Australia’s Responsibility To Protect

| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam

(November 09, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I refer to the article ‘Criticism of Sri Lanka ignores Tiger threat’, (published on 05 November 2011) by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Affairs Editor of The Australian.
In the eyes of Sri Lankans, LTTE did commit atrocities but if Sri Lanka is to be taken as a Sovereign Nation, these need to be relative to the Government’s own actions against the Tamil Community – again seen through Sri Lankan eyes and not Australian eyes that have almost no insight in this regard. If not for the pain and loss experienced by the Tamils as a Community, LTTE would not have had the mandate and therefore the support especially moral support of Tamils.
Mr. Sheridan says ‘Alexander Downer, Australia’s foreign minister for 11 years of the war, tells me: “I know the Sri Lankan government played very hard ball and committed some human rights abuses, but it’s a wonderful thing the Sri Lankan government won that war. I have always regarded the Tamil Tigers as absolutely a terrorist organisation.”’
Australians like Mr. Downer, are relatively remote to the Sri Lankan problem and hence their conclusions would largely be outcome based, as confirmed by Mr. Downer himself, through his reference to the Sri Lankan Government winning the war. A true Sri Lankan would not ‘show’ his win that demotes the ‘other’ side Sri Lankan, in the eyes of outsiders. In Democracy, we show our work and the Opposition shows its work. One with majority approval takes the lead. Had Mr. Downer understood these fundamentals and applied them in his work – he would not now be known as one of the shortest serving Leaders of the Opposition in Australian Parliament and also one who did not lead his party into an election.
Mr. Rajapakse who claimed rights of sovereignty to eliminate the Tigers – is NOT a winner as per Common Measures. He got to lead during the next stage of this issue. Democracy facilitates Opposition for this reason. On that basis, every citizen who disagrees with the Government is to be taken as Government’s Opposition and not an enemy or worse a Terrorist who is the world’s enemy. As per the experience of majority Tamils living in multicultural parts of Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese Government, through its policies, moved to deny Tamils this Equal position. When Tamils protested and they were attacked, the Sri Lankan Government failed to use its power to punish the attackers. In 1983, the LTTE which as per my observations, was copying the Government – reacted at the same level. Hence it was the Sinhalese Government that led LTTE to become violent.
No, the Sri Lankan Government did not WIN ; it cleared the path to lead until the next challenge. After CHOGM Australia, this lead has been drastically reduced in Australia and at the International level, Diaspora Tamils are now seen to be leading. The Australian Government has the responsibility to lead and not ‘tell’ or indoctrinate. In this instance, as per the evidence, the current Australian Government is doing the right thing and is advising. Mr. Downer as per my assessment has failed to stay within the boundaries of his Government.
In the eyes of Sri Lankans, LTTE did commit atrocities but if Sri Lanka is to be taken as a Sovereign Nation, these need to be relative to the Government’s own actions against the Tamil Community – again seen through Sri Lankan eyes and not Australian eyes that have almost no insight in this regard. If not for the pain and loss experienced by the Tamils as a Community, LTTE would not have had the mandate and therefore the support especially moral support of Tamils. LTTE should not be separated as if they were a ‘Terrorism Project’; isolated and dealt with as if they are orphans. It’s this kind of isolation that would lead to new wars. If indeed LTTE is separated – then there is no more any threat from the Tamil Community to the Sri Lankan Government, which claims to have ‘eliminated’ the LTTE.
Mr. Sheridan says in this regard ‘Gunaratna stresses, no doubt rightly, that the vast majority of Tamils are law-abiding people.’
The best way to show that in action is to uphold the consolidated thinking of majority Tamils in this issue which would find fault with the Government of wrong-doing – by failing in its Responsibility To Protect civilians. The only Tamil side recognized by the Australian media, including Mr. Sheridan – is the group known as LTTE supporters. Hence whatever is said in reference to the LTTE would be taken as being said about the whole of the Tamil Community. Explanations such as the ones by Dr. Gunaratna above – are too little too late.
Mr. Sheridan says ‘In 2007, several Sydney and Melbourne men were arrested for providing funds to the Tamil Tigers. They were charged with terrorism offences but, because Canberra had not listed the Tigers as a terrorist organisation, the charges were downgraded to supplying funds to a UN-proscribed organisation. The courts heard evidence that more than $1 million had gone to the Tigers from Australia, and electronic components that were used in terrorist bombings had also come from here.
The men were convicted of the lesser charges and given suspended sentences. The prosecutions occurred as similar charges were laid against other men of Tamil background in several other Western nations. The Sri Lankan government in 2005 provided Western governments with intelligence and urged them to act to stop the flow of funds to the Tigers. These funds, though billed as humanitarian relief, were essential to the Tigers’ ability to continue their terrorist campaign.’
During the period 08 November to 13 November 2006, I wrote my last substantive letter to the Hon Philip Ruddock, who was then our Attorney General, about my legal experiences. The first part of the letter reads as follows:

‘Dear Mr. Ruddock,

I Will Not be TOLD What to do
‘First they ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they fight you and then you win’- Mahatma Gandhi
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of New South Wales helped me bring about a closure to my traumatic experiences first with the University of New South Wales, then with the State & Commonwealth Governments. The University of New South Wales ignored me; the Governments laughed at me; the Judge fought me and then I won. The Court records, read by any independent assessor would confirm I won with flying colours but the verdict says that I failed and was to be banned permanently from the Courts also – if the Judge had his way. As the Judge said – ‘enough is enough’. He said it on the basis of costs for the courts. I am also saying enough is enough. I will not be told what to do by any White Australian Administrator. From now on I am a fully fledged Coloured Australian governing myself.
I choose to write to you rather than to the NSW Attorney General who seems to not have the skill or the will to communicate with members of the Public.
The Judge was a replacement Judge and as of now I do not know his name. He looked Senior, seemed very English in his ways and looked noble.
During cross examination on Monday, 06 November 2006, of Ms Petra Zlatevska – a lawyer from the office of the Crown Solicitor, I asked Ms Zlatevska about the criteria for a matter to be of substance.
During the submission by the lawyer for the University of New South Wales yesterday, his honour asked whether frivolous and vexatious were different. The lawyer said they were not.
My submission after the three Defendants submitted theirs is as follows and is very important due to the wording of the reasons for Judgment – even though :the Claim was dismissed by his Honour:
‘Your Honour, you asked the Defendants as to where to find the definitions of ‘frivolous and vexatious’ – specifically asking whether they were different. I respond as per my work with the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission, which is included as part of the Third Defendant.
‘Frivolous, is an extreme form or irrelevance. I have established that to qualify as frivolous three ingredients are necessary. They do not include the possibility, however strong it may seem, of, loss of benefits that the verdict is likely to deliver. To my mind, the test for frivolous is ‘ownership’ established through 3 criteria:
(1) I ought to have suffered pain/ damage
(2) I ought to have provided facts that could be substantiated – through evidence external to myself – that the Defendants were part of the experience that caused me pain and/or damage.
(3) That I had a legal relationship with the Defendant.
‘Vexatious’ claims as per Government policy documents are expressions that criticize government policy and law, outside Due Process. It is not criticism of the person in the position who appears to represent the law.
Your Honour, you mentioned during the submissions made by the Defendants that I would not be told. That your Honour is the Truth. To the extent I identify the statement made by the person, with my own wisdom in a particular issue and law, I am happy to be ‘told’. I accept such telling as a mark of respect for the position that the person holds. I follow this in my family life – to this day with my mother who often ‘tells’ me what we both know I know.
My letter to Mr. Ruddock ran into 18 pages. Soon after, I had a call to talk about my experiences at a Ladies’ Day meeting of Sai Baba devotees. As part of this group, I felt the need to help the above Tamils in custody. If they were wicked Terrorists – I would not have felt that need unless I was myself a wicked Terrorist.
To my mind, if I wrote with belief in the position, on the basis of my true experience and that position had the responsibility – I was already generating the return even if the recipient did not respond or even read the letter. In other words, I become both sides of that relationship and therefore I use that position as a facility. As a Tamil in Sri Lanka wrote about the law of contract – once the acceptance of offer is posted, there is a valid contract that no law could separate. This law expert said that in this instance the Post Office is taken as being part of the party making the offer. Similarly, once a citizen who has a legally valid position with any government position, writes as per the lawful responsibilities of that position, there is a binding relationship/contract and with it the authority to conclude as if the writer were the possessor of that position rather than the apparent occupier. This is how Truth works beyond positions. Without this facility – we would be limited to the level of the person in the higher position. When we use the facility as above – we educate others. These are real lessons.
My ongoing communications to which Mr. Ruddock did respond from time to time, helped me present my experience to help Mr. Ruddock appreciate it from our side – the citizens’ side. I did not see any direct action from Mr. Ruddock due to my letters (as opposed to CHOGM leaders who reacted to LTTE supporters) but the outcomes that ultimately happened – helped me feel that my work and pain were rewarded. This included the approval of bail for the above accused (Tamils) after my petition was sent to Mr. Ruddock and to the President of Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission who did respond expressing appreciation and identity with my interpretation of the problem. It included also relief for the mother of one of the accused. Truth connects through various relationships. When we become a facility to others – we don’t ‘wait’ for credits but ‘get the job done’.
Mr. Ruddock did write to me to explain that LTTE was NOT listed as a Terrorist organization. Hence all members of the Government had the responsibility to NOT refer to the LTTE as Terrorists. Likewise, all Australian citizens. To my mind, if LTTE supporters were attacked on the basis that LTTE were Terrorists – and these Australians feel hurt – then they have the right to claim compensation for defamation. This is the risk that Mr. Downer has generated for himself.
The Australian reports in this regard ‘The inside story of the Howard government’s failure to get the Tigers proscribed under Australian legislation has never been told. The Tigers were on a list of terrorist organisations proscribed by the UN. It was because of this that it remained a crime to supply funds to them. More than 30 countries explicitly banned the Tigers and listed them as a terrorist organisation under their own laws. Australia failed to do this.
This is not because the Howard government did not regard the Tigers as terrorists. But the inside bureaucratic story is complex and reflects poorly on Australia as an episode where ethnic politics impeded serious counter-terrorism.
Initially, the bureaucracy was hesitant about designating the Tigers as a terrorist organisation because it might lead to retaliation against Australians in Sri Lanka. It was important to upgrade security for the Australian High Commission in Colombo.
The attorney-general at the time, Philip Ruddock, declines to discuss the matter. However, sources tell Inquirer that Ruddock required the agreement of state governments to proscribe the Tigers. He wrote to state governments seeking that agreement. But within Australia the Tamils were a well-established lobby, with strong support from numerous non-government organisations and some human rights lobbies. The Sri Lankan community is politically divided: the Sinhalese vote Liberal, the Tamils vote Labour.
Sources tell Inquirer that at least one Labour state refused to agree to the Tigers being listed as a terrorist organisation. This was against Ruddock’s assessment, the assessment of Australia’s security agencies and the assessments and actions of the UN and dozens of foreign national governments, including friends and allies of Australia. Later, the court case itself inhibited proscription.’
The inner workings of the Government qualify to be published only when there is a need for humanitarian support. At all other times, the media needs to be independent of the Government’s thinking and use only the outcomes produced by the Government to connect to the People through its (media’s) own work and Truth. Otherwise, the media becomes the unofficial government or its opposition and not independent leader of social governance.
Shame on you ‘The Australian’. You owe Sri Lankans Compensation for the defamation. You seem to have not learnt from the Phone Hijacking Scandal.

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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