| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam
(October 19, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is a flood of emails regarding last night’s ABC’s 7.30 Report – ‘Sri Lankan President under Investigation’.
It was about the work of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). To me this institution is the parallel of Australian Tamil Management Service (ATMS). ICJ was formed by lawyers. The opening paragraph of the Constitution of ICJ states: ‘The International Commission of Jurists, herein referred to as the Commission, affirms that human rights and humanitarian law are essential to achieve the goals of a just, democratic, peaceful and humane society. The Commission affirms that human rights, as articulated in international standards, are universal, interdependent and indivisible. The Commission affirms that the Rule of Law is indispensable to safeguard and advance all human rights. The Commission recognises that an independent judiciary and legal profession, maintaining the highest ethical standards, assume a primary role in achieving these goals.’
To my mind therefore, the ICJ is the parallel of Human Rights arm of Bar Association. Like our Queen and the Governing Council of our Universities – they are advisors and should not be active participants through legal avenues and administration. Grandparents must not play the role of parents. A true grandparent would accept rights and wrongs of children with equanimity of mind. Grandparents of a family confirm whether the family’s work and values have merged with society. Their mere belief would strengthen their family and society which includes them. As per yesterday’s report, ICJ seems to be acting like a parent, rather than a grandparent; a practicing lawyer rather than an advisor to practicing lawyers.
In contrast, Australian Tamil Management Service operates at the advisory level or does the work all by itself – Democratically – from beginning to end – from the work of the citizen to the work of the Governor so that at the institutional level there are no losses or gains. At a recent meeting of the Sri Lankan Diaspora, a Sri Lankan Lawyer associated with the University of NSW was introduced as an institution rather than just an individual. The higher the level, the more appropriate such a description is of a person – rightly so in the case of the above Lawyer. This Lawyer, showed much respect for the positions of the President of Sri Lanka (who himself qualified as a lawyer) and referred to him as His Excellency. These are protocols that protect our structured positions so that it would not matter as much if the individual makes mistakes. The citizen would still be able to believe through her/his investment in that position and therefore would feel a sense of belonging in that position and its institution. Many times, in war/high security zones in Sri Lanka, it was this belief of mine in positions that invoked the Administrator in the uniformed officers and therefore protected me from any unjust attacks by the individual occupying the position.
The lawyer in me sees this current matter through Sri Lanka’s Prescription Rights in relation to immovable property. Currently, this is a very important angle for us in this Sri Lankan ethnic conflict. The armed rebellion has evolved into Land Rights. Prescription Rights are based on belief. Likewise, Self Governance by an individual and/or Community. Any just law would protect such an individual and/or Community using even arms to protect/defend but not attack.
To the extent Tamils used arms to protect themselves – they have the parallel rights as a possessor of land in Sri Lanka, without legal title. As per Sri Lanka’s Prescription Ordinance 22 of 1871, an occupier becomes a possessor / owner after 10 years of undisturbed and uninterrupted occupation, believing in a title adverse to the legal title. In simple terms – the belief needs to be one that is personal to the individual and occupation on that basis without effective removal by the legal owner becomes possession / ownership and is then recognized by the Law.
It is Sri Lankan parallel of De Facto Marriages in Australia. The occupation / living together could be on the basis of personal belief and/or through the endorsements of the majority in that environment. The latter was the case with Tamil Tigers whose headquarters was Kilinochchi and not Jaffna which is a high investor even today in the Legal system. Areas that were neglected by the Government tend to be more prone to be taken over by those who consider themselves to be leaders / occupiers of those positions that seem vacant. Be it in the case of Marriage or Land Rights, the depth of Government wisdom confirms the lateral reach it has and v.v. By legalizing such rights, the Legal system gets strengthened by natural owners who did not have the protection of the legal system – but relied alternatively on their conscience/ belief.
But the moment these occupiers start relying on the Legal system – they lose the value of their belief and are no longer possessors but mere occupiers ; no longer partners in marriage but are mere housemates. It is like believing in the Australian Judiciary instead of God for Justice. The end of all Human laws is Truth. All Human Laws and Rules therefore rank lower in status than Belief / Truth. These Human Laws – be they cultural and/or legal – lead us to this ultimate goal of Belief/Truth. In academic language – Research is the belief based path and Teaching is the legal path. There needs to be least interference from the Teacher in the work of the Researcher – even when conducted by the same person. Likewise from the Judiciary in the work of the Politician – in this instance the President of Sri Lanka. These are governed by rights of sovereignty which are the parallel of Prescription Rights. Failure to respect and submit to these rights but using legal avenues to punish – is the parallel of hasty dispensation of medication by ‘foreign’ doctors. Likewise, lawyers / ICJ in this instance. Tamils who support/ed the LTTE’s Prescriptive Rights would lose power once they show greater importance to the legal title than their belief. They would then become the parallels of Karuna and Douglas Devananda – who are often called Ettappans (Quislings) . My respect for the Tamil Tigers is purely as per their belief in self governance. I was conscious of this when I watched yesterday’s 7.30 Report’s telecast.
