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Tamil families of disappeared mark 868 days of protest in Vavuniya

Tamil families of disappeared mark 868 days of protest in Vavuniya

Tamil families of the disappeared who have been demanding information regarding the whereabouts of their loved ones, marked 868 days of protest last week, with a rally through Vavuniya town.
16 July 2019
The rally began at the Kandasamy Temple, where families of the disappeared broke coconuts in a religious ceremony, and ended at the Vavuniya Road Development Department.
Protestors marched with American and European Union flags down the streets. The protests, which have now gone on for more than two years across the North-East, have called on the international community to pressure Sri Lanka into taking action into locating the thousands of Tamils who were forcibly disappeared.
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Tamil Leaders Betrayed By Successive Sinhalese Leaders & The Genocide Of Tamils 

Tamil Leaders Betrayed By Successive Sinhalese Leaders & The Genocide Of Tamils 

logoA note from the No Fire Zone [Book by Kass Ghayouri]
Dr. Varatharajan who was on duty inside the ‘NO FIRE ZONE” during the genocidal war laments: 
“That night I cried,
Tamil civilians died,
Dead bodies I eyed,
I did not have pride,
There was no war guide,
Tamils forced to hide,
The Sri Lankan army lied,
Took the media for a ride,
It was a Tamil genocide,
By laws they did not abide,    -Page 166
“It was heart wrenching to see women and children perish with shelling wounds. The army encroached upon Tamil villages killing thousands of men, women and children. My heart froze Sri Lanka became a frozen country with ultimate hatred.” Page 150
It is to be noted that Tamil leaders like Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan [1851-1930] and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam [1853-1924] fearlessly spearheaded the struggle for constitutional reforms that led to the independence of Ceylon [Now Sri Lanka] from the British on February 04, 1948. 
The Ponnambalam brothers in their evening of life realized that the Sinhalese politicians have let them down the garden path and taken them and the Tamils for a ride to advance the interests of the majority Sinhalese community. 
In a speech to the Legislative Council during the debate on the Donoughmore Reforms, Sir Ramanathan appears the precursor of the Tamils demand for a sovereign state of Tamil Eelam.
He argued “Why did the Donoughmore Commissioners not study Ireland, which is next door to them? They [Irish] said that we are one lot and you are another. We cannot work together. We must have separate governments. Then I asked what happened in the Dominion of Canada? The Official concerned said, it is an impossible situation … Let us give these French descendants one form of government and let us give other people another form of government – forms of government suitable to the interests of each of these great big communities . Why did the Commissioners think of that?”
It was Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam who first [1923] exhorted the Tamils that – “They should work towards promoting the union and solidarity of what we have been proud call TAMIL EELAM. We are not enamoured about the cosmopolitanism which would make us neither fish, fowl nor red-herring.”
The Tamils and the Sinhalese are divided on the basis of territory, language, culture etc. 
The Mahavamsa, a Buddhist chronicle written in the 6th century AD by a Buddhist monk portrays the Naga King Dutugemunu as the National Hero who defeated the Tamil King Ellalan and unified the whole Ceylon. This Mahavamsa made a virtue of killing in defence of Buddhism. This chronicle has been used to raise the cry of Race, Land and Faith by the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinistic forces during the past several years.
D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon [Now Sri Lanka] gave the following solemn promise to the Tamil and other minority communities “No harm need you [non-Sinhalese] fear at our hands [Sinhalese in a free [Ceylon]Sri Lanka.” He was speaking in the State Council in October 1945 when all the Tamil members have unanimously voted for the acceptance of the Lord Soulbury Constitution in a White paper. 
In 1948 the very year of Independence, DS Senanayake, the Sinhala Prime Minister blatantly went back on the promise and bared his true colours as an unrepentant champion of Sinhala Chauvinism by depriving one million Tamils of their citizenship. 
The Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 opened the floodgates to further legislative and administrative acts, which robbed Tamils of their language, education and employment rights. 
In 1956 Late Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike introduced the Sinhala only Act. 
Abrogated Pacts, Accords, Pledges 
Bandaranaike/Chelvanayakam Pact:  [July 25, 1957]
The Pact was signed between SWRD Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and SJV Chelvanayakam Tamil leader on July 25, 1957. It was later abrogated within less than a year on April 09, 1958 due to the opposition to the Pact by the Buddhist Clergy and the Opposition Party [United National Party [UNP] 
Dudly/Chelvanayakam Pact [March 24, 1965]
This Pact [D-C Pact] was put down on paper and signed by Dudly Senanayake and SJV Chelvanayakam on March 24, 1965, which received opposition from the Opposition Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the Buddhist Clergy was torn down. 
Indo/Sri Lanka Accord [July 29, 1987]
This Accord drafted and signed by the President of Sri Lanka  JR Jayewardene and the Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi without any consultation with the Tamil leaders or with the freedom fighters for Tamil Eelam. [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]
The trouble with putting the cart before the horse is that the cart does not move. The agreement that was signed on the 29th of July 1987 failed to address itself to the central issues of the Tamil struggle, which were crystallised in the joint and unanimous stand of the Tamil militant movement at Thimpu in August 1985:
‘It is our considered view that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the following four cardinal principles
1. the recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation
2. the recognition of an identified homeland for the Tamils in Ceylon
3. recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation
4. the recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights all Tamils who look upon the island as their country”
The recognition of the Tamil people as a nation was central to the struggle of the Tamil people. The Thimpu Declaration sought to question openly and directly the claims of an exaggerated Sinhala nationalism which had for decades sought to masquerade as a ‘Sri Lankan nationalism’ and which had sought to ‘assimilate’ and ‘integrate’ the Tamil people into a so called ‘Sri Lankan nationality’ by denying the existence of not only the Tamil nation but also the Sinhala nation in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan government’s record on investigating serious human rights is poor and impunity has been a persistent problem. There have been serious ongoing violations of human rights and a backlog of cases of enforced disappearance and unlawful killings that run to tens of thousands, as described for example, in the 2008 Human Rights Watch report “Recurring Nightmare.” Despite this track record, there have been only a small number of prosecutions. 
Past efforts to address violations through the establishment of ad-hoc mechanisms in Sri Lanka, such as Presidential Commissions of inquiry have proved no results, either in providing information or in leading to prosecutions. To address abuses associated with the war, there is an urgent need for an Independent, International Commission of Inquiry in to the credible allegations of laws of war violations, including possible war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, illegitimate detentions and usage of banned Chemical weapons and usage of Cluster Bombs. 

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The President has a better option

The President has a better option

article_image

by Jehan Perera-

Once again the issue of the long postponed provincial council elections are coming into national focus. The problem, however, is that the focus is not on improving systems of governance as it should be, but on the forthcoming elections. It is being reported that President Maithripala Sirisena is seeking to ensure that provincial elections are held prior the presidential elections that are scheduled to be held by the end of this year. The president appears to be increasingly conscious that he needs to do something out of the ordinary, which others do not dare to do or do not want to do, to leave behind a legacy of greatness or obtain a second terms of presidency for himself. So far his plans have been unsuccessful. They range from the attempt he made in October 2018 to topple the government he came to power in alliance with, to winning the war against drugs and to re-imposing the death penalty, to lengthening his term in office.
It would be galling for the president to note that these strategies have not been successful so far. But there are other options he could consider. Ideally, the president would like to ensure that his term of office can be lengthened sufficiently for him to be able to dissolve parliament after it passes the four and a half year mark in February 2020. This is when he becomes constitutionally empowered to dissolve parliament even without its consent. The president would then be in a position to negotiate with the contesting political parties regarding his future if they are to obtain his blessings. He would then be in a position to offer the party that is prepared to work with him on his terms the wherewithal that accompanies the defense ministry and police department which are vested in him and which are powerful instruments of state that can be deployed if need be.
Unfortunately for the president it appears that his previous attempt to extend his term of office, which was done last year in January when he asked for a declaratory judgment from the Supreme Court, has worked to his detriment. On that occasion the Supreme Court ruled that the president was not entitled to a six-year term in view of the 19th Amendment and his term commenced on the day he was sworn in as president on 9 January 2015 for five-years till 9 January 2020. It also appears to be the case that his hope that his term of office only commenced running the day the Speaker signed the 19th Amendment into law, which was on 15 May 2015, thereby giving him a five year term till 15 May 2020 is likely to be unrealistic. It is in this context that an attempt is being made to hold the provincial council elections prior to the conclusion of the president’s term of office. This would once again give him an opportunity to negotiate with the political parties regarding his future in return for his support at those elections.
QUICK FIXES
Only one of the nine provincial councils is still functioning with a democratically elected leadership. All others are under the control of governors appointed by the President as their terms have ended and fresh elections have not been held. They are barely functioning due to lack of resources and political leadership even though many of the public servants continue to do their best by the people they are expected to serve. Holding provincial elections would be a national priority from the perspective of electoral democracy. However, the electoral laws and problems regarding the equitable demarcations of electoral units has yet to be completed. It is unlikely this problem will be resolved in the short term as these are the subject of inter-party disputation.
There is a reason why the delay in provincial council elections has not agitated the general population is that most people see the provincial councils as unnecessary structures that are expensive to maintain and which add another layer of bureaucracy to their lives. This is not as it should be or was meant to be. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution was brought in to solve the ethnic conflict and bring the war to an end with the support of the Indian government. The 13th Amendment partakes of features of the Indian model of devolution of power, which has empowered each of the Indian states so much so that the chief minister and state ministers become more important to the people than their central counterparts.
In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, the provincial councils are disempowered, both in terms of power and resources so that they can only meet their recurrent expenditures with difficulty and have little left over to do the development work that is the people’s priority. The blame comes to the provincial council rather than to the central authorities who have denuded the provincial council system of the power and resources they need to be effective agencies of development and problem solving. The only champions of devolution at the national level remain the Tamil political parties, who have for many decades been seeking more self-government for the ethnic minorities who predominate in the North and East of the country.
One of the overlooked national priorities at this time is to find a better solution to the problems of devolution of power that would give the ethnic minorities a greater sense of being in charge of their lives, rather than in being in subject to the political decisions of the representatives of the ethnic majority. This is the grievance that directly led to three decades of war. Now although the war is over a decade the grievance remains due to the lack of a solution to the problem of inter-ethnic power sharing that is equitable and reasonable. An option to reconsider at this time is the possibility of asymmetric devolution in which each of the provinces are able to negotiate the powers they believe they need. However, in the post-Easter Sunday context, the focus has totally moved to dealing with the fallout of those bombings, protecting the country from more such bombings and improving inter-community relations.
RETHINKING DEVOLUTION
In this context, the call for provincial council elections to be held before the presidential elections is not likely to gain much traction from the political parties which see the provincial councils as they are presently structured as the equivalent of white elephants. They are more focused on national structures of power rather than on provincial ones. They would prefer to have the presidential election first, as this is the election that would have a decisive impact on all the elections that follow. The psychological impact of winning the presidential election would be a tremendous morale booster to the political party or alliance of parties whose candidate wins the election. A victory at the presidential election would strengthen the winning parties in all the elections that follow, be they general or provincial elections.
Instead of seeking quick fixes to gain popularity and bargaining power, the president may wish to consider spending his final months in office dealing with the core issues that have been retarding the economic and political progress in the country for decades. This is particularly important in the context of the rise in inter-community suspicions and prejudice in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bomb attacks. The main ingredient would be to reassure all communities that they are stakeholders in the process and their views will be taken into consideration. Before the elections take place, the president can summon an all party conference to work out the basic principles they would commit themselves to whichever political party or coalition of parties wins the elections. Sri Lankans from all walks of life might then better face the future with confidence rather than despondency.
Despite being denuded of many of its most educated and intrepid citizens who have emigrated due to the perilous conditions within the country, Sri Lanka continues to have topmost human resources. This was seen vividly during the World Cup Cricket tournament that captivated the world for a month. The caliber of Sri Lankan born and Sri Lankan educated persons is so high that the World Cup tournament referee was a Sri Lankan, Ranjan Madugalle, and the chief tournament umpire was another Sri Lankan, Kumar Dharmasena, while the chairman of the most prestigious English club that hosted the finals was yet another Sri Lankan, Kumar Sangakkara who also performed a stellar role as a commentator for the international media. With human resources such as this at the disposal of the country, it is worthwhile for the president to reflect on where the political leaders have gone wrong and steer them, even at this late stage, to the correct path.
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No Justice for ‘Trinco 5’ ; Magistrate Acquits 13 Police for ‘Lack of Evidence’

No Justice for ‘Trinco 5’ ; Magistrate Acquits 13 Police for ‘Lack of Evidence’

LEN logo(Lanka-e-News – 15.July.2019, 10.30AM) A magistrate in the northeastern town of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, acquitted all 13 defendants in the execution of five ethnic Tamil students on January 2, 2006, known as the “Trinco Five” case, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said last week. On July 3, 2019, the magistrate acquitted 12 members of the police Special Task Force (STF) and a police officer due to a “lack of evidence.”

The global notoriety of the Trinco Five killings has made it a test case for the commitment of successive Sri Lankan governments to ensure accountability for grave crimes carried out during the three-decade-long civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said.

“Sri Lankan authorities have proven unable to obtain justice for the murders of five young people and the resulting coverup despite the considerable evidence available,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The failure to convict anyone in this emblematic case after 13 years demonstrates the need for a court with international participation that can properly protect victims and witnesses.”

The Daily News reported the prosecution named 36 witnesses. Eight witnesses did not appear in court, including two who had obtained asylum in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The prosecution of the case had long been marred by serious threats against the survivors and witnesses, which forced them and their family members to flee Sri Lanka.

On the evening of January 2, 2006, amid New Year’s celebrations at Trincomalee beach, Sri Lankan security forces shot and killed five students, at pointblank range, and seriously wounded two others. The government quickly claimed, without evidence, that the youth killed were LTTE insurgents carrying out a grenade attack.

Unlike most other crimes under international law and human rights violations committed during Sri Lanka’s long civil war, the Trinco Five case has received considerable global attention. It has been the subject of government-appointed commissions and discussions at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Human rights groups have reported both on those who allegedly carried out the killings and senior officials implicated in a cover-up.

In 2006, 12 Special Task Force police officers were arrested in connection with the killings, but they were soon released for lack of evidence. In July 2013, the men were rearrested but then released three months later because no proceedings had been opened against them.

In 2006, Dr. Kasippillai Manoharan, whose 20-year-old son, Ragihar, was among the five youths killed, testified at the government inquest. He described a phone call from his son, who said that he was surrounded by security forces. After Dr. Manoharan rushed to the nearby beachfront, soldiers stopped him, but he said he heard people shouting for help in Tamil, and then gunshots. For months afterwards, there were death threats against him and his family, and they eventually fled to the UK, where they received asylum. He later provided video testimony to a presidential commission and said that after the shootings a senior government official had offered him a house in Colombo and private school education for his remaining children if he kept quiet.

A US State Department cable from October 2006 released several years later by WikiLeaks shows that Basil Rajapaksa, the brother and adviser of then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told the US ambassador to Sri Lanka that the security forces were responsible for the killings, but claimed there was no evidence to convict them. “We know the STF did it, but the bullet and gun evidence shows that they did not,” Basil Rajapaksa is quoted as saying. “They must have separate guns when they want to kill someone.”

In February 2018, the then-UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, told the UN Human Rights Council that the Trinco Five killings were among those that highlighted impunity for serious human rights violations. The high commissioner’s report stated:

[T]he failure to show major progress in these emblematic cases strengthens the argument for the establishment of a specialized court to deal with the most serious crimes committed by State actors… staffed by specialized personnel and supported by international practitioners.

A consensus resolution on transitional justice for Sri Lanka, adopted by the Human Rights Council in October 2015, calls for an accountability mechanism involving international judges, prosecutors, and investigators. Little progress has been made on this or other elements of the resolution.

“The acquittals in the Trinco Five case mean that the government’s obligation to bring to justice those responsible for the murders remains,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director, Amnesty International. “Governments monitoring Sri Lanka’s compliance with the 2015 Human Rights Council resolution should put this case at the top of their concerns.”

(Report by Human Rights Watch) 

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by     (2019-07-15 04:59:53)
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The voter lost in a political quagmire

The voter lost in a political quagmire

18 July 2019
  are talking about the absence of elections in the country, but no one is taking to the street in protest of voters being denied of using their franchise.

At the present no party seems to be serious in its approach to the much looked forward to elections, which in a way makes us guess whether top political parties are privy to some secret information as to why elections are not being held. Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshappriya has said that Provincial Councils Elections should be held first because this election has been long overdue. But he has said in an interview with a Sinhala Weekend newspaper that popular political parties are not in favour this type of small election.

The reason for this could be that big political parties, like the United National Party, might not perform well at such an election. Big players in the political scene don’t like small parities performing well at provincial level elections. A good example is the Pohottuwa Party sweeping the boards at the last LG Polls.

The Elections Commissioner has aired his view as to why people are not seeking the assistance of the law, so that the Government will be forced to set the stage to conduct elections and thereby voters would get to exercise their franchise.

  • The Government continues to survive inside the closed doors of the parliament
  • Premier Wickremesinghe has nicely played the democracy game and wooed the minority Tamils

Deshappriya has said that he in his role as Elections Commissioner can’t seek the assistance of the law to conduct elections. According to him there is no provision by the law to back an attempt made by the Elections Commissioner to force the government to conduct elections.

The lack of elections also reflects badly on the people as well. The citizens of this country have over the years allowed corrupt lawmakers to rule over and dictate terms to them. The absence of elections in a country doesn’t speak much about democracy.

Though the presidential elections are much looked forward to’its the provincial council elections which are closer to the hearts of the people. Eight months have lapsed since the provincial councils have finished their terms and the people have taken their non-function very passively. Forget the elections for a moment, have the people of this country uttered a word when ever the petrol prices were raised unreasonably during the past; an action that people would resort to even in European countries when the government tries to tighten the belts of people through unfair means.

The present elections snag is the result of there being a barrier to adopt the new election laws because the delimitation report presented to parliament hasn’t been gazetted. If this election is to be conducted the new law has to be repealed by a two-thirds majority in parliament; thus paving the way to revert to the old elections law. For the record the president is expected to obtain a Supreme Court ruling on whether the old law would prevail in the event the new law is put aside. Elections Commissioner Deshappriya is also expected to meet the president on this regards when the latter returns to the country.

In this backdrop the government still holds the clout within parliament. This was proved beyond doubt when the JVP’s attempt to move a no-confidence motion against the Government was defeated by the Wickremesinghe regime by 27 votes.

The Government continues to survive inside the closed doors of the parliament. Outside it the voices of dissent are loud and demand that the regime be thrown out. But as critics have pointed out the majority of the voters are ignorant about the laws of the country. They also seem to think that the Elections Commissioner is not using his powers and not pushing for elections. These thoughts are far removed from the truth; which boils down to the fact that Deshappriya doesn’t have a mandate to force the government to conduct elections. Deshappriya has said in an interview that the majority of the people don’t understand this.
The Elections Commissioner has aired his view as to why people are not seeking the assistance of the law, so that the Government will be forced to set the stage to conduct elections and thereby voters would get to exercise their franchise
The Sri Lankan voter has voted largely by following his or her heart. When Mahinda Rajapaksa was voted in as president in 2005 there were some people who aired the view that they cast their votes for this man from the south because he was the only candidate with a mustache. The mustache is considered as a sign of manliness and surprisingly these little details take an elections candidate a very long way in a tiny nation like Sri Lanka. Even if the country conducts the presidential elections before any other election, the ‘war mentality’ that the people harbour is likely to make them vote for an aggressive leader who’d opt for a military style administrative system.

Without elections held for a long time, democracy has been already defeated to some extent. We have also heard firebrand monk Ven Gnanasara Thera affirming that a democratic approach to governance hasn’t served this country well. If the present regime is unable to conduct elections due to a legal snag and the people responded passively without demanding for an opportunity to exercise their franchise, it might give a dictator politician the idea that this nation can be controlled with an iron first if he assumes power. The manner in which Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe ruled his nation has not been erased from our minds.

Premier Wickremesinghe has nicely played the democracy game and wooed the minority Tamils to back him. He is assured of their votes in the event there is an election. For the record he survived the recent no-confidence motion thanks to the Tamil vote in parliament.

This government’s motive of clinging to power is clear by acts such as offering tabs to school children, ensuring media freedom and catering to the interests of USA and India; the latter country is said to have the ability to influence who becomes our next head of state.

The election outcome of this nation which was quite predictable in the past has become quite unpredictable; largely because too many players and too many fancy political theories are being floated. It’s not as easy as whether to vote for Ranil or Mahinda, or Fonseka or Mahinda. We now have to find a candidate whose mind we can easily read, so that the mask he is wearing falls before us. Seeking the truth in spiritual terms can be easier than finding a candidate who nurtures genuine thoughts. This is how complicated the election set-up in Sri Lanka is!
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Tamil families of disappeared protest demanding justice

Tamil families of disappeared protest demanding justice

Tamil families of the disappeared protested in Mannar and Jaffna on Thursday, demanding justice for their forcibly disappeared relatives.
 13 July 2019
In Mannar, families were joined by civil society members including religious leaders, in a demonstration outside the district secretariat.
Some families also gathered at the Navaly Saint Peter’s Church in Jaffna, calling for international justice for the disappeared as well as for the victims of massacres.
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SRI LANKA IS AT AN EXCEEDINGLY DANGEROUS JUNCTURE – KISHALI PINTO JAYAWARDENA

SRI LANKA IS AT AN EXCEEDINGLY DANGEROUS JUNCTURE – KISHALI PINTO JAYAWARDENA

Sri Lanka Brief14/07/2019

There is a tragic disconnect between what Sri Lanka’s leaders say to the public and the patent disbelief with which these words are received. This will eventually have dangerous repercussions beyond the electoral defeat of those men, impacting on the nation as a whole as it is pushed in a perilous direction with raw bitterness and biting anger dominating the public mood.

High and awful price of political failure

So even as words pour out of political mouths, often meaning very little, there is a serious question that must surely be asked in all good conscience. Do these politicians not understand or realise that they must speak with greater care about matters concerning the security of the Sri Lankan State? Or is it that we have come to the stage where even the basic minimum cannot be expected any longer from the Government or the Opposition? This is in a context where millions are spent on sittings of Parliament but often, the quorum of members is not present in the House for the sessions to continue, which was the case this week as well.

Take the oft quoted protestations of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that the Easter Sunday terrorists have all been either killed or put behind bars. As responsible national leaders, making such sweeping assertions amounts to bad politics, let alone indicating a singular lack of commonsense. This is in contrast to, for example, the former Army Commander and now a front ranking member of the Prime Minister’s party, Sarath Fonseka who acknowledges the contrary far more realistically every chance that he gets. As he says, the very nature of the Islamist State beast is that its barbarities may recur at any point.

That point is borne out by facts on the ground. Even this week, the Terrorist Investigation Department arrested an associate of the main jihadist suicide bomber who had planned the Easter Sunday attacks. Caught in a surburb in Colombo, this worker in a garment factory had been trained in suicide attacks. So if the threat has been so comprehensively controlled as parroted by the President and the Prime Minister in a rare moment of agreeing together on this while scorchingly disagreeing on almost everything else, how is it that such arrests still occur, regularly as it were?

Vapid claims encouraging political madness

The fact remains that such arrests will now always be a part of daily life in this country. We need to credit law enforcement agencies for ceaseless monitoring and vigilance as they are allowed to work without the political staying of their hands. Even so, the possibility, (or as the former Army Commander might prefer to say, the probability), of an attacker escaping the law enforcement net to wreak havoc is the high and awful price that we will pay for the failure of our petty and peevishly quarreling politicians. This has catapulted Sri Lanka into communal madness which, ironically enough, is far worse than what existed a decade ago

This madness has gone to the extent that school children have been penalised by rabid teachers for bringing stationery to school on the basis that these school books are published by a business conglomerate having businessmen of Muslim ethnicity. The law enforcement process itself has been subverted to the extent that a doctor of Muslim ethnicity is still in remand on suspicion of forced sterilizations of Sinhala women and for presumed illegal assets even though the Criminal Investigations Department has stated on record that no evidence has been found of any criminal act.

And the vapid utterances of government parliamentarians only act as a powerful impetus to encourage these ill-favored winds of change. This week’s parliamentary debate on the failure of the Government to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks was a case in point. The lack of gravity with which Sri Lanka’s politicians treated the debate was palpable. One Minister was heard to exclaim vehemently that his Government should not be ‘attacked’ on the unfounded allegation that it knew of the attacks in advance and yet prevented it from happening.

Token concessions of ‘collective responsibility’

But this is scarcely a matter to be talked of with any appreciable measure of indignation. The Government’s crime lies in allowing jihadist cells to operate to the extent that they were able to grow powerful enough and audacious enough to carry out the Easter Sunday attacks. This is as bad as deliberately allowing these attacks to take place. One is indistinguishable from the other. In effect, this is a distinction without a difference. The end result, which is the devastation of the country and the virtually irreparable reversing of a steadily strengthening pro-liberties movement which grew out of the excesses of the Rajapaksa-era, is the same.

That cannot be dismissed by a token concession that the Prime Minister and his Ministers take ‘collective responsibility’ for the Easter Sunday atrocity. Neither can it be explained by the fact that the Prime Minister and the State Minister of Defence had been excluded from national security council meetings, which the nation knew about only aftee the event. Certainly the responsibility of President Maithripala Sirisena as Minister of Defence in allowing his personal power agenda to obscure national security priorities is enormous.

Again here, this responsibility has been discarded with scarcely a blink as the President preoccupies himself with other distractions, including purportedly signing death warrants of convicted drug smugglers. As pointed out last week in these column spaces, the arrest of the Inspector General of Police, (who meanwhile farcically continues in that post), along with the former Secretary of Defence does not deflect attention from the political failures of the President and the Prime Minister in any sense whatsoever.

Frivolous treatment of national security

Indeed, the frivolous treatment of Sri Lanka’s security by a bickering coalition alliance continues without a pause. At times, the claim that ‘all is now well’ is so flamboyant that it is almost as if the Government feels that it deserves accolades for its post-Easter Sunday performance rather than its duty to solemnly and with appropriate gravity, acknowledge the enormous failure of joint leadership in allowing this atrocity to happen on Sri Lanka’s soil.

Meanwhile former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is happily rubbing his hands together in the expectation of the return to power of himself, his extended family and his corrupt cronies, exceeeds even his customary ebullience when he claims that, during his time, the Sri Lankan people were not scared when bombs went off and that ordinary life was not disrupted unlike now. These remarks would be funny if they did not betray the naked power hungry thrust of the maker.
Sri Lanka is now at an exceedingly dangerous juncture indeed.
– Sunday Times

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An aborted university and squandered opportunity

An aborted university and squandered opportunity

 Even if all funds are channelled legally and through proper agencies in the country, the fact that the lion share of it is coming from Saudi Arabia leaves room for suspecting that the university would ultimately function as an intellectual centre for spreading Wahhabi ideology. To make the situation worse, the architecture of buildings and the appearance of the front yard planted with date palms add an Arab flavour

logoWednesday, 17 July 2019

About three years ago when passing through Punanai along the arterial road between Habarana and Batticaloa, I noticed a few brick structures appearing in a parched land amid thick shrubs and woody trees. It was almost a desolate spot where I could not see any people living close by. On inquiring from friends, I understood that it was a Saudi-funded huge madrasa built by one Muslim parliamentarian and minister from the Batticaloa District.

My immediate reaction was to question firstly, the need for such a madrasa and that too in a remote place like Punanai where there is no Muslim catchment population, and secondly, the implications of Saudi funding for a madrasa in Sri Lanka especially at a time when Wahhabism, the Saudi Arabian ultraconservative ideology, was falling under the spotlight of international critics who were trying to link that ideology with Islamist extremism. I warned my friends that the project would face immense difficulties on completion at least from nationalist Buddhists. That is exactly what is happening now.

Later on, when reading through an opinion piece by Helum Bandara in Daily Mirror (18 January 2018), it dawned that it was going to be a ‘fully fledged state-of-the art university approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC)’. Well, if Sri Lanka could have private hospitals and private schools why not private universities? However, after witnessing the controversy over SAITM, critical questions once again arose particularly in relation to the difference that this university was going to make to the 15 existing ones managed by UGC, the control over its management, and how profitable was it going to be to avoid becoming a white elephant.

From information collected from print media and television interviews it appears that this university is going to be one controlled by members of the founder’s family, funded almost totally by Arab sources, while offering some advanced scientific and technical courses within an Islamic ambience.

The financial viability of this institution would obviously depend on fees charged from students, size of enrolment and cost of quality academic staff and administration. The figure Rs. 150,000 per semester per student as mentioned in the article referred to would obviously shut out majority of local students but would attract plenty of foreigners. However, that attraction would depend on the quality of teaching staff and standard and novelty of courses offered, both of which should be internationally competitive.

On the contrary, if foreign demand falls and if fees were to reduce to cater to local demand, quality of education offered would have to be compromised, which ultimately would jeopardise the financial viability of the project. One is not sure whether any marketing projections were carried out before venturing blindly into the area of higher studies. Running a private school is different from running a quality private university.
Sources of funding
The other issue is about the sources of funding. Whether through interest-free loans or outright donations, all funds would certainly have some strings attached to them. What do these lenders and donors expect in return? This is where suspicion arises regarding the ultimate objective of this university. Even if all funds are channelled legally and through proper agencies in the country, the fact that the lion share of it is coming from Saudi Arabia leaves room for suspecting that the university would ultimately function as an intellectual centre for spreading Wahhabi ideology. To make the situation worse, the architecture of buildings and the appearance of the front yard planted with date palms add an Arab flavour.

This project is another instance where a Muslim leader has been blinded by his political clout and personal avarice to ignore ground realities. A university funded by Arab money with at least one faculty or department to teach Islamic sharia and cultural studies, which would be staffed by Arab scholars at least partially, would certainly be viewed by others as a conduit for religious propaganda. The founder obviously has bitten more than what he could chew. Not much consultancy with academics and Muslim intellectuals seems to have gone into the academic planning of this university.

Historically, Muslim leaders in this country had built and successfully managed educational institutions without provoking envy and suspicion from others. One could pick two instances where Muslim leaders in the past had built institutions of quality and prestige without inviting criticism from other communities. One was the establishment of Colombo Zahira College and the other was Naleemiya Institute.

The first was started at a time when there was a cultural awakening in the country where every community was trying to open educational institutions within its own religious and cultural ethos. Thus, when Muslims understood the national context and embarked on the Zahira project they received not the anger but blessing from other community leaders. Zahira went on to produce hundreds of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim scholars, many of whom were of poor economic background but went on to serve the country with patriotism and dedication while remembering with pride their debt to Zahira.

The second, Naleemiya Institute, although of a different genre and catering entirely to the needs of Muslims, was the brainchild of one patriotic local Muslim philanthropist, popularly known as Naleem Hajiar, whose generosity extended even to the government of the country, at a time when the nation as a whole was in dire straits to finance its imports.

There was no foreign donation or loan involved in that project, and there was no grumbling from any community when it was opened. Instead, the advice of Naleemiya’s founder was eagerly sought by the then socialist finance minister Dr. N.M. Perera, who ultimately became an admirer of the entrepreneurial spirit and patriotism of that founder. Naleem Hajiar, a businessman when entered the field of education knew his limitations, but was never reluctant to entertain with enthusiasm advice from prominent educationists of that time like A.M.A. Azeez and Bdiuddin Mahmud.

These were two instances where Muslim leaders worked within the national ethos while serving their own community. More importantly, both Zahira and Naleemiya, unlike the aborted Punanai University, were not institutions intended to make private profit. In a sense, those two icons bear silent testimony to the quality of leadership which Muslims were able to produce in the past.

The question now is what should be done with this aborted project? Its founder argues that the university cannot be taken over by the Government legally. With reasonable compensation the Government should be able to acquire it and utilise the facilities and preferably for educational purposes.

Why not turn it into an international institute of research and postgraduate studies in agricultural and veterinary sciences? The land is part of the Mahaveli Development Scheme and the area is suitable for agriculture and cattle farming. Hence, a research centre in that field will be apt. It can be an entirely independent institution or part of another existing university.

Having said that, there is still a need for an ‘Islamic’ university of a different type. Why not this aborted project be converted to such an institution in Sri Lanka? There had been a spurt of Islamic universities operating in various parts of the Muslim world. These universities are products of a petro-dollar era. Even though they are called Islamic there is hardly any difference between them and other non-Islamic universities particularly in respect of curricula taught and courses offered, except may be in the coverage of Arabic and Islamic studies.

Even in those studies they are unable break the hold of Islamic orthodoxy. Yet, not one of them so far had been able to attain a place within the top 100 universities in the world. Why therefore an ‘Islamic’ university and that too in Sri Lanka?

I want to refer to the thoughts of a Muslim internationalist, activist, thinker and intellectual, Eqbal Ahmad (1933/4-1999), whose proposed Khaldun University, named after Abdul-Rahman Ibn Khaldun, a 14th century historian and sociologist, and a secular and scientific figure, received international support from Muslim intellectuals who even wanted to work for this secular institution pro bono. After showing some initial enthusiasm and support by the Government of Pakistan under Benazir Bhuto, she and the forces of business and religious conservatism jointly sabotaged that project. I concur with his view that, “the Muslim people, or for that matter any people in the world, will not make a passage from a pre-industrial traditional culture and economy to a modern culture and economy without finding a linkage within finding forms and relationships that are congruent between modernity and inherited traditions … My argument is that we will not be able to fight fundamentalism until we produce a modern progressive secular educated class of people who know the traditions and take the best of it” (Eqbal Ahmad, Confronting Empire, Interviews with David Barsamian, Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press, 2000, p.22. Emphasis added).

A modern Muslim university to realise this vision of Eqbal somewhere in the world is an absolute need of our time. It will be a sound first step to reform even the madrasas eventually. However, given the prevailing climate of ultra-conservative Wahhabi hold on educational institutions, the very forces that sabotaged Khaldun University in Pakistan would do the same in any Muslim country. That is why had the politician and minister of the aborted Punanai project taken the bold step to establish from the outset a secular university based on Islamic rational tradition, he would have at least garnered support from intellectuals around the world to counter the criticisms that he is facing now.

Sri Lanka could have pioneered this venture and contributed immensely to restart a tradition lost by Muslims centuries ago. Such a university would have won a unique status and earned an unparalleled prestige to this country in the Muslim world. Unfortunately, the entire Muslim political leadership in Sri Lanka lacks that progressive vision. The aborted university project was a golden opportunity squandered by abuse of political power, subservience to Wahhabism and hunger for profit.
(The writer is attached to the School of Business and Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia.)

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On Gnanasara’s Demand To Mold Local Muslim Culture

On Gnanasara’s Demand To Mold Local Muslim Culture

logo demand to mold local Muslim culture the way Buddhist monks wanted – Recipe for disaster of unpredictable consequences
Addressing the July 7 meeting at Kandy to provoke Sinhalese against Muslims under the on gong anti-Muslim campaign, Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thera demanded that”
Buddhist monks should be free to mold the local Muslim culture the way they wanted”.
This is wishful thinking as the demand, perhaps backed by the government, has all the ingredients to turn the island into a permanent killing field to the detriment of all.
Muslims will never agree to such a move in the same way Kandyan Sinhalese will never allowed to temper with Kandyan Laws and the Jaffna Tamils with Thesawalami which were respected even British colonial period,.
Politicians and so called ulemas may compromise Islam to suit their personal agendas, but it is highly unlikely that the community which has suffered enough due to senseless racist politics would tolerate such a move.
Muslim politicians and controversial ulemas were responsible to a great extend for the difficult times the community is passing through. However whatever issues within the community could be handled by the community itself within the framework of country’s laws and there is no need for outside interference.
On the other hand Gnanasara Thera’s call also indicates that racist politicians and their mercenaries never learnt any lesson from the 30 year bloody ethnic conflict which ravaged the country.
However, it appears the Sinhalese, sick and tired of seven decades of racist politics which brought nothing but disaster and sufferings , have sent a clear message to Gnanasara Thera and his supporters when BBS meeting ended up as a flop with the attendance of few thousand brought from outside.
The sad state of affairs was such that the government, brought to power with Muslims votes, allowed this meeting to take place despite emergency regulations selectively enforced on Muslims.
Meanwhile Gnanasara Thera, is not a man of peace but known for his violence against Muslims. He was in prison serving a sentence. Violating accepted norms President Sriisena visited him in prison and released him within 48 hours before entertaining for tea with his mother.
It appears President Sirisena released him despite opposition from legal circles to use him as a tool to carry out the current campaign against Muslims. This was done, perhaps deliberately, to turn the attention from the acute political, economic and numerous other crises the country is faced with.
According to a website Colombo Telegraph report ”Gnanasara Thera asked the leaders of this country to handover the responsibility of defeating what he described as Islamic extremism to monks. He said “our monks are ready…Even if the media is with us or not, we can still hold grass root level meetings, talk to people in person and mold the Muslim culture the way we want…”
He said “a serpent has entered into our home, it’s a poisonous snake that will bite, and not just us but even its own kind…all of us in this house must join together and kill this snake on sight. This can only be achieved by the sword that is the religion, without pelting a single stone.”
The unanswered question is why the government is silent on this naked provocation, especially with emergency regulation in force?
Gnanasara Thera could make these extremely provocative statement and that too under emergency regulations because the Maithri-Ranil Government has allowed racists of all walks of lives to temper with Islam, Islamic culture, Muslims’ lifestyle, their economy, their education, customs and traditions and almost every other aspect striking at the very root of their very survival.
However these racists failed to understand that a Muslim’ s life is entirely based on Islam which is guided by Sharia rules which has been distorted by US, European and Israel war mongers to justify their wars on Muslim countries.
They have demonized and distorted and associated Islam violence. Many knowledgeable people now suspect that this destructive global agenda is being implemented in the island in the aftermath of Easter Sunday massacre not realizing the serious consequences.
These racist who are sowing the seeds for future conflicts have failed to realize that Muslims who lived here for more than 1000 years were the most peaceful of the three communities as stated by former Chief Justice Sarath N Silva.
Chief of Defense Staff, Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne once said that Sri Lanka remains one country today only because of steady Muslim support despite LTTE atrocities against them. He said “we are alive today because of sacrifices of fellow Muslim officers”.
Muslims have nothing to do with the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings and killings at churches and hotels. Muslim organizations and individuals informed the authorities of Zahran and his group years ago.
These bombers have everything to do with former Rajapaksa government which reported to have paid them monthly salary and the present President Sirisena-Prime Minister Wickremasinghe government which failed to prevent the carnage despite prior information.
Yet Muslim community was demonized and persecuted.
A powerful media campaign poisoned the Sinhalese minds against Muslims. Damage was already done. Today the entire Muslim community is on the dock accused of violence and terrorism. Shameful and sad state of affairs is such that Buddhist temples are reported advising Sinhalese not to patronize Muslims business establishments.
Country cannot move ahead by protecting and promoting extremist elements exploited by racist politicians to advance their destructive political ambitions.

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Rainbow coalition intact with defeat of no-faith motion

Rainbow coalition intact with defeat of no-faith motion

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By HARIM PEIRIS-
The No-Confidence motion (NCM) against the government, presented by the JVP was defeated in Parliament a few days back, by one hundred and nineteen (119) votes to ninety-two (92) or by a majority of twenty-seven (27) votes. Voting in favor of the motion were three of the main opposition parties, the SLPP and the SLFP sitting in Parliament as the UPFA and the JVP. Opposing the same and having a comfortable margin above the threshold of one hundred and thirteen (113) members required for a simple majority of the House, was the UNP and the TNA.
The politics of whether the government should stand or fall provides some useful insights into the political alliances and coalitions that currently exist, and are an indicator of the balance of political and social forces, for the much-anticipated year end presidential election.
Firstly, the hard core of the rainbow coalition which ended Rajapaksa rule in 2015 was the UNF together with its allies of the Muslim parties and the Tamil National Alliance. They were supported independently by the JVP. The UPFA at the January 2015 election was solidly behind Mahinda Rajapaksa, but the politics of Rajapaksa verses the rest, meant that the rest or a rainbow coalition defeated the deeply entrenched and seemingly invincible Rajapaksa political machine. The breakup of the UPFA post the presidential election, into the Rajapaksa SLPP and the Sirisena SLFP is again coalescing politically, though the talks to do so institutionally are still progressing very slowly.
For both Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa who cannot contest another presidential election due to being term barred, and President Maithripala Sirisena, who is extremely unlikely to receive presidential election nomination from either the UNP or the SLPP, a general election consequent to a successful no confidence motion against the government is to their advantage. Mahinda Rajapaksa can lead his party in a general election in which he is eligible for candidature, and President Sirisena can conduct such a campaign for his party, with all the trappings of his office and state power. Even for the JVP, a general election before a presidential election would be more favorable, since as a third force in national politics, it is not seriously in the game of the two horse presidential race. So, the votes in Parliament for the NCM demonstrated just that; as UPFA and JVP supported the NCM, while the UNP and the TNA opposed the same, leading to a resounding defeat for the NCM. The politics of the NCM, last week, demonstrated that at least in parliament the remnant of the rainbow coalition was holding, in much the same way it held together late last year, to defeat the constitutional coup premiership of Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Implications for the presidential election
The presidential election politics of 2015 was a rather simple formula, the Rajapaksas vs the rest. The rest, a rainbow coalition prevailed against all odds. The 2019 presidential election will in a sense be a re-run of that same election, but with different actors. Instead of Mahinda, another Rajapaksa will be candidate, most likely Gota; and instead of Maithripala Sirisena, another consensus candidate would be required who is a unifier of a disparate coalition, while simultaneously being attractive to a more diverse constituency, including at least about two fifths of the Sinhala constituency. The reality of the 2015 election is that Maithripala Sirisena did not win the popular vote outside the North and East, losing the other seven provinces combined by three hundred thousand votes, but winning big in the North and East with a combined majority of seven hundred and fifty thousand votes, leading to his national victory margin of almost half a million votes.
The big difference this time around, is that the UNP and its UNF partners have been in Government for the past five years and are likely seen, at least by the floating voter and definitely by those in the North and East, to have not fully delivered on their expectations. Expectations created in no small part by the coalition’s own rhetoric of good governance and sweeping reforms. The real issue is would many voters switch back to the Rajapaksa candidate as a repudiation of the one term of UNP rule, and would people vote along ethno-religious identity blocks or base their votes on governance track record and policies? In all likelihood, votes are garnered on a combination of these factors. But for a Rajapaksa candidate to win, he (or indeed she) would have to do better and improve on Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own electoral performance among Sinhala Buddhist voters in 2015 and his appeal to them.
Even as things stand now, the rhetoric and messaging of Gotabaya’s Eliya and Viyath Maga organizations and their fellow travelers is certainly more strident and nationalistic, than Mahinda Rajapaksa ever was or has been. The real issue is whether the votes that slipped away from the Rajapaksa’s in 2015, essentially all minorities and the more liberal minded, urban, sub-urban and youthful first time Sinhala voters, can be won back with ever higher doses of nationalism and stridency or a move back to a more moderate center? Neither in November – December last year nor six months later, have the Rajapaksa’s secured or demonstrated any new political allies, they didn’t have in January 2015. Whether they have done so with the voting public at large, we will know through the next presidential election, due before the year end.
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