the government ranks. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Committee of Ministers to review 20A. When this Committee Report was handed over, the public expected a review by the Cabinet. But it did not happen. Responsiveness, inclusivity, and participation have been lost even before 20A is passed, with a presidential directive to discuss the revisions of the Ministerial Committee at the Committee Stage. Such directives are common in Executive Presidency though one may question the applicability of Article 42(2) – “collective responsibility.” Anyway, the revisions will hence lack prior legal or public scrutiny.

Drafting crucial law

Probably, the Minister of Justice, who coordinated abolishing 19A, would have ordered the drafters to revert to 18A. Due to the critical nature, the Legal Draftsman would have officially conveyed the Cabinet of the implications of the amendments. It would have been opportune if that had happened, and their views shared, least as an Annex to the Cabinet Memorandum, especially for the Cabinet to observe the weaknesses/adversities of 20A, independently. Let me view 20A to observe the effects on good governance in this scenario.

Post-conflict issues and President’s duty

One sensitive amendment is the deletion of Article 33(1)(b) “Promote national reconciliation and integration.” It entered the 19A from post-conflict demands and tagged as a presidential ‘duty.’ Not much to exceptionally disturb the President through this ‘duty’ happened during the last five years. Hence, this deletion wrongly orchestrates negativism that he may be averse to ‘reconciliation and integration.’ It is unfair by him and hence deserves review.

Constitutional Council vs Parliamentary Council

Chapter VIIA – The Executive, matters to good governance. The first important issue is the erasure of the Constitutional Council (CC) and replacement by the Parliamentary Council (PC). The membership of the PC is political, and the proposed processes in application are subjected to presidential whim, especially by the power to supersede PC’s observations. These dilute PC’s independence and restricts inclusive participation.

Audit and Procurement Commissions

Under the 19A, nine Commissions were established out of which 20A has deleted the Audit Services Commission and National Procurement Commission (NPC). Erasing the Audit Services Commission does not reflect well for good governance.

Worst is to selectively leave-out audit of the Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office by constitutional fiat [Article 154(1)- 20A]. The primary objective of auditing is to examine the accuracy of accounts and express opinions on financial statements. The secondary objective is to detect and prevent frauds, misuses, misappropriations, etc.

Preventing auditing cheekily endorses the reluctance to be transparent and accountable; and could motivate officers to deliberately committing errors, frauds, and corruption. More important is the impact on parliamentary control of state finances (Article 148). The President, PM, and their officials, immune to parliamentary financial control, predict an accountability disaster. This also ridicules the government’s “One Country, One Law” rhetoric because other Ministers and officials have no such immunity.

In the private sector, the shareholders decide who the Auditors are, to audit the Board, Chief Executive (CEO), and all transactions. The 20A wants everyone to be audited, but not Sri Lanka’s CEO and his deputy. If 20A equivalent had happened in the private sector, shareholders would have revolted, but 20A is Amurtha (elixir) for government supporters.

Article 156C directs the National Procurement Commission (NPC) to formulate fair, transparent, competitive, and cost-effective procedures and guidelines for government procurements. These are extremely positive objectives. It is surprising for 20A to push them aside because we hear of wrongdoings, worth millions of rupees, happening even while the 19A is operative, as alleged by government spokespersons. What can we predict without an NPC? If the NPC is slow performing, corrections should be followed, rather than to abolish it.

“Independent Commissions”

According to the 19A, members of the Commissions were appointed by the President. (Article 41B and 41C). There had been very few disagreements on appointments between the CC and the Executive, which had been sorted out proving the ability to cohabit.

Special concerns on the CC are projected regarding higher judicial appointments. We sometimes hear the complaint of the President’s inability to get judges appointed at will. These are probably related to the CC’s unanimous rejections of two judicial appointment recommendations. Nevertheless, these decisions were made with the participation of the representatives of the then Opposition and civil society. Thus, 20A will ignore the latter arrangements negating an existing democratic process. Under 20A, a President’s recommendations, though wrong, may stay on, irrespective of negative observations of the PC. Article 41C blocked this happening, post-19A. Therefore, are the 20A provisions democratic and hail good governance?

Proposed Article 111D permits the President to appoint two members of his wish to the Judicial Services Commission. When such open-ended appointments are possible it gives hope to the judiciary that they could manipulate their personal gains.

Therefore, reviewing these appointments by the CC will do justice to the judiciary.

Though the incumbent President, with a strong Parliament, and personality, may not sometimes succumb to such influencing, but a weaker President certainly will, to sustain power. Constitutions must be drafted with appropriate controls applicable to any President, and not person-centric to the incumbent. This mistake has been repeated by us and should end.

Even the Public Service Commission (PSC) is appointed by the President after receiving PC observations. Again, overruling these observations, like in other instances, could make the PSC also toothless.

The effects will be observed in the short, medium, and long terms in recruitment, promotion, discipline, transfers, etc. The future of public administration may effectively face dismal problems.

We hear from the Minister of Justice of the constraints to appointment an IGP. He castigated the “purpose” or “use” of a National Police Commission (NPC) based on this. But such an appointment is prohibited by Article 155G. The increased numbers of criminal incidents were referred to prove the ineffectiveness of the NPoC. He ignored that the NPoC does not have the power to fight criminality. (Article 155G)

Removal of Officers (Procedure) Act No. 5 of 2002 clearly states that IGP’s removal is possible only under specified circumstances, such as insolvency, ill health, ceasing to be a citizen, etc. None of these sins were proved and the incumbent government retired him with all attached perks. Factually, there was no vacancy until he formally retired to appoint a new IGP. But when such irresponsible criticisms happen others hang on to such arguments. Therefore, they also pray for NPoC’s demise!

Dual citizenry

By deleting Article 91 (d) (xiii), 20A permits dual citizen’s appointment as parliamentarians. The need to use this amendment will be at the next general election, after five years. But the government is in a mighty hurry. Urgent implementation will be required if the National List is to be tampered for special political gain. Some ministers stated that 19A – 91(d)(xii) should be repealed because it was incorporated by person-centric lawmaking and thus wrong. The irony is that the 19A deletion also appears to accommodate person-centricity.

The keen advocates of this amendment are those who argued against Singapore-rooted Arjuna Mahendran. They forget that the difficulties with Mahendran would arise with dual citizen politicians sinning after 20A. Politicians sin whichever the party they belong!

When a clerk, a Grama Sevaka, IGP or a Secretary must be a citizen, but not parliamentarians, Ministers, PMs, or Presidents, it is a joke. Since the President has shown how to solve the dual citizenship problem, individually, why mess with the Constitution without following the Leader?

