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Sri Lanka: Kariyawasam's Duplicity - Case for Treason

Is Kariyawasam running a parallel operation as advisor?

Former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam, who is accused of rushing through the lopsided Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with the United States, came in for strong criticism in Parliament on Tuesday.

Speaker Jayasuriya presiding at a controversial meeting with envoys of Islamic countries.

In the course of the discussion, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya admitted that Kariyawasam was being paid by a foreign agency under USAID for serving in Parliament as an advisor to him. The reference was to Development Alternatives Incorporatd (DAI), the implementing agency for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

When the Sunday Times (Political Commentary) reported on June 6 that Kariyawasam was being paid by funds from the US Federal Government, he said in a tweet @TimesOnlineLK resorts to deplorable reporting with no prior fact-checking. Yesterday it did the same by misrepresenting my contractual employment with the Parliament of Sri Lanka and the Hon. Speaker as his Advisor on International Affairs.

Now Speaker Jayasuriya has confirmed in the hallowed chamber of Parliament that Kariyawasam was indeed being paid with US funds. Hence, what he calls “deplorable reporting” and “no prior fact checking” to use parlance Kariyawasam is familiar is nothing but terminological inexactitude or simply a down right lie. So is his claim that he is on contractual employment with the Parliament of Sri Lanka and the Hon. Speaker implying he gets paid by them. Like the Speaker, why did he not come out with the truth?

First to what transpired in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon with Speaker Jayasuriya in the chair.

“Dinesh Gunawardana: Mr Speaker, I request special permission from you to clarify these two matters. It is reported that Mr Prasad Kariyawasam has been appointed to Parliament as an international affairs adviser to the Speaker, but that he is being paid by the US Government. There is no such rank among the list of officials Parliament has given to us. How can Prasad Kariyawasam, who is being paid by a US institution, be acting as an International Affairs adviser to you? This raises serious questions regarding Parliament itself.

“Last week, you summoned foreign envoys to your official residence for a discussion. There is no issue in that. You have the right to meet foreign envoys. You summoned the IGP for this discussion. You are entitled to do that too. However, even the Chief of Intelligence was summoned to this discussion and he was discussing intelligence information. Did no one advise you not to do that? The intelligence chief of the country, who knows all the intelligence and secret information, including investigations that are ongoing, was summoned to your official residence along with the IGP.

“Speaker Jayasuriya: That is wrong. He was not summoned to my official residence, but to Parliament.

“Dinesh Gunawardena: Fine. But summoning the intelligence chief in front of foreign envoys has not been done by any other Speaker. We also need you to clarify whether Mr Prasad Kariyawasam, who is paid for by a foreign Government, is only there to advise you, or whether he also gives out other information.

“Speaker Jayasuriya: Firstly, the envoys of Muslim countries have already issued a statement regarding the situation in the country. They have expressed their dismay and regret over certain matters. As such, I convened a meeting of envoys of these Muslim countries in Parliament to brief them on the latest situation. The IGP came for this meeting, along with other senior officers. It was good that this meeting took place, as otherwise, there would likely have been a campaign against Sri Lanka. Even the EU countries issued a statement a few days ago. The meeting was to brief the envoys of the Muslim countries and ease their fears. The meeting was held with good intentions to explain the current situation and give a guarantee on security. There was no leaking of state secrets.

“As for Mr Prasad Kariyawasam, he is a former Foreign Ministry Secretary. This Parliament currently has connections with 50-60 other Parliaments throughout the world under Parliamentary Diplomacy. It is these programmes that facilitate MPs to travel to foreign countries to understand how Parliaments function there, to obtain scholarships and strengthen Parliamentary Democracy.

It is not USAID that is paying him but another institution under it. He assists me in work related to such programmes. There is no intention of giving secrets to foreign countries.

“Dinesh Gunawardena: There is no issue about paying his salary through Parliament. But it is a question that anyone in Parliament can raise: Why is a former Foreign Ministry Secretary, who is now paid by a foreign institution, working here in this capacity?

“Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa: The important point he (Dinesh Gunawardena) is making here is that Parliament is an independent institution and is supreme. We have no objection if he’s being paid by Parliament. We are saying that it is wrong for him to be working here while being paid by a foreign country. We should establish a mechanism for him to be paid by Parliament. Otherwise, it could lead to a wrong picture developing in society that we are surrendering to foreign influences,

“Speaker Jayasuriya: It is unnecessary (to pay him through Parliament). This programme is aimed at strengthening Parliamentary Democracy. Around 60-70 MPs here have already gone on foreign tours to learn about strengthening democracy using these same funds. These funds have also been used for Parliamentary Committees.

