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Letters


 

 

 

An extinct Tiger for a united Lanka

The aims of the LTTE are not restricted to establishing a separate State in the Northern and Eastern Provinces but, extend to the control, if not the annexation, of the rest of the country. Indeed, the agitation that the LTTE would, no doubt, commence for the grant of more demands for the Indian Tamil residents of the Badulla district and the Central Province, could well end up with the accession of both the Central Province and the Badulla District together, with the major part of our tea industry, our water and hydropower resources to the ISGA.
Thus, beginning with the ISGA, it is evident that the “final solution” that the LTTE seeks is dominance over the entire country. The “core issues,” which the LTTE, ‘so generously’ agrees to discuss, after the establishment of a separate state, in guise of an ISGA, would, doubtless, be the demands of the LTTE, in respect of the other parts of the country and the Badulla District and the hill country in particular.
Let us never forget the horrific example of Israel. There, the Jewish diaspora, seeking their own version of a ‘Traditional Homeland named ‘The Promised Land’ first, robbed the land of the Palestinians and established their separate state in a small part of the land of Palestine, by means of a United Nations Resolution passed by the ‘International Community. Not long thereafter, the Jews were able to expand the territory of Israel to encompass the entirety of Palestine, by military conquest. Not content with that, they, thereafter, acquired, by military conquest, the entirety of the Sinai, the territory up to the Port of Sharm el Sheik and the Golan Heights of Syria. Bloodshed still continues in an ever increasing cycle in the land of Palestine, now called Israel, and the rightful in habitants of that land are today displaced persons, the ‘mediation’ and ‘facilitation’ of the ubiquitous Norwegians, renowned for their failures, not withstanding.
Let us not ever forget that history has a nasty habit of repeating itself in several different forms and guises.
We are, today, on the brink of losing our country. The grant of the ISGA federal status would mean an irreversible partition of our country. The horrors that such a partition would bring in its wake, are so obvious that, they need no description. Let us not forget that territory that is lost on the battlefield, could, later, be regained but, what is given away at the negotiating table, could never be regained.
Clearly, Nazism, on one hand, and human decency, freedom and democracy, on the other, cannot co-exist in any land. Thus, the only way forward, if our country is to survive, is by the destruction of the LTTE, by military action.
Whether such destruction is possible or not, the writer cannot say. All he can say is, if we cannot destroy the LTTE, our motherland will become a living hell, under the jackboot of Tamil Nazism, and it is that living hell that we will bequeath to future generations. Can we do this???
The resumption of ‘war’ with the LTTE, would undoubtedly bring upon our county and all its people, without exception, indescribable horrors, and every citizen would have to make unparalleled hardship – but, the hardship and suffering we would all have to undergo, if we do not wipe out the LTTE, from the face of this earth, would be incomparably greater.
If our purported leaders reform themselves and give this country, the resolute and committed leadership, which it clearly lacks, and we are able to defeat the LTTE, at whatever price, our country would then, some day, realise the dream of that lover of Sri Lanka the late Rev. W.S. Senior which he expressed thus:-

“But most shall he sing of Lanka
In the grave new days that come,
when the races all have blended
And the voice of strife is dumb;
When we leap to single bugle
March to a single drum.
March to a mighty purpose,
One man from shore to shore;
The stranger become a brother,
The task of the tutor over
When the ruined city rises,
And the palace gleams once more”
(emphasis added)

The above are some extracts from Abomination about the demand for an ISGA published around 2003 by Attorney-at-Law S.L. Gunasekara - also one of the three legal luminaries responsible for bringing about the judgment of the north-east de-merger and the ban of the implementation of legislation enacted on the Post Tsunami Operations Management Structure (PTOMS)
He was also the founder President of Sihala Urumaya and presently President of Sinhala Jathika Sangamaya and also the convener of Manel Mal Viyaparaya.
S.A.P. Subasinghe
Alawwa

