| by Dayan Jayatilleka
( April 24, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I’ve heard of home invasions but this is the first time I’ve watched a Ministry invasion. The country watched while the BBS swarmed into Rishad Bathiudeen’s Ministry in search of missing monk, to wit, Ven Watarekke Vijitha thero. Was the latter a suspect in a case of murder, rape, child molestation or even theft? Nope. His alleged crime was not a crime according to any law. It was an offense in the eyes of the BBS though, because he is said to have taken the side of the Muslims in a dispute in Mahiyangana. He is now being hounded, including in the precincts of Government ministries. The manhunt or monk-hunt is being conducted in full public view, on mainstream TV. It is the new reality TV show.
It is difficult to identify which is worse: (a) the fact that there seems to be absolute impunity for this group which has openly arrogated to itself the right to police society and the state as well or (b) the fact that the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter did not remonstrate publicly with the BBS delegation at its recent visit and instead good naturedly cheered them on (as seen on Derana News) to “do something” in furtherance of their declaration that they had the power to make and unmake governments. Add to this the uncritical remarks by Secretary Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa at the opening of the BBS’ political academy at Meth Sevana last year and we seemingly have confirmation of Kalana Senaratne’s brilliant recent article in which he posits the thesis that the BBS is not the lunatic fringe but the murkier depths of the mainstream itself.
The BBS activity, most notably of the inspection/invasion of Minister Rishad Bathiuddeen’s Ministry and its declared intention to intervene anywhere it chooses to, bypassing existing laws and law enforcement amounts to a project of theocratic proto-fascism. The detention of the British nurse who had an un-caricatured tattoo of the Buddha on her shoulder and the arrest of a Catholic nun belonging to the Order of Mother Theresa a few years back (she was released after the Cardinal sent a clear message) indicates that the BBS is not merely an organization, but that it represents — and can get away with what it does because it represents— a state of mind, including within the state. The fact that this state of mind does not encompass the state as a whole is exemplified by the excellent conduct of the police officer, who refused to hand over the footage of the CCTV cameras outside Minister Bathiuddeen’s Ministry to the BBS monk who threateningly demanded it.
What the BBS seems to demand is the right to behave as if Sri Lanka is a theocratic state in which the BBS are the ayatollahs and cultural police. So if this trend continues, Sri Lankan citizens will not only have to live under an economic regime and state policy process that is describable as an oligarchy, but also live by the unwritten rules of a theocracy.
Now, one has the choice of analysing these phenomena to death or actually doing something about it fast. Insofar as all this appalling public behaviour of the BBS and like-minded formations is possible under the umbrella of the political Establishment, I suggest a five-point program to alter that status quo:
1. Send CBK and SF to Parliament, now: While I have a very dim view of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as a Presidential candidate and Gen Sarath Fonseka as a future President, I urge that they be sent to parliament immediately in order to re-balance politics and denounce impunity. All it takes is for a UNP national list MP or two to be persuaded to step down, and CBK can go in to parliament and become a front bencher or even the leader of the opposition. The same goes for Gen Fonseka— and if there is a legal impediment, Mrs Anoma Fonseka can be sent instead. These two, namely CBK and Mr or Mrs Fonseka will rock the House. They may even attract some MPs from the other side. They will soften up the government and change the atmosphere before the crucial pair of elections early next year. If this is not done now, one can only conclude that the UNP cares more about something other than re-balancing Sri Lanka’s politics.
2. Support a Left Opposition with the JVP at its core and vanguard. Encourage reunification or a JVP-FSP bloc. Without the Inter-University Student Federation, the JVP will lack an important campaigning arm, while without the JVP the FSP will lack any serious mass or national appeal and political prospect, representing radicalism at the margins. The JVP is the closest we have to a formation which takes an anti-racist, anti-religious extremist ideology to the masses. It is currently the most consistent agency of a rational, secular, progressive and modernist ideology. A strong JVP representation in the next parliament and a serious JVP presidential candidacy—Anura Kumara Dissanayake—will be positive factors under any circumstances.
3. Effect a demarcation within the SLFP/UPFA in time for the Parliamentary elections. Work on detaching the moderates of the SLFP from the family-dominated regime, not at the Presidential election (it won’t work anyway) but at the parliamentary election. The aim should be to target the two thirds majority and encourage a strong, multiparty opposition. Of course if the Opposition’s presidential candidate is such that the Presidential election is a Charge of the Light Brigade for the Opposition, there will be no defectors from the SLFP or none who can fetch any votes.
4. Rebuild the political centre: construct a centrist coalition; re-open the Middle Path in mainstream Lankan politics. This can be done only by a combination of the anti-familial succession (but not anti-Mahinda) element of the SLFP and the non-Ranil element of the UNP.
5. Build the broadest possible multi-party united front under the leadership of the biggest Opposition party the UNP, but not under the existing leader who cannot even reunify and restore the UNP’s own base vote! The ideology and character of the broad united front must be national democratic and pluralist; not urban cosmopolitan. It must bring together the three aspects of the national, the democratic and the popular or mass (which in this country means the rural). An urban cosmopolitan NGO type liberal democratic platform which is not pronouncedly patriotic and national (in a broad pluralist sense) and which fails to resonant with the peasantry, is an absurdity. The target of the broad united front must not be Mahinda Rajapaksa, but the family oligarchy and the divine right to rule. Mahinda is understandably popular and respected. In the past, successful Opposition strategists went not for the most popular leader but for the harshest and most divisive: JRJ instead of Dudley; ‘Satan’ Felix much more than Sirimavo.
Tamil Self Determination
The worrisome national political picture is hardly helped by the news — and will be still less helped by the actual news coverage— of the TNA’s decision as announced by Mavai Senathiraja that the main theme of this year’s TNA May Day will be Self Determination. The Sri Lankan masses aren’t so stupid that they do not understand the coded language. It is one thing to call for a measure of provincial self rule or autonomy. It would be even better to concretise this by calling for the full implementation of the 13th amendment. But provincial self rule or self-administration is different from self determination. In anything other than a situation of colonialism or cross-border annexation recognised as illegal under international law; certainly in an independent sovereign state, Self Determination is a dangerously elastic or worse still, open-ended concept and slogan. The raising or renewal by the TNA at this stage, of the slogan of self determination not only retards the prospect of the renewal of political dialogue (what with elections a year away). It also makes the task of bridging the gap by South Africa and India far more fraught. With its susceptibility to emotionalism and its consequent ideological volatility, the TNA should not be a pre-election coalition partner of any serious Southern democratic partnership.
Prof Kumar David has returned to the fray to defend and support the dangerously de-stabilising slogan of national self-determination. He continues to interpret it open-endedly, asserting that size or proportion notwithstanding if any ethnic group regards itself a nation it can put forward the slogan of national self-determination which any liberal or progressive should support. He regards this as the National Question in the 21st century and an impeccable extension of Leninism. In the real world this opens up a Pandora box of the breakup of existing states, bloody conflicts and partition.