“Wimal Weerawansa: Former Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam brought severe pressure on the then Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi to sign the ACSA agreement with the US. He is being paid by USAID not to work for the Sri Lankan State. He has a friend (names a former Foreign Ministry official now with the Ministry of Finance) and it is she and Prasad Kariyawasam who are working the most to ensure that US ambitions are achieved. They are also working towards getting the SOFA agreement signed. It is serpents who are loyal to the US such as them that you are keeping here in Parliament. They have no loyalty to this country.”

One does not doubt the bona fides of Speaker Jayasuriya, a former military officer, diplomat and a much-respected politician, in his decision to obtain the services of Kariyawasam as an “Advisor on International Affairs.” However, it is a very serious error of judgement. No other Speaker in Parliament since independence has employed an International Affairs Advisor, that too using funds from a foreign country to pay for them. The extension of that principle would mean he could also have, for purposes of argument, an Advisor on Tourism, Finance or even Water Supply and Drainage and so on. Is it not beyond his brief as Speaker, whoever may hold that office?

The Cabinet of Ministers is assigned that responsibility by the Constitution. The task of summoning Colombo-based diplomats, like the standard practice in other countries, is the sole responsibility of the Foreign Minister or his Ministry Secretary. It is also the responsibility of the President or the Prime Minister, particularly during exigencies. The fact that he met diplomats in Colombo from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Countries (OIC) in Parliament has given rise to the belief that there are now three power centres in Sri Lanka. Besides the President and the Prime Minister, it is now the Speaker who has literally played the role of the Foreign Minister cum Defence Minister though he is well meant in his intentions.

The matter did not end there. An investigation by the Sunday Times revealed some disturbing trends. It was Prasad Kariyawasam, in his new role as the Speaker’s “Advisor” who invited the OIC envoys for a “briefing.” He is now duplicating the work of the Foreign Secretary. That is not all. Kariyawasam also ensured that the Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Director of Military Intelligence were present. Who empowered him to play the role of Defence Secretary is not clear? The position of “Advisor” became his passport to play his previous role with the pay of his foreign masters.

The worst came when the conference was over. The Speaker’s Media Office released photographs of the envoys and the country’s top intelligence officials seated around a table. The news release said “The ambassadors and high commissioners of Islamic countries have told Speaker Karu Jayasuriya that they would welcome a common law in Sri Lanka that would apply to all citizens irrespective of their ethnicities.”

There are three customary laws which are still in use in Sri Lanka – Kandyan law, Thesavalamai law and Muslim law.

The Kandyan law is the customary law that originates from the Kingdom of Kandy. This is applicable to Sri Lankans who are Buddhist and from the former provinces of the Kandyan Kingdom.

At present it governs aspects of marriage, adoption, transfer of property and inheritance, as codified in 1938 in the Kandyan Law Declaration and Amendment Ordinance. The Muslim law is applicable to Sri Lankans who are Muslims by virtue of birth and conversion to Islam. It is different from Islamic law and governs aspects of marriage, divorce, custody and maintenance, being included in the Act No. 13 of 1951 Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act, the Act No. 10 of 1931 Muslim Intestate Succession Ordinance and the Act No. 51 of 1956 Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trusts or Wakfs Act.

The Thesavalamai law is for Sri Lankan Tamil inhabitants of the Jaffna peninsula. The law was codified by the Dutch during their colonial rule in 1707. It is a collection of the Customs of the Malabar Inhabitants of the Province of Jaffna (collected by Dissawe Isaak) and given full force by the Regulation of 1806. For Thesawalamai to apply to a person it must be established that he is a Tamil inhabitant of the Northern Province. The law in its present form applies to most Tamils in northern Sri Lanka. The law is personal in nature thus it is applicable mostly for property, inheritance, and marriage.

An OIC diplomat who attended the Speaker’s meeting said, “we were summoned to be updated on the measures the government has taken to ensure peaceful co-existence of the communities as well as on security and stability in the country.” He said we never agreed to “the introduction of common law since that is not our business. That is an internal matter for Sri Lanka. We never said anything of the sort the news release claimed.”

The envoys are now seeking meetings with President Sirisena, Premier Wickremesinghe and Speaker Jayasuriya to set the record right. One of the envoys said, “We want to tell them not to look at us through western eyes. We are friends of Sri Lanka and are only seeking peace, harmony and the safety of all people.”

The diplomats included those from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Would it not have been better to ask the Foreign Ministry to have invited envoys of these countries should there be a need. This clearly shows that Kariyawasam was running a parallel operation.

The opposition also called a news conference on Thursday to voice its concerns over Speaker Jayasuriya recruiting Kariyawasam. “He was not able to give us a satisfactory answer,” said Dinesh Gunawardena. He asked why Kariyawasam was appointed and added “there are suspicions since this was privately done.” He said President J.R. Jayewaredene “had to tell a onetime Speaker M.A. Bakeer Markar to go home after he had summoned the then IGP without the President’s permission. E.L. Senanayake was made Speaker later,” he said.