****

Equal Ground responds

In response to the article ‘Beyond the flamboyant façade, the flip side’ published in The Nation last week, Equal Ground, an organisation working towards equal rights for the gay, lesbian and transsexual community in Sri Lanka responded with the following statement:
Firstly let us congratulate all of you at The Nation Newspaper for having printed the articles under the heading LIVE AND LET LOVE, in your issue of Sunday June 3. While we applaud you for this, we wish to point out a few factual errors printed in Marianne David’s article entitled “Beyond the flamboyant façade, the flip side”. Since Equal Ground initiated and organised Pride in Sri Lanka, which the two page spread refers to, we feel compelled to set the record ‘straight’.
In quoting the Penal Code of Sri Lanka, Ms. David states: “In Sri Lanka, homosexuality among men, regardless of age, is prohibited under section 365A of the Penal Code…”. In fact, in 1995, the government viewed this code as gender biased and amended the word male to person, thus including women as well.
Ms. David also suggests that “high flying” and “high class” homosexuals “having a ball” were the only participants at the Colombo Pride events. This year, as with other years, a conscious effort was made to ensure the activities of Pride were accessible to those interested in joining the festivities. To enable participation there were many free events including three nights of the South Asian LGBTIQ Film Festival, a special screening of the film The Journey with Sinhala subtitles, and the Rainbow Kite Festival. Participation was not exclusively from Colombo. This year Equal Ground is happy to report that among the participants were individuals from Tangalle, Galle, Moratuwa, Mt. Lavinia, Maharagama, Piliyandala, Negombo, Badulla, Kandy and Anuradhapura.
We agree with Ms. David that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) persons in rural areas have little to no access to support for issues regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is true that rural LGBTIQ persons do face many hardships regarding their sexuality or gender identity. We hope, in due time, to be better equipped to address the needs of our brothers and sisters in the rural areas. However, homophobia is not restricted to the rural areas only and, as an organisation with limited funding, we chose to focus our initial programmes in the urban area of Colombo. This is two fold – to better assist LGBTIQ persons in and around Colombo and to network and work within civil society to raise awareness around issues affecting LGBTIQ persons. The harsh reality is that wealth and position do not give you an advantage over others if you are a homosexual, transgender or an intersex person. Even the so called ‘high flyers’ or ‘high class’ LGBTIQ persons Ms. David refers to generally suffer some form of discrimination, stigmatisation or trauma, if they disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homophobia therefore, like HIV/AIDS, knows no boundaries or borders.
Equal Ground is an all inclusive organisation and does not proscribe on the basis of class, caste, ethnicity or religious belief. Neither do we proscribe based on sexual orientation and gender identity, encouraging supportive heterosexuals to also join in Pride and other Equal Ground activities.
I am not sure which ‘source’ Ms. David spoke to regarding her assertion that “those within the organisations …they party and have fun. It has become a hassle for them to find avenues which would help the cause”. At Equal Ground we take our work very seriously and would like to take this opportunity to share with you, some of our initiatives.
In the aftermath of the tsunami for example, with meager resources, we made a conscious effort to assist Muslim, Tamil, Sinhala and Burgher communities affected by the tragedy. Aware, like Ms. Davis articulated, that most LGBTIQ persons are too fearful to come ‘out’ in these rural areas, Equal Ground took a humanitarian approach and chose to assist entire communities rather than strictly LGBTIQ identified individuals. Put another way, Equal Ground was mindful that at least one or two LGBTIQ individuals would most likely benefit from the assistance of supporting an entire community.
May we also add that this work has been carried out with little or no assistance from major donors.
We also wish to place on record that our Executive Director has been elected for a second term as the Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) which fights discrimination against LGBTIQ persons worldwide.
Throughout its brief history, Equal Ground has depended on its trustees and well wishers for funds to carry out its work. It may be of interest to know that LGBTIQ organisations in developing countries such as ours are the ones least likely to get financial assistance from major donors. They also get little or no funding from government agencies to carry out their work. Organisations that turn to HIV/AIDS work and forsake their mandated work with LGBTIQ communities, do receive funding packages from HIV/AIDS donors in return – perhaps these are the organisations that are spoken of in this article!
We hope that this letter will serve to dispel some of the inaccuracies in the articles published. We also hope that it will be published in your newspaper so the general public can be made aware of the work we are doing and are not left with the idea that all LGBTIQ organisations exist “to party and collect money to party some more” as alleged in Ms. David’s article!
Comment:
While accepting her mistake made when quoting the Penal Code, Journalist Marianne David stands by her article. It must be asserted that the writer is referring to several gay rights organisations in the country despite the main story on the page being about Equal Ground and Pride Sri Lanka. Journalist Marianne David’s article is a separate article and was not confined to commenting only on Equal Ground and Pride Sri Lanka. While the sources of information cannot be revealed, rest assured that they are very much involved in the said organisations and have ample knowledge about their methods of operation.