I distinctly recall Prof Kumar David writing a piece which was proudly carried on Tamil Net, in which he asserted with some panache and swagger that he as an academic with a science background, knew just how much technical knowledge and expertise would have gone into creating and operating the Air Tigers, and that he can confidently predict that with such expertise available, the LTTE could not be militarily defeated by the Sri Lankan armed forces anytime soon. In point of fact, the LTTE was crushed at Nandikadal just a few months— possibly several weeks--later!
Two very different leaders, Woodrow Wilson and Vladimir Lenin enunciated the right of nations to self determination within a year of each other, during the First World War with a strategic goal. They wished to stir up ethnic nationalism and undermine or break up the existing colonial and imperialist formations which were their rivals. Lenin was writing and working within the overall project of the rising tide of socialist revolution and the actual establishment of a socialist state as a rival power centre to the imperialist system. Since 1991 we live in a wholly different era, where socialist revolution is no longer on the agenda and the world system is capitalist. This is why, already in 1987, when he predicted the collapse of the USSR, Fidel Castro argued that the defence of national sovereignty and the territorial unity of states is once again a revolutionary slogan.
It may be said that today we are closer to the era of Marx and Engels, in that the post-socialist era is similar to the pre-socialist one. In this era as in that of Marx and Engels, what we see is the return of geopolitical and economically driven strategic rivalry of big powers. Marx and Engels at no time wrote of the ‘right of nations to self determination’. The journalistic writing and the Selected Correspondence of Marx and Engels, as well as the military writings of Engels reveal a perspective that assessed every ethnic striving not from the view point of a ‘National Question’ or an abstract ‘Right of Self Determination’ but precisely on a concrete case-by-case basis, informed by whether or not the ethnic community was large or small and thereby capable of forming a state and whether or not the given community had a propensity to support imperialist and reactionary powers, i.e. the role such ethnic groups would play in big power rivalries.
That is the perspective that we would find most instructive in today’s world, and specifically with regard to Sri Lanka’s Tamil Question.
As for his dismissal of Antonio Gramsci (in which he follows fellow Trotskyite Prof Laksiri Fernando), Prof David simply displays ignorance and illiteracy. Louis Althusser concluded: “Who has really attempted to follow up the explorations of Marx and Engels? I can only think of Gramsci.” (‘For Marx’ p 114) If Althusser is a little too esoteric or tragic a figure for Prof David, here’s Eric Hobsbawm: “As Joseph Buttigieg notes, American anti-communists are worried because Gramsci can still inspire the post-Soviet Left, even when Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Mao no longer can. Yet while one hopes that Gramsci may still be a guide to successful political action for the left, it is already clear that his international influence has penetrated beyond the left, and indeed beyond the sphere of instrumental politics...He has survived the political conjunctures which first gave him international prominence...He has demonstrated his independence of the fluctuations of ideological fashion...” (Hobsbawm, ‘The Reception of Gramsci’, in ‘How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011’)
There is a reason that Marx, Guevara and Gramsci have survived into the 21st century in far better shape than Lenin and Leninism. The successful resurgence of the Latin American Left owes much more to Gramsci than to Lenin. Those movements are far more Gramscian than Leninist, having had to partially unlearn Leninism and learn Gramsci in order to succeed as they have done, after and despite the fall of the global socialist project.
[Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka latest book is The Fall of Global Socialism: A Counter-Narrative from the South, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2014. He is also the author of Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro, Pluto, London, 2007. ]
| by Tisaranee Gunasekara
“The tune the head of the household begins is what everyone in the house sings.”
( April 24, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mihin Air is a metaphor for Rajapaksa economics.
A budget airline was neither a national deed nor a popular demand. Mihin Air, the first state entity to be named after President Rajapaksa, never made a profit in its existence. It loses billions of rupees annually, and yet its continued existence is not in doubt.
Mihin Air was the first of a kind, an economic project with a single raison d’être – pandering to Rajapaksa megalomania. Today development has become coeval with such projects, from the Mattala Airport and the Colombo Port City to the Hambantota Port and the Lotus Tower.
The Hambantota attack on UNP parliamentarians too is a trendsetter. That wanton and daylight assault was necessitated not by governmental or SLFP interests but by Rajapaksa interests. The Rajapaksas need to ensure that the opposition (and especially the UNP) remains forever in a supine position. Any sign of oppositional rejuvenation, however infinitesimal, is thus met with hysterical rhetoric and disproportionate force. The Hambantota attack indicates, again, that if the opposition manages to produce an effective leader, the Rajapaksas may not hesitate to do a Marcos (vis-à-vis Benigno Aquino) or a Somoza (vis-à-vis Pedro Chamorro). Now that the Tiger has been resurrected, the Siblings have a readymade scapegoat.
Just as Vellupillai Pirapaharan could not afford a lasting peace, the Rajapaksas cannot afford to lose power. Imagine Gotabhaya Rajapaksa returning to ordinary life or Rajapaksa progeny managing without the power and the wealth of the state. The Rajapaksas need to keep the opposition debilitated and divided. The survival of their familial project depends on that.
The anarchic conduct of the BBS et al too is indicative of emerging trends. The Rajapaksas can beat back a Sinhala opposition, a Tamil opposition and a Muslim opposition. But a Lankan opposition, united across ethno-religious divides, can mount an effective challenge to the Family. Therefore the Rajapaksas need to keep the country ghettoised, politically and psychologically. The PTA will be used to discourage unity at the grassroots level; activists who promote ethno-religious sympathy/cooperation will be arrested on terrorism charges; or they will be accused of causing inter-communal disharmony. But state repression will not be enough; this is where the BBS comes in.
The BBS et al have adopted the strict communalisation of politics as their current battle-cry. They demand that Buddhists should talk about Buddhist-grievances, Tamils focus on Tamil-problems, Muslims stick to Muslims-issues and Christians concentrate on Christian-matters. Human sympathy and political solidarity across primordial and ideological divides are represented as betrayal of nation/religion. When the UNP organised an exhibition about human rights violations across the country, the BBS made a not very successful attempt to invade Sirikotha, accusing UNP leaders of betraying the Sinhalese by mentioning Tamil victims (that, according to BBS-logic, is TNA’s responsibility).
With a presidential election reportedly in the offing, the BBS seems to be shifting fully to the new mode. Halal and slaughter issues are forgotten. The saffron-thugs are demanding that political and religious correctness be equated with ethno-religious ghettoisation. If the opposition manages to field a presidential candidate who can unite the communities, the Rajapaksas will use the BBS to attack opposition meetings, while police looks on.
The BBS et al have another very useful purpose – terrify minority politicians into submission. The drubbing the SLMC received at the March PC polls is indicative of the minority mood. The Siblings would know that electoral-logic might compel even the most abject minority politicians to reconsider their options and allegiances. In that context venality may not suffice to keep Tamil/Muslim/Upcountry-Tamil politicians under Rajapaksa thumbs. The BBS, with its anarchic conduct, is filling the gaps with violence.
