On abductions, minorities and pluralism
Wilson Gnanadass has given a near accurate account of the plight of the Tamil
community living in Colombo. (The Nation, July 1, 2007). However, I wonder,
whether many Tamils voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. For, Rajapaksa’s election
strategy was focused mostly on obtaining the votes of the majority community,
the Sinhalese. His ideological mentors are from the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU)
and to date, his actions are not conducive to winning the confidence of the
minorities, especially the Tamils. His approval ratings are high among the
Sinhalese who have supported his conduct of the war, despite the high cost of
living. But, whether the President could sustain this strategy, is questionable.
The President, in his latest comments on the situation in the country, mentioned
of a conspiracy within the country, alleging that the government is violating
human rights. He has further said that the government was solely fighting
terrorism and was in no way against the Tamil and Muslim communities. (Daily
News of 29/06, comments made at a meeting with the Maha Sangha). The minorities,
of course, have reservations about the government’s reassurances, and are
beginning to wonder whether the President and his government accept the
pluralist character of the country.
Let me begin by describing a few personal experiences, to explain my views.
During the period 1989-91, at the height of the JVP led insurgency, it was
advantageous to be a Tamil. I managed a plantation in the Kurunegala District
and witnessed some of the most gruesome incidents of that period. Bodies strewn
by the roadsides, assaults on suspected NP members/sympathisers, abductions of
youth and the wail of mothers at the loss of their young sons. Ironically, I was
able to travel about within the country, without much difficulty, unlike today.
All this happened while the IPKF was confronting the LTTE in the North.
Next, let me describe another episode from Jaffna, involving a close friend, a
self employed Tamil working mostly in Colombo. His wife and children lived in
Jaffna right through the 1980s and 90s, at the height of the conflict in the
North. He was an LTTE sympathiser and I have had many arguments with him over
the actions of the LTTE, such as forced child recruitment and their lack of
concern for the welfare of civilians caught up in the conflict. He used to
explain these away as being inevitable in a liberation struggle.
Then, in the year 2000, my friend’s sympathies began to wane, and became a very
vocal critic of the LTTE. What triggered the transformation? In the aftermath of
the LTTE assault on Jaffna, in April 2000, and the capture of Elephant Pass
base, many areas south of Jaffna, such as Chavakachcheri, came under heavy
artillery attack from both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army. Civilian life was
disrupted with heavy damage to property. My friend’s house was damaged and his
family’s quality of life declined sharply. Further, in the aftermath of the
Cease-fire Accord (CFA) in February 2002, though some form of stability was
brought about in the North-East, the LTTE’s taxation policies became an irritant
to many. Farm produce was being taxed and whatever extra-money my friend’s
family could eke out was taxed as well.
Many of the Tamils living either in the North-East or in Colombo have close
friends or relatives living in the West or Australia. Material support from this
source is a vital component in maintaining the quality of life of many of these
people. Unfortunately for my friend, he had no support from this avenue either.
His wife and children now live with him in Colombo and his income sources have
diminished. My friend, once a strong supporter of the LTTE, is now
disillusioned. The irony is that the one person he admires today is V.
Anandasangari. There are hundreds, if not thousands of families, like my
friend’s, undergoing a similar plight.
With the breakdown of the CFA and the resumption of hostilities, there has been
a renewed influx of Tamils, especially from the North, to Colombo and its
suburbs. No doubt, there are a few LTTE elements amongst them. But, most of them
are escaping the hardships due to the ongoing conflict. Youngsters in
particular, dream of going abroad and hang around Colombo until some kind of
green light flashes for them to leave. Older folk live off the remittances they
receive from abroad. Those not so fortunate to live in their own houses or high
rise apartments, are compelled to seek refuge in lodges. The government says
that it is in such lodges that plans are hatched to carry out bomb attacks.
However, to lump all those residing in lodges and to suspect Tamils living in
Colombo and outside the North-East, as supporters of the LTTE, is unfortunate
To add further misery to the Tamil community and now, to the Muslim community as
well, are the abductions taking place without any restraint. The impunity with
which these are taking place is disturbing. Farah Mihlar writing in the Daily
Mirror of 26/06, claims that there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the socio
economic base of the minorities with suspicion that elements within the
government maybe involved in this. She referred to the plight of some wealthy
Muslims and Tamils affected by these insidious actions and the plight of the
Muslims of the Eastern province, whose lands have been taken over by the LTTE.
Even as I write these lines, in the Ampara district, a large number of land
holdings belonging to the Muslims, are being appropriated by the government,
under the pretext of environmental/archaeological conservation. This issue has
been highlighted in the Tamil media and Muslim politicians have repeatedly
discussed this issue in debates televised over the MTV Tamil service. But Muslim
politicians aligned with the government are being quiet and not in a position
take up this issue within the government.