****

Collective suicide

The recent eviction of Tamil youth from lodgings in Colombo and their forced ‘repatriation’ to the north and east must have left the LTTE rubbing their hands with glee. Not only does this make for excellent propaganda against Sinhala racism but it gives back to the LTTE the very people who were escaping their clutches by fleeing south. Ever since the massacres of July 1983, the Sri Lankan army and police have been regularly recruiting Tamils for the LTTE. Instead of winning “the hearts and minds” of the Tamils in the north and east, and so isolating the LTTE, the government’s endless acts of violence against its own citizens plays right into the hands of the LTTE.
Sri Lanka has long fallen into the category of a “failed state”. It is ruled by a non-elected “inner circle” comprising the President, his brothers and his friends. There is a total breakdown of the rule of law. Criminal gangs and death squads roam unhampered. Corruption is rampant, and the Defence Ministry is the biggest defaulter on debts to public sector utilities. The CID is employed to intimidate all critics, and the judiciary has lost its final shreds of independence. The civil service has been so politicised that is has become incompetent. The government has absolutely no interest in the protection and welfare of its non-Sinhalese citizens.
We have almost half a million internally displaced persons, the vast majority of them Tamils. If Sinhalese villagers are butchered by the LTTE, the President immediately offers their families financial compensation. Young men in the village are given machine guns, a modicum of “training”, and appointed as Home Guards. But when Tamils in the north and east lose their lives or homes, it is left to local NGOs, churches and international NGOs to come to their aid. The present regime is clearly a Sinhala government that does not regard these Tamil refugees as equal citizens of Sri Lanka, despite all the rhetoric about a “unitary Sri Lanka”. If you keep treating people like foreigners or second-class citizens, don’t be surprised that they demand a state of their own.
Why has this senseless war dragged on for so long, with no sign of ending? I suggest the following reasons, among others:
(1) Neither the Sinhala political leadership nor those promoting and funding the LTTE have any stake in the future of this country. All their children are safely settled in the West, and their fortunes in offshore banks. They don’t have to suffer the consequences of their respective nationalisms. The brunt of the war is borne by poor Sinhalese and Tamils who have nowhere else to live. Those who still talk of a “military victory” do so from inside their bullet-proof cars and behind their fortified mansions (all paid for by local taxpayers).
(2) The LTTE have provided the Sinhala political leaders with a convenient scapegoat for all their failures and crimes over the years. The war can also be blamed for the economic backwardness due to mismanagement, corruption and sheer incompetence on the part of politicians and government bureaucrats.
(3) Neither side has leaders with the courage to speak the truth. There can only be healing if we admit that we are wounded and need to be healed. Telling the truth, which begins with public confession of the wrongs we have done to others, is painful and humbling, but it is an indication of human maturity. When any confession of wrongdoing is seen as “losing face”, then there is no hope for peace.
Each day that this war drags on is a day that makes eventual healing and restoration more difficult. We already suffer a massive “brain drain”, many of those who emigrate being Sinhalese. Replacing this loss of experienced and skilled professionals will take many generations. And even if the LTTE leadership were to be killed in a “military victory”, who will guarantee that there will be no remnants who continue to seek bloody revenge in the future? It is our children and their children who will reap the folly of the present regime’s policies. It is a source of wonder to many foreigners that a country with such rich resources in natural beauty, free education and health services, and human manpower, should be committing collective suicide on the scale that we now witness in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra
Colombo-03
Via E-mail

****

White is right?