Another important reason is that this amendment will apply to any other dual citizens while being members of international terror groups (e.g. ISIS) or Tiger remnants. This situation is worsened by repealing the administering of the Official Oath (Article 53) in Schedule 7 of the Constitution. We are assured that the President will not do underhand deals with LTTE remnants or the Islamic terror groups. But this amendment affecting security governance could be used by another President or Minister, supported by extremists, by being inactive, permitting “support, espouse, promote, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate state.”

This freedom to engage in separatist agendas may motivate helpful activities for separatism and it will be the base for another conflict that has to be fought. Such motivators are mentioned of previous regimes and cannot it repeat with the current and future regimes? This country has suffered enough and hence this amendment needs erasure or at least modifying.

Election promises and constitutional amendments

That the incumbent President received nearly seven million votes at the presidential election and a 2/3 majority at the general election is used to validate the 20A. But were the electors told that these questionable changes (e. g. abolition of dual citizenship, Audit and Procurement Commissions, Article 53, immunity, and castrating the independence of the CC/Commissions, etc.) would follow? No!

We must also remember that these amendments cannot be repealed conveniently. A President in power with a lean margin or performing with a weak parliamentary alliance can use these amendments to the detriment of democratic governance/country, even militarily. Canvassers may emerge inviting political leaders to be autocrats using some of these amended powers. In such circumstances, what is the guarantee that an Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe will not emerge from among our politicians?

President must be the Minister of Defence

The 20A corrects a prohibition in the 19A. The incumbent President, while possessing the power to declare war and peace and appoint the three Services Chiefs, is disabled to be the Minister of Defence because he is not a parliamentarian. I reason to differ from 19A, without being person-centric on the incumbent President’s professional suitability to be the Minister of Defence.

To wit, Article 4 (b) of our Constitution stipulates that the “executive power of the people, including the defence of Sri Lanka,” must be exercised by the President. Only “defence” is specially chosen here, not Agriculture, industry, etc. Under Article 33A, (which will be deleted by 20A, included in Article 42), the President is accountable for “his powers” to the Parliament on laws applicable to public security. Public security always combines with defence.

At present, there is no Minister of Defence and there is a Secretary Defence. According to Article 52(1): “There shall be a Secretary for every Ministry of a Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers.” By Article 52(2) the Secretary shall act “subject to the directions and control of his Minister…’’ It is the Cabinet Minister of Defence and not the State Minister. This status is thus challengeable legally.

When these situations are bagged together, the Ministry of Defence/relevant institutions should come under the President. However, 20A permits him to hold even any other Ministry [reintroduced Article 44(2)] and sadly this “residual power” deviates from democratic governance elements.

The 20A has revisited the issue. Taking into consideration the above-mentioned reasons only the Ministry of Defence should be handled by the President.

President the Messiah

There is a school of thought that considers the incumbent President as the Messiah who has proven prowess to accelerate action and therefore wants to “strengthen his hands,” to bring in political stability and economic revival. The successful manner the President managed the COVID-19 issues showed that for him the 19A was not a hindrance to perform efficiently and effectively.

However, considering the challenges ahead, the President requiring concentrated power is not surprising. Evening TV news everyday shows that he is attempting it. Concurrently, it is a fact that pre-2015 when Presidents had these executive powers there was an ongoing 25-year conflict. Equal development outputs were not observed during the tenures of some Presidents. Exceptional performances were based on individualistic strengths. Hence, to tag the Executive Presidency as a panacea for stability and development is a misnomer.

Emerging political contradictions

There seem to be six major political contradictions that affect political governance.

One is how the incumbent PM would bear the amendments reducing his powers substantially. Tisaranee Gunasekara has explained this, as quoted below. Agreement or not is your choice.

“Rendering the post of PM powerless is a measure of protection, in case the family is compelled by circumstances to bestow the premiership on an outsider, as a stop-gap measure. If the 20th Amendment becomes law, such a premier will be a mere cipher and will not have the power or the authority to challenge Rajapaksa primacy in any serious sense. His role will be to warm that seat until the next Rajapaksa is ready to step in.”

If true, brilliant manoeuvrering!

The second contradiction is the stance of the United National Party and break away Samagi Janabalavegaya. For them to oppose the 20A is a cautious ride. It is because the 20A basics evolved from their original Jayewardene Constitution, tinkered with by others later.

The third political contradiction is from the politicians who now venerate 20A – the by-product of the Jayewardene Constitution – the “Bahubootha vyavasthaava” (Mayhem Constitution)

The fourth extremely embarrassing political contradiction is for President Sirisena to vote for 20A, having praised 19A as the apex of democratic governance. He was the major force behind its approval in 2015. He may vote for the 20A, but his conscience will bleed until his last breath.

The fifth contradiction will arise from the expectations of the Tamil political parties who will see 20A to be the majoritarian political steamroller.

The last contradiction emerges with the speculation that the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress may support the 20A, as they did in 2010, and the sufferings Muslims experienced. Maybe, for the SLMC governance is reborn!

A historical opportunity has been given to consider solutions for the contradictions through constitutional amendments with a 2/3 majority in the Parliament. The country wishes the government will give priority to the country’s needs over personal or political group needs. It is a difficult proposition, but the government was given the unusual power to face and overcome even worse difficulties.

A short article cannot discuss the vast array of issues arising out of the abolition of the 19A. Hence, issues such as the presidential immunity, appointment and removal of Ministers and the PM, dissolution of parliament, etc., are not dealt with here though those issues certainly affect good democratic governance extensively.

There are deep ramifications of issues arising from the proposed constitutional amendments. The President must first protect himself, politically. As a democratically elected person he need not camouflage himself with an anti-democratic cloak because he has a massive vantage value unlike anyone else in his government, to take correct steps. Hence, his actions need not be at the expense of democratic governance. Regrettably, the published amendments do not show such. The sacred principles of good governance will safeguard him, us and the country.

Categories: Uncategorized

  Is Ruwan Up To The Job?

  Is Ruwan Up To The Job?

By Kumar David –SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

Prof. Kumar David

is a corpse refusing to attend his own funeral. Eventually UNP members will have to rent a hearse and drag the cortege to Kanatha. Next question: “Is presumptive leader Ruwan Wijewardene (RW new style) the chap who can recoup lost ground?” Apart from the question whether it can be done at all, the way he is setting about it seems deficient, and more seriously he does not seem to have the personality for the job. Let me make it clear that I am not a UNP or SJB person; my interest is dispassionate political analysis. 