I referred to some of the incidents I was personally witness to. The Southern
insurgency of the late 1980s, left deep scars in the psyche of Sinhala society
and caused the deaths of thousands of civilians. The government of the day was
forced to adopt extra constitutional methods to put down that rebellion. A fear
psychosis gripped the country. The present President was one of those in the
forefront fighting for human rights, during those dark times. He was in the
Opposition then, and his perceptions of the conflict then, would have been
different. Now, as the President, he claims to be fighting to preserve the
territorial integrity of the country. However, he must remember that while doing
so, he needs to be aware of the need to protect the human rights of all
communities, including the minorities who may not be a part of his electoral
If the mindless violence and abductions occurring now are allowed to continue,
explained away as inevitable measures in the fight against terrorism, that evil
has to be fought with evil, then, the government is no different from the
scourge it is fighting against. What would have happened to my friend, the LTTE
sympathiser turned critic, if he was living in one of those lodges, from where
so many were evicted. Here is a man who relocated his family to Colombo, to
escape the misery of war. He is just one example of the thousands who fled the
North and the East, due to the ongoing conflict. If ever there was a way to lose
the hearts and minds of a community, this was it. The government’s strategy is
We live in times of heightened ethno-religious consciousness. The President of
this country was elected largely on the votes of the majority community. He has
been careful not to jeopardise his vote base, in his style of functioning. There
are nearly 25 ministers and deputy ministers from the minority communities in
his government. Yet, they seem unable to exert any influence, when it comes to
addressing the issues that are uppermost in the minds of the minorities - the
abductions, displacements and the killings of innocent civilians of the minority
Let’s say “THANK YOU”
Sri Lankans resident in Victoria, Australia, who I met, expressed their
disappointment at not receiving acknowledgements for money sent as donations to
several charitable institutions in Sri Lanka such as Elders’ Homes, Orphanages,
schools etc. They lamented the lack of courtesy on the part of these charitable
institutions, to whose appeals, the donors had complied with promptly.
Several Sri Lankans domiciled in Australia, who had generously contributed
towards post tsunami rehabilitation, are disappointed and angry that their
contributions in cash or kind did not reach the people they were meant for.
It is important that these charitable institutions remember that for continued
assistance, they should maintain regular contacts with the donors and furnish
them with their Annual Progress report, while being prompt with their
acknowledgement for whatever they receive from abroad.
Perhaps this letter would catch the eye of these institutions.
The hand that gives gathers,
the fragrance always stays·
in the hand that gives away the flower.
F. A. Rodrigo-Sathianathen
Tony Blair, Trojan Horse?
Like a true dyed-in-the-wool imperialist, Tony Blair, in his last address to
Parliament, said he was sorry he had endangered British lives in Iraq. Never
mind the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, his and his masters’ troops
have killed, in their lust for oil. As he was speaking, TV stations flashed the
deaths of another three British soldiers in Basra.
In the meantime, another interesting debate is taking place. A section of
Israeli society has started talking of a One State solution to solve the Middle
East conflict, instead of a Two State one. Already, Israelis and Palestinians
are getting used to the idea. So, why bother with the Two State solution? That’s
a curious question. The answer will require a brief historical outline.
At one point of time, according to Israeli law, talking to Palestinians was a
crime. In 1989 Abe Nathan, an Israeli peace activist, was jailed for meeting
Yassir Arafat in Tunis. But things have changed since then, and even the
hardcore Jewish extremist premier Menachem Begin shook hands with Arafat. Ariel
Sharon, known for his unspeakable violent approach to solve the Palestinian
problem, too, was compelled to utter the ‘peace’ word. Israeli leaders, then and
now, may not be genuine in peace agreements they have signed but, the fact is,
they are obliged to do things they wouldn’t have dreamed of doing a few years
Despite all the ‘progress’ in peace talks, there still was no direct mention of
a Palestinian State. Not even during the Oslo Peace fiasco. So, when then first
lady Hilary Clinton spoke of a Palestinian State, she came in for much flak from
the Jewish lobby in America, with the White House going into damage control
mode, to appease the Jewish lobby. But today, it’s possible for Tony Blair to
say he believes that the only way out of the Middle East morass, is to bring
about a Two State solution. But, why a Two State solution, when a One State one
looks more attractive?
In a One State solution, Jews, Muslims and Christians could live as equal
citizens, like in any democratic country in the ‘free world’. But, the problem
for the Jewish extremists and their neo-con sponsors in the West, is that Israel
would lose its racist status as a Jewish state. So what? In its present’ status,
Israel is a fundamentalist ‘ethnocracy’. Under a One State solution, it would
become a democracy.
