|by S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole
Economic and Political Rights
( December 16, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Sri Lankan Ambassador to America, Jaliya Wickramasuriya, has described the paramount service the nation expects: to share the correct story about the motherland.
I am therefore trying to portray the true Tamil lot – zero. Development is skewed, with a view to colonizing our homelands. Government thinking towards Tamils is flawed: that in recent elections, we Tamils were being offered political rights by the TNA and economic rights by the UPFA, and that we chose the former.
Wrong! The reality is that we want both, like the Sinhalese have. The UPFA, if it really wants to win over Tamils, must have the greatnes to let us choose. If we do not vote for the UPFA, government must still treat us as citizens and gracefully give us our economic rights through our chosen representatives. Then one day, perhaps, Tamils may feel moved to vote for it.
Tamil Political Rights
Suppressing Tamil political rights, government terror was launched against the TNA and its candidates – throwing severed dog heads, wreaths from cemeteries and garbage sewer dirt into their compounds and wells, and old engine oil on supporters.
The detained Jaffna University students have been taken to the rehabilitation centre at Welikande, which with others like it was conceived of in the late 1990s when the Police arrested people whom they had no charges on. Indeed none of those detained can be charged and there are no bombings in Jaffna. The reasons for detaining them are purely political. The student who was beaten up in May and was recently arrested is a TNA youth-wing leader. The University Teachers’ Association President, Parameswaran Thamodaran, says students are already leaving the country – opting out of Sri Lanka.
With zero Tamil political rights 109 women have been recruited to the army without gazetting, promising civilian jobs at Rs. 30,000 p.m. The army denies it but the recruits are refused visitors and telephones. Thirteen have since been admitted to Vavuniya Hospital with psychiatric disorders. The fear is that they are sexually exploited.
Examining Female Bodies
When soldiers know that the government would always back them regardless of how they harass Tamils, soldiers feel no need for self-restraint. The kind of incident burgeoning in the North involves Pallai Civil Coordinating Officer “Kumar-Annah” as servile Tamils call him (but perhaps Kumara). Womenfolk go to his camp to meet their dear ones and are harassed. Investigating a beautiful (about 32) Tiger widow with a minor facial injury, Kumar told her “I need to ensure that you have no gunshot wounds. Remove your clothes so that I may examine you.” More than once she has escaped dissembling hysterics.
This woman has gone into hiding after unwittingly complaining to a human rights organization that has been bought over with a Jaffna University Council seat, dinners with the governor and exclusive trading rights to Milko (Leader, Dec. 2). It is now rumoured that one of the bribes is the French Chevalier title through government recommendations. If confirmed it would show how our politics taints even prestigious international awards.
After this NGO gave cover to a former LTTE-er codenamed Valluthi working for the army, a disturbed senior staffer has tendered her resignation. Would the NGO act, though late, on the Tiger widow’s complaint? Or would repayment for favors include covering up her story?
All Rights through Political Rights
Only a narrow vision can dichotomize rights into the political and other. The right to Milko agency flowed from Tamils lacking political rights. So also bus routes, sand and jobs sold by the EPDP. The TNA has alleged at a press conference (Dec. 11) that funds have been plundered from the Jaffna Municipal Council by the EPDP and that the Mayor, Her Worship Yogeswari Patkunarajah, has not accounted for huge sums while burdening the people with taxes. Other reports allege that she has charged Rs. 40 lakhs for repairs to her luxury vehicle her husband crashed running personal errands. Reports also allude to a further Rs. 24 lakhs following another accident and Rs. 7 lakhs for car rental while her vehicle was being repaired.
Like our economic rights, our education rights also hinge on our political rights. For example, the university is closed because an army that we do not control has run amok. (The Medics are set to reopen because their student has been released – divided and conquered. In surrendering the student to TID the Dean fearing an army attack asked him to travel separately rather than in his car).
Everything on Sale: Chief Justiceship?
Sri Lanka offers little. Almost anything can be bought with government connivance. MPs (in whom it is claimed our sovereignty is vested) jump sides for millions. So our sovereignty too has a price. Milko dealerships. Jobs. The list is endless. Though a few manage to keep up standards, questions arose recently about the price for the Chief Justiceship after Justice Shirani Tilakawardana gave evidence against Chief Justice Bandaranayake and “greatly assisted the select committee to reach a correct decision relating to the first charge.”
Those of substance and most social justice organizations agree that the impeachment process is flawed and politicized. So why did Tilakawardana participate in such a vile process and dignify it? Even if summoned she could have declined until the process was put right.
I know Justice Tilakawardana well. We served together on the highest administrative bodies of the Church of Ceylon. Although a law college product rather than the university, she made a name as a feminist and was awarded honorary degrees by reputed US institutions: Williams College and the women’s Smith College.
She was elevated from the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court when the latter’s reputation was going downhill. Responsible lawyers told me that a Justice regularly exposed his genitals to the lady cleaning the Justices’ toilet and another supplied his home with toilette paper, carefully removing new rolls and replacing them in their dispensers with the left-over cardboard for accounting. Chief Justice Sarath Silva had been caught without trousers in a car in Bataramulle with a young lawyer at night, the Sunday Leader reported. He was asserting his frayed authority at the time and, according to sources I believe, called Bandaranayake a “balli” (bitch) during JSC deliberations.
The respected human rights lawyer Elmore Perera challenged Silva, filing a fundamental rights petition over what Perera judged were improper appointments to the JSC of Tilakawardana and another following the resignations of Bandaranayake and Justice TB Weerasuriya. Strangely Silva made Tilakawardana the presiding judge in that case involving herself. The disagreements led to Perera being prohibited from appearing in any law court.
Perera is a seasoned lay-preacher in the Methodist Church and it was painful to see an Anglican lay official act vindictively against him. As a church administrator Tilakawardana needed to be an impeccable role model. Many are puzzled by her appearance against Bandaranayake and pray that speculations as to her motive are wrong, although normally I would be overjoyed to see a fellow Anglican made Chief Justice.
Opting out of Sri Lanka
Our Ambassador to France, Dayan Jaytilleke, indirectly summed up at his farewell the governemnt’s failure in being the government only of the majority: that it would go against the spirit of his job to identify himself with or serve one political party, or one faction or one family, or one religious denomination, or one linguistic community.
As such, the Bishop of Jaffna is on record that the government is dishonest. The Bishop of Mannar feels that refugees are unsafe in Sri Lanka. Are these not voices of our eminent leaders opting out of Sri Lanka?
Yet there is hope. R. Sampanthan, although privately quoted for saying “We escaped Prabhakaran only to get caught to Gothabaya,” stated during the budget speech that he never requested the government to withdraw military personnel from the Northern Province. On the same page as his leader, but clarifying, M. Sumanthiran added “We don’t want military rule in any part of the country, be it LTTE rule or Sri Lankan Army rule. We want civilian rule.”
These may be the last Tamil voices of reason and moderation.