RW (new style; I won’t repeat this qualifier again) has laid out his plan as travelling to all corners to reorganise and revitalise the party. In the forefront of his mind, obviously are the indefatigable efforts of JR and Premadasa in rebuilding the UNP after the 1970 debacle. But yesterday’s cock won’t fight today’s battles. The problem now is not poor or defunct organisation. There is little for RW to rebuild; the UNP (the UNP-SJB totality) is not in organisational shambles. The new-style UNP called SJB, together with allies held on to a fair bit of the traditional vote bank (about 2.7 million) and collected about 55 parliamentary seats. Holding branch meetings, electing new office bearers, lecturing them on organisation & method, forming new district committees, that is to say all the paraphernalia called reorganisation, the kind of rebuilding that JR and Preme did, is barking up the wrong tree, it won’t yield the same results today. To do today what worked yesterday is anachronistic.

My greater criticism is that it is the wrong politics. To repeat, intrinsically, I don’t care for the UNP or SJB per se, except that any strengthening of the opposition is desirable. The stronger personality and campaigner, the one who launches vigorous activities against economic setbacks, rising costs, against 20A and authoritarianism and the betrayal of Sri Lankan workers stranded in the Middle East will make better progress. Not to go all out on a militant anti-Rajapaksa and anti-SLPP political mission and do “reorganisation” on the home front is like taking cookery classes at home when the house is on fire. It is putting the cart before the horse. RW’s labours will not be productive; he will flop if he does not change strategy. 

Conversely Anura Kumara and the JVP are firing on all barrels. The SJB made a splash and made propaganda gains by noise against bringing murders into parliament. Viggy has his eye on capturing the leadership of the Tamils by stoking militancy when the regime turns its jaundiced eye from Muslims to Tamils. What issues, what national, economic and political issues is the UNP is going to put centre stage under RW’s leadership?

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Categories: Uncategorized

RECENT ELECTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF STATE FORMATION IN SRI LANKA – SOME THOUGHTS – SUNIL BASTIAN

RECENT ELECTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF STATE FORMATION IN SRI LANKA – SOME THOUGHTS – SUNIL BASTIAN

22/09/2020These are a few thoughts on the recently concluded elections in Sri Lanka. Elections can be studied in various ways. The underlying interest in these comments is the state formation process in Sri Lanka. It is an attempt to place the results of the recently concluded presidential and parliamentary elections in the context of state formation in post-1977 Sri Lanka.

States, like any other social phenomena, are a product of history. There is nothing natural about states. They have undergone changes in the past, are changing at present and are likely to do so in the future. These perspectives are lost in the usual treatment of the state, where it is treated as a concrete self-contained entity that has attained a final status. Of course, those who control the state and their ideologues always try to convey this notion. A whole paraphernalia of ideas and symbols are developed to convey the eternal character of the state. In contrast to this, when studying the state, it is always necessary to maintain a perspective of change, and therefore state formation is the more appropriate approach. This also means the primacy of historical approaches in studying the state.

STATES  AS STATE-SOCIETY COMPLEXES

States are seen here as state-society complexes. State-society relations are maintained through coercion and consent. State formation involves developing mechanisms to control territory and manage state-society relations. The institutional structure of the state, sometimes called the administrative structure of the state, is one such mechanism. It collects information and carries out various tasks to ensure control over territory and people. The security apparatus, which is based on a notion of state security, is the other obvious mechanism.

This does not mean all mechanisms used to control territory and people are coercive. For example, states implement many social policies to manage state-society relations. Those states that are able to manage state-society relations primarily through consent have a greater capacity to fulfil their role towards citizens in an effective manner. They have a greater degree of legitimacy, and are strong.

STATES  IDENTITIES

States also have identities. State formation involves the construction of an identity of the state. Some states have an identity that has a greater degree of legitimacy with diverse identity groups in society. However, in the history of state formation, bringing together social groups with diverse ethnic and religious identities into a single polity and constructing a state that has legitimacy with all identity groups, has not been an easy process. This becomes even more complicated if identities are linked with territory. This can challenge the territorial control of a state.

In their history, states have various methods of choosing the political elite who control the state. Elections are one such process. They are also a mechanism of managing state-society relations. Elections are a choice given to a certain section of the population who are eligible to vote within a set of historically constituted institutions. They transfer votes to political outcomes and choose a political elite whose power is legitimised. By this process the political elite secure control over the state. Two aspects are important when analysing electoral politics and state formation – elite political struggles to secure control of the state and voter behaviour.

Electoral institutions operate in a particular society with its own divisions, ideas and identities that have evolved in history. It produces contradictory outcomes that have an impact on the state formation process. Sometimes electoral politics help to produce a political leadership that has legitimacy with all sections of the population and also constructs what can be called a national political space. But there are states where this does not happen. Electoral politics can undermine formation of a unified state in such situations.

STATE FORMATION IN AN INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT

State formation always has to be studied in an international context, taking into account systems of political authority that lie outside its territory. An approach that confines itself to the juridical entity of a state is based on a notion of the state as a self-contained static entity. The study of state formation should be a study of the history of individual states in a global context. States are formed and exist in a context of an international system of states. The other dimension of this international context is global capitalism. States have to secure resources for their functioning in a world dominated by capitalism. The international system changes over time both politically and economically which in turn has an impact on state formation.

The most important thing to note is that all these processes behind state formation are always contested. There are always disagreements, struggles and conflicts around these processes of state formation. Some of the contradictions can reach the level of armed violence. Historically the state formation process in general has not been a peaceful one. Coercion and violence have played a significant role in the formation and maintenance of states.

POST-1977 STATE FORMATION IN SRI LANKA

State formation in post-1977 Sri Lanka has to take into account two key processes. First, the demand for a separate state by the Tamil minority. This was due to a failure in post-colonial state formation process in a multi-ethnic society. Post-colonial electoral politics contributed to this process. This has been the main focus of much of the literature around Sri Lanka’s conflict.