Through last night’s 7.30 Report, I learnt the background of the witness who gave evidence. Ms Meena Krishnamurthi confesses to having married an LTTE Medical Doctor. I worked with some of the LTTE Doctors during the time I was assigned through a UNDP project to assist them in developing Administrative Structures for their Health Service. Hence when Ms Meena Krishnamurthi mentioned her doctor, I was looking for signs whether it was one known to me. I did meet and work with a lovely female doctor who was highly respected in Vanni area. When Ms Meena mentioned that a female doctor was killed in one of the bombings, I was concerned that it might have been this lady and felt sad. I told myself it was the doctor’s choice to be part of the LTTE and she died a Martyr and that to the extent of her belief she was a war heroine.
In terms of Ms Meena Krishnamurthi herself, through her marriage to an LTTE medical professional, she was claiming De Facto rights as per Sri Lankan or wider Global assessments – including Australian legal and administrative systems. In terms of Human systems, her Government is the LTTE – which no longer exists physically. When Ms Meena Krishnamurthi married this LTTE person, she was marrying a member of an organization that was operating on Prescriptive Rights. This organization was labeled a Terrorist organization by the United Nations. By activating that label here in Australia, through our own legislation and subsequent prosecution of LTTE supporters, the Australian Government also has given credibility to that status. Hence the evidence by Ms Meena Krishnamurthi needs to be taken on the same footing as the evidence being published by Wikileaks. In both instances, we may use the evidence to strengthen our knowledge and belief but not use it through the official avenues to reward or punish directly. If we did, we automatically devalue our official systems.
In many ways, the Australian Section of the ICJ has done just that in terms of the official avenues developed by Tamil leaders in Australia. The Australian Police called me Sri Lankan through their own belief. If they had arrested me on the basis of their belief – then our Governance would have been limited to our Police. In the case of Racial Equality – it was limited because, as per my research and discovery – our government under the leadership of Mr. Howard, did not believe in racial equality. If Mr. John Dowd, former Attorney General of NSW, did believe in racial equality, he would first investigate the breaches by a fellow Australian before embarking on breaches by a foreigner with whom his only avenue for common belief seems to be the legal system. Through that system – Mr. Howard needs to be corrected first before Mr. Rajapakse. Otherwise it is interference with sovereign rights which interference would result in dire consequences for Australians at the level of belief of the punished..
This kind of interference happened when I was punished through the parallel of the above Prescription Ordinance – the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901. As per my application of this legislation, the Police were acting in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The Police were driven by their ‘culture’ based belief – that I was a Sri Lankan being punished like a Sri Lankan by the White Australian / American Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW. It was my respect for the position of Chancellor and the migrant who held that position – Dr. Yu – that led to me withdrawing my legal action in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. From then on, I governed myself and assembled peacefully – but without acting in breach of any law known to me. By bringing the Police in to punish me – the Vice Chancellor and his men – not only acted unlawfully, but reduced the value of Governance of the University of NSW. Mr. John Dowd, the current President of the Australian Section of ICJ did not – during his time as Attorney General of New South Wales, take steps to introduce an appropriate legislation to deal with such democratic rights – to protect high level institutions such as the University of NSW (of his State).
I wonder what Mr. Dowd would do today as Chancellor of Southern Cross University if their Vice Chancellor did to an Australian of Sri Lankan origin – looking very much Sri Lanka – what the Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW did to me – damaging my hard earned professional status from zero base. Zero base because my Sri Lankan Chartered Accountancy was given zero value here in Australia – including by the representatives of the University of NSW in the Courts.
I was exercising my sovereign rights as an individual and yet the Police arrested me and I was sent to prison and labeled a mentally ill person in addition to the financial losses I incurred due to my commitment to exhausting all legal avenues. As an Australian leader, who had the opportunity to improve our legal system to merge with Global systems – Mr. Dowd is responsible in common – for the pain and loss I experienced. He at ICJ is the parallel of the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia. Sri Lankans believing in me through our common Spiritual leaders – helped me restore my confidence in myself. I owe it to myself to value and preserve the work of all genuine Sri Lankans and the structures that support this.
Unless Mr. Dowd’s belief in Ms Meena Krishnamurthi is stronger than his belief in an Australian like myself or Australian Tamils as a Community – his actions would lead to devaluation of our Australian Justice system. We need to save the system from such a tragedy. The basis of ICJ’s actions ought to have been the official Australian Tamil formations upholding Human Rights. We are the belief based parallels of the official Opposition to the Sri Lankan government – the same way ICJ is the belief based parallel of the Human Rights Commission of Australia. Without us – the work of ICJ at this level is that of mere temporary occupier and not possessor with ownership.