The BBS invasion of Rishard Bathiudeen’s ministry is an excellent case in point. A handful of monks invaded the ministry in the minister’s absence and were allowed a free run. The police which hammered innocent commuters in the Fort Railway Station, the previous day, did nothing to stop the saffron-lawbreakers. A senior cop is on record, assuring Mr. Bathiudeen that the monks will not be allowed into the ministry, so long as the minister is inside: “Sir, you are a cabinet minister. I have come to protect you as a cabinet minister. I will not allow anything to happen to you.” The unsaid message will not be lost on such an arch opportunist as Mr. Bathiudeen – he is protected by ‘law’ only so long as he remains a cabinet minister; if he leaves, he will be left vulnerable to the marauding monks. Since Mr. Bathiudeen is as concerned about Muslims as the Rajapaksas are about Sinhala-Buddhists, he will betray his constituents with alacrity in return for Rajapaksa protection. (Incidentally, Minister Bathiudeen’s current plight is partly self-inflicted; he took the law into his hands and attacked a judge, in 2012. Today he is a victim of the climate of lawlessness he helped to create).
Casino Bala Sena
The BBS et al are given the same free hand accorded to the likes of Mervyn Silva and Eraj Fernando, because they are primarily and mainly Rajapaksa pawns. They may occasionally criticise the ruling family but they will never act against familial interests – as is evident from their consistent refusal to take up the casino issue.
Two delegations consisting of several Sinhala-Buddhist organisations met the Malwatu Chief Prelate on Wednesday. The National Sangha Council delegation focused on the casino issue. The BBS/Ravana Balaya delegation ignored the casino issue and focused on the ‘threat to Buddhism from unbelievers’. At the conclusion, BBS head-honcho, Galagoda-Atte Gnanasara Thero said, “Fundamentalist cliques belonging to other religions are operating in Lanka…. Some priests of these non-Buddhist religions betrayed the country by sneaking to the US and Geneva…. We will become very agitated in a couple of days.....”
The regime is planning to ram through the Strategic Development Act, creating a wide backdoor to mega-casinos. This is an issue which reveals Rajapaksa hypocrisy. It is also an issue on which the Opposition is clearly in synch with the Sinhala-Buddhist majority and a majority of monks. The Rajapaksas therefore need to prevent an anti-casino agitation from getting off the ground, bringing representatives of all ethno-religious communities onto a single platform. What better way to do that than to unleash the BBS marauders screaming about Muslim, Tamil and Christian threats?
During times of extreme socio-economic distress, suffering multitudes turn to religion for solace, particularly when systemic forces fail to offer any hope. The other function of the BBS is to step into the breach, and blame Sinhala-Buddhist economic distress on ‘Tamil/Muslim/Christian exploitation’. This is why both the BBS and the Rajapaksas are trying to maintain the myth about an independent and uncontrollable BBS.
Like in the case of Lankan militarization, the Rajapaksa-Sangha nexus will not be a relationship of equals; the Sangha will be pawns rather than partners, Buddhism merely a weapon and a shield. The Rajapaksas, in the interests of their familial project, will do to Buddhism and the Sangha what they have already done to every other Lankan institution, from the Judiciary to the Central Bank.
It’ll be Buddhism devalued and debased.
- Lankadeepa – 23.4.2014
| by Craig Murry
( April 24, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The greatest boost ever received by Islamic fundamentalism was the invasion of Iraq. Closely followed by extraordinary rendition, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and drones, and Israeli bombings of Gaza. All of those things lead some Muslims to believe a violent response by terrorism is required to defend themselves. So for Tony Blair, who has promoted huge hatred and caused unnumbered deaths through a career of deceit and self-enrichment, to warn about the dangers of Islamic terrorism is something nobody but a few Guardian and Murdoch acolytes wish to hear.
Blair of course has many tens of millions stuffed into his capacious back-pocket by oligarchs from the ex-Soviet space, so it is unsurprising to hear him call for understanding between Russia and the West. It is even more to form that this understanding should be based on joint hatred of Muslims.
There is an alarming failure by many in the UK to understand that Russia is an Empire. Russia’s Asian possessions were taken by invasion from their indigenous and Muslim populations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at precisely the same time Britain was taking its own colonies. The Russian conquests were no less colonial from the accident of geography that they were contiguous. Dagestan and Chechnya were only conquered in the 1830′s. Most of Tartarstan later. The “Islamic fundamentalist threat” Russia faces jointly with the UK, is actually the struggle of colonized peoples for their freedom.
Blair includes China, which likewise is the colonial occupier of the Uighurs and other suppressed Muslim populations. To conflate the struggle for freedom from colonial occupation of these people with an over-reaching monster of “Islamic terrorism” is part of Blair’s trick. His examples in Africa are again born of despair from the consequences of centuries of colonial and now neo-liberal exploitation. I find his pronouncements on Boko Haram ironic, given that Blair’s single biggest legacy is to move the United Kingdom close to Nigerian standards of equality of wealth distribution.
The extraordinary thing is that Blair is somebody so hate-filled he wants to see yet more hatred, killing and violence. It is worrying that the establishment media are so happy to promote his view without providing any balancing opinion. I comfort myself that the real motive of this silly speech was that, other than his media acolytes, absolutely nobody cares what he is saying. It wasn’t so much a speech as a public display of ADD.
Craig Murry was British Ambassador, Uzbekistan - 2002-2004 - He found Western support for the dictatorial Karimov regime unconscionable, as detailed in his website.http://www.craigmurray.org.uk
The following article with images, was originally published by a blogger who blogs at thecarthaginiansolution.wordpress.com, in last year.
( April 24, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) In late 2012, workers digging foundations for a new wing in Matale Hospital unearthed partial skeletons of more than 150 people. Of the various theories that sought to explain how this mass grave came to be, the one that most people instinctively thought might be true was that this was the final resting place of victims of death squads from 2nd JVP insurgency, which from 1987 to 1989 almost brought the Sri Lankan State to total collapse. The counter-insurgency (COIN) campaign, which in turn destroyed the JVP had few equals (except perhaps the 1990s Algerian counter-insurgency campaign and the India’s anti-’Khalistan’ counter-insurgency in the Punjab) for its ruthlessness.
Unlike today’s COIN warriors who use seemingly benign terms like “Fight, Secure, Build”, Sri Lanka’s COIN warriors used the more honest, “Search, Interrogate and Destroy” to characterise their brutal, blood-stained and ultimately successful campaign to crush the JVP.
Family members mourn the loss of a loved one who was killed by JVP. April 1989.
(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
The US State Dept neatly summarised the background to the 1987-1989 JVP insurgency.