The second dimension of state formation was managing relations with the Sinhala majority in the context of a new period of capitalist transition in 1977. New policies gave importance to markets, private sector and a greater degree of openness to global capitalism. Capitalist development is a politico-economic process. This differs from the orthodox approach, which begins by demarcating a sphere called the economy from society and politics. Capitalist development involves changing institutions or the ‘rules of the game’, so that markets become the primary mechanism for resource allocation and ideologically legitimising these changes. When these efforts are successful, they become ideas that seem to be natural and part of common sense, thereby creating a hegemony. This politics of capitalist transition has to manage relations with various social groups in society, which in turn have an impact on state-society relations and state formation process. How this process takes place in a specific historical context depends on the political agency of the ruling elite, their ideological orientation and the role of the state. However, the politics of this process is not always peaceful. The political elite who control the state can use the coercive power of the state to take forward the process of capitalist development.

STATE FORMATION & SINHALA NATIONALISM

The post 1977 state formation had to manage relations with the Sinhala majority in the context of the new period of capitalist transition. It is not that other ethnic groups were not affected by this process. But political opposition to transformation of the economy was located within the Sinhala majority. Within the Sinhala majority, socio-economic grievances due to the spread of markets could easily combine with Sinhala nationalism to produce a formidable opposition. In addition, the voting behaviour of the Sinhala electorate was crucial in choosing the ruling regime through elections.

STRONG PRESIDENCY

The politics of managing relations with the Sinhala majority in the new period of capitalist transition changed Sri Lankan electoral politics significantly. A key political development in this process was the introduction of the presidency through the 1978 constitution. J.R. Jayawardena, who led UNP to an electoral victory in the 1977 general election advocated the need for a strong presidency way back in 1966, when he was a minister in the 1965-70 UNP government. His argument was that there was a need for a strong president, that is independent of the parliament, to carry out unpopular economic reforms. It was introduced in 1978 using the majority that the UNP had in parliament. In other words, it was introduced using political power wielded by a section of the political elite. There was hardly any consultation within the political elite, let alone the wider public. The main purpose was controlling the parliament, the main channel of political pressure from the Sinhala majority, through a directly elected president.

Once created the presidency, and the power it enjoyed, became the most sought-after office for the political elite. It became the focus of political struggles of the elite. It also strengthened the idea of the need for a state with strong central control. The idea of a strong centre attracted support from both Sinhala nationalists and those who looked towards capitalist growth as a basic requirement for social progress.

The other important aspect to remember is that elections held in the post-1977 period were elections in a fractured state affected by violence. Voting rates were relatively low especially in the Tamil dominated North Province and Batticaloa District. It was similar in other Eastern Province districts. This is an indication that these were not elections in a state with territorial integrity. The inability to have elections as usual was only one indicator of the fractured nature of the state. During this period the Sri Lankan state could not carry out several other exercises of data collection in these areas, an indicator of a state not having control over its territory.

POST-WAR ELECTORAL POLITICS

If we look at state formation as a historical process, it is necessary to look at the period after the defeat of the LTTE and restoring central control over the war-affected area as a product of the period of war and how it ended. Post-war state has its own contradiction. War has ended, but challenge of political reforms for a state that has legitimacy with diverse identity groups remain unresolved. In some areas this issue has become worse. In addition, after forty years of the new period of capitalist transition the Sinhala nationalist state presiding over a society that is showing a high degree of economic inequality. This generates its own contradictions. The state is also facing numerous issues in a world which is now dominated by global capitalism and new forms of inter-state conflicts.

This means we need to question the basic assumptions of both Sinhala nationalists and followers of liberal peace. Both base their arguments on a vision that assumes that Sri Lanka has gone through a bad period of violence, and now that is over, we need to focus on more other issues. For Sinhala nationalists and apologists of capitalism, we need to end all this talk of ethnic groups and focus on economic growth and building a strong state. For liberals, we have to focus on transitional justice, reconciliation and promoting liberal democracy. Of course, this group also accepts capitalism uncritically. The other prop of liberals is the belief in an ‘international community’ without taking into account how this neo-liberal construction is facing problems globally at present.

THE COLLAPSE OF THE LIBERAL PEACE STRATEGY

It was the collapse of the liberal peace strategy – of trying to stabilise the state with direct negotiations with the LTTE and move the economy to a new stage with international support -that paved the way for Mahinda Rajapakse to emerge as a new leader of Sinhala nationalist politics. By this time the leaders of the two main political formations that has ruled the country – the UNP and SLFP – have absorbed the broad ideology of liberal peace that included a notion of direct negotiations with the LTTE with international support. Hence the collapse of the liberal peace strategy was bound to have a significant impact on the politics of the Sinhalese.

Rajapakse consolidated his position with victory in the 2005 presidential election by defeating the UNP candidate Wickremasinghe. But it was an election in a fractured state. Presidential elections choose the head of the state of centralised Sinhala nationalised state. The enthusiasm for this electoral exercise, reflected in the voting rates, in the Tamil dominated Northern compared to Sinhala dominated areas. In 2005 presidential election was only 9.9 per cent of the registered vote. Even in the Tamil-dominated Batticaloa District in Eastern Province, the voting rate was 48.5 per cent  well below national average. Additional factor in this election was the boycott of elections organised by the LTTE. This had an impact on voting rates in war-affected parts of North and East. Rajapakse won with a very narrow margin. The low voting rate in the Northern and Eastern Provinces certainly contributed to Wickremasinghe’s defeat.

Rajapakse’s role in giving political leadership to destroying the LTTE and bringing back control of the war-affected area to the central state, certainly consolidated his position as the new leader of Sinhala nationalist politics. He made use of this new position to strengthen his electoral position. He called an early presidential election, which was held in January 2010. The leader of the UNP did not contest the presidential election, largely because he was not sure of his popularity within the Sinhala majority after giving political leadership to the collapsed liberal peace. Instead the UNP supported Sarath Fonseka, the commander of the army who led the military campaign against the LTTE. This means that in the first presidential election after consolidation of the territory, both main candidates were directly linked to the military victory. One of them was backed by the UNP which led the liberal peace strategy.

Rajapakse easily won the election. Voting rates in the war affected Northern Province improved from the 2005 election. But it was only 30.2 per cent. In the Batticaloa District it was 64.8 per cent. The fact that both candidates trying to become president and head of the centralised state were directly associated with military operations could not have made this election very attractive especially in the Tamil dominated areas of North and East.

The General Election 2010

A general election followed in April 2010. The Rajapakse-led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) secured 144 seats in a parliament of 225 members. This was just six members short of a two-thirds majority. Voting rates, especially in the war-affected Northern Province, continued to remain low, despite the fact this was an election where voters were choosing representatives for their own areas and parties that got elected had ethnic identities.

