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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

Please limit the Letters to the Editor and Appreciations to not more than 750 words. Letters over that limit will be published if space permits.

Post-conflict state building and corruption

After decades of civil war, the following issues needs to be considered. How to rebuild the state and nation which is based on the assumption that there will be a permanent political settlement of the ethnic issues, together with power devolution and the establishment of democracy in the country.
Importantly, this should be addressed without any discrimination of the Tamil community, which has suffered for many decades due to deprivation of their rights, or the majority Sinhalese community that has been ruling the country since Independence.

There is a need to consider how this shift has been shaped by current understandings of the good governance and also in the light of existing critical and post-war trends being taken by some local and international commentators voicing dissatisfaction.

One consequence of a suitable framework of good governance is that it regulates national bodies and domestic political processes. Governance is a term which gives priority to the framework of regulatory controls, ‘Rules of the game’ established at an institutional level. For many decades, we have been suffering to establish good governance which has been drastically compromised since the 1980s. This erosion in governance has exacerbated our inability to pass political regime in the country and so has resulted in economic development being badly affected and unrest among the ethnic minority.

State building, democracy and political autonomy are the end goals that need to be attained. I will concede that some attention is being paid to state capacity building, albeit as a spin off from pseudo-politico capacity-building. Such pseudo activity has encouraged local political groups to play a major role in party politics in order to take mean advantage in spreading their narrow and extremist political opinion to the both the Sinhalese and Tamil extremists. Such arrogance and ignorance are seen to be crucial aspects in de-stabilising the process of the political and economic sphere and for down-playing social engagement in the political process.

The most worrying aspect is the current development of adverse international opinion on war and post-war political negotiation for establishing a permanent political settlement of the ethnic issue. The present government also seems to me to be avoiding this main issue.

If we do not apply a suitable and acceptable political solution to satisfy the Tamil minority, all international sympathy will go to them. The Tamil community is widely spread around the world and it currently stands together, massively supported (developed by all past governments mistakenly, but now we complain to the international community) by the international community, in demanding an end to the struggle without arms. These developments need to be considered very urgently. The government’s current lack of consideration of the importance of the Tamil issue in the political process shows how the prioritisation of governance over government has integrated with critical and post-war trends in Sri Lanka.

Most of the West looking at the conflict and human rights issues sees a lack of domestic governance capacity. This, as we have seen in the past few decades was mostly the consequence of political elitism, developed by major ruling parties since 1977, for their own survival. This has had an effect from grassroots level to the top also, it hasn’t much political legitimacy. It’s very clear that though we hold elections in the country very often, we need to develop democracy and its associated processes without corruption. Therefore, although it is very easy to intervene, the correct approach required to develop due respect for peace and safeguard of justice in the country is a different matter. It doesn’t mean that the UN is going to involve by force in Sri Lanka under any condition even if they want such things to happen. However, neo-liberal policy is being promoted in all over the world through new economic and humanitarian interventions. Countries which suffers internal conflicts, the so called ‘failure states’ will most probably to face post-war political interventions rather than traditional interventions, sending UN force or other involvements. Today the thrust, involve humanitarian intervention rather than sending in forces to intervene in wars in conflicts ridden states. In this manner present international interveners assume capacity-building roles as the supporters and creators of state institutions of legitimate governing authorities with a view towards developing democracy and political interests. These should be taken into account as being of considerable importance, as it has become one of the main issues that we have been facing for decades without giving it adequate attention in Sri Lanka.

International norms and, ‘Cosmopolitan’ law have gone hand in hand with the redefinition of existing rights. At the same time international organisations including INGOs, have attempted protect human rights as they are highly considered and internationally constituted. These replace domestically constituted, civil or democratic rights and are at the centre of the new world order, than states centered power development in traditional international relations. Considering this new world order we need to address the minority rights and democracy which does not need to be imported from the West, if we know how to protect our own people in a civilised manner ensuring their own rights and democracy. If we don’t know how to do it, then we need to import western democracy with their rules and regulations to develop a civil society and democracy in the country. This, however, has not been a success in practice, where they applied it in countries like Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor, etc.

International experiences

The question is whether we give them a chance to do it, showing our weakness. This depends on the behaviours of the country’s intellectuals and academic scholars in how they get involved in the post-conflict state building process and political trends in the country after war. Today’s export of democracy occurs commonly in non-western states. These are being experimented in post-colonial countries, and apply largely in the political sphere for good governance in these weak states. Especially troubling is international intervention for the export of democracy in post-conflict states building rather than the use of existing domestic politics and administrative processes which includes scientific and technical processes. The major thrust of this is to effect, social, economic and political reconstruction. This is the new world order of international humanitarian intervention which is on the way to Sri Lanka from the UN or non-state agencies. The present situation of human crisis and ethnic unrest in the country make it much easy for outside influence to interfere with impunity, disregarding politics and administrative processes. If we have to build up the peace and harmony among the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil community in the country, we need to change the divisive ethnic mentality among the Sinhalese.

Under the new international mechanisms of democracy promotion and state-building, borders are disappearing and with it increasingly diminished accountability for policy making is effectively entering domestic and international relations. We are unable to refuse any international interference because we haven’t been able to do it so far. If any one thinks that we are able to find a solution for ethnic issue in an aggressively or arrogant manner without much consideration of the roots of the ethnic issues in Sri Lanka it would be a disaster for country in the future, although we have defeated the LTTE by militarily any solution will not depend on only on military mechanisms but would be totally based on how we analyze the facts that cause ethnic unrest (very honestly and genuinely) among Tamils community in the country.

Good governance

It is necessary to extend this discussion of the question and contradictions that have developed by state building and democracy promotion in the post-conflict context in this time. It’s undoubtedly true that external intervention is going to make a major impact on the good governance and political processes if we are not able to act decisively in a democratic manner. Also, it can be affected to a highly significant number if refugees return to their former homelands without democracy or the autonomy in the political sphere. Especially if power is transferred to politically elite groups who will make use of such a situation, as has occurred in east Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, I have to highlight here that it is not as easy a task as we wish, without secure basic social and political legitimacy. This is needed for the internal administration and policy reforms to institutions that result in good governance.

Referring to the process of social engagement in the making of policy and in the legitimate government; this takes place at a variety of levels and through a number of different mechanisms which include discussions. And inputs from special, academic researchers and scholars who wish to discuss the issue in broad manner rather than from a narrow point of view of this matter. This further extends to public debate and civil society engagement as well as more formal political campaigning and the party competition for representation through out the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. If we do make such changes, then they can be developed into the producing broader social and political development in the country
Major issues for good governance, tackling corruption and establishing the rule of law, are widely accepted as the central question being faced today. This has been increasing over all sectors and has damaged, and become a major disaster for any development programmes for economic and political processes in the country since 1977. It seems that this capacity for corruption variously blamed for every problematic aspect of social, economic and political life has become central issue of the political empire. This is the issue we need to address today before we go further into state-building or find the solution to the ethnic issues in the country. It has interrupted to policy making and capacity building, and it’s, of course, has affected the racial and cultural understandings of problems in the past few decades.

Corruption

The anti-corruption framework appeals to the administrative institutions and it legitimises increased regulatory intervention and upholding of technical standards to empower the citizens or to uphold and strengthen democratic institutions. For this, we need to consider the practice of the rule of law regulation imposed within a depoliticised administrative and technical framework of good governance which is aimed at empowering and the capacity-building of both state and citizens in the country. Over the last ten years a high international importance has been given to the implementation of an internationally coordinated anti-corruption strategy. This experience of anti-corruption strategy and the good governance agenda are lessons for us to apply for internal management of capacity building and to strengthen state institutions which involve maintenance the rule of law before we start to do state building in the post-conflict situation in the country to get any lasting solution to the ethnic issue. If we are unable do it today it may results in having to repeat the history in Sri Lanka.

Responsibility of academics and intellectuals

It’s a responsibility of academics and intellectuals to think of post-war state building and should be discussed in all university academic groups within the necessary framework (within the Sri Lankan context) that would lead to a final solution to the problem. This should ideally be done without the involvement of local political extremist groups and international interference. If we avoid this opportunity it may encourage international agencies to discuss the matter and propose solutions as they wish, such as Indian influence. Also if there are no established suitable mechanisms to address our issues, common western attitudes, which by their analysis perceives non-western countries as failures with ethnic conflicts, economic crises, and crime and human rights abuses. Rather than having rational political causes, both present and past non-western states have been considered incompetent and their peoples incapable of solving problems without strong international involvement. In accordance with this, international intervention is more common to international politics with new liberal imperialism. We need to later discuss this matter at academic standard level than political negotiation which is to be discussed later with political groups that are representing all ethnic divisions in the country. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened in the past and recent present. Rather, since independence, this responsibility has only been taken by political parties with their own agendas; because of this we have been so far unable to find an acceptable permanent solution to our ethnic issue. If we give this chance to find a solution to only political parties, it may be another mistake.

Colin Athuraliya
International Relations
University of Westminster

 

 Appreciation

 Evelyn Hapugoda                                                                                         

Embodiment of serenity, sincerity and honesty

Right at the outset, I need to state that I have very serious doubts whether I will be doing justice to this great and exemplary lady by attempting to write an appreciation of her - should I fail, I ask forgiveness from her family members. My association with the Hapugoda family of Baddegama began as far back as 1974 and therefore it is a 35-year-old friendship which I have cherished right along. It is not too often that we meet people who command our respect and therefore, I consider it a privilege to have had the good fortune of having known late Uncle Stephen and Auntie Evelyn. Both of them were highly respected teachers during their lifetime as was my own mother, the late Malathie Wickramaratne and this I suppose was another factor which brought me close to this family.

Auntie Evelyn passed away at the grand old age of 93 years (she would have on September 20, 2009) in the early hours of August 29, 2009 and as per her wishes was cremated on August 30, amidst a gathering of those who were near and dear to her during her lifetime which included her immediate family, members of the YWCA, Reverend Father Niroshan and the congregation at Christ Church Baddegama and a host of Baddegama residents who were beneficiaries of Aunty Evelyn’s friendship, guidance and her welfare work towards the less fortunate people in and around Baddegama and Hikkaduwa. Faithfully they were all there to bid her farewell at a funeral ceremony which according to her wishes, was to be simple and without publicity. Her obituary notice appeared only on September 6, in the Sunday Observer, again according to her wishes, it was to be published only after the funeral ceremony was over!

Auntie Evelyn was born on September 20, 1915 as the eldest in a family of six children (she had four brothers and one sister who all pre-deceased her). Born into a wealthy family in Pussellawe as Evelyn Josephine Mary Samarasekera, she obtained her education at Bishop’s College, Colombo and passed her Cambridge Senior Certificate Examination at the age of 16. After this, at her father’s request, the then Principal of Bishop’s College Sister Mary Kathleen had kept her on for a few years as a Pupil Teacher. During the World War II she had worked as Volunteer Nurse. She moved to Baddegama after her marriage in 1944 during the World War II, to the late K.S.Hapugoda or Uncle Stephen as I called him. Both of them have five children. Auntie Evelyn had the added privilege of seeing her great grandchildren (4th generation) during her lifetime when Ashi and Keiran were born a couple of years ago. In the eyes of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, Auntie Evelyn was the central figure around whom all family functions revolved (Uncle Stephen pre-deceased her many years ago in 1989).

While Uncle Stephen was the Principal of Christ Church College Baddegama, Auntie Evelyn was a teacher in the same school teaching English and Western Music. Oriental Music was something she studied and mastered on her own as music was very much in her blood as it were. She played the esraj with equal mastery as she did the piano which was a treat to listen to. If I am not mistaken, almost all her children also have this inborn talent. After a teaching career of 10 years, she retired in the 1970s. Based on the concept introduced by Deva Suriyasena of using oriental musical instruments for Church music, Auntie Evelyn was in the forefront of promoting the idea to Christ Church Baddegama to add a local flavour to Church activities by helping ordinary people in the village appreciate, understand and participate in music.

Her insight into the living conditions of villagers commenced when her late husband decided to enter politics in the 1960s and the faithful and duty conscious wife that Auntie Evelyn was, she did the rounds in Baddegama campaigning for her husband, even though, personally she disagreed with Uncle Stephen’s decision to enter politics. Doing the village rounds, she began to understand how underprivileged the rural villagers were and decided to spend most of her time to engage in programmes and projects for their uplifting. Sanitation, education, housing and poverty were areas she got involved in with YWCA Baddegama of which she became their Founder President. The Lions Club Hikkaduwa, through which she supported a Foster-children’s Programme to help children with a single parent. Her very first community based project had been in sanitation when she discovered that most villagers did not have proper toilet facilities! She also began an Education Sponsorship Programme through which she helped 12 poor students through their education for which she sought the assistance of well-wishers through her many contacts with business circles. During this process, she also never hesitated to help the families of these children if and when she felt they had a problem/problems which needed her guidance and assistance to solve. Before she launched on some of these, she would also send me letters giving me information about the programmes and wherever/ whenever possible, I also offered my assistance.
Auntie Evelyn was happiest when she was in Baddegama because she felt that she could be of service to those who needed her guidance. During the last 13 years of her life, due to various health related issues she was compelled to come to Colombo and live with her children until her doctors permitted her to return to Baddegama. Many are the times she told me, “I am useless when I am here Ramani - if I go back home, there are a hundred and one things with which I can make myself useful!” This was typical of Auntie Evelyn - it was not that any of her children neglected her but her mission in life was to help others - not herself.

Hers was a life of austerity and example. Most often, she would re-use envelopes which came to her because she believed that one should not waste or harm the environment. Never once in my entire 35 years of association with her have I ever heard her complain about anyone or anything materialistic. She was always happy with whatever she got and was never short of words to appreciate even a small gesture of goodwill towards her or any of her family. She could mingle with any class of people or any religious group without any friction or contradiction. Her implicit faith in her Christian faith was the driving force in her life and every action of hers proved that she practised to the letter everything she preached to others! Although I myself am a Buddhist, Auntie and I had long conversations about many aspects in our own religions and she always listened with patience and understanding. In order to understand other religions, she took pains to read about other religions and compare notes with her own faith and try to understand where the differences were. Among her friends there were Buddhist Monks, some of whom came to her to study English and others to discuss religious issues, Hindus, Muslims (she was also reading material about Islam she told me once) because her vision was one of universal love. She never believed in the “barter-trade” attitude of “guidance and help in exchange for religion” as we hear so often in today’s context. Humanitarian assistance given by her was always for the sake of humanitarianism - to help some one who needed help.

Auntie Evelyn was an exemplary embodiment of serenity, sincerity and honesty as well as detachment. No doubt her 94 years had seen many ups and downs and all these had taught her to accept things as they are and not what she wanted them to be. Many years before her death, she had written personal letters to each of her children in which she left a deep message for them to remember her and instructed her son (to whom she entrusted the task) not to open the letters until she passed away.

As a mother, she never tried to impose her ideas on her children but she took them through a life of teaching and learning through experiences in life. As a teacher, she was fully aware of how to inculcate good values and education in her own children which I have no doubt, helped all of them through their own sojourn in this life. Her vision for them has helped them walk through life in the same manner as she did. To all her children and their families, she was their best friend and confidante. It was a pleasure to see her amidst her family. They are extremely fortunate to have had a mother of the stature of Auntie Evelyn of whom they could truly be proud of and whom they could truly respect and honour.


May she find Eternal Peace!

Ramani D. Wickramaratne

 

 

 

 

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