| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam
(October 20, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Senior Retired Australians Bruce Haigh and Gordon Weiss have published their thinking on the issue of War Crimes Allegations against Senior Sri Lankans with official Sri Lankan positions. Once, a senior staff member of Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission investigating my complaints against Justice Kirby said to me that I would like Justice Kirby if I sat next to him on the plane and got talking to him socially. I have no reason to doubt that that would have been the case if we had met socially. But we did not. I interacted with Justice Kirby over my legal matters and hence my expectations were as per his ‘position’ as a Judge – a Legal Expert. Justice Kirby had the responsibility to respond to me as per his position. Likewise our former Prime Minister Mr. Howard. His position as part of the Government, placed on him the responsibility to show the outcome as per his position – which may or may not be his personal thinking and feelings on the matter/issue. Likewise Mr. Bruce Haig and Mr. Gordon Weiss when they are interpreting Sri Lankans to their Community. Their current positions are as citizens only, unless they hold other official positions in this regard.
As a Sri Lankan – I may or may not like and/or believe in Dr. Palitha Kohona; High Commissioner Thisara Samarasinghe and / or President Mahinda Rajapakse. But, as a Sri Lankan I have responsibility to act as per my official position – which is that of citizen which is shared in common with Australia. When I am exercising my ‘rights’ as a Sri Lankan – at Sri Lankan level – it needs to be within the boundaries of Sri Lanka, where Sri Lankans are driven by their belief that they are Sri Lankans. Likewise, as an Australian, I challenged the Prime Minister of Australia about his negative contribution to Racial Equality. I used the legal avenue to do this – even though I knew that I would be defeated. Recording that defeat was my contribution to Racial Equality in Australia – because it would have informed genuine seekers of the true position of an Asian migrant in Australia.
Mr. Bruce Haigh says in this regard : ‘John Howard brought his class and race warfare to government. He was a champion of the marginalised white middle class. His anger at the direction of policy over the preceding 24 years seethed and festered. WorkChoices and the detention and vilification of refugees were the resulting policies.
Howard’s treatment of refugees arriving by boat was state sponsored and sanctioned racism. It sent a powerful message, not to desperate refugees but to other Australians, some of whom saw it as encouragement to develop and express their own racism.’
It is my belief that if Mr. Haig had believed deeply in Racial Equality – that belief would have influenced his foreign Minister/s and through the Foreign Minister/s – the Prime Minister. Towards this Mr. Haig ought to have included Racial Equality as an essential and visible part of his position. Likewise, Mr. Gordon Weiss in terms of his UN position. Their current expressions need to be discounted by that absenteeism factor.
I was never an official diplomat nor did I work in the Departments that Mr. Howard was directly responsible for. Hence my belief in both – Mr. Haig and Mr. Howard, is limited officially to our positions as citizens. The rest is for my own personal consciousness and belief – to be used as per my independent thinking. Likewise with Sri Lankan and/or Tamil leaders driven by their positions. Those who believe in me (there are many Australians as well as Sri Lankans who openly say so) would naturally feel strengthened by my genuine work and sacrifice to eliminate racial inequality in the one forum.
If I had been directly heard by the Prime Minister or someone responsible for Racial Equality within the Office of the Prime Minister – the position of Prime Minister would have benefited from my belief in and contribution to Racial Equality. They missed this boat and hence their fears of racial boats which time and time again send waves to rock their positions. Boat Refugees are a problem to our Prime Ministers due to Racism. Once the latter is eliminated from the minds of our Prime Ministers – Boat Refugees would be an Opportunity – irrespective of whether we send them back or welcome them into Australia.
I believe/d that the reason why I felt pain and incurred loss was my race. A simple independent observation would have informed the person in the judging position that I was practicing racial equality and was not fearful of the custodians of power. This would have infirmed the observer that I had invested in removing racial inequality. I developed courage step by step by foregoing in my mind, the status that I believed I had earned and the status that I apparently enjoyed in my environment. Initially, given that I earned the certification that I was a high performer, I experienced much pain – especially when those close to me also ‘rejected’ me. One of my Seniors said ‘The rejection is not personal Gaja.’ It was a sincere expression by someone in unknown racial waters. It hurt because I expected others to support my belief based work. But because it was said by someone I believed in – I realized that like them I needed to play as per my role – the role they have placed me in for official purposes. I made sure that this role-playing did not extend beyond my belief. In other words I had to first belief in the person/group I was seeking to be my audience. As many Sri Lankan leaders say about Democracy in Sri Lanka – had these Australian leaders consciously practiced racial equality – the situation would not have deteriorated to that level. My good karma was shared naturally with those who believe/d in me and/or believe/d in common with me. A big part of Boat Refugees are part of this common group – and are the result of Australians pretending to practice Equal Opportunity Principles, towards high Global status. Without Australians like myself and genuine refugees – there is little life to this status.
Even now, Senior Australians such as Mr. John Dowd; Mr. Gordon Weiss and Mr. Bruce Haigh – seem more focused on Sri Lankan leaders than on Australian leaders. In terms of Humanitarian work – belief rather than merit, is the basis. Unless therefore Australians believe that they are more Sri Lankan than Australians, they need to take legal action against their own leaders in relation to that issue and share their belief with the legal system so that their judgments in relation to racism would be universally acceptable and would contribute to racial independence anywhere in the world – including in Sri Lanka. Then Sri Lankans who learn naturally from their Australian counterparts would have the opportunity to discipline / punish their leaders – through various avenues, including legal action in Sri Lanka and/or the ordinary vote as a citizen. It is what WE do that ultimately stays with us and comes with us wherever we go – as part of ourselves.
Those who seek to assist or punish Sri Lankan leaders need to use global standards and global structures. Refugees in and coming to Australia are that avenue for these leaders and not direct criticism of Sri Lankan leaders – without belief as Sri Lankan. Those of us who have invested in those positions have the priority right to criticize to the extent of our contribution to Sri Lankan Professions and Positions. Taking over those opportunities without believing in those positions – amounts to stealing from the poor.
Australians who seek to help Sri Lanka but do not have the official positions – need to raise their work to Global Level and use evidence that is globally transparent or submit to the belief of Sri Lankans or their Australian leaders. That is when their contribution would go to the Common pool accessible to all.