| by Gaja Lakshmi Paramasivam
(October 24, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I respond to the article ‘On being prosecuted in foreign courts’ by Kishali Pinto Jayawardene, published in Sri Lanka Guardian. In essence, I read the article as being in Defence of the Government of Sri Lanka.
Ms Jayawardene states in relation to war crimes applications made against the Sri Lankan Government ‘From one perspective, the Government of Sri Lanka may well be justified in questioning the legitimacy of these applications as well as those supporting the efforts. These litigants or those individuals on whose behalf the applications have been filed and who are cited as main witnesses in the briefs are certainly not ordinary Tamil civilians who had lost their loved ones or suffered in other way. On the contrary, these individuals had been part of the LTTE, unequivocally and on their own admittance.’
There is no law that a litigant needs to act as a totally independent individual when bringing action in a court of law. Our former Australian Prime Minister John Howard hired a Barrister through a very expensive law firm, to represent him when I sued Mr. Howard through Racial Discrimination Act 1975. I acted on my own – even represented myself in Court. I studied the relevant laws and court procedures to show respect for the Court system. The substance I presented was as per my Truth – my true experience. My work, at the center of the matter, as per my assessment was of the highest standards. It is my conclusion that Mr. Howard himself would not have given out the instructions. Lower parts of his Administration would have, just like the Officers in the Sri Lankan Navy would have when Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe was their Chief. Had they believed that my complaint was lacking in substance, all they needed was for their internal legal officer to represent Mr. Howard in Court. Likewise the Sri Lankan Attorney General and the Naval Legal Officer ought to represent the President and the Naval Chief in International Court. They would, if they had practiced Democratic Administration of Global standards – through the same principles through which they influenced the LTTE to be listed as Terrorists at Global level.
Through their actions in hiring expensive lawyers, the Prime Minister’s team were confirming that they were lacking in belief that Mr. Howard was innocent or that they thought that I would likely to win on level playing field – i.e. on Equal Opportunity basis. They acted as if they thought that I was being backed by a strong team. Every time Mr. Howard or someone in the position of Prime Minister appeared to be at risk of acting in breach of a law, the Barrister was partially hired. One who seems to practice that law would have automatically gained power to that extent, in the minds of the PM’s team. Hence the hiring of a Barrister. It is the fear in the minds of the Administrators and Advisors in the
Office of the Prime Minister that leads to such expenditure out of Public Funds. Otherwise all they had to do was to send their own internal legal Administrator.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of NSW and his team, who are the parallels of the Prime Minister and his team in a University, also used the legal officer to respond on their behalf. In fact they even used the legal officer to threaten me, without any lawful basis, with legal action for sending them emails regarding my complaint. This eventually led to their Security Officers calling the Police – again without lawful basis – as if I were a criminal / terrorist – instead of the Security Officers themselves throwing me out.
Like the Sri Lankan Government forces not knowing the difference between civilian and LTTE – these armed Australian Police also did not show that they knew the difference between a civil offence and a criminal offence. I must have not ‘seemed’ to deserve a civil hearing. Likewise majority Tamil civilians being confronted by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces. When I was upset, my office mates at the University of NSW were with me. They even wrote in support of me – the same way we are now receiving emails in support of Ms Meena Krishnamurthy who has complained to the International Commission of Jurists, against the Government of Sri Lanka. The point at which a CEO uses officers with legal titles is the highest point of the CEO’s Administration. At that point, if the distance between the services of the Legal Officer and the CEO is shorter than the distance between the complaining employee and the Legal Officer, that institution is lacking in democracy and therefore in substance in a Court hearing Equal Opportunity complaints. Yet I was the one to be ‘told’ by the Courts that my complaints were lacking in substance. The greater the difference, greater the risk of autocracy and dictatorship. At the University of New South Wales, the Legal Officer was obedient to the CEO. Hence the legal team lacked the confidence to drive on open roads outside the University walls. Likewise the Prime Minister and his team.
Given that the President of Sri Lanka is doing likewise, any Tamil is entitled to draw on the skills of Tamil experts in those areas. Some experts volunteer those services. Humanitarian support is not limited to the official teams. It usually is stronger in unofficial environments. The Government of Sri Lanka in addition, continues to use LTTE to claim credit for its Governance work. Independent Governors would not need to reduce the other side’s status to claim credit. It is for this reason that in Democracy – the responsibility is divided into equal halves at the Political level. Hence Prabhakaran and the LTTE are seen as the CEO and the CEO’s team of the Opposition of the Government of Sri Lanka.