Keeping with the trend within the political elite, where controlling the state through a strong presidency Rajapakse took steps to strengthen the presidency and his control over it. This was done by passing the 18th amendment to the constitution with a two-thirds majority. Although he did not have a two0third majority in the parliament, he secured this because of a number UNP members crossing over to the government side. This is an example of shifting political allegiances under political institutions established through the 1978 constitution. Within patronage politics of Sri Lanka, where politics is dominated by the objective of ensuring resources and privileges, a common phenomenon is MPs gravitating towards the prevailing centre of power.

With these events, the Rajapakse family became the newest member of the political families that Sri Lankan electoral politics has produced. This is not a new phenomenon in Sri Lankan politics and has received the attention of political scientists. But what was interesting was despite Rajapakse’s effort to consolidate his power within the post-war state, he was defeated in the presidential election held on 8 January 2015. In other words, despite the military victory and consolidating the territory of the Sinhala nationalist state, Rajapakse, who was hailed as the saviour of the Sinhala nation by his supporters, was defeated in a presidential election six years later. For many reasons, this election is interesting when trying to understand the second dimension of elections and state formation in post-war Sri Lanka – voter behaviour.

The candidate who opposed Rajapakse in 2015 was Maithripala Sirisena. He crossed over to the opposition and contested as a candidate for the New Democratic Front with the support of the UNP. This type of cross overs and political intrigues within political elites is not unusual. There have been several occasions in the past when a powerful regime in power was brought down by defection of senior members from its ranks. The more important fact for the politics of the Sinhalese was that the UNP leader Wickremasinghe could not face the electorate as the presidential candidate. Almost ten years after the collapse of his liberal peace strategy and even with the usual tendency of the incumbent regime becoming unpopular over time Wickremasinghe could not face the election in 2015 as a presidential candidate.

Sirisena defeated Rajapakse securing 51.3 per cent of valid votes, compared to Rajapakse’s, 47.6 per cent. The most important aspect to note from a state formation perspective was the improvement of voting rates in the war-affected areas. In the Northern Province it increased to 68.3 per cent and Batticaloa District 71.0 per cent. Although still below the all island rate of 81.5 per cent these were signs that a key factor that legitimises the Sri Lankan state, participation in elections. was improving in the war-affected areas. The fact that this was a presidential election, where a head of state is chosen when the entire island is a single electorate, makes it even more important.

Two factors in voter behaviour explain the electoral outcome. First, the increase in voting rates in war affected areas and Maithiripala Sirisena gaining a higher proportion of votes in these areas. The second factor was Rajapakse losing his support outside North and East. Majority of electoral districts in these areas are dominated by the Sinhala majority. In the 2015 presidential election, Mahinda Rajapakse’s share of valid votes was lower than what he received in 2010 in all electoral districts of this area. When it comes to the share of valid votes in each electoral district Rajapakse’s share was lower in Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Polonnaruwa and Ratnapura electoral districts compared to what Sirisena received. This means between 2010 and 2015 presidential elections there was a shift away from the Rajapakse camp in some Sinhala-dominated areas. Therefore, Maithripala Sirisena did not win only because of the minority vote. It was a combination of maintaining a Sinhala voter base and securing the support of minorities. When the presidential system was established, and the entire country became the unit for electing the president, there was always speculation on how one of the major parties could win this election with a combination of its own voter base and the minority vote. But this could not be tested because voting rates in the Northern and Eastern Provinces were affected by the war. In other words, it was a vote in a fractured state. With the end of the war, and revival of voting rates in the war-affected areas this seems to have happened.

Rajapakse’s loss in 2015, even after he gave political leadership to consolidate the territory of the Sinhala nationalist state, forces us to question single factor ethnic based explanations of electoral behaviour of the Sinhalese. It is not that ethnicity was not a factor. But the issue is single factor explanation. Generally single factor in electoral behaviour is not tenable. There are other reasons why Rajapakse lost his popularity with at least a section of the Sinhalese. In addition to the unpopularity of the style of governance of the Rajapakse regime, the regimes economic strategy, which relied heavily on infrastructure development, did not have any new initiatives in social policies. Let us not forget that 2008 was a crisis year for global capitalism. This would have had an impact on an economy integrated to global capitalism. Economic policies of the regime did not have a response to this situation.

In the general election that followed in August 2015, a coalition came together under the name United Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) and won the elections. In a parliament of 225, the UNFGG secured 106 seats and UPFA 95. The more important development was the improvement in the voting rate in the Northern Province. The voting rate of 64.9 per cent was the highest in a general election after the introduction of the PR system. Although it was not as high as in the 1977 general election, the last election before voting rates were affected by the war, this marked a revival of the electoral process in a Tamil dominated Northern Province, the heartland of Tamil nationalist politics and separatism.

Both presidential and general election results in 2015 gave some hope of a possible improvement in tackling political reforms towards a legitimate multi-ethnic state. But what dominated was a struggle for power within the political elite who led the regime. As was the case in the entire post – 1977 period, the struggle over presidential power was the key issue. Although the UNP supported Sirisena in becoming the president, pretty soon it was clear that there were two centres of power in the new regime, one led by the president and the other the prime minister. There was disagreement on key issues, such as economic policies and the security strategy. The UNP political strategy was to pass the 19th amendment to the constitution, which reduced the power of the president, and to secure control over main areas, such as economy, foreign policy and defence.

D,isagreements within the regime came into the open in October 2018, when the president suddenly dismissed the prime minister from the UNP and replaced him with Rajapakse. But this was challenged in the Supreme Court on the basis of the provisions of the 19th amendment. The Supreme Court decided that the move by the president was against the provisions of the 19th amendment. Thus, the UNP strategy of managing the president through the 19th Amendment worked. However, these legal means could not deal with issues arising from the struggle for power within the political elite.

The divisions within the regime manifested in a disastrous manner just a few months before the presidential election due in December 2019. This was how the regime managed or did not manage security issues around the bomb attacks on churches on Easter Sunday in April 2019. It was stark manifestation of divisions within the regime and its inability to ensure a basic function of a state – to provide security. This brought back a deep sense of insecurity in many sections of the society that had experienced such events for a long period.

In the December 2019 presidential election, Rajapakse led Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna came back to power with 52.3 per cent of valid votes. The winner was Gotabaya Rajapkse, the brother of Mahinda Rajapakse. This election was significant within elite political struggles for several reasons. First, the process that began with Mahinda Rajapakse becoming a new leader of Sinhala nationalist politics has produced a new political party known as the SLPP. Second, in the process of choosing the presidential candidate from the UNP, the leadership of Wickremasinghe, who could not be a presidential candidate after the collapse of liberal peace, was challenged within the party.

