| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
( November 24, 2012, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I write in response to the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Choosing Constitutional Governance over Jackboot Governnance’ by Shanie.
Shanie says ‘For far too long, we have succumbed to gross assaults on the rights of the citizens by lapping up tales of threats from the rump of the LTTE, from the Tamil diaspora and an international community trying to destablise our country.’
That to me is a denial of the rights of Tamils of Sri Lanka to invest in global standards of Justice. To the extent Resident Tamils invest through their sisters and brothers all over the world, in the practice of self governance – they would bypass anyone who accepts favors locally and is happy with local standards. This is the real challenge for Sri Lankans of all races – who have used subjective influence to gain favors. When politicians use their Administrative powers to please voters secretively or openly in their arrogance – they share with their people their ignorance of life in wider society beyond their local borders. If our work is to be carried forward to the next generation, it needs to be on the basis of much sacrifice of earned benefits if we start from zero base. On the other hand, if our roots are in the value of the work by our ancestors – all we need to pay is – respect to those values in our hearts and minds and give them contemporary form. The older the value we base our work on the wider the reach of it in its current form.
Shanie states also through Sri Lanka’s Constitution: [Violating Article 4 c
Even Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, who normally is not prone to polemical statements, defending the impeachment procedure adopted has said that the government was committed to safeguarding the supremacy of parliament. Gunawardena also served on the Parliamentary Select Committee that heard the Neville Samarakoon Impeachment case during the Presidency of J R Jayewardene. That Parliament also had adopted the same procedure as being presently adopted. That eight member PSC had found the charges of misbehavior against the then Chief Justice were not proven. Gunawardena was one of the three members who, whilst agreeing with the rest of the PSC that the charges were not proven, submitted a separate report. In that minority report, Anura Bandaranaike, Dinesh Gunawardena and Sarath Muttetuwegama stated, inter alia:
“The point made by Mr Nadesan (Senior Counsel for Samarakoon CJ) was that in the context of a Constitution such as that of our country, in which the separation of powers was jealously protected, the PSC in seeking to go with this inquiry as to whether or not Mr Samarakoon was guilty of ‘proved misbehavior’, was violating the provisions of Article 4 c of the Constitution which stipulates that except in matters concerning parliamentary privileges – judicial power of the people shall be exercised exclusively through the courts.’
The relevant article begins like this:
[Exercise of Sovereignty.
4. The Sovereignty of the People shall be exercised and enjoyed in the following manner :-
(a) the legislative power of the People shall be exercised by Parliament, consisting of elected representatives of the People and by the People at a Referendum;
(b) the executive power of the People including the defence of Sri Lanka, shall be
exercised by the President of the Republic elected by the People;
(c ) the judicial power of the People shall be exercised by Parliament through courts,
tribunals and institutions created and established, or recognized, by the Constitution, or created and established by law, except in regard to matters relating to the privileges, immunities and powers of Parliament and of its Members, wherein the judicial power of the People may be exercised directly by Parliament according to law;]
The question I ask is did the President of Sri Lanka act within the provisions of article 4 (a) when he prevented entry to the United Nations and the subjects of its member countries during the May 2009 war against Tamils?
In his Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Simmering Sri Lanka and Scheming India!’ Mr.M.G.Devasahayam quotes:
“I fought India’s war”, declared President Mahinda Rajapakse immediately after the war ended. Naturally so and Ambassador MK Bhadrakumar gives the grueling narrative: “As the curtain comes down in and we leave the theatre, the spectacle continues to haunt us. We feel a deep unease and can’t quite figure out the reason. Something rankles somewhere. And then we realise we have blood on our hands….It is the blood of 100,000 Srilankan Tamils who have perished in the unspeakable violence through the past quarter century.”
The above statement is an expression of conscience. We may show the world something and it may be accepted by others as right. But if it does not feel ‘right’ for us – we lose value of our position through which we acted / expressed such rights or wrongs or even remained silent when we ought to have spoken. Thinking and feeling are not the same. Feeling right would require for us to feel one with the person being affected. To the extent India was conscious of its duty to those who follow its culture – India and therefore every Indian who feels Indian would have felt this unease through its conscience. Sri Lankans with official positions who did not feel likewise for Tamils are truly not deserving of their governing positions. This war ought to help them see themselves. Death is the last fact of every body. If this mirror of mass-deaths is not big enough for the leaders to know who the are – for themselves and not for the world – they would not learn and therefore wait until something else goes wrong. It has gone wrong this time – for those very professional leaders in Sri Lankan society – because they remained silent when Tamils were massacred by the powers of the Executive Presidency who denied those Tamils their right to enjoy the benefits of ‘sovereignty’ – as per article 4 of the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Where were all these pundits back then? Only a leader who protects the sovereignty of her/his people has the moral right to claim confidentiality in the name of sovereignty for her/his group – in this instance the Government of Sri Lanka. Without that right – actions behind closed doors lose their dignity of confidentiality and are naturally downgraded to ‘secrecy’ and ‘cover-up’. All those who failed to speak when they had the duty to do so – and every citizen has such a duty when it comes to killing civilians – would get downgraded with her/his leader – the leader they gave form to in their minds.
Outcomes happen due to a combination of many reasons. I am yet to find identical combinations producing similar outcomes in my own life. To some the pain I felt as a professional here in Australia, was generic but to me it was due to racial discrimination. Surface investors would add and deduct the visible inputs and conclude whether something was race based or not race based. Not one Australian judge who heard my complaints ruled that the reason was race. I did feel that a couple of judges did identify with my belief – but they failed to uphold it in their judgment and I put this down to them not caring enough about Equal Opportunity and/or about me. This is largely due to lack of investment in global values.
When we take ownership of a problem through the reason over which we have greatest control, we take responsibility for what happened. When we take responsibility, we learn lessons from our pains and losses and develop determination to protect ourselves from future losses. If we remain silent when someone else is hurting – we lose the power of Oneness/One Humanity which is the Truth. When we lose the power of Oneness – we do not have rights over those for whom we did not feel. Until there is ownership by lawyers for the Tamil suffering – there could be no real solution for their family headed by the Chief Justice. As we sow, so shall we reap.
Tamil problem was more visible due to differences in culture – especially religion and hence the problem surfaced at the lower levels of society. The language issue made it worse due not only to majority Tamils not knowing Sinhalese but also due to cutting off our roots with the judicial ancestors of Sri Lanka – especially the ancestors who gave us Roman Dutch Law and the English Law in common areas. But the problem faced by the Legal Profession is one that belongs apparently to the elitists. Executive Presidency is another form of Sinhala only. When Sri Lankans learn from the language issue – they would naturally cure their leadership problem.