“In 1989 the JVP stepped up its campaign against the Government and population at large. Likened by some observers to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and the Maoist Shining Path in Peru, the JVP sought to topple Sri Lanka’s elected Government through a campaign of murder, intimidation, and strikes designed to paralyse civil administration, cripple the economy, and disrupt society. It did so despite repeated efforts by the Sri Lankan Government to bring the JVP into the political mainstream. In 1988 the Government had legalized the JVP and invited it to participate in the elections.
“Let us kill JR” – anti-govt graffiti by DJV (military arm of the JVP) urging death to President JR Jayawardene, displayed in front of a post office. December 1989. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
The JVP responded by killing voters and candidates in an attempt to disrupt elections held in late 1988 and early 1989. In January 1989, in an effort to open a dialog with the JVP, newly elected President Ranasinghe Premadasa released 1,800 JVP suspects and lifted the state of emergency. The JVP nonetheless continued its terror campaign of targeting hospitals, transportation, and other essential services, murdering union leaders who refused to participate in JVP-called strikes and killing the families of security force personnel. At mid-year, the Government began a massive crackdown on the JVP. It detained several thousand JVP suspects. By the end of the year, security forces had captured or killed much of the JVP’s top leadership.”
A “massive crackdown” sounds quite reasonable until you realise the levels of ultra-violence used by the state to defeat the JVP.
The Years of Blood
An incomplete body count showed that from 1987-1989 the JVP murdered hundreds of members of the working class to force them to join anti-government strikes. They also murdered 1,700+ government supporters, 500+ government servants, 200+ service personnel, 350+ police personnel, 100+ home guards and 70+ politicians of all parties including many senior politicians. And over 32,000 civilians for various ‘offences’ committed against the movement.
Family gathered around open coffin mourning at funeral for policeman killed by land mine blast set off by the JVP.
April 1989 (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
In 1989, the JVP murdered 24 members of the Buddhist clergy for refusing to bow to their demands. Their killing spree continued to include over 120 school principals, educationalists, professors, doctors, lawyers, journalists and medical staff. Even TV announcers were killed. Anyone who held any kind of leadership function in government or commerce was deemed a legitimate target by the JVP.
Armed soldier stands before the Bank of Ceylon, which is locked up tight and has crossed-out graffiti on the front.
Dec 1988 (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
And the JVP killed hundreds of leftist politicians and activists. In September 1988, JVP ordered nationwide strikes with widespread compliance. Shops, transport, hospitals and government services were shut. Listening to radios or watching TV was prohibited with death as punishment for disobeying orders. By November 1988, Sri Lanka experienced near total anarchy. Oil refineries remained closed due to JVP instigated strikes. Public and private transport reduced to such low levels that food shortages threatened.
A lone cyclist rides on empty street in Akuressa, past shops closed due to general strike called by the JVP.
December 1988. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Bank, Postal and Telecommunications virtually halted. It was a relentless, daily round of killings, sabotage and strikes organised by the JVP and of counter-terror by Security forces. The JVP’s stated aims were to seize power, overthrow the existing power structure and transform society along more equitable lines. Its first political assassination was killing a leftist student leader. The JVP really proved dictum, “Kill one man, terrorise a thousand”.
The Army Fights on Two Fronts
The Armed Forces, whilst fighting the LTTE in the Tamil-majority North also had to contend with JVP attacks in the Sinhala-majority South. For instance, Pallekelle Army camp was attacked by the JVP in April 1987 and a quantity of automatic weapons removed. The JVP also took advantage of crises in the Northern front to stage attacks in the South. A classic instance of this was the JVP attack on Katunayake Air Force base in June 1987 after the LTTE had massacred 33 novice Buddhist monks in Aaranthalawa and as the Indian Air Force air-dropped food supplies in Jaffna, against Sri Lanka’s wishes. [p.1137-9 YOT]
Children look at weapons held by soldiers on guard in Colombo. December 1989. The soldiers were deployed to prevent attacks by JVP radicals who torched 43 passenger buses in central and southern Sri Lanka. (AP Photo)
The JVP claimed that these captured arms would be used “for the freedom of the motherland.. to drive away the Indian monkeys [the Indian Peace Keeping Force – IPKF – stationed in the North] and the Tigers who have been a curse on the motherland”. As the Sinhala South soon discovered, the JVP instead, used their arms on the Security forces, their Sinhala opponents and ‘traitors’. In fact there’s not a single confirmed account of a JVP attack on the LTTE or IPKF which was trying to keep the peace in Northern Sri Lanka.
Victim killed as suspected informer by JVP, April 1989.
(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
The JVP continued their propaganda aimed at getting soldiers to desert and join their ranks, with JVP radio repeatedly warning that August was the deadline for security forces personnel of all ranks to desert or face the consequences: death. By August 1989 on finding that their appeals had fallen on barren ground, it finally resorted to an act of such monumental folly that it echoed Tallyrand’s famous saying, “this is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder”. The JVP informed the security forces that their families would be specifically targeted for death, which provoked a wave of indignation and anger within the armed forces. An officer said “even the fellows who are sweeping the camps went out with their broomsticks against the JVP” [p.293 SL:YOT]
Heavily armed soldiers sit on top of an APC vehicle, rolling down the street. December 1988.(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
“Twelve of Yours for One of ours!” – JVP’s Fatal Blunder
The JVP knew at once that they had made an irrevocable and fatal mistake. No sooner had they issued death threats to the families of the servicemen, posters appeared all over the country announcing, “Ape ekata thope dolahak!” (“Twelve of yours for one of ours!) The dirty war against the JVP would be even dirtier.
Death threat posters sent out by the JVP
A vigilante group called the Deshapremi Sinhala Tharuna Peramuna (Patriotic Sinhala Youth Front) under whose auspices the ‘12 for 1’ posters appeared, circulated a note to the families of JVP activists that read:
We know that your son/brother/husband is engaged in brutal murder under the pretence of patriotism. Your son/brother/husband, the so-called patriot, has cruelly taken the lives of mothers like you, of sisters, of innocent little children. In addition he has started killing the family members of the heroic Sinhalese soldiers who fought with the Tamil Tigers and sacrificed their lives, in order to protect the motherland.
“It is not amongst us, ourselves, the Sinhalese people, that your son/brother/husband has launched the conflict in the name of patriotism? Is it then right that you, the wife/mother/sister of this person who engages in human murder of children should be free to live? Is it not justified to put you to death? From this moment, you and all your family members must be ready to die. May you attain Nirvana!”
“Patriotic Sinhala Youth Front.”
‘In October 1989 after Capt T.E. Nagahawatte, the Assistant Registra of the Peradeniya University and a volunteer soldier was killed by two gunmen inside the University premises, eighteen heads were found the next day were found the next day placed neatly around the University pond. The headless corpses had been placed in various postures in the vicinity. In the rest of the country, bodies kept appearing by the dozen.’ [p. 296-7, SL:YOT]
Dead JVP suspect with note attached saying “this is the punishment for followers of JVP signed by the PRRA”, in Thihagoda. December 1988.