Ms Jayawardene says ‘Sri Lanka has had an independent judiciary and once boasted of an expansive rights-based jurisprudence that was commonly cited as admirable precedents in the Commonwealth’
At the Global level, Australians due to their belief based investment in the Commonwealth have even today, greater claim to independence of the judiciary than Sri Lanka. If our Judiciary is yet to truly earn that qualification, then as per my mind, Sri Lanka has a much longer way to travel.
The attitude of some Tamil Diaspora leaders is indicated through the exchange in Appendix 1.
Ms Jayawardene says in confirmation of this apparent Leader of the Opposition status attributed to the LTTE and taken by the LTTE ‘where Sri Lanka is concerned, this is a Presidency still benefiting from the defeat of a terrorist foe which many thought with good reason, could not be defeated. In this background, legal suits filed by LTTE members in foreign jurisdictions primarily based on the command responsibility of Sri Lanka’s political and military commanders and completely ignoring the culpability of the LTTE in bringing about this situation, have the same highly inflammatory impact as putting a match to gasoline.’
Like most Sinhalese Professionals, Ms Jayawardene is also referring to the LTTE as terrorists. What we think as individuals is through a combination of hearsay, knowledge and belief. To the extent we believe in the leaders, and/or are limited to only hearing the leader without opposition, we would be driven by their statements until we learn otherwise through direct experience. This is also the safe path for all those who are yet to govern themselves at their levels of operation. When we use the descriptions used by our leaders – we are acting on their behalf / representing them to that extent. Most of us need to. If majority Sinhalese consider the LTTE to be Terrorists – then leaders of the Sinhalese community – including Professional Leaders – need to refer to the LTTE as terrorists to get through and connect to the ordinary Sinhalese. Likewise, majority Tamils supporting armed rebellion, who were not directly affected by the actions of the Sri Lankan Government – referring to the Sri Lankan Government as State Terrorists / War Criminals. Given that more Tamils have suffered by the Direct Actions of the Sri Lankan Government’s Armed Forces, than by the unofficial armed forces of the Tamils – the LTTE & others – and given that more Tamils have suffered due to the direct actions of the Government than Sinhalese by the direct actions of the LTTE and/or unarmed Tamils – the belief based union of Tamils against the Government is stronger within the Tamil community than it is within the Sinhalese against the LTTE. This reality would continue so long as the Sri Lankan Government and Sinhalese refer to the LTTE as terrorists while ignoring the culpability of the Government of Sri Lanka in using armed forces indiscriminately in civilian areas, where they had the option of using unarmed avenues of Administration and Politics.
This could be ‘justified’ by explaining that it was difficult to differentiate between the LTTE and the Civilians. Therein lies the confirmation that whatever was done to LTTE would be taken by majority Tamils as having happened to them. It’s the belief based connection – which need not be due to belief in LTTE’s cause. Belief through any avenue – including language and religion would make us ‘look’ the same to those who ‘see and think/believe’ without a common principle / law to regulate their thinking. On the same basis one could justify that to the Tamils – armed officers of the government and the thugs who attacked Tamils during communal riots would look to be of the same group. This knowledge alone ought to have prevented the Government from indiscriminate bombings in civilian areas unless their research had established that majority in an area were known by the civilians to be LTTE and therefore the armed officer had the duty to take the person as a terrorist – irrespective of whether or not s/he was to the individual in the uniform. .
Justification helps understand why something happened/was done. But it rejects recognition of the responsibility of the higher official to include the investment made by the victims in Government Policies and Practices through many avenues. By killing those civilians, the Government killed its own investment in Tamil areas. We, the Tamil Community leaders now face the huge challenge of educating those victims to think in terms of a Government higher than themselves and those who seem to ‘give’ quick benefits. They need to relate to all those who invest in Governance through Common Policies and Values and processes – beyond particular subjects who at the moment are not able to confirm those higher principles and values, we thought they were committed to. To the extent Tamil Administrators gave form to those principles and values, they were seen as the leaders of Tamils in Administration. This leadership investment through Tamils has been drastically reduced due to the exodus of Senior Tamil Administrators from Sri Lanka.