What happened in the 2019 presidential election compared to 2015 results, can be explained by the inability of political parties linked to the regime elected in 2015, to retain its Sinhala electoral base. Sajith Premadasa, who had the support of these parties, lost in all Sinhala-dominated electoral districts in areas not affected by the war. One obvious explanation of this is the persistence of nationalist politics within the Sinhala majority. But this alone might not be enough. Another factor were the divisions and dysfunctional nature of the regime. Finally, once again the UNP’s blind adherence to neoliberal economic policies failed to provide any answer to socio-economic problems in a society affected by more than 40 years of liberal economic policies. Although Premadasa, like his father during the 1989 elections, tried to bridge this gap by making many promises on socio-economic issues, it did not work.

Two factors stand out from the just concluded general election. On one hand results are similar to results of 2010 general election. In 2010 general UPFA secured 144 members in a parliament of 225 members. In 2019 SLPP won 145. Once again, this result will be used to enhance the power of the presidency that has characterised the post 1977 state formation process. Second, this election also could signify a transformation of the political party system that depends on the support of the Sinhala majority. On one hand the UNP is divided. On the other side the SLFP presence in parliament is insignificant. Rajapakse’s SLPP has certainly been the main beneficiary of what has happened to UNP and SLFP. Finally, with14 parties represented in parliament this is the most diverse parliament under PR.

(22nd September 2020)

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Sri Lanka: Hemasiri Fernando’s self-deception

Sri Lanka: Hemasiri Fernando’s self-deception

Has anyone asked Hemasiri Fernando why he thought that he was the most suitable person for the post of Secretary to the Ministry of Defense? Why he doesn’t feel that essential to explain his inability to tender his resignation when, as he accused, then the President was sidelining and intimidating him? 


Editorial –
September 22, 2020The previous government was confused. Once a government with confusion comes to power, many are waiting to take advantage of it like what has happened during the last government. Those on duty with excellence were subjected to false accusations and those who abused their positions without doing anything were crowned. As the result, like many other institutes, the security forces and the police department further deteriorated. The consequences of that deterioration were dire.

The terrorist attacks on Easter in 2019 symbolized this very collapse of the institutional structure. Many alleged, however, that the attacks could have been prevented. Once something happens, it is very easy to give different interpretations to it. As an old saying goes, the answer is philosophical as long as the question is not theirs. The same can be said of the statements made by many about the Easter bombing in 2019 by killing nearly 300 unarmed innocents. The attacks, we believe, was a collective failure of the state machinery and political leaderships.

The former Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Mr Hemasiri Fernando was also one of the officials who gave evidence before the investigative commission initiated by the current government to probe the terror attacks. No one seems to have asked him the question of why he thought he was the most suitable person for the post when he became Secretary of Defense. Isn’t it important for him to explain his inability to tender the resignation when, as he accused, then the President was sidelining and intimidating him?

Mr Basnayake was appointed as the first Secretary to the Ministry of Defense during the previous government which was administered under the slogan of good governance. He was given that position because he was the most senior person after counting his tenure in the administrative service. Mr Hettiarachchi, who was a friend of Mr Sirisena and had no knowledge of security but administration, was appointed as the successor of Mr Basnayake. Thereafter Mr Kapila Vaidyaratne was appointed to the post. He sought to understand all the scope of national security based on his legal knowledge alone. All three were failed as secretaries. Then, Hemasiri Fernando, who once served in the Navy, was appointed to the post. He made a great effort to get that position. He was not forcibly appointed to the post by the President. As reports indicated at the time, Mr Hemasiri worked hard to get the post.

However, Mr Hemasiri Fernando was the last choice of former President Maithripala Sirisena because the other secretaries appointed to the Ministry of Defense were utter failures. Hemasiri Fernando was the fourth secretary to be appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena to the post of Chief Administrative Officer (secretary) of the Ministry of Defense in about five years. This shows the extent to which Mr Sirisena, one of the most senior politicians in the country, had an understanding of the subject of national security. It is also a matter of inquiry as to whether those who have been appointed to office have done what the State and its leadership have expected of them while maintaining the dignity of that position.

Some say that Hemasiri’s history is full of political manoeuvres and appointments. Also, many refer to him as an unscrupulous thief. Whether these allegations are true or not remain to be seen what he did after taking over as Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and what the consequences were. As the harvest of having four secretaries in five years, the ships without guns and ships with toilet-sized operating compartments have been handed over to the Sri Lanka Navy at exorbitant prices. The list goes on and on.

How did people like Hemasiri become so important in the country? Were most of these people elected at the behest of President Sirisena? Were they asked if they had an understanding of the duties they were required to perform in assigning positions in most sensitive areas of the country? Only those who have been appointed and the person who has been appointed know the truth. Constructive answers to those questions are essential. Only then can we find out how the background to the Easter attacks was set.

However, according to Mr Hemasiri, the former head of the state intelligence service should take responsibility for the attacks. He has said that not only he but also the suspended IGP Pujith Jayasundara had performed his duties correctly. He says the state intelligence service did not provide him with a written statement confirming the attack. Many of the witnesses also said that the state intelligence service had failed to identify Zaharan Hashim, a key figure in the attack, as a terrorist. Therefore they took this issue lightly. All these stories are just attempts by individuals to cover up their failures. It is noteworthy to mention here that the LTTE was first proscribed as a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka from 1998 to 2002. The LTTE was again proscribed as a terrorist organization in 2009, but Pirabaharan killed the first unarmed man in 1975. Sri Lankan government did not proscribe the LTTE as a terrorist organization for many years for various political reasons. Did the then secretaries of the Ministry of defence or any other competent authority advise the army and other security apparatus not to fight against them because they were not designated as terrorists?

Mr Hemasiri told the national and international media shortly after the Easter attacks that he knew the attack was taking place but did not think it was such a serious attack. Is that not enough to prove his folly and ignorance? But he now says he has fulfilled his responsibilities. He seeks to place full responsibility for the attack on the head of the former state intelligence director. This is ugly and nonsense.

According to Mr Hemasiri and his colleagues, it is not enough for an intelligence service to verify intelligence and provide analysed information in whatever means of communications but like the legislation, the intelligence should give him in writing in decorated files. Only then will he act on that information. In which country on earth is engaging in intelligence in such a manner? Isn’t it fair to say that the President Sirisena should apologize for appointing such megalomaniac person to important positions in the country that led to the carnage?

