| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam
( April 20, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) I respond to the article ‘Double standards in double measure with regard to Human Rights’ by Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, published in Sri Lanka Guardian.
To my article entitled ‘Professor Wijesingha’s Dual Intelligence’, a fellow Sri Lankan responded by saying ‘That is why they became Professors!!!!!!!!’. To this I responded ‘That’s fine – so long as they live in their academic world – away from Politics!’
Professor Wijesinha says in his article ‘Double standards in double measure with regard to Human Rights – ‘I refer to those who believe that they are best equipped to deal with the West, and in particular those in the Ministry who believe that Dayan and I have been too tough and that, had things been left to them, the West would be very happy with the situation in Sri Lanka.’
I identify with the conclusion by those in the Ministry. I know this through my life as an Australian. White Australians generally behave as if they know better than Sri Lankans – especially ‘poor looking’ Sri Lankans without official portfolio like myself. If Professor Wijesinha had discarded his qualifications from the West and dressed in Sri Lankan National Dress, he would have realized that the Ministry was taking the line of least defence. Most Australian migrants of Sri Lankan origin do that. This is why they attack the Sri Lankan government more than I do. How can one blame them when they have not had truly independent leadership at government level?
I was arrested four times at the University of New South Wales. On the first three occasions, to reflect my Sri Lankanism and my belief that the sad state of my situation was due to racial discrimination, I dressed up in Sri Lankan National dress for women – the Sari. On the fourth occasion which was also the final one – I for some reason wore Western Dress. It was an intuitive call which later I worked out to be due to me needing to know the difference – the other side. I now believe that Natural Powers work beyond the control of man. We humans may submit to them but not try to control them. I wore western suit and even as I was crossing the road to enter the University I saw on the board the title ‘Measure for Measure’. I smiled to myself feeling that Natural Powers were with me.
The Police Officer who came that day was very courteous and took down all that I had to say, which resulted in the Vice Chancellor being listed as a witness by the Police. The Vice Chancellor had to wait all day in court under the observations of two graduates from the faculty of Engineering where he was one time the Dean. The two were my husband and my son. Many other engineers of that University, including my daughter and son-in-law, heard and learnt that their former Dean did not know to protect himself from such ‘common treatment’. Truth naturally manifests the ‘other’ side when we are without external protection.
That was natural demotion due to Natural Powers. On the previous three occasions, the Police Officers ‘told’ me but did not listen to me. This fourth officer recorded my statements in the presence of University staff. Before the recording started I asked whether I could go to the toilet and he said ‘certainly’. When I came back from the toilet he ‘asked’ me whether I would agree to moving to a meeting room and I said ‘yes’. In contrast on the other three occasions, I was ordered to walk out of the building and on the last one to a normal car waiting outside.
On the first occasion, on 15 September 2003 NSW Police Constrable Jim Zavetsanos asked me:
‘Do you have an appointment to see the Vice Chancellor?’
The University records would have shown that I was there as a result of withdrawing action in the Supreme Court of NSW on the condition that the Vice Chancellor would talk to me the issues over which I took the University of NSW to the Supreme Court of NSW. As per my study of the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 under which I was arrested – I was NOT guilty and in fact the Police were guilty of Trespass. The above question was followed by:
‘Gaja, if you do not leave the building you will be arrested’. I was taken away in a Caged Police van fit for criminals, parked outside the Chancellery building of the University.
NSW Police – Record of Events & FACTS Sheet show the following about me: Place of Birth / Nationality = Sri Lanka , On the second occasion on 10 November 2003, as per recorded evidence, Senior Police Instructed Police Officers to deal with me as per the instructions of the UNSW Vice Chancellery staff and hence the Police Officer was already ‘waiting’ for me. He said :
‘Gaja, my name is Constable LAWSON from Maroubra Police. I am giving you a direction to leave the University grounds. The Security Liaison Officer has told you to leave, also. If you fail to comply with my direction you are committing an offence and may be arrested’
A little later – after University Security Officer went through the rituals of asking me to leave, Officer Lawson said in the following sequence:
‘Gaja, this gentleman has asked you to leave on several occasions, can you please leave the grounds of the University’
‘Gaja, you have to leave the grounds whether it be of your own free will or under the escort of the Police’
‘Gaja, you are now under arrest for Trespass. You will have to come with us’
The religious books in my lap were taken, Officer Lawson took hold of my left arm and Lady Officer Butler of my right arm and took me out of the UNSW Chancellery building.
They took me to a caged paddy wagon parked outside Chancellery Building and removed my belongings from me.
Before I entered the paddy wagon they asked me to remove my jewelry.
Then they asked me to remove any pins that I might be wearing. After I removed the one holding my sari to the blouse they asked me whether I had any more pins. I said there was one holding my underskirt but that if I removed it, I risked standing naked in that public area in front of UNSW Chancellery. I lifted my hands up and asked the Police Officer ‘if you want to you remove the pin and take the risk of stripping me’. Then the Officer asked me to get into the van.