Courtesy: the Sunday Times, Colombo

Sri Lanka: Democratic freedoms cannibalise democracy

The mass hysteria now being whipped up by sections of the media against this doctor does indicate the problems involved in holding a fair inquiry

by Gamini Weerakoon

There were only a few adherents to Voltaire’s avowal , ‘I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it’, standing by it, after Mangala Samaraweera dropped that hybridised ethno- religious bomb about Sri Lanka not being a Sinhala-Buddhist country.
Defenders of democracy are dime a dozen in Sri Lanka but these loquacious defenders developed a chronic tetanic locked jaw when Samaraweera dropped the bombshell. The reason could be that even the most liberal democrats did not go along with the potentially incendiary view or that it is not prudent for survival to support such views when angry mobs are being rallied against such a view.

Galileo and Mangala

But to those believers in democracy, Samaraweera was well within his rights to express it even though it was contrary to the opinion of an overwhelming majority in the country. History has many examples about those who expressed opinions that were contrary to widely held beliefs of the people taking grave risks. Galileo Galilei the legendary Italian astrophysicist was condemned by the Inquisition to life imprisonment for propagating the Heliocentric view—the earth and other planets revolve around the sun—as against the previously held view that the earth was the centre around which the sun and other plants revolved. We leave it to readers to compare Mangala Samaraweera of Matara to those like Galileo Galilei of Pisa, Italy. Many of those, who dared to venture off the traditional tracks and go their own way, have often gone into oblivion but there are others who changed the world.

Samaraweera, it will be recalled, when Media Minister in the Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike Government, claimed that ‘journalists could be bought for a bottle of arrack’, forgetting the fact politicians, too, out of power is of the same retail price. Nonetheless, this writer, at that time, in another journal, gave publicity to his profound thoughts and told him many things in plain black and white. The issue in this instance is not so much the personality involved but the right and the freedom of an individual to express an opinion that runs against popular belief, which is rare in this country and praiseworthy.

Saffron power

While a preponderant majority breathing nationalistic fire were considering the forms of torture of ancient Lanka that Samaraweera deserved, free, unrestrained and perilous thinking was gushing out elsewhere. There was Athuraliye Rathana Thera staging a fast before the Dalada Maligawa, demanding that a Muslim cabinet minister and two provincial governors be sacked alleging that they had supported or had links with the suicide bombers who killed around 250 innocent people by bombing churches and hotels on Easter Sunday. Visiting him was Galagoda-Aththe Gnanasara Thera, who was recently convicted on a charge of Contempt of Court but released on a presidential pardon of President Maithripala Sirisena, the reasons for the release we are still not aware.

The monk, Gnanasara Thera, too, demanded that the sacking of the Muslim minister as demanded by the fasting monk or else he predicted countrywide ‘Senakeli’ would begin.

The usual Sinhala meaning of ‘Senakeli’ is carnival. It could also be used to describe fireworks display (gini keli) and rhymes with ‘guti keli’ or fisticuffs. Whatever the monk meant, a hidden force seemed to be at work as town bazaars around Kandy put up shutters in support of the demands, and the closure of Kandy town was also threatened.

The two monks had their wishes granted when all Muslim Ministers resigned. Was this democracy or theocracy at work? It certainly demonstrated Saffron Power. Only Samaraweera’s comments stood out and were not in consonance with the general trend of prevalent heated political opinion.

In Kurunegala, a new jurisprudential principle is being implemented: A person is presumed guilty before an inquiry or trial is held, contrary to the principle of civilised societies: a person is presumed innocent until found guilty after an inquiry or trial. A government doctor, a Muslim, has been suspended from service on allegations that he had conducted illegal abortions on a vast numbers of women without their consent or knowledge. Over a thousand complaints have been received so far, since a newspaper sensationally splashed it across its pages. An inquiry has been ordered but how long will it take to make a final determination, while a parallel trial by the media is on each day? It is pertinent to note that the doctor was first accused of being unable to account for his assets he holds? How many doctors and other professionals are called upon to account for their assets they hold? Is it a matter for the police or the Inland Revenue Department?

The mass hysteria now being whipped up by sections of the media against this doctor does indicate the problems involved in holding a fair inquiry.

This new variety of despicable terrorism that hit Lanka on Easter Sunday needs to be investigated in all aspects with the assistance of the public. But mass hysteria whipped up by racists and their political patrons will only assist the spread of this deadly social virus.