For the Zionists, a solution to the problem they have created becomes ever more
pressing, considering the number of Jews leaving Israel, claiming there is no
future for them in their country. Arkan Kariv, a Russian Zionist Jew went back
to Moscow in June 2004, exhausted by an economic slump and endless violence. He
was following the footsteps, so to speak, of thousands of Jews, who called it
quits, long before he did. The ‘reverse migration’ continues even today.
One thing is certain, things don’t remain the same. In the midst of all this
change and confusion comes Tony Blair as a peace envoy to the Middle East. But,
what is he doing there? He had plagiarized a report he presented as a dossier to
the British parliament, claiming that Saddam Hussein was capable of assembling a
nuclear bomb within 45 minutes, and fire it in the direction of the ‘civilised
world’, destroying ‘our way of life’. That was a lie. So what’s a liar doing as
a peace envoy?
He had refused to call for a cease-fire, when Israel went on a bombing blitz of
Lebanon, destroying innocent lives and property. He even let the US use British
airfields to transport ordnance, including cluster bombs that still are killing
Lebanese children - to Israel. This makes him a collaborator. So, what’s a
collaborator doing in the garb of a peacemaker?
By all canons of justice, Tony Blair could be classified as a war criminal, when
he joined George Bush in his criminal invasion of Iraq. So how did a war
criminal become a peace envoy? Even his sister-in-law led campaigns against him
in Britain. But she has not merited even a passing reference in the Western
Is Tony Blair jobless? Or does he want to continue his disgraceful tenure as
Bush’s poodle, for as long as his master remains in the White House? Or, is he
there to impose a Two-State solution like East Pakistan and West Pakistan, in
true imperial style? Or, is he there to create a scattered and unviable
‘bantustanised’ Palestinian State, with a plan to scuttle hopes of a One State
solution to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict? Hmmm - now that’s a thought.
(The writer is vice president of the Sri Lanka Committee for
Solidarity with Palestine)
Hameed Abdul Karim
Where is our Nation?
Once upon a time, when ancient kings ruled our country, Sinhalese were called
a proud nation. How do we, who inherited a valuable nation, understand the
situation we are in?
The Sinhalese whose priority was their nation, protecting their country of birth
and thinking of tomorrow for their future generations.
Having passed through such a pristine era, we are presently in a new century. Do
we have any feelings for our nation?
Although we advanced in technology, are we united in nationalism as one nation?
Especially, politicians, who cheat the country for money, educate their children
in the English medium. How does a child educated in the English medium, sit for
a scholarship exam if he/she has little or no knowledge of Sinhala.
It is important to know English, since it is an international language but, as a
nation, we must learn Sinhala too
The educated people in present day society, know both languages. Whether the
children of today know Sinhala is questionable.
Developed countries such Japan and China respect their nationality and conduct
university lectures in their own language.
In our country, those who know English, could progress in education, since
colonial era laws are still in existence.
The important thing is to progress in English while being united as one Sinhala
At such a juncture, President Mahinda Rajapaksa rules the country like our
ancient kings did. The minorities must understand his nationalism and honesty.
This enterprising man, giving priority to the Sinhala nation, uses the necessary
language where needed, so that our nation may live long.
Open letter to Mangala Samaraweera
You have apologised to the Sri Lankan citizens for having had a hand in
electing Mahinda Rajapaksa as President. Rather than apologise, you should
demand gratitude for having done so! Just think - here was Sri Lanka and its
inhabitants being literally destroyed by the world’s worst bunch of terrorists.
Every so called “leader” before Mahinda Rajapaksa, bent over backwards to
accommodate every wish of the Sun God Prabhakaran and his grisly band of
slaughterers. It is only Mahinda Rajapaksa who is doing what has to be done-
cleansing the motherland of the evil stalking it from time immemorial, what had
been the primary task of the Sinhala Kings.
It is amusing, that all this brouhaha with your accomplice, Sripathi, i.e.,
taking oaths before the Horagolla Samadhi, etc. - would not have happened, if
only the President had agreed to give back your portfolios, as requested by you!
Your condemnation that the presidential election was won by bribing Prabhakaran,
hardly matters. Firstly, the arch terrorist would never have exposed just how
few Tamils there are to start his Eelam, comprising only 9% of the population
islandwide. And second, if there was a “fund to bribe Prabhakaran” we assure you
we would all have contributed towards it - anything, repeat, anything at all, to
stop the motherland from falling into the treacherous clutches of the Sinhala
Kotiyas, Kalu Suddas, Don Juan Dharmapalas, the international community waiting
with its tongue hanging out, and all the other traitors, waiting to destroy our
nation. We hail Mahinda Rajapaksa as the saviour of that nation!