I find the attacks on Britain, in general and their High Commissioner, in particular, in extremely bad taste. We continue to ask Britain, among other countries, to help us with our ongoing problem with the LTTE, which has caused suffering to so many and chaos in our country, in every aspect. Whether we like it or not, we have to admit that our country is at its lowest ebb ever.
The economy is in a perilous state. Abductions, kidnappings, crime and rape continue unabated. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well. We cannot excuse ourselves for these atrocities, by saying that they are done by the terrorists as well. Two wrongs most certainly do not make a right. What is wrong if others point out our mistakes? Don’t those among us wax loud and long in criticising other countries?
Dominic Chillcott is by far the best High Commissioner Britain has sent us in recent years. His efforts to learn Sinhalese and speak the language, within three months of his arrival here, warmed the hearts of those who heard him at the SLUKS banquet on the Queen’s birthday last year and at his own celebration of the occasion at Westminster House. His wife and he are intelligent, humane people who reach out to others, feel for those in distress and make every effort to promote literary and other cultural events here.
As one who has lived in Britain and still pays regular visits there, I am aware that Britain has the highest standards of justice and media freedom. They also have the added ability of recognising their faults and of laughing at themselves. It would be far better, if we tried to emulate their good qualities, instead of hurling abuse at them. Britons from all walks of life, really felt for us, after the tsunami and contributed most generously towards recovery and rehabilitation. Sri Lankans are able to compete and excel in a myriad spheres because of the English language. We are still benefiting from the tea planted by the British and the roads they built. If we need assistance from other countries, we must learn to accept constructive criticism, in the spirit in which it is given, and try to improve.
Sushila Gunaratne
Colombo 4

****

Do we know better than Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)?

In response to S. Samat, on celebrating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (SAS) I wish to add the following article from Impact International Magazine written by Khalid Baig. Owing to limited space, I would add a few excepts.
“A prophet of God is a unique person. He acts as a link between the people and their creator. He is a human being, yet, he speaks for God. The most difficult task for followers of a prophet, has always been that of dealing with the prophet as a prophet. It is very easy to go to extremes. Make him divine, God-incarnate, son of God. Or, make him just another man, attributing all human weaknesses and things to him. Religious literature of major religions in the world, is testimony to these tendencies. It is one of abject human failure in this matter.
“On the other hand, we have role models mentioned as the best, “rightly guided caliphs (leaders) by our beloved Prophet (SAS) himself. They loved the Prophet (SAS) and accepted his prophethood from the bottom of their hearts, knowing fully what that meant. They loved the Prophet (SAS) more then anybody else in the world. They intently observed his actions and listened to his words. They remembered him all the time. They obeyed each and every one of his commands. They never said, “This is only sunnah” (practice), meaning it could be ignored. They never asked why a command was given, nor gave excuses. Within the home and outside it, in business or on the battlefield, in their private gatherings or in the courts of kings and emperors, everywhere they were the most obedient servants of Allah (SWT) and the most obedient followers of the Prophet (SAS).
“None of them ever celebrated the Prophet’s (SAS) birthday. They never needed a day or a month devoted to the Prophet (SAS), because they had devoted their entire lives to follow his example every day of their life.
“Today, our lives and our outlooks bear little resemblance to theirs. We praise but not listen to him. We claim to love but, refuse to follow. We claim to believe but, lead lives like those who don’t. We emphasise what the companions ignored and ignore what they emphasised. They loved the Prophet (SAS) and their lives personified it. We? Could we honestly say that we love the Prophet (SAS) as he should be loved?”
F. M. Muhiyadeen
Colombo 6

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