(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
The State Strikes Back
The main weapons in the anti-JVP counter-insurgency were small teams equipped with small arms, unmarked vans and led by young officers and NCOs. Unlike the campaign against the LTTE, tanks, artillery, ground attack aircraft and other heavy weapons and divisional-sized manoeuvres were of no use in this dirty war. It was a hit-job, killing-at-close-range, war.
‘Detachments were established in villages throughout Sri Lanka. The troops moved light, often out in tents in mini groups, all the while. It was imperative that the maximum number of troops did spend the maximum time operating out in the field all the time. It was considered a rare occurrence for everyone to be in a base. Troops were positioned not only at snap road blocks but also undercover. Troops dominated the terrain, by frequent incursions into the jungles and to the villages, the road by road blocks, and the countryside by setting up ambushes.’ [p.331 SL:ALR]
‘When the JVP offensive escalated, the government forces, particularly the paramilitary groups such as the PRRA (Peoples Revolutionary Red Army), Shra, Black Cats, Yellow Cats, Scorpion, Eagle, etc, went on killing extra-judicially. Reverse of fear psychosis was induced – this appeared somewhat successful, but in the long run the JVP capitalised on it by recruiting members from the families of the victims.’ [p.295 SL: ALR]
‘Under the provisions of the state of Emergency, Sri Lankan security forces were given ‘almost unlimited powers to combat the JVP, including shooting suspects on sight and disposing of bodies without an inquest. Under the Indemnity Act of December 1998, [passed before the Presidential elections in the same month] security personnel have been granted immunity from prosecution for any such abuses committed.’ [p. 144, TSCSL]
Fighting Unconventionally – ‘Search, Interrogate, Destroy’
‘There were a considerable percentage of suspects dying under interrogation and many were executed too. In most (Army) camps if a suspect was positively identified as a JVP activists, [sic] he or she had no returns. If the arrest of these suspects were recorded the circumstances under which death occurred was recorded as “killed in action” (KIA).
Terrified women and children after Army took their husbands for interrogation after land mine blasts set by JVP. April 1989. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
However most of those taken into custody particularly those arrested on information given by activists in custody were not recorded. Often bodies of those killed were either dumped in a river, buried in the jungle and burnt in a tyre… to ensure rapid burning, a body was dismembered and burnt.’
‘To prevent identification some were left hacked, often with their faces mutilated or decapitated. After a while troops became accustomed to carrying out this kind of operation. They often used prisoners awaiting execution to do the disfiguring or beheading at the point of a gun. In some cases special units were formed particularly in the police with men who had lost a family member, a relative or a friend at the hands of the JVP. Such men had no “hang up of executing a man or a woman who had killed their loved ones’.
Villagers looking at a victim killed by unknown groups. April 1989
(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
‘Often to avoid legal implications the army and police worked in close co-operation. Sometimes a security forces team would bring a group of “sentenced” JVP activists to a point where the JVP had either burnt a bus or a post office. They would approach the site at night. If there are any houses with lights on, they would order those occupants to switch off their lights. Then they would throw the blind folded gagged men out of their vehicles and open fire on them. The team would inform the police the location of the execution either before or after the incident. By 6.00 a.m. the bodies would be brought to the police mortuary for cremation or burial. Police did not allow such bodies to be given back to the relatives. They were promptly disposed. Newspapers and even politicians called these hit squads “the vigilantes”.
‘Often these squads, also known as “death or killer squads” travelled at night – often in vehicles that had bogus number plates or not have a number plate. They carried a different assortment of weapons to prevent their true identification. They wore black overalls and were often masked, or wore beards. Undoubtedly this was the most successful way of combating the JVP. No doubt this was illegal. These hit teams were professional in their approach and rarely left any tracks. Often they were left with no alternative but to eliminate those taken into custody. Even if they proved innocent it was difficult to release an individual as the identity of the officers and men who arrested and interrogated them would be known at least by face. In the light of the threat to the families of the Forces personnel they had to cover their tracks.’
Bodies of JVP followers killed by the PRRA lie on the ground with posters tied around their necks in Tihagoda. The sign says, ”This is the punishment for followers of the JVP signed by the PRRA.”
December 1989 (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
‘Troops learnt by trial and error. The moment an arrest was made the suspect was blind folded. This prevented the suspect from identifying his or her captor and became disoriented. This helped a good interrogator. The not so professional teams were death squads operated by politicians. These teams were initially formed to protect the politician but when the JVP threat could not be effectively thwarted by the police and the army, they began to operate killing their opponents. Not only did JVP activists die in this process but also supporters of the SLFP, USA and even UNP supporters over personal feuds. The answer to human survival became a method of political survival. These were some of the implications of relaxing the law in times of fighting an unconventional war.’ [p. 332 – 333, SL:ALR]
Body of victim killed by the JVP, burnt in a tyre to prevent identification.
April 1989. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
“From August 1989 onwards, reprisal killings against the JVP became a common feature. On any given day there were around 20 to 50 bodies found dumped on the roadsides. Some of the most spectacular killings were reported from Kandy. In the Menikhinna-Kundasale area, almost an entire village was wiped out when 200 bodies were found after the families of three servicemen (sixteen people in all) had been hacked to death by the JVP.” [p. 296-97, SL:YOT]
A Society Caught Between Two Forces
This testimony given to a committee on disappearances describes the unbearable pressures faced by ordinary people who were caught in the middle between JVP and State violence.
‘Many witnesses said that, caught between two forces as they were, their life during this period was like a “nut in a nut-cracker” (girayatha ahu vechcha puwak gediyak vagei). They felt that there existed a kind of “dual-power” situation in the country. The state had lost its hegemony, and same referred to the authority of the JVP as Punchi Aanduwa (small government). The JVP imposed its own curfews, organized island-wide hartals, and called for frequent strikes. Some joined these protest movements under JVP threats.’
An man walks past buses destroyed by the JVP near Yariyama, August 1989.
(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
“The people who get the worst of this are the villagers. It’s such a small island. There’s no place to run, no place to go and make your family safe.”
A senior Western diplomat. August 1989
‘Many witnesses said that their families suffered at the hands of both the security forces and the JVP during this period. “In our area a group of JVP supporters went from house to house and asked people to assemble for a meeting. Later the Army had raided the place and arrested people. My son was among those who were arrested, and he never came back home.”
“As a punishment for supporting the SLFP in the 1988 election. The JVP asked me to kneel down on the road for three hours. However, it was the security forces who abducted my brother on a later occasion.”
‘The resultant sense of isolation was portrayed time and again in the evidence: “There was no one to complain to. The government was deaf; the opposition absent; the Police drove us away like dogs. The JVP killed, the Army killed,” said a mother who had lost three sons taken away in three different rounding-up operations never to return.’