At the Police Station they listed me as Racial Appearance = Indian Black; Nationality = Sri Lanka
On the last occasion, I was wearing western suit and was treated with respect; taken in a normal car instead of paddy wagon and was listed as Australian national. Yes, the dress does make a difference in the assessment. The Sri Lankan Consul General (acting) did not offer to come to the Police station even after I said to him it originated with me claiming Equal status for my Sri Lankan Accounting qualifications.
Hence I now expect majority Sri Lankans including Tamils to ‘give in’ to the authorities rather than to uphold their sense of independence and equality until proven otherwise. Those who fear that it may be ‘proven otherwise’ to disadvantage them are likely to compromise. This would have been acceptable to Westerners looking for quick status. Not many Westerners known to me are committed to taking benefits strictly on earned basis. Those who do take on earned basis are usually poorer than others who have done similar level work – poorer in status and/or money. That is the gap between self governance and obedience to government.
The parallels of these Westerners taking quick status from easterners would naturally accept the submission by Sri Lankan Ministry officials who are willing to show that they would be led by Westerners. Those who follow the government blindly in Sri Lanka would follow Western governments even more blindly unless they are truly committed to ‘home-grown’ status and other benefits or like some of us they are independent operators at all times. Dr. Jayatilleka & Professor Wijesinha to my mind, are yet to be independent of their government and hence seem to want to have it both ways.
Professor Wijesinha states ‘While I am not sure that that commentary is right in seeing such individuals as traitorous, I believe that their approach was wrong on two counts. One was the belief that the West would be happy with assurances without any action with regard to matters on which they could build up feeling against us. The second was the assumption that the West was concerned only about such matters, and that what has been going on over the last few years need not be studied, but can be dealt with by hasty reactions.’
Feelings by the West for or against Sri Lankans is feelings for or against the Sri Lankan within those Westerners. If they for example shared their 9/11 pain with Sri Lankans and hence listed the LTTE as Terrorists, it was for the Sri Lankan Government in the hearts and minds of Western Governments. Thoughts could be separated but not feelings. Thoughts when they are ready to be expressed have the two sides – as do physical outcomes.
If feelings are hurt they go deep and are likely to depress someone who depended on the person whose face our feelings were given OR would strengthen the person with feelings to become stronger and more independent.
To my mind, the system of Democracy with its Equal Opposition when there is no merit based measure applied to know right from wrong – limits our risk from becoming depressed when our feelings are hurt. We start thinking instead of accepting blindly and hence reduce the risk of depression. Developing such ‘thought based’ systems that would help majority Sri Lankans, needs to be more important than clearing one’s own name with the hierarchy. This I feel is needed desperately by majority Sri Lankans – at various levels of Administration. As stated above, once thoughts are expressed in words and/or actions – the two sides are already created.
Professor Wijesinha states ‘The number of leading members of the SLFP who have made clear their moderate views on how the country should move forward makes it clear that, while the success of this government in getting rid of terrorism within Sri Lanka is appreciated, the popular view, borne out by all opinion polls, is that government should now also move forward on constructive reforms.’
Calling the Tigers Terrorists was NOT done through regular Administrative or Judicial basis in Sri Lanka. The Tigers removed themselves from the control of the Government of Sri Lanka and it is this sense of independence that is returning through Tamils within the Diaspora who are using Western channels. As per the hierarchical system of management, those who submit to the higher authorities enjoy the benefits at the higher level so long as they do not act/express independent of that hierarchy. To my mind, the likes of Professor Wijesinha would continue to experience conflict due to not being able to submit to the leadership of Westerners in democratic administration and management but their minds still knowing right from wrong through their academic work. Without the status from such academic institutions, it is highly likely that Professor Wijesinha would be seen as a nobody by other Sri Lankans in his current group/class.
Ultimately our true feelings are as per the true persons and values through whom/which we see ourselves. When we see ourselves through persons it is subjective and when we see ourselves through values it is objective. The status WE take up independently through such feelings is our true and lasting status. Others feeling likewise would naturally empower us. Not so others who merely think like us or worse those who look like us.
Hence, we need to get on with the real work of self-governance – starting with ourselves. If Professor Wijesinha was truly self-governing, he would not have made the statements he made through BBC nor would he continue to call the Tigers Terrorists. If they were Terrorists, so is his Government which includes former Tiger – Karuna and JVP. If Professor Wijesinha is independent in a Western environment – he would accept the ‘other side’ of his western status benefits – which come automatically because they are western. Every benefit must be matched by costs, for us to be independent. BBC for Professor Wijesinha was UNHRC for Sri Lankan Ministry of External Affairs. Practicing Double Standards, Professor Wijesinha?