CHOGM & SHOPM
|Julia Gillard with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha at Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting|
l by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam
(October 30, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) Whilst Commonwealth leaders were busy with CHOGM in Perth, the effects of our contribution in the consciousness of the Sri Lankan issue at CHOGM, was already being felt by us – a group of Professionals Associated with the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. My husband is an Engineer from the University of Peradeniya and through him I have become part of that group. The spouses of these Engineers, including myself a Sri Lankan Chartered Accountant – represent other professions. We meet physically more often than Commonwealth leaders and some amongst us meet almost daily through emails. During this period of CHOGM meeting, we had the SHOPM – Srilankan Heads of Professions Meeting. It’s high time Sri Lankan professionals upheld their own investments rather than play second-fiddle to the Armed Forces on both sides of this ethnic conflict.
This time, our minds became One due to the passing away of one of ours – M.S. Nadarajah who was working in Singapore. Mr. Nadarajah’s family still lives in Northern Sri Lanka and there is no ambiguity in Mr. Nadarajah’s case as to whether he lived outside Sri Lanka due to the war or due to employment. Mr. Nadarajah’s family bravely endured the ravages of the Sri Lankan war and continue/d to carry the Sri Lankan flag through Mr. Nadarajah’s qualifications as a Sri Lankan Engineer – very much in demand in Singapore. As is publicly known, I went to Australian prison in essence for upholding the Sri Lankan Accountancy Flag at the University of New South Wales. Together therefore, we found ways of carrying forward our memory of our Colleague and through our Colleague and the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka which institution was the foundation on which we found support and friendship through each other. The essence of our feelings in this regard are in an email (Appendix 1) from our London Branch.
I read today the following about CHOGM as published in ‘The Australian’:
‘THE Commonwealth Heads of Government kicked into touch the idea of appointing a commissioner to pursue human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The ten members of the eminent persons group, including former Australian judge Michael Kirby, who proposed this move arranged an impromptu press conference to declare their unhappiness with the leaders for failing to back or even publish this and their other 103 proposals.’
I thought to myself ‘Human Rights, Equal Opportunity and Justice Michael Kirby? No way! We the Sri Lankan Professionals are better suited to resolve our problems than the likes of Mr. Kirby, who chose to turn a blind eye to racism in Australia – as felt by a migrant from Sri Lanka. Until Australian leaders are able to ‘feel’ as if they have had the pain – they would not be able to help us recover and reconstruct ourselves from the pain and loss we suffer, due to breaches of Human Rights and Democratic Principles. I wrote recently about Justice Kirby:
‘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’
Justice Kirby and most leaders participating in CHOGM, would have the global status that could be shared with the victims. But that alone would not be enough to bring us out of our pain and loss. The Sri Lankan Head of State participating in CHOGM stands accused of breaches of Human Rights and Democratic Values. To vast majority of Sri Lankans living in Sri Lanka, global yardsticks to measure the above are myths. They need their own local yardsticks. Similarly, to vast majority of Australians, Human Rights and Democratic Principles are like the impressive clothes they wear rather than reality. To make it reality, Legal Experts such as Justice Kirby, need to believe in the pain of victims. If victims say that they believed that their pain and loss was due to Racial Discrimination, they have the responsibility to accept it as such until proven otherwise. Otherwise our Racial Discrimination Act 1975 is yet another means through which we elevate our status to impress others. This would not have the real force to cure from within. As per Australian Human Rights records, Justice Kirby, like the Sri Lankan Head of State, also stands accused of Racial Discrimination. True global professionals would identify with this. To become global in an issue – one needs to have experienced both. One who at least ‘sees’ both sides equally – qualifies to carry the global status. I have had the experience and I am able to ‘see’ from both sides. Not so Justice Kirby. When my complaint against Justice Kirby was dismissed by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, so were Justice Kirby’s eligibility to be recognized as a global leader in this issue.
During this energized period, I received the following response from a valued Tamil leader:
Thanks. I have to disagree with your sentence, “Socially no Tamil would believe that the LTTE are / were Terrorists. If they did, they are not Tamils of Sri Lanka”.
