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 and unacceptable.

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 base.

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 deeply flawed.

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 communities.
K. Vareeswaran,
Colombo 4


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
Melbourne, Australia


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 ago.

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 media.

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 nation.
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.
M.A.N. Priyadarshani,


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!
Neil Weerawardane
Colombo 04








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