Felled trees blocking a road – the JVP attempting to foil Presidential election voting in Southern Sri Lanka. December 1988. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
‘The Police and Armed Forces are not alien institutions to this society. The affected families also had their own children and relatives serving in the Police and Armed forces. We came across several instances where one member of the family was killed by subversives as a punishment for serving in the police or in the army; another member of the same family was abducted by security forces for alleged subversive activities.’
A Snapshot of Killings
The pages of International Alert’s 1989 publication “Political Killings in Southern Sri Lanka” lists a grim and incomplete memorial to those who were killed during this insurgency. A random selection of the victims’ names and places shows how no part of society was left untouched by JVP violence and the COIN campaign that ultimately destroyed it.
A small sample of political killings in Sri Lanka in 1988, taken from "Political Killings in Southern Sri Lanka", International Alert, London 1989
A tiny sample of political killings in Sri Lanka in 1988, taken from “Political Killings in Southern Sri Lanka”, International Alert, London 1989
A Policeman’s Family Burnt Alive …
‘ In Uluvitake, on July 24, 1988, militants threw bombs and set fire to the residence of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Premadasa Udugampola. Udugampola’s mother, brother, sister-in-law, two children were killed and burnt. Subsequently, the Udugampola brothers – a DIG, another an Inspector, and an army Major vied with each other in heading the anti-JVP war with their own special teams. Udugampola who was very active in anti-JVP operations transformed the strategy of combating the JVP from cordon off and search, to search, interrogate and destroy. It was he together with Brigadier Lakshman Algama who first started to fight JVP unconventionally.’ p.85 [SL-ALR]
… And an ‘Avenging Killer Squad’ is Born
“In areas he (DIG Udugampola) commanded, small groups of hand-picked men armed with automatic in unmarked vehicles roamed the towns and villages. The three squads of fifteen men were recruited from families that had suffered at the hands of the JVP. Therefore, they were highly motivated to hunt and kill their enemy to avenge the death of their loved ones.
The creation of this formidable force frightened the JVP. This was a force which operated both within and outside the framework of democracy, and a powerful figure of the ability and motivation of Udugampola behind them. This time the JVP was taken by surprise – they never anticipated that the state and the state-sponsored forces will ever copy and adopt their operational methods and unconventional tactics in combating them… In time, Udugampola moved from the Southern to the North Central and then to the Central Province, introducing this strategy to those were left to command. At a time when everybody predicted that the JVP has come to stay, DIG Premadasa Udugampola predicted that they will be doomed by the end of 1989.
The first question Wijeweera asked the Ops Combine team which apprehended him [was], “Are you from Kandy?”. [p.339-40 [SL:ALR]
Killed by unknown assailants. Smoke surrounds burning bodies in Dikwella, August 1989. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
Settling scores – Troops punished for extra-judicial killings
Nothing better illustrates how the anti-JVP struggle was used to settle personal disputes than the infamous case of the Embilipitiya School Massacre. Between August 1989 and January 1990, 25 schoolboys were abducted and murdered in Embilipitiya, a small village in Southern Sri Lanka. The majority of murders were committed after the JVP leader, Wijeweera had been captured and killed. The murderers and victims were all Sinhalese. The murderers were members of the Sri Lankan Army and their associates. The victims were neither insurgents nor suspected insurgents. The schoolchildren were murdered for two seemingly trivial reasons. First, some boys had teased the school principal’s son over a love interest. The second being some students had protested at how part of the school’s land had been transferred to a businessman connected to a local politician. The school principal and his associates used the Army to get his revenge on the slights he’d suffered.
Quite against the grain, under massive pressure from the parents of the disappeared, the Police began an investigation and after a long delay the accused were brought to trial. Finally in 1999 a very brave judge sentenced 10 soldiers including a brigadier and a principal of the high school, to ten years in prison.
The “Shrine of the Innocents” built to in 1999 to commemorate the deaths of innocents, with the mothers of the disappeared in attendance.
The “Shrine of the Innocents” today lies neglected and forgotten.
Hammer of the JVP – Defence Minister, General Ranjan Wijeratne
An ex-tea planter and Defence Minister from 1988 to 1991, Wijeratne was a key figure in crushing the JVP. He said of the COIN campaign, “The JVP put us against the wall. They motivated us to hit back. When you are up the wall, you have nothing to lose. I hit right round, peripheries, middle and top, and as the attack was simultaneous, the results were brilliant.” [SL:ALR p.335]
‘Wijeratne never feared the enemy. When all his colleagues were on the defence he was on the offensive. Perhaps he was the only man who openly advocated death to the JVP. Unlke most leaders who are led by their men, Wijeratne went to the front himself. He spoke to the Generals, the middle level officer and the men in the field. He was at the front line to see that his policies were implemented.’
‘He saw to it that the ablest men were transferred to the areas where security had rapidly deteriorated. He personally made the decisions with regard to slotting them. He had learnt this when he managed the [tea] estate sector where he put good men to manage the bad estates. Then he gave an ultimatum to the JVP to surrender or face the consequences, and for the troops to fight or get fired.’
In 1990, Mr Wijeratne told parliament, “I am going all out for the LTTE. I never do anything in half measures.” The LTTE who hated him and understood his implacable mindset bombed his convoy and killed him in March 1991. The full measure was dealt out to the LTTE, 18 years later.
Darth Sidious copies Sri Lanka’s COIN Strategy: “Wipe Them Out. All Of Them.”
The JVP was not a lucky revolutionary group. Ranasinghe Premadasa, the newly elected president succeeded in undercutting JVP’s support amongst the poorer segments of society through “Janasaviya”, his innovative poverty alleviation programme. Spurning all efforts at compromise and negotiations, the JVP demanded unconditional surrender of the government and democratic system. The armed forces were re-deployed from the Northern front due to the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the JVP’s suicidal threats against security forces’ families sealed its doom.
Onlookers examining a burnt body that washed up in Negombo. August 1989. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
By 1990, almost all senior JVP politburo leaders had been captured alive, interrogated, killed and cremated – extra judicially. Their lives ended as they had ordered the lives of others to be ended. In a prescient comment, foreshadowing what would happen to Vellupiali Prabhakaran, (the LTTE leader), Varatharaja Perumal, the Chief Minister of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, said of the capture of JVP leaders, “I say Prabakaran would not have died like that. He would have died fighting. If he was in a tight spot, he would have taken cyanide. He would never be taken alive to be spat on by his enemies.”
The JVP as an armed revolutionary organisation had been crushed at the cost of 40,000 to 60,000 lives. ‘Search, Interrogate and Destroy’ had worked. But a guaranteed way to defeat an insurgency is to ensure that your country doesn’t provide the social and economic conditions to create an insurgency. Sri Lanka has already endured and defeated three separate insurgencies. Even a country as resilient as Sri Lanka may not survive another COIN campaign.