All political and social leaders have a significant role to play—not only the government. However, with elections round the corner, it is evident that the opponents of the UNP view this bout of terrorism as a knock-out punch. The Pohottuwa opposition has a multi-pronged strategy of attack on the UNP, one of which is for its leaders to preach reconciliation with the minorities, particularly the Muslims, while getting their racist compadres to accuse the UNP of protecting the terrorist extremist Muslims to win the hardcore Sinhala vote. Another is to proclaim from roof tops that ‘Hatred does not cease by hatred’ but direct all the hatred and sentiments of extremist Sinhalese at the door of the UNP and Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The UNP is caught in a bind, being held responsible for four years of erratic governance and the failure to act on information that was provided to the government about the impending terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, the squabbling between President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe have descended to kindergarten levels and the institutions meant to protect democracy such as the police, the legal departments, the Constitutional Council and the Office of Speaker of Parliament were under attack and threatened. Even the Cabinet of Ministers was non-functional at vital moments.

It is ironic that the Yahapalana government, whose one achievement was restoring democracy and freedom of expression, particularly that of the Opposition, is now being destroyed by its own creation. Democratic freedoms are cannibalising the institutions of democracy.

The government and the Opposition comprising the Pohottuwa are all splintered groups of the UNP, SLFP and a minuscule faction of the former leftist parties—now called the Dead Left.

Quest for power

Where is the Dead Left now? Vasudeva Nanayakkara, the veteran Trotskyite, last week was reported speaking on his future alliances. He would support Chamal Rajapaksa, brother of Mahinda and former Speaker, to be the next presidential candidate, instead of another brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was anointed as the presidential candidate at a recent Rajapaksa family dinner.

There is much vacillation in the Pohottuwa camp about who should be its presidential candidate. But one thing certain is that he should be from the Rajapaksa family, though Pohottuwa has enough fire breathing revolutionaries who had sworn by the dictum of world revolutionary leaders like Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro: Power grows from the barrel of a gun. The Pohottuwa revolutionaries appear to have revised their revolutionary thinking to ‘Power Grows from the Canopy of the Medamulana Family Tree’.

Sri Lanka: Warakagoda Jathakaya and Rajapaksa Chinthanaya

We are not a theocracy and we must resist any move to make it one. We must acknowledge the reality of a Sinhala Buddhist majority. But we must not overestimate the influence of the priestly class on our politics.

by Sarath de Alwis

It is generally assumed we have passed the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, the industrial age and the space age. After a breathtaking dive into the digital age, we are well on our way to the age of automation and artificial intelligence.

Not quite. In Sri Lanka, we are trapped in a new stone age. An age of stoning. Or to be precise, we are now in an age fascinated with the idea of stoning people to death.

The reader is invited to listen to the ‘Anusasana’ of the Most Ven. Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thera, Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter that is available on the internet.

Listening to the sermon of the erudite ecclesiastic who is emblematic of the faith that is now referred to as Sinhala Buddhism, it is evident that the Sinhala Buddhist mental makeup is well and truly fossilised in the stone age.

Intellectuals are judged not by the quality of their ideas. The benchmark applicable is the capacity of the audience to discern the truth from falsity. But that is not the case with institutional faith, moribund in feudal antiquity.

The idea of ‘Bana Preaching’ is that the ‘Bana Preacher’ knows best. The common Sinhala idiom that dismisses profound inanities as ‘Bana Talking’ is based on the premise that ‘Bana’ and banalities are not by definition accurate but considered appealing to the devout but not to the discerning. In short, reason and ‘bana’ are not always synonymous.

What did the Ven. prelate say? Did he advise the faithful to stone anybody? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. He did not say that. But he seemed titillated by the idea.

He begins his homily by expressing his overwhelming delight on hearing the news that Chamal Rajapaksa will very soon become the President of the country. He goes on to advise parliamentarian Mayantha Dissanayake in the gathering, to cross over to the side that he considers to be the righteous to save and protect the country.

He makes a pointed reference to the plea made by Mayantha Dissanayake, where the young parliamentarian had urged the attendees not to discriminate against Muslims. That is the one instance where he utters the word Muslim. Henceforth it is the third person pronoun ‘they’ he relies on to identify the adversary of all Buddhists.

The Ven. prelate proceeds to assure us that he too endorsed the suggestion that Buddhists must not patronise Muslim shops and eateries.

He refers to a doctor from Matale who he claims had performed the heroic deed of obliterating several lakhs of our children. He asks: ‘What should we do with such traitors to the nation?’

With reverential religiosity he says, “I am reminded of a call made by some ‘Upsakamammas’ (female devotees) that such villains should be stoned to death. Now I am not saying that that is what we should do. But I say that that is the punishment they deserve.”

It would be wrong to say that the leading monk advocated the barbaric practice of stoning people to death. He merely found it to be a salutary idea.

That is the mistake we make, when we inject tribal religion into politics. If pure religious ideology and values such as empathy, tolerance and devotion to moral scruples are guiding principles, then we will certainly have a benevolent government. But that is not how it works.

The constitutional primacy accorded to Buddhism has been in practice a carte blanche for the institutionalised clergy to hold its grip on public credulity by wielding power without responsibility or accountability. What looked good on paper has lost its lustre. That is evident only if one cares to examine how it has really impacted real people.

We are not a theocracy and we must resist any move to make it one. We must acknowledge the reality of a Sinhala Buddhist majority. But we must not overestimate the influence of the priestly class on our politics.

We cannot decide who is ordained a monk or what should be the minimum standards observed by the wearer of robes. That said, we can at least strive to elect politicians who may be Sinhala Buddhists, but are practitioners of universal values.

The current cosy cohabitation between the Sangha institution and the political class is the result of the adulteration of positive Buddhist values over the years since Independence, The process of adulteration turned in to deliberate distortion by the myth we created, by claiming that we fought and triumphed in a humanitarian war.

Who are we? In this election year, we must define ourselves. How do we define citizenship? Are citizens to be classified according to faith? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Citizens form the entire political community. All citizens are inherently entitled to certain rights and also have certain duties towards the community.

Our society, we hope, is governed by the rule of law. And that is applicable to all including the Ven. Mahanayake theras. Our society is governed by accepted rules that precludes and prohibits randomness in application and arbitrary use for political purposes. Our democracy relies on representatives chosen in free and fair elections. We are not obliged to make Chamal Rajapaksa our next president, but the Mahanayake Thera of Asgiriya is free to vote for him and is also free to persuade others to follow him. But he must not or should not promise purgatory to Mayantha Dissanayake, if he chooses to do otherwise.

All our citizens are entitled to the freedom of conscience. Every citizen is free to publicly express his or her views, as long as they do not lead to harm for others. Every citizen is entitled to practise any religious, spiritual or philosophical tradition of their own choice.

What is pivotal to our well-being is the clear separation between organized religion and the Government. The enforcement of religious doctrines is not the task of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena or Ranil Wickremesinghe. And more importantly the enforcement of laws is not the task of the clergy of any spiritual persuasion.

Mahinda Rajapaksa’s genius is that he has defined his persona in terms of a religious cosmology of his own. No other politician comes close to him. Hence the undisguised delight of the Mahanayake Thera of Asgiriya on the idea of a Chamal Rajapaksa’s proxy presidency.

Sri Lanka needs leaders who are not moved by religious cosmology in the age of automation and artificial intelligence. Politics is the business of addressing the ills of this world by practical measure. I live in hope. As Stephen Hawkins who summed up the problem, we need not remain trapped in this archaic tribal world.

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”

We must recognise evil when it appears. Evil is the moment when we lack the strength to be true to the good that compels us. It was heartening to learn that young Mayantha Dissanayake was driven by the good that compelled him to plead for understanding and tolerance.

A Fortress, Disguised As a Country

Every road and bridge was mined; all mountain passes were rigged with explosives. Particularly so the rail lines and tunnels that linked Germany to its erstwhile ally, Italy

by Eric S. Margolis

Morgarten, Switzerland – Here, in 1315, a force of Swiss mountaineers ambushed an invading force of Austrian feudal knights who had come to reassert Hapsburg feudal rule over the rebellious Swiss.

The burly Swiss farmers and woodsmen from the forest cantons Unterwalden, Uri and Schwytz fell upon the close-packed Austrian knights and men-at-arms, using long pikes or deadly pole axes known as halbards, and massacred them without quarter.

Two years later, a second Austrian expeditionary force was caught by the Swiss peasant infantry near Lucerne at Sempach and crushed.

These fierce battles were the first time in modern history that foot soldiers had withstood heavily armored mounted knights. These epochal encounters marked the beginning of the end of European feudalism and the rise of infantry armies. They also freed Switzerland’s forest cantons of Austrian rule, creating Europe’s first independent democratic state, the Swiss Confederation.

The always astute Machiavelli said of the Swiss warriors: ‘Most heavily armed, most free.’ Indeed, most free to this day.

Those who think of Switzerland as a quaint land of cuckoo clocks and chocolate are sorely mistaken. To paraphrase Voltaire’s bon mot about Prussia, Switzerland is a giant fortress, disguised as a country. 

I attended school and university in Switzerland. Over the decades, I kept hearing about mountains opening up to disgorge warplanes, or cliffs studded with hidden artillery. But even my Swiss friends didn’t know much about these seemingly fantastic sightings.

Fifteen years ago, I was the guest of the Swiss Fortress Guard Corps, a top-secret military outfit that operates Switzerland’s mountain fortresses. I was one of the first non-Swiss to be shown the mountain forts that guard the heart of the nation’s ‘Alpine Redoubt.’ What I was shown astounded me - and continues to do so.

In the late 1930’s, as one European nation after another bowed down to Hitler’s demands, the Swiss military and its popular rifle clubs, banded together and decided their nation would not bend the knee as the Czechs, Dutch, Norwegians, Belgians, and then the French had done.

A feverish program of fortress construction was begun across the Alps. Some 900,000 troops were mobilized. Orders went out from Gen. Henri Guisan: ‘leave your families behind in the lowlands. Man our mountain forts. We have no place or food for civilians in them. Fight to your last cartridge; then use your bayonets. No surrender!’

Every road and bridge was mined; all mountain passes were rigged with explosives. Particularly so the rail lines and tunnels that linked Germany to its erstwhile ally, Italy.

Hitler was furious. He denounced the Swiss as ‘insolent herdsmen.’ Mussolini, Hitler’s ally, rightfully feared tangling with the tough Swiss mountaineers who had ravaged Italy during the Renaissance. The Pope’s Swiss Guards are a memento of the era of ‘Furia Helvetica.’

Working 24/7, Swiss engineers created a warren of tunnels and gun positions guarding the main entry points into Switzerland at St. Maurice, Gothard, Thun and Sargans. These forts were equipped with 75, 105 and 150mm cannons, machine guns and mortars emplaced in mountain sides and camouflaged so they are almost invisible.

Inside the forts are barracks, engine rooms, headquarters, clinics, observation posts and magazines filled with shells. The hidden forts interlock their fire and support one another. Unlike the less heavily gunned Maginot Line, each fort was protected by a special infantry unit on the outside, linked by telephone to the underground garrison.

In addition, Switzerland built bomb shelters for most of its people.

The Swiss only began decommissioning their forts in the 1990’s – after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Switzerland was a prime target of the Soviet Red Army. Advancing from Czechoslovakia, the Soviets planned to race across lightly defended Austria into eastern Switzerland.

Then, into the Swiss lowlands on a Basel-Neuchatel-Lausanne axis to Geneva. From there, the Group of Soviet Forces powerful armored divisions would erupt into France’s Rhone Valley and drive north for the Channel ports, taking US and NATO forces in the rear and cutting their supply lines. It would have been a replay of Germany’s brilliant Ardennes offensive in 1940.

But Swiss forts and solid Swiss citizen troops stood in the way. The sons of the heroes of Sempach and Morgarten were on guard.

When Swiss mountaineers vote, they always carry rifles and swords as a symbol of how their freedom was attained and preserved.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2019

There is no “best of the lot” choice in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has now come to a wholly different political phase, leaving the secluded, closed economy, opening into the world with absolutely no trade restrictions

by Kusal Perera

Responses to my article yesterday (June 21) in the Daily Mirror (DM) titled “Heading for a Sinhala South presidential poll without Solutions” are many and as usual diverse. Meanwhile it has stirred some soul searching among concerned Tamil and Muslim Citizens who engaged with me to ask me what they could do in this crisis situation. They seem to feel, “not voting is a bad option.” They honestly feel minorities should unitedly go for the “best out of the lot” to prevent the “worst in the lot” from coming back.

Old those days when the country represented by respectable men
Sadly, while it is an impossible task now to convince the minority voters to poll en bloc as they did in 2015 January, this same argument used then in 2015 January served no purpose. In 2015 January, Rajapaksa was pre-determined as one who had to be ousted at any cost. That cost has become clearly unbearable and not worth, giving way to a Rajapaksa “comeback” in a far more polarised Sri Lanka. As I wrote in the DM article last Friday “…..there is no alternative to the Sinhala Buddhist homogeneity and hegemony that comes without any serious programme for improving the quality of life, even for the Sinhala South.” Within this crisis when everyone is competing for the Sinhala Buddhist vote, each trying to project himself (no woman candidate in sight) as the “best Sinhala Buddhist leader”, my question in the DM article was, “what difference is there between them (candidates) for the people to choose one out of them?” The only difference is, the “Rajapaksa nominee” stands out as the most dominant and “authentic” Sinhala Buddhist candidate others cannot compete with.

We are in a major crisis no doubt. We don’t have real political alternatives to choose from. There are no holistic national programmes on socio economic and cultural development offered for social discussion in a country where every aspect of social and personal life is being devalued and is wholly neglected. Yet this awfully corrupt, filthy rich open market economy is taken as the “only” path for socio economic development, when for over 40 years, it is proved as a massive tragedy in every shape of social and personal life. Minorities need to understand, it is not only “mega corruption”, breakdown of law and order and inefficiency, lethargy and racial bias in public administration this open market economy breeds and nurture. Religious and ethnic extremism is also bred and fostered within this open market economy as in India and Myanmar. ‘83 July pogrom on Tamil people was clearly against Tamil business that grew within the open market economy. KG Industries that stretched from “Star toffees” to “Cial pens” and “KG buses” to “Sinhala cinema theatre halls”, was one major target. Most Tamil businesses in the Pettah was burnt and looted. So were shops and groceries in Colombo and in other cities. From after the conclusion of the war, polarisation of the present society is about elimination of Muslim businesses from this open market economy. Sinhala Buddhist “homogeneity and hegemony” is simply about a Sinhala Buddhist State and a government to provide for such economic power. Depriving of minority rights go with that ugly majoritarian politics, played out with slogans like “national security, safety of Sinhala people and Buddhism” to provoke the underprivileged Sinhala majority against minorities.

This is one major political reason the TNA with all its patience and unconditional support to this Wickramasinghe government failed in gaining even the release of Tamil detainees kept without charges. Failed in their major effort in having a “new Constitution” for 04 years now and will not have it even in the months to come.

Clearly, “minority politics” need a paradigm shift as much as national politics today. That needs a complete change in approach. Pre and post independent Sri Lanka till the 70’s did have space in establishing an “Inclusive plural State”, if the “Left” and the Federal Party (ITAK) that represented democratic Tamil politics were willing to come on to a single page. Unfortunately, they did not. ITAK leadership under “Thanthai” Chelva withdrew from national politics to “provincial” politics after 1956 and thought they could negotiate their democratic and political rights with the Sinhala leadership at the Centre on the strength of provincial support in North and East. The dominant traditional “Left”, both the LSSP and the CP remained locked in urban politics, without any serious programme on “national development” touting different shades of “socialism”. Absence of alternate politics for an inclusive, secular State, left the two major political parties, the SLFP in particular to define and shape Sinhala politics as the dominant social psyche. As a result, in the 60’s the LSSP and the CP affiliated with SLFP politics and caved into Sinhala chauvinism. That was evident in how they lost their foothold in the North losing to ITAK. That thereafter consolidated the “State” as a Sinhala Buddhist State with the first Republican Constitution in 1972, which sealed off space for any negotiations for Tamil rights for a pluralistic society proving the first generation of Tamil political leaders “failed” in securing equality and dignity in life. It was therefore not surprising the next generation of Tamil youth took to arms and for a “Separate” Tamil State.

Sri Lanka has now come to a wholly different political phase, leaving the secluded, closed economy, opening into the world with absolutely no trade restrictions. A free market allowed to run on its own in a country that in its social thinking is trapped with feudal social structures and values, obviously negates establishing of strong democratic social traditions. As such, this open market economy has over 40 years atomised the society, while allowing the trader and business community to decide politics for Sinhala Buddhist dominance, not through market competition, but through political power.

It is therefore important to understand that, neither the issues of the urban poor and the rural society left in the periphery of this free market economy (take note; it is Colombo, Gampaha and South/South West Kurunegala that have grown with it) nor that of minority communities can be found answers for within this free market economy. All numbers played out as “GDP growth”, “per capita income”, “inflation” and “poverty” to prove the economy is stable and growing, are irrelevant to the bottom 60 percent of this society. No graduate teacher, no clerical hand in the public sector, or middle level executives in the private sector earn half the “per capita” income of 12,470 US dollars PPP (2017) that makes Sri Lanka a “middle income” country. Poverty numbers are reduced by drawing the national “poverty line” at Rs. 4,812 per month for an adult to meet all needs during a month when the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) of the Census and Statistics Dept. says a family of 04 needed Rs.43,511 to meet basic human needs in 2016. The huge disparity in wealth and income, in a city centred open market economy keeps dragging the country into more and bigger crises. That was why the “Rainbow Revolution” in 2015 January was in fact a “rainbow” and nothing more. That is also why apart from growing violent polarisation of society, this government is now a proven failure with education, health, public transport, rural development, urban planning and housing, reconciliation, social integration and everything else.

This major crisis provides an opportunity to push for a “national alternative” for quality improvement of life for “All”. Its only such major crises that demands a national alternative. If everything runs smooth, society does not need an alternative. It is within this necessity for a national “alternative” for social change, that minorities can and should position themselves to gain “equality and dignity”. They therefore have to now think “national” and work towards framing their demands within a “national perspective” for socio economic development and far reaching “State reforms”. In short, they have to now come out of their “minority politics” and challenge Sinhala Buddhist politics that leads to this massive crisis on a holistic “national platform” for “participatory democracy” and “dignity of life” with quality socio economic and cultural development for “All Citizens”.

It’s about thinking “big” and working “big”. A “White Paper” on Education for serious reforms should discuss everything from Pre-school to tertiary and higher education including curricula and syllabi. Including also “religious education” outside the school that can include even Sunday and Daham schools and Madrasas. A national policy on preventive and curative health, public commuting, urban planning and housing, etc., can be discussed with broader democratic social structures that strengthen local “people’s participation” in policy making and implementation. Democratising of the present “exclusive” State into an “inclusive, plural State” can be proposed on the basis of the APRC Final Report that was endorsed by all allies in the Joint Opposition, including the JHU, the MEP of Dinesh Gunawardne and the SLFP that of Rajapaksa then.