One thing is clear from the whole incident. That is, Mr Hemasiri and his team have no basic knowledge of national security and its scope. Also, they did not have the calibre to take responsibility for acting on the intelligence provided. They only knew how to get a position by licking someone’s feet. The country and the innocent always have to pay the price. This is the true nature of ugly and cruel self-deception. Shouldn’t these swindlers be held accountable if justice is to be done to the victims of the Easter terror attacks and to protect the officials who have done their duty properly?

Mr Hemasiri, take a deep breath and go to your library, if you have one, turn the pages of a wonderful account on mankind, The Brothers Karamazov, written by Fyodor Dostoevsky, where the author helped common man to educate that, “above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

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Post-COVID recovery with Belgian insights

Post-COVID recovery with Belgian insights

 no sanity, no recovery, no way out of the debilitating paradigmatic crisis that is now engulfing the world with far greater virulence and tenacity than the seasonal coronavirus actually or factually ever did – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara

Tuesday, 22 September 2020A dizzy array of eminent Belgian doctors and health professionals, 394 leading doctors, 1327 medically trained health professionals of great distinction, and now 8,700 concerned citizens, have added their signatures to an open letter, aiming to invite, stimulate and demand open debate re COVID orthodoxy and the so-called “second wave”.

You can directly read the full list of hugely experienced signatories and partake of their full letter by going to: http://www.docs4opendebate.be. Well worth everyone’s time and attention. And it should provide leaders in Sri Lanka further support for co-leading to a path to regional and perhaps even global recovery through our reinforcing policies and our own initiatives.

But it is an illustrious composing of key facts that I have written about previously, through the prism of medical expertise, research and experience in Belgium – a country so badly buffeted by “evident” COVID impact. But clearly both chastened and now better experienced with global data to draw on, these medical leaders and professionals are challenging their leaders to do better.

Here are their key points:
Independent and critical debates are needed



Kowtowing to unsupported “orthodoxy” so “emergency government” can continue to be extended has to be challenged as civil liberties cannot casually and indefinitely be suspended.

As they state, “A cure cannot be worse than the problem.” And they also cite WHO’s own definition of health hailing from 1948: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or other physical impairment.”

So “eliminate COVID” cannot be an exclusive, towering, “health” aim as it pays no attention to the emotional and social well-being of individuals. And surely subscription to human rights demands facts take the lead and not bald assertions re clearly “penal” concepts like lockdowns, or mask strictures, or mass enforced quarantine and the like.

How unlike the predictions

We were told not only by the “imperious” Imperial College doomsayers, but also by the WHO, that the pandemic would claim 3.4% of victims. And this dread scourge had no cures, no vaccines, was highly contagious, would overwhelm ICU’s and intensive care, and so the world dashed to an unprecedented alarm situation to “flatten the curve.”

Somehow as the curve was already flattening by the time lockdowns were imposed, as again verified by the Belgian researchers here in this analysis, we decided we would, without discussion or justification, just move to “eradicate the virus” untenable as that is strategically or tactically.

Society, whole economies were shut down, and we did the remarkable: quarantining healthy people on sheer speculation. And we awaited first curve flattening, and when that became too prosaic, a “rescue vaccine!”

Then came the troubling facts



As this widely footnoted open letter reconfirms, COVID-19 followed the course of a normal wave of influenza. Each year we are treated to a panoply: rhinoviruses, influenza A and B, and coronaviruses. But this time, we pounced on this “novel” coronavirus with PCR tests, reputed from past pandemics for their prolixity with false positives.

The non-specific PCR test, with its legion of false positives threw up an exponential picture. As the Belgian doctors state so clearly: “This test was rushed through with an emergency procedure and was never seriously self-tested.” And they too point out, as I’ve previously written, the creator of the test himself warned expressly (as do the instructions in the tests themselves) that these tests are not intended for diagnostic purposes.

But we are holding an entire planet hostage on this basis! Including huge sectors of the global economy, including tourism, travel and everything related to them.

We have more recently had Harvard University warn us of what Oxford is also highlighting, now echoed in this letter, that the “test” works with cycles of amplifying genetic material…and “any” contamination, from viral debris to other illnesses can spark “detection.” So setting the tests to assess “viral load” is key, and we have theoretical consensus on roughly what that should be (30 cycles or less) but no harmony in actual practice, which means no quality control in terms of reported much less aggregated numbers regionally or globally.

And therefore, at the most primitive level, Koch’s postulates (which identify and confirm a distinctive virus) are not established with this test, as both a healthy and an infected person can produce the same test result.

The lockdown lullaby

So leading journals like ‘Lancet,’ as our Belgian experts remind us, have confirmed that infection waves seemed not to be affected by “lockdown” policies. And we can clearly see that countries never really locked down like Taiwan and Sweden, are flourishing.

Most imposed lockdowns as stated above as also highlighted by the Belgian experts, came in after the peak was over, and the number of cases was already decreasing. Going forward, climatic conditions, and growing immunity are likely to be far more decisive.
Immunity rules

Without much central planning intervention from the “anointed,” for thousands of years the Belgian specialists remind us, the human body has been getting a daily barrage of moisture and droplets from numerous microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi).

The immune system actually requires daily exposure to these microbial influences to blossom. Hence hardier immunologically challenged regions, despite huge caseloads have done much better on the mortality league tables. While that is not a prescription for drinking unsafe water, it is a warning against cowering away from natural engagement with Mother Nature and thereby literally “infantilising” our immune systems.

Extensive hygiene and social distancing are most needed by those with compromised immunity. Of the two types of human immunity, these doctors list, “the non-specific immune system” which operates via skin, saliva, gastric juice, intestinal mucus, etc. The second type is “the adaptive immune system” with T-cells and A and B antibodies.

The medical analysis shared in the letter highlights the two are entangled. A high number of people seem to have general immunity to influenza. Hence, the Diamond Princess cruise ship case study, where 75% of even an elderly population did not get infected, becomes easier to understand, even with a high-risk group.

Then, the journal Cell published a study showing 60% of the non-infected population had SARS-Cov-2 reactivity with T-cells, suggesting cross-reactivity with other cold (corona) viruses, and suggesting further a similarity with those variants.

As most people testing “positive” have no symptoms, strengthening natural immunity seems far more promising and logical and pertinent (healthy nutrition, fresh air, exercise without a silly mask, ongoing stress reduction, and the literal “health massage” from nourishing emotional and social contacts). And we also minimise all the extended ripple effects therefore of financial ruin, depression, spikes in suicides and domestic abuse, etc.

So contagious but without millions of deaths and also “perhaps” with a treatment?

So, the mortality hysteria was largely a dud, globally to date, close to a normal seasonal flu even just looking at the US and Europe taken together. We also know, as the Belgian doctors remind us, that COVID-19 cases are notoriously overestimated, conflating “with” corona and “from” corona. Most of those so “tagged” had serious additional pathologies ergo the corona-infection cannot be cited as the “cause” of death. But the statistics do not overall reflect this critical nuance.

The vast majority of these deceased were 80 years or older, at least 70% had an underlying disorder such as cardiovascular illness, diabetes, chronic lung disease, morbid obesity. The vast majority of those infected, 98%+ barely became ill or recovered spontaneously as per the open letter, again mirroring findings from virtually everywhere on the planet.

As for treatments, HCQ continues to inspire controversy, though it is unclear whether that controversy is medical or political or some potpourri thereof. Clinical experience of Belgian colleagues in the field assert impressive results. Theoretical inadequacy of reported studies has led to bans in the Netherlands and elsewhere on the other hand.

Further clinical affirmation has come from the US, Marseille, and extensively via epidemiological follow up in Switzerland, all referenced in the open letter for those wishing to investigate further. The Belgian specialists have characterised the falling of mortality rates based on the Swiss experience to be “definitive.” If so, the puzzle grows.

The ARDS media images of people literally suffocating, made worse by artificial ventilators, now has been identified as flowing from an exaggerated immune response in pulmonary blood vessels. Blood thinners and dexamethasone apparently now ensure that this terrifying complication is virtually not a mortality issue anymore either.

So, on the above, hardly a lethal “killer” virus, but a treatable condition, or one being conflated with others from all the murkiness that abounds.

Spread and masks

This happens we are told by someone coughing or sneezing on you or aerosols in closed, unventilated rooms. Open air contamination is not possible as per the experts, and so masks are particularly spurious there. Asymptomatic carriers only as per “models” transmit the virus, contact tracing and epidemiological studies, say these doctors have never confirmed this, they are “virtually unable to transmit the virus.” This has shown up in prisons, homeless shelters, cruise ships and more.

Hence social distancing beyond some prudence becomes highly questionable given the need to keep immunity healthy and vital. As the doctors state, “Oral masks in healthy individuals are ineffective against the spread of viral infections.”

These masks are designed for environments rich in at-risk groups with upper respiratory issues. Moreover, wearing these masks causes oxygen deficiency, and flowing from which, nausea, fatigue, loss of concentration. The doctors also warn the accumulated CO2 leads to a “toxic acidification” of the organism which affects immunity.

As a benchmark, the Belgian Labour Code refers to CO2 content (ventilation in workplaces) of 900 ppm, maximum 1200 ppm in special circumstances. After one minute of mask wearing, the toxic limits are already exceeded, three to four times higher than these maximum values provided.

Hospitals manage, not only with higher quality surgical masks, but also by monitoring oxygen flow, with a precise regulation of temperature/humidity.

The “casedemic”

This is fairly consistent. We are testing much more and therefore “cases” are spiking. Younger people are now far more included, but as explained not really at risk, and so hospital admissions and deaths showed no corresponding surge. Hence despite all the hypochondria, the peak is truly done.

And “do no harm” (part of the core philosophy of the Hippocratic oath) as a maxim, runs afoul of this mad dash for a generalised vaccine therefore.

Vaccine vexations 

A generalised vaccine not extensively tested prior to being rushed out is inimical to the medical nostrums of safeguarding and maximising informed patient care.

Surveys of influenza vaccinations show in the last 10 years, as per the collective experience of these specialists, we have only succeeded three times in developing a vaccine with more than a 50% success rate. Over 75 years of age, the efficacy is almost non-existent, and yet here, that is the at-risk population.

And viruses mutate annually, so no matter the success of the vaccine, it is intrinsically a short-term solution. Untested vaccines, applied as an emergency procedure, where manufacturers are legally immunised and incentivised to get these out into the populace to use patients as guinea pigs, raises serious questions of both ethics and outright safety.

On a global scale, 700,000 cases of damage or death have been forecasted from introducing these “cures”, admitted to by Bill Gates as well in an interview,  where he accepts  vaccines for older people are problematic and would require “amping up” with potential side effects to say “at least” 1 in 10,000 (a charitable forecast).

So, if you compare all those uncertainties and unknowns to 95%+ of those infected having virtually no symptoms, it is hard to argue that untested vaccines are the panacea the world should stay shut for and be awaiting as deliverance.

Media derangement

The Belgian doctors are pushing for an uncensored and wide-ranging debate, not government “talking points” with a scientific sheen. The “panel of experts” that advise numerous governments, “behind closed doors,” seem unwilling to be questioned, to supply data, or compare competing paths. Uncritical, and slavish adherence seems to be holding sway.

Social media is expunging dissenting voices. Martial language and “invisible enemy”  allusions are the order of the day, with grandiose death knells being forecasted without any interpretation of figures, or unromantic comparisons with other flu deaths in other years or even with other far more grave (on actual numbers) causes of death. This sets the stage for factually compromised, panic giddy emotionalism.

It has been reported WHO has been at the forefront of silencing voices outside its echo chamber. We have to hope that is incorrect, or that it will be challenged vigorously otherwise.

How long is the “emergency?”

Most of the annulment of civil liberties, our right to do business, to gather, to meet, to exercise preferences and have freedom of worship, the right to education, respect of private choices, have been curtailed, stemming from this asserted “emergency.”

But we are not in March anymore, and that macabre “mask” has been stripped away. There are no existing objectively verifiable crisis conditions that impel, much less compel this. We have a largely treatable condition with a mortality rate akin to seasonal flu on average as this letter emphatically reaffirms. “Health” simply cannot be the basis for any such “emergency law” now.

As the writers sum up, “As doctors and health professionals, in the face of a virus which, in terms of its harmfulness, mortality and transmissibility, approaches the seasonal influenza, we can only reject these extremely disproportionate measures.”

Our world going forward

The only way for the world to turn the corner, and exemplar nations like Sri Lanka who have managed their reopening with grace and composure and balance, to avail of those opportunities, is to add our voices to those of doctors and professionals around the world who are arguing for facts and data over theology and panic-mongering.

Until we quell and kill the contagion of panic, there can be no sanity, no recovery, no way out of the debilitating paradigmatic crisis that is now engulfing the world with far greater virulence and tenacity than the seasonal coronavirus actually or factually ever did.

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