Unless the Armed forces bombing and otherwise wounding Tamil Areas were majority Tamils, we have the global responsibility to conclude that the bombing was due to racial discrimination – as happened at Sharpeville, resulting in the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We have the duty as Global Citizens to not ignore the culpability of the Sri Lankan Government in ensuring that civilians were separated to the best of their ability – before bombing particular areas. If this is the best – then the Sri Lankan Government needs to add itself to those who have invested highly in racial equality, to earn its Equal Position as a country at Global level. The other alternative is to ignore UN and run parallel to mainstream – as many communities including Tamils and Sinhalese do here in Australia. This seems to be the trend with the Sri Lankan Government also. It is a form of self-devolution by those who resign themselves to ‘fate’ due to repeated justifications of what happened/was done.
The Sri Lankan Government choosing this path, needs an opposition at the Global level, if the are to merge with the Global Community, democratically. That opposition now is the Tamil Diaspora. When we use belief at the lower level, we would not be able to see in our mind’s eye – the whole picture as if we were also seeing what happened – from the ‘other side’. Only those who believe in the whole would be able to see the full picture which represents the Truth. In democracy, we need the picture presented by either side to be no more than 50% of the total picture. For this reason, we need to become the ‘other’ side of the minority power influencing an outcome.
This is the essence of Equal Opportunity Principles which when practiced regularly would lead to the real values of Democracy. Sinhalese law experts who seek to earn high status in Democracy, need to encourage Tamil victims to bring their cases to International Courts where their side is more likely to lose status than to win status. I did this when I took the Australian Prime Minister to Court. Status is in the custody of majority power. But the real value which becomes a natural part of us is as per the work we do for ourselves. The status we lose then becomes deeper powers to help us be part of the Public. Those real powers naturally influence our world and all we have to do is BE with the victims – so they console themselves through the shared energy.
Email from a Tamil Diaspora leader:
—– Original Message —–
To: Gaja Param and Others
Sent: Monday, October 24, 2011 9:02 AM
Subject: RE: If VP was a Terrorist what was Gaddafi
DON’T WORRY ABOUT VP. HE WILL RIP AS THE GREATEST TAMIL LEADER, EVER.
YOU BETTER BE CONCERNED ABOUT MAHINDA RAJAPAKSE AND THE CLAN.
MANY ARE WAR CRIMINALS WAITING TO BE PROSECUTED..,WHICH INCLUDES
AUSTRALIAN PASSPORT HOLDER PALITHA KOHONNE.
Gaja responded as follows:
Sent: Monday, October 24, 2011 11:38 AM
Subject: Re: If VP was a Terrorist what was Gaddafi
To me I am the greatest Tamil Leader of my times. I believe in the Common Tamil as if I am one and I see myself intellectually leading Tamils, through my work – especially towards developing Democratic Management systems. I do believe that VP would have sought my advice in these matters if he had known about me. Our work in the past were such that we were not meant to meet during his life time. But I did for the first time see VP in my dream.
As I was sharing with my husband this morning, I had a dream early this morning, in which VP with his two sons (they were young children in the dream) was visiting me in my home in North. I asked him ‘How did you know about me?’ He smiled and said ‘you know the answer to that’. I thought about the Senior LTTE supporters here in Australia, who have expressed appreciation for my work regularly published including through Sri Lanka Guardian. I nodded. Then someone came from the outside and as is my habit/culture, I got up to give my chair to that person. VP was seated on a long sofa by himself. I asked him to move so I could also sit down on that sofa. He smiled and declined. I smiled back thinking ‘it is MY sofa’ ; renounced my claim to maintain harmony and looked for another chair. END OF DREAM
The message to me for my purposes is to know that the leadership of rebelling Tamils would come to me. Those who use armed force would refuse to share their leadership positions with me. But if I renounce my earned share of that leadership in the name of Peace, I would find my own chair/leadership where there is no unoccupied idle space. VP’s chair/sofa had/s idle space. That is the leadership vacancy representing those who believe in intellectual and political paths above armed force. The Tamil Community has not sunk to the level of depending solely on armed force.