The LTTE with time became an out and out terrorist organization and Tamils its primary victims. Their terrorism impinged on the entire spectrum of human activity and thought processes, in addition to the physical aspects. As a result state terrorism appeared less vicious. Most Tamils know this and accept this. However, they pretend it is not so, because they had placed all their hopes in the LTTE basket and are upset that the group failed them miserably. This pretense is also dangerous, as it prevents us from reconciling to a different future.’
The plight of Tamils who invested in the LTTE is also the plight of Leading Governments who invested in the Government of Sri Lanka. Hence the two stand Equal at this point in time, in their predicament – not knowing how to save their investments before they become losses.
The few of us who invested independently in the issue of Self Governance will be the ones to redeem our communities and nations – confidentially from the inside. Genuine work , the value of which remains after our contribution to the system structures and processes – would go direct to the heart – as a quiet inner force that heals and resurrects from within. Until these Commonwealth Heads of Governments feel Sri Lanka is their nation in common, they would need to work through Professional mergers to bring about real recovery and reconstruction from within. Tamil civilization is highly valuable to anyone who is part of it. It has the healing power to heal anyone who truly believes in Tamil civilization. As I said to our Heads of Professions ‘I have learnt that even when others do not see or hear about our work – there is real Sakthi (Energy/Force) to genuine work. It supports and empowers those who believe in you and those in need within the world you consider to be yours. That is how, we still benefit from the work of Saints like Yoga Swami’
I am Srilankan not just Tamil:
Every Tamil born in Srilanka and/or their children are generally recognized and remembered not just as “Bunch of Tamils” but as “Ilangai Tamils or Srilankan Tamils”. They always give importance to their birth place. This Importance that they have shown along with Tamil identity has influenced the Srilankan government to take harsh actions against Ilangai Tamils since Independence. As Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam said in a recent article:
“majority Tamils did/do feel and think that their earned rights were violated in Sri Lanka due to Sinhalese custodians of Power using their own likes and dislikes, instead of merit basis, in multicultural areas. This was made most obvious through the ‘Sinhala Only’ policy and the ‘Quota system’ for University entrance.”
If every Srilankan born Sinhalese thought that s/he was e “Srilankan” and not just “Sinhalese”, there won’t be any ‘Sinhala Only policy’ or any ‘Standardization’ in various forms in Srilanka. Sri Lanka would then have become a Paradise now like “Singapore” to many Srilankans. Ilangai Tamils would then not have the need to fight with government for their earned Rights & Equality Opportunity in Employment, Education, Land Ownership – to share as Srilankans in Common. We Srilankan Tamils have been fighting since so-called Independence, to preserve our civilization, which was developed through hard work and sacrifice of immediate pleasures (especially by investing in higher Education and Discipline) and economic life in general. If not for this civilization as a community, all Ilangai Tamils would have been allocated the same gypsy status attributed to Negambo Tamils.
As Param said – there are so many peace loving Sinhala people living in Srilanka. This was confirmed and instilled in many of us including Param when his Sinhala Batch Mates attended and honored Param’s family during Param’s father’s funeral at Vattukkottai. This as Param says helped Param recover from the loss and pain of losing his father. From then on they were part of our family and community. We know people such as Edmund Samarakkody, Dr. Vikramabahu Karunaratne [our former engineering maths lecturer] and others who were highly respected by Tamils for the stand they took on the ethnic conflict.
Although the extremists are only a minority amongst the Sinhalese, they have been successful in influencing politicians, military leaders and ordinary Sinhala people to incite racial hatred, violence and discrimination against Tamils. This suspicion may have caused the exclusion of Sinhala batch mates by Tamils and v.v. for the time being & nothing else.
Goodness is helping one in distress;
Support is not deserting one who is dependent;
Culture is to act in unison with the ways of the world;
Love is not surrendering ties with one’s kin;
Wisdom is to ignore the advice of the ignorant;
Honesty is not to go back on one’s words;
Integrity is to ignore others’ faults;
Justice is awarding punishment without partiality;
Patience is to suffer the ill-disposed.
(Kalithogai 133/Tamil poem/between 100BC and 300AD)