To conclude this very short intervention in provoking a new discourse on “minority and national politics”, let me propose a Tamil – Muslim platform anchored outside North and East, with democratic social elements and groups in the South. They too need a more “national” outlook, beyond the Sinhala South. In summary, a wholly new “Alliance for a Decent, Disciplined and a Democratic Country”

Can Government Punish Twice for the Same Crime?

Isn't double punishment profoundly un-American and clearly unconstitutional? In a word: Yes.

by Andrew P. Napolitano

"...nor shall any person be subject for the same offense
to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb..."
—Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The government in America is out of control.

Last week, this column discussed the unconstitutional efforts of federal prosecutors in Chicago to punish an American citizen for crimes that had not yet been committed. This week, I address the wish of federal prosecutors in Alabama to charge and to punish a man for a crime for which he had already been convicted and punished.

There is no happy ending here. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the same criminal event can trigger two prosecutions, one by the feds and one by the state; and it can also trigger two punishments.

Here is the backstory.

Terance Gamble, who had once been convicted of robbery in Alabama, was stopped by a Mobile, Alabama, policeman who claimed Gamble was driving a car with a damaged headlight. He then claimed Gamble gave him consent to search his car. Neither of these police claims is credible, but that is not the point of this argument. When the search revealed a loaded handgun, Gamble was arrested and his constitutional odyssey began.

Because Gamble was a convicted felon at the time his vehicle was stopped and the handgun was discovered, his possession of the handgun violated Alabama law and also violated federal law. Both laws prohibit convicted felons from owning or possessing firearms for life.

After he pleaded guilty in Alabama state court to being a felon in possession of a handgun and began to serve his jail term, federal prosecutors sought and obtained an indictment for Gamble's violation of the federal statute prohibiting felons from possessing firearms. Gamble then pleaded guilty in federal court, reserving his right to challenge his federal conviction on the theory that it constituted double jeopardy.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that no person shall "for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." This is commonly referred to as the double jeopardy clause. Like the other initial eight amendments in the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment was written largely in response to government excesses and abuses during the colonial period. In the case of this clause, it was expressly written to prevent repeated attempts to convict.

Notwithstanding the plain language in the Amendment, the trial court dismissed Gamble's challenge and a federal appellate court upheld that dismissal. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts and permitted the second guilty plea to stand, and the second incarceration to be served.

Isn't double punishment profoundly un-American and clearly unconstitutional? In a word: Yes.

It is not only un-American and contrary to the Fifth Amendment; it violates the natural right to proportional punishment. That right guarantees that a defendant shall not be punished more severely than others similarly situated and not more severely than the defendant's behavior warranted. I am not arguing here that all convicted felons should have access to firearms, though many — like those convicted of nonviolent crimes — should. Yet, Gamble's mere possession of this handgun harmed no one, and it hardly merits a double dose of punishment.

No crime merits double punishment. We know that because it was a policy judgment made by James Madison & Co. when Congress passed and the states ratified the Bill of Rights. The framers were personally familiar with the British officials' practice of repeatedly trying defendants — usually folks colonial officials hated or feared — for the same crime, until they got the verdict and the punishment that they wanted.

We fought a revolution over abuses like this, and we wrote a Constitution to prevent those abuses from happening here.

And here we are in 2019 and those abuses are still with us. If the feds fail to convict you, the state has a shot. If the state fails to convict you, the feds have a shot. If both governments want to charge you and try you and punish you for the same offense — the same criminal event and the same crime — they can constitutionally do so.

Why should you care about this? You should care because repeated attempts to convict are hallmarks of tyrants. Yet the Supreme Court, in an obeisance to textualism — the literal adherence to the words of a document no matter the outcome of that adherence — ruled that the Fifth Amendment only prohibits the re-prosecution for the same offense, not for the same crime; and Gamble's behavior was actually two crimes, one state and one federal, not two offenses.

Come again? Isn't it obvious from history that all repeated attempts to convict for offenses or crimes are barred by the values that underlie the words the Court has just abused?

This business of double prosecutions for the same event or offense or crime and double punishments is bad law. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in dissent, "A free society does not allow its government to try the same individual for the same crime until it's happy with the result."

Compare that clear liberty-loving language with the Court's tortured idea of the textual differences between offenses and crimes, and one can see that judicial intellectual chicanery can always find a means to an end. The Supreme Court should be in the business of protecting our rights, not upending them.

The benefit of any historical doubt or textual ambiguity should always favor liberty over power, because liberty is inalienable and integral to our humanity and essential for our happiness. Power is whatever the government wants it to be.

Copyright © 2016 Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. All rights reserved.