An Ironic Postscript
Almost 25 years ago, in September 1990, a minor Opposition MP was detained at the airport. He was on his way to a human rights conference in Geneva to present photographic evidence of disappearances and human rights abuses carried out by the UNP government in its campaign to crush the JVP. After a delay, during which the Police confiscated his evidence, he was allowed to proceed on his journey. On his return from Geneva, he was accused in Parliament of ‘treachery’ against the country. He responded forcefully: “You must remember we are Southerners. They have never betrayed their country. Time and again they have sacrificed their life for the country. We have a right to tell this to the world. Tears of innocent grieving mothers compel us to tell their story of pain and sorrow to the world. We will do it today, tomorrow and always. Remember that.” (Hansard report 25.01.1991)
Today, that minor MP, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is the President of Sri Lanka, fending off accusations of human rights violations, disappearances and abductions carried out on his watch during the successful campaign to crush the separatist LTTE. Sri Lanka has almost unlimited supplies of irony.
Sri Lanka: The Years of Terror. The J.V.P. Insurrection 1987-1989, by C. A. Chandraprema [SL:YOT]
Sri Lanka, a Lost Revolution?: The inside story of the JVP by Rohan Gunaratna [SL:ALR]
The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, ethnicity, political economy By Asoka Bandarage [TSCSL]
Political Killings in Southern Sri Lanka, by International Alert, London 1989
| by Pearl Thevanayagam
(April 24, 2014, Bradford UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Selling of organs is nothing new to Sri Lanka. Kidneys and eyes were sold to foreigners but the sale was cloaked in NGO jargon as donations. When JVP youth were hunted down and murdered in cold blood by the late President Premadasa’s Black Cats squad in ‘89/’90, their organs were gouged out and sold to the Middle East, Singapore and China by none other than Dr Hudson Silva, the director of EDS ( Eye Donation Society).
Bodies of JVP followers killed by the PRRA lie on the ground with posters tied around their necks in Tihagoda. The sign says, ”This is the punishment for followers of the JVP signed by the PRRA.”
December 1989 (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Liaison)
Premadasa set up the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into NGOs including Christian organisations which were accused of proselytising Hindus and offering lands and houses in return the proceedings of which were held at the BMICH with a seven member panel led by Justice Wanasundera. The stark revelations made at the inquiry never saw daylight in that they were hushed up since Dr Hudson Silva was a close confidante of Premadasa. Former UK High Commissioner Nihal Jayasinghe was the prosecuting counsel who grilled Dr Hudson Silva.
Dr Hudson Silva claimed he donated the eyes of murdered JVPers and in return received cash gifts and durig the sittings it transpired he had deposited them into his son’s account in Los Angeles, California. This writer was taken to task for recording the proceedings by the then editor of Daily News Manik de Silva presumably under instructions from the President. Being the intrepid and journalist to the core, he gave in and this writer continued to record the proceedings.
Sarvodaya too came under fire for transferring funds to its members in the way of providing grants to buy houses. Christian organisations intimidated upcountry Tamils into forfeiting their Hindu faith in return for lands and houses and when they reneged they were evacuated and made homeless. Seventh Day Adventists had lands in Anniewatte, Kandy which were given to upcountry Tamils on the promise they convert to Christian faith.
Getting back to the news at hand that Sri Lanka is engaged in kidney sales it is incumbent on the government to crack down on this heinous crime which would send us the way of India where sheer poverty compels people to sell their kidney for survival. That doctors are complicit in this gory deal is deplorable and should be nipped in the bud to say the Least.
(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at email@example.com)
(EPDP paramilitary mentor Cllr Sinnathurai Thavarajah pleads and is being blessed)
( April 24, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the 70’s, I was a gun carrying militant fighting for a separate state of Tamil Eelam.
I robbed the Peoples Bank in Puloly in 1973 to further my cause.
I was arrested by the police in Puttalam and was tortured naked for many days.
I thank the brutes for sparing my life.
I later joined the EPDP paramilitary and did everything to espouse the Sri Lanka government’s cause against the Tamils.
I am now an appointed councillor of the newly elected Northern Provicial Council.
Oh Mahinda my mentor- our saviour!!
My oath in front of you today is a commitment to pursue my determined path to use all the resources provided me by you to demolish the TNA and its support base.
Please be greatful sir.
Allow us to carry our arms and we will do the job for you.
Redouble your support to increase your funding to the EPDP and permit our paramilitary group unhindered engagement in all the spears of governance under the EPDP leadership.
Devolvement of powers without Parliamentary Select Committee process to the EPDP will be more than adequate for the Tamils and we will continue to have a tab on our people to achieve your ultimate objective to fully marginalise the Tamils.
I do not believe in God but still would say:
‘You will make Sri Lanka a great nation and will bless thee and make thy name great and thou shalt be blessed by the messengers of Buddha -the Bodu Bala Sena, Jathika Hela Urumaya and all the other splinter goups espousing the cause of your Sinala Buddhist state Chinthana’.
Sri Lanka - Under which law did the Magistrate make the order to deport the lady tourist with the Tattoo of Lord Buddha?
The following statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional rights body based in Hong Kong
( April 23, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) According to reports a 37 year old British nurse who arrived in Sri Lanka this Monday (21st April 2014) was taken by a taxi driver to a nearby police station where, according to her, she was harassed by policemen who demanded money from her. She had arrived at the Airport and the immigration authorities had allowed her to enter the country. She had earlier visited Sri Lanka and several other Buddhist countries and followed meditation under the guidance of Buddhist monks.
When the police were unable to extract bribes from her she had been produced before a Magistrate who according to her did not provide to her any opportunity to speak and then made an order to immediately deport her from Sri Lanka. Subsequently she was deported to New Delhi, from where she has arrived earlier.
One straightforward question that arises from this incident is as to under which law did the Magistrate make an order for deportation. In any case no person can be deported without giving an opportunity to have the charges explained and having the opportunity to answer the charges. This tourist had a right to object to the deportation order and it was the duty of the Magistrate to provide that opportunity. Further, after listening to her objections it was his duty to have an inquiry into alleged grounds on which the request for a deportation was sought. It was also the duty of the Magistrate to provide her the opportunity to retain a lawyer or provide one, by way of assignment by the Court. It does not appear from the reports that the Magistrate had followed any of these procedures.
The allegation, as it appears is, that the tattoo she had on her upper arm depicting Lord Buddha on a lotus flower could have created a public commotion and that alone was the grounds on which the police had sought a deportation order to have her removed from the country. There is no indication that there had been any complaint by any person, to the effect that the reverential exhibition of the Buddha’s image on a lotus flower could cause a commotion amongst the public. Thus, the police have brought on the allegations on their making and initiative. It was the duty of the Magistrate to question the police about the basis of the allegations and to inquire whether there were any grounds at all, to expect such a commotion to take place. If there was any possibility of such a commotion without any legitimate basis, it was the duty of the police and the Magistrate to take all steps necessary to protect her.
It seems quite clear that there appears to be a link between this taxi driver from the airport and the police for extraction of bribes from tourists arriving in Sri Lanka. It is quite possible that there had been other victims of such exercise of harassment.
It was when this attempt failed that the police proceeded to make this ludicrous allegation that the exhibition of such an image could cause a public commotion in Sri Lanka. It appears quite probable that after having found no grounds to cause some fear in the tourist, and thereby to demand bribes failed, the police found flimsy grounds to charge her with, on the basis of the tattoo she had exhibited on her upper arm.
What should in fact cause a commotion is the manner in which an unscrupulous taxi driver connived with the police so as to manipulate the law for harassment and thereby used that for the purposes of extracting bribes. It is this state of lawlessness that should alarm everyone. Equally the manner in which this Magistrate has acted should also be a reason for expressions of public anger. The duty of a Magistrate is to protect all who comes before him, and not to be a pawn at the hands of the police for machinations for extracting bribes.
The Magistrate and the policeman involved in this incident including the officer in charge of the relevant police station should be immediately suspended from their positions and brought to an inquiry. That is what would have happened in any country where there is some respect for the rights persons including those who are visiting as strangers to the land. To deny hospitality to a tourist and to behave in this ugly manner should not go unpunished.
However an even more serious issue is the right for the respect of religious expression of any person of whichever religion it may be. It is the general and usual practice amongst many persons to make some public expression of their religious beliefs by way of various methods. Wearing ornaments with some religious symbols is quite a common practice of many persons. These are matters of private beliefs and every person deserves to have their private expressions of faith and love to be respected. This is not an area where any government has any jurisdiction. This is an area of inviolable rights of individual persons.
As this particular image has now been publicized by international media we have had the opportunity to having a look at the particular image that is depicted on the said tattoo. It is a beautiful Buddhist image and by no stretch of imagination could any reasonable person say that such an image could manifest any kind of irreverence to Lord Buddha. In fact, it manifests that the bearer of the image carries a deep respect for Buddhism.
The action of the police and the Magistrate would without doubt bring tremendous disrespect to Sri Lanka. It is not unreasonable for any person to think that a country where lawful authorities could behave in the manner the in which police and the Magistrate has done, and on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka is weird and crazy.
Of course all this happens in a political environment where impunity is guaranteed to all violators of human rights. It would not be a surprise if this magistrate and policemen escape without any kind of punishment for the manner in which they have violated the law and brought disrepute to the people of Sri Lanka.
Today’s papers also carry pictures of a commuter being severely assaulted by the police at the Colombo railway station; his face filled with wounds, his shirt stained with blood. This picture is now available to the public thanks to the efforts of the journalists. The police who have come to remove some obstacles put on the railway tracks by some workers who are making certain demands have assaulted this innocent commuter who has just arrived at the station to travel back home. If the police came to remove the obstacles put on the railway tracts, they should have done so and returned as there was no resistance for such removal. But that is not the style of the Sri Lanka police these days. There has to be some persons to be brutally assaulted and some blood to be shed, if they are to be satisfied. It is these matters that should be worrying the Magistrates and others concerned with the law, and not tourists and their tattoos.
Back to Britain: Ms Coleman was arrested in Colombo and later ordered to be deported back to Britain over her tattoo
| by Ron Jacobs
( April 23, 2014, Virginia, Sri Lanka Guardian) For those who were in the military and even those whose friends or family members were, the idea of going on leave brings forth thoughts of drunken revelry, family, friends and an almost certain regret when the leave is over. For most soldiers, sailors and the like, the regret is tied to the fact they must go back to their barracks, ship or whatever. During times of war, that regret is usually greater, given that the place the military members must return to is often in the middle of a war. Although I was never in the military (and never wanted to be--one can imagine my joy when not only was my draft number very high, but the US military draft was ended in 1973), I grew up on military bases and was more familiar with the culture than most of my peers. The escapades I was involved in with friends on leave and the stories I heard about their Rest & Recreation (R&R) adventures in Southeast Asia could color many a book and, in some extreme cases, might rival the debauchery of a Piero Pasolini take on a classic tale.
Most times, however, the time spent on leave by these young men was consumed with drinking, smoking dope, seeing old girlfriends and parents, and boredom. Once the obligatory stay at the parents’ house was completed, the fun began. Usually flush with money they could not spend while on base, my friends were more than happy to spend it on whoever accompanied them to the seedier side of town. It’s not that they were necessarily having a good time as much as they were escaping the reality of their bad time in uniform. During the US war in Vietnam, drinking and drugging were the standard path to that escape. Judging from my interactions with young men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, alcohol overuse continues to be a popular medication.
According to US popular myth, military men returning from Vietnam were spat upon and otherwise disrespected, especially by antiwar protesters. As one of the latter who worked organizing on military bases, I can guarantee that this is a lie. It may have happened here and there, but spitting on soldiers was not a tactic of the antiwar movement. Nor were they greeted with parades. Instead, GIs returning from Vietnam were usually met with indifference and averted glances. This reflected the US population’s uncertainty and dismay with the way the war was going and Washington’s almost certain defeat. It was also related to the antiwar movement’s excellent job in exposing the war’s complete and total barbarity.
France had a similar situation after World War Two. Despite their tragic experience in that war, the nation failed to learn a primary lesson--empire can only be maintained through violence. So, the Republic sent troops to reinforce its domination of Vietnam and Algeria. The Vietnam experience ended in disaster for the French in 1954 in Dienbienphu. It would continue in Algeria until 1962. As that war grew bloodier it also grew more unpopular at home. Young French men were sent off to battle with little or no enthusiasm while pro-war politicians criminalized dissent, the Communists vacillated, and the rest of the left organized together with others in an effort to get French troops out of Algeria.
Writer Daniel Anselme was a member of the Communist party when the war began. He became disillusioned with the party’s vacillation--at first supporting the French adventure and only much later opposing it--and left the party. A journalist and poet, his novel La Permission (On Leave) was published in 1957. It attracted very little attention at the time, most likely because of its antiwar position and its rebuke of most of the French establishment’s insistence on continuing the war.
The story of three French soldiers on leave from Algeria, Anselme’s tale introduces the reader to Luchaume, a schoolteacher conscripted at the beginning of his young marriage, Valette, a youth from a French town where the Communists are the elected officials, and Lasteyrie, a young man from the Parisian streets. The schoolteacher’s marriage is in shambles and when he arrives at his apartment his wife is nowhere to be found. He spends a few hours there and then takes up residence in a transient hotel in another part of Paris. His next few days are spent in a mostly inebriated state. Valette heads to his family home, where he argues with his sister’s Communist beau about the war and acts as if he enjoys his family’s company. Lasteyrie checks in on old street friends and parties. The three of them all end up in Paris for the last twenty-four hours of their leave drinking, arguing and joking while they spend time with a German woman named Lena. Then, they board a train that will begin their journey back to the front, such as it is.
The question of the war hangs over the entire novel. Its barbarity, racism, and total lack of any moral righteousness are insinuated on every page. So is the apathetic reaction of the French population to the atrocity being waged in its name. There are a couