Won’t the Sri Lankan leadership reform?

Centre for Peace and Human Rights Culture Director Rev.Fr. A.I. Bernard has underlined an urgent and necessary remedy for the ailment Sri Lanka is undergoing on account of the ethnic conflict that grips the island state.  On behalf of the Jaffna-based Centre Rev.Fr. A.I. Bernard says, in a letter addressed to the Sri Lanka’s Peace Secretariat Director General Jayantha Dhanapala on 10th of August 2004, that the lack of sincerity of purpose on the part of the southern political leadership and the mindset that regards the Tamil people simply as a minority are the two negative factors the Southern leadership have to get rid of.  

Following is the full text of the letter:

This letter follows the meeting you had yesterday (August 9, 2004) with Jaffna civil society leaders regarding the peace process.

The level of trust of the Tamil community in the southern polity and leadership is fast ebbing.  As you rightly said at the meeting, unless we act promptly to salvage the fragile ceasefire, the consequences will be drastic.

It seems to me that two negative factors in the southern leadership have to be got rid of.  One is lack of sincerity on the part of the leadership.  The South has produced hundreds of politicians since independence who place personal ambition and political power above the interest of the country, but not a single statesman.  We have seen leaders at the very top who have gone back on their word after getting into agreements with Tamil leaders.

The situation prevailing at present does not seem any the better.  One cannot be certain that what is stated in the morning will not be contradicted in the evening.  Unholy alliances are made, both within and without the country, which show a lack of sincerity of purpose in searching for an honourable solution to the Tamil problem.

The south, therefore, has to come up with a “statesman” to salvage the country from the present mess.

The other obstacle to the pursuit of peace is the mindset that continues to regard the Tamil people simply as a minority.  This concept has, as far as the Tamil people are concerned, come to grief.  I do not think that they will settle for any solution that is not based on the notion that they are a nation, with the same dignity and rights as the Sinhala community.  This equality will have to be respected at whatever level peace negotiations are conducted.

It would be stupid to think, as some sections of the south seem to do, that another military offensive against the LTTE is a plausible option to sort out the problem.  Such a move will only spell total disaster and precipitate a break up of the country.

Let me add a word about the ISGA issue raised at the meeting.  There is no point in charging the LTTE as being intransigent about it.  The idea of interim administration has been espoused by the Tamil community itself for a long while.  The people are quite aware of how neglected they have been by the successive governments with regard to development.  They are aware of how funds due to them have been diverted for other purposes.  Aren’t they justified in clamouring for the right to receive and disburse funds for their development, and for safe hands committed to it?

The sooner the peace talks are resumed with honest intentions, the less the chance for a total breakdown.

http://www.lttepeacesecretariat.com/mainpages/n26084.htm

Some Concrete Thoughts on the Creation of a Federal State by Wakeley Paul

The ISGA sets out the interim structures for an ultimate Federal Constitution. This must first be given the chance to work in order to determine what further restructuring is necessary.

Both main ethnic groups must acknowledge that the whole quest and need for a Federal structure in SL has been generated by the fact that the Tamil people in the Northeast need to be liberated from the grip of Sinhalese supremacy. Everyone must recognize that the foundation and the need for change from a unitary constitution stems from the evil of Sinhala supremacy over the other communities.

Examples from other nations cannot be used as precedents, because the reasons and circumstances surrounding their creation of a Federal structure differ from ours. The original thirteen states in the United States, for instance, surrendered limited powers to a federal government to strengthen themselves against foreign forces by unifying their economic resources to fight those more powerful nations with an eye to expanding their colonial possessions. We do not share that concern, since our economic resources could well remain coordinated under a federal structure on the one hand; and unity for reasons of national security is a farce. The SL army is a hindrance to Tamil aspirations, not the outside world. It does absolutely nothing to deter foreign forces from overpowering the island militarily, if they so desire. Our problem is a problem in reverse.

Our concern is to ensure that no one ethnic group traumatizes the other. Sinhalese supremacy has been and is the root cause of our nightmare. The centralization of power in the hands of one ethnic group is the bugbear we seek to overcome. In order to achieve this, we must focus on the fact that the regionalization of powers is more vital than the centralization of them. We must all begin to realize that Centralization of power is the evil we seek to overcome. It is centralization, not regionalism, that has divided us. The reduction of central power in favor of regional power is the spice rack we should all reach for.

Loose generalizations about Federalism and separation should give way to a concrete emphasis on the need to regionalize. To use American constitutional jargon, those they called federalists who have favored a concentration of power in the center must yield to advocates of regional power over central control. Our whole concentration of effort should be in favor of power to the regions away from central control, as it has been central control that has brought us to our present predicament.

The first question to ask is, what are the areas in which a national policy is so necessary as to override the need for regional control? Instead of asking the Tamils who support regionalism to outline the areas that call for exclusive regional control, it should be up to the Sinhalese leaders to outline areas where national control is so vital as to make regional control of these areas detrimental to the national interest. That might prove more difficult for them to establish than can be imagined. The burden must be shifted from the supporters of regionalism to prove their case to the supporters of a strong central government to justify their need to retain central control over the island. We must reverse our priorities.

Finances to fund regional needs have in the past been a crucial concern. This is because we all mistakenly assumed that there was a presumption in favor of maintaining a strong central government. The focus should instead be on the regional powers to have maximum functions with almost exclusive taxing powers, leaving the central government with much less power and far fewer reasons to tax the citizens than they have now.

Foreign policy in SL cannot be reserved exclusively for the central government for the simple reason that racial bias has even dominated our dealings with foreign powers and institutions. Racial bias has underlined all government policy. A glaring example of this is that foreign aid has in the past been used to the detriment of the Northeast based on ethnic bias. Moreover, foreign policy could also be used to restrict and control the trade polices of the regions. Foreign policy should either be a shared function, or each region should be allowed to determine its own foreign policy. Is there any valid reason, other than the right to Sinhalese supremacy, why we need a national as opposed to separate regional foreign policies, each with their own embassies and personnel to deal with foreign governments and institutions. This may seem to border on separation, but how does this hurt either side? It only hurts those who are determined to preserve Sinhala supremacy. The whole object of a Federal or regional structure in SL is to prevent the Sinhala supremacists from holding sway. This should be the background upon which a regional structure is to be built. To do otherwise is to swing away from the reality behind the need for change and to succumb to the dictates of the Sinhalese supremacists, who after all are the cause of our current crisis in the first place.

None of us can ever ignore the underlying reality that the island’s joint national resources will be the unifying factor that will continue to bind the two arms of government into a single unit. It will also be the fractious cause for debate and disagreement as to how those resources should be divided for use. This will be the troublesome new dimension that can keep us from reaching the much-desired conclusion to the conflict, hedged as it is with uncertainty. That, on the other hand, should hopefully be our last bone of contention.

To sum it up, the move should be away from Sinhalese supremacy to regional supremacy. Unless the rational, reasonable Sinhalese recognize this, all efforts at peace and the creation of a federal structure will have to fail. The Tamils of the Northeast do not regard themselves as Sri Lankan.  It is only the Sinhalese supremacists who do.

Sri Lanka: Election Observers have their own Agenda By Prem Sivasamy

Introduction

The concept of free and fair elections had long ago become an illusion in Sri Lanka, particularly to Tamils. However, Tamils wanted to participate in the last general election only to express their legitimate political aspirations to the International Community (IC) through a democratic process once again, as they did in 1977.

But the reality is that the Sri Lankans nowadays vote in general elections under conditions that make a mockery of democracy.

In a milieu where elections are patently unfair and not free, reports from observers and monitors cannot be taken as serious anymore; especially if the reports are from Sinhalese dominated local “so-called” monitoring groups. However, Tamils had expected a different kind of reports from the European Union (EU), but they are very disappointed.

Reducing Tamils’ Representation in Parliament

For more than 50 years since the independence from the British, the entire political establishment in Colombo has been practicing systematic and persistent efforts to reduce Tamils’ representation in the Parliament, thus, marginalizing the Tamils politically.

Within a few months of 1948 independence, Sri Lanka enacted laws to disenfranchise over a million of Tamils; the first direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Sri Lanka, thus depriving of their hitherto enjoyed citizenship rights, including their right to vote. This first action followed by many similar was racially and politically motivated to reduce Tamil representation in the parliament.

That phenomenon of reducing Tamils representation has continued election after election even until the last election. As part of this strategy in 2001 election, tens of thousands of people living in the areas under the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were not permitted to vote.

Moreover, many of the hundreds of thousands of Tamil refugees who fled the fighting had effectively been disenfranchised by electoral procedures designed to make it difficult for them to register. This allowed unpopular, Sinhala government backed paramilitary Tamil parties like Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) and People Liberation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) to enter the parliament in yet another fraudulent election.

Election: Mockery of Democracy in Sri Lanka

The two major Sinhala political parties, the Peoples Alliance (PA) and the United National Party (UNP), in the country do not respect this most basic right of the people, right to vote and choose. The parties use terror to coerce people to vote. The party in power also uses the State apparatus, particularly the police and security forces, for this purpose.

Both major political parties have private gangs of underworld thugs and former soldiers. Party leaders openly endorse the use of violence. Even, President Kumaratunga provocatively once told a public election rally: “It is okay to kill one of theirs who killed one of ours.”

Tamils have always been at the receiving end in Sri Lanka

Tamils have always been at the receiving end of such undemocratic practices in Sri Lanka. Sweeping emergency regulations always remain in force in Tamil areas, even if they do not exist in the rule of law. Tamil areas are blanketed with troops and police by occupying one third of the residential land in the Northeast. Fundamental rights of the people are compromised for maintaining the military balance of power.

The EU report talks about intimidation. Actual intimidation did not come from the LTTE, but the presence of heavily armed soldiers and paramilitary troops were the ones which reinforced the climate of intimidation.

The earlier Sri Lankan elections had shown how police units were mobilized to subvert a free election. The police were used to kidnap, illegally detain and torture, kill and secretly dispose of tens of thousands of political opponents of the regime.

Against All Odds

Against all odds, Tamil people decided to use this election to show their “legitimate aspiration” to the IC.

Lack of access and transport facilities to polling areas for voters from the areas under the LTTE control in Tricomalee, Jaffna, Batticaloa and Vanni had been major impediments to the whole process.

Even though, the officials from the Northeast districts explained to the Commissioner of elections, Mr. Dayananda Dissanayaka, that it was not at all possible for more than two hundred thousand people to cast their votes in far flung polling booths within the eight hours allowed for voting on the day of the elections, the Sri Lankan Election Commissioner refused to have polling booths inside the LTTE controlled areas.

The IC, NGOs, monitors, and observers alike knew that the difficulties people would have to face was a major infringement of their right to vote and had serious implications for the integrity of the process in the affected areas. However, these monitors and the IC decided to remain silent, thus allowing the Sri Lankan government implementing its anti-Tamils policy. What the IC could have done was to choose this opportunity to create a conducive environment where a genuine free and fair election could have been held. Nevertheless, the IC had miserably failed to stop this horrific violation of fundamental rights.

News agencies reported that thousands of voters, including women with babies, pregnant women and elderly, from the areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers swarmed to polling stations in Omanthai to cast their ballots.

Voters came from the remote villages of more than 40-50 kilo meters from Omanthai. The LTTE with their limited resources had also cooperated with Sri Lankan election officials for a smooth electoral process.

The EU election monitoring reports have clearly failed to appreciate or recognize these turn of events.

Political Parties having been intimidated?

In the EU reports, there are mainly two political parties mentioned as having been intimidated. One is led by the controversial figure of Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), V. Ananthasangaree, whose Independent group in Jaffna district garnered less than 2% of the votes.

The other party is the EPDP. This party is a constituent party of the PA coalition and is armed and financed by the government. Its party members operate as auxiliary forces to the security forces in the Northeast. It managed to gain a single seat in the last election again through intimidation. They lack any significant base of support; these parties openly use threats and intimidation against their rivals and ordinary voters.

The ground reality has been that the Tamil people always consider the members of these parties as traitors. During the election campaign, they were always accompanied by the Sri Lankan forces and never approached the people. There were many incidents where the public was intimidated and threatened by these parties in the presence of the military. People were afraid of military repercussions by the military intelligence and paramilitaries working with the government forces.

The EPDP won a seat in the Jaffna district, obtaining votes less than the total number of rejected votes. The number of rejected votes could have affected the result, if the voters were well educated enough. Then, the EPDP would not have won even that single seat.

However, the EU reports and some local monitors tend to imply as if these parties were deprived of the opportunities of getting more seats. Therefore, one can only conclude that the EU monitors are either bias or they do not understand the ground reality in the Northeast.

Reports from Erlalai said that the booths at Erlalai Saiva Shanmarga Vidiyalayam were suddenly closed around 3.55PM by the state forces and the EPDP para militaries. The gates were locked preventing further voting. Similar incidents happened in Neduntheevu (Delft) island too. But, the EU reports have failed to mention any such incidents.

The 2004 Election was far better

According, to the various sources, the 2004 election has by far proven to be the least violent in recent history. The important point here is that compared to some other districts, the election-related violence and irregularities were negligible in the North and East.

The Trincomalee District Returning Officer Mr. Gamini Rodrigo, a Sinhalese, said the election was free and fair. Mr. S. Pathmanathan, the Government Agent for Jaffna and Returning Officer for the elections said, “Compared to some other districts, the election-related violence and irregularities were negligible in Jaffna, and the elections were clean and fair”.

According to Chief returning officer for Mullaithivu district, Ms. Imelda Sukumar “Thousands of enthusiastic voters from the Mullaithivu district and the northern parts of the Vavuniya district cast their ballots in a violence free environment”

Only factors that marred a free and fair election in the Tamil areas are the difficulties placed in the path of those living in LTTE-controlled areas.

Some Monitors are Blatantly Bias

Some, so called election monitors are blatantly biased. There have been years of animosities between Tamil and Sinhala communities, and how Sinhalese dominated groups which were sent to monitor the elections in Tamil areas could come up with unbiased reports.

The Center for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) sent a thirteen member-team to the North for monitoring election violence; but all monitors were from the Sinhala community and could not speak the Tamil language of the region.

Conclusion

In 2004 election, the Tamil people have delivered a clear message that the “concept of the Tamil Homeland, Tamil Nationalism and the right for Tamil self rule” should be accepted as the basic aspirations of the Tamil people and that the Tamil national problem should be politically resolved on that basis, failing which the Tamil people will fight to establish the Tamil sovereignty in their homeland on the principle of self determination.

If the IC is really interested about the verdict of the Tamil people, then according to observers, the last free and fair election, before this, was held in 1977 in which Tamil electorate gave popular endorsement to the Tamil United Liberation Front’s independent state policy.

If the IC fully respects democracy and its verdict, it should allow Tamil people to choose their own political destiny, be it separation or living together in a united country.

 

“56-Years” of Journey To End By Rich Markandu

Pogrom/Extermination/Genocide are synonymous to Bandaranaikes and Jayawardenes. The meaning of ‘Pogrom’ ‘Extermination’ ‘Genocide’ implies the same expression when it comes to analyse the political-historical aspects of the two belligerent group of ethnic communities, Sinhalese and Tamils of Ceylon (now, Sri Lanka). For the last four to five decades the international community particularly the citizens of Sri Lanka who live in Sri Lanka has witnessed numerous perhaps series of thousands cowardly acts of pogroms orchestrated by Sinhalese-elected-politicians and people of ethnic majority towards Tamil ethnic minority community.  These outbursts were slowly and steadily subjugated by the Sinhalese ethnic majority particularly political parties of Sinhalese, and made Tamils as second-class-citizens.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 1 The initial phase of the whole ethnic war was started as soon as British left the island when first Prime minister, D.S Senanayke introduced Sinhalese Colonisation Scheme in the eastern province to drive away Tamils who were predominantly living in those area for many centuries.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 2 Successive governments of Sinhalese ethnic majority community manipulated the legislative structure to deprive the legitimate rights, and made Tamils as second-class-citizens.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 3 The sneaky/dastard acts of genocide stated in the year 1958 after the introduction of ‘Sinhala-Only-Act’ in 1956, a racially motivated resolution put forward by CBK’s father S.W.R.D Bandaranaike (who himself was an ardent follower of Marxist-Lenin idealism). The pogrom of 1958 saw many people of Tamil ethnic minority community including women and children were burnt alive, slaughtered, houses and shops belong to them were set on fire, the damage estimated worth millions of sterlings/Dollars. The peaceful Tamils staged non-violent campaign without any resistance towards dominant Sinhalese ethnic majority community. But, the politicians of Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka took advantage on the peaceful people of Tamils of northeast, imposed ‘Sinhala’ as the official language.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 4 The pogrom continued around the country with the exception of Northeast – thousands of men, women, children, priests were taken outside their homes, shops, temples, cars, buses were mercilessly assaulted, beaten to death, burnt alive, looted their belongings when army, police, army and navy of Sinhalese government gleefully watched these horrible scene as if they watching a movie or cinema.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 5 Then again the pogrom continued – In the year 1974, the World Tamil Conference which was held in Jaffna, the historical city of Tamils. There were several delegated from foreign countries attending the conference when police force of Sinhalese government went on rampage, shot and killed many people and injured several of them.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 6 In the year 1977, the government orchestrated, and unleashed state-sponsored-terrorism killing several hundreds and raped several young girls and women and slaughtered many young men in Northeast.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 7 On July 29, 1979, the government of Sinhalese imposed PTA on Tamils’ resistance as they were defenseless. There were numerous arbitrary arrest, torture, massacre and genocidal nature of killings in thousands took place in Northeast.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 8 Two years later, on May 31st, 1981, one of the best, well-stocked libraries in the Asian continent region was torched by the police force of Sinhalese government. The Jaffna Public library with 90,000 rare volumes and precious manuscripts were destroyed by fire. The arson was carried out on the order of senior ministers of then government. There were other pogrom coordinated by the Sinhalese government with the police and armed forces to destroy and exterminate the Tamils from the soil of Sri Lanka. This was the main ‘theme’ employed by the Sinhalese government.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 9 During the month of July 1983, more than 4,300 Tamils were massacred to death by the Sinhalese ethnic majority around the country – This holocaust was perpetrated with the active participation and involvement of the Sri Lanka armed forces with the support of senior ministers of the government of Sinhalese.

PURSUIT OF POWER: 10, 11, 12,13 and so on.. Systematic genocide on Tamil ethnic minority community has continued until year 2002 with the destruction and occupation of Tamils’ homes, schools, college. From October 1981 until now the death toll climbed up to 90,000 perhaps more than 100,000. Those Tamils slaughtered to death in thousands were students, professionals, businessmen, religious dignitaries, priests, ordinary men, women and children. The Amnesty international have collected and compiled numerous reports on the atrocities committed against Tamil ethnic community.

Out of all phases of Sinhalese oppression on Tamil ethnic minority community was the military (of 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers) invasion of Jaffna and suburbs with heaviest fire-power supplied by foreign governments in 1995. They bombarded and destroyed several thousands of houses, buildings, temples, churches, libraries. Since then, the entire peninsula is occupied and administered by the armed forces of Sinhalese government. The invasion and occupation of Tamil homeland has been ordered, delegated and coordinated by CBK and her regime inflicted a deep wound to every soul of Tamils of Northeast.

As we analyse the entire episode of CBK’s deceptive adventure on Tamil ethnic minority community, the on-going ‘Karuna-affair’ (with her brother Anura B, Douglas Devananda and STF officers) aroused international attention. There’s a promulgated belief of CBK’s government and her allies in the supremacy of Buddhist nation to establish a Sinhalese state, weakening and suppressing Tamil ethnic minority with the help of stooges like Doulgas Devananda and controlling cultural, economic and political activities. But, at the end of the spectrum, we tend to see the recent unfolding events that have incessantly precipitated the ‘the scenario’ between these two belligerent communities, ‘Sinhalese’ and “Tamils’ in which secession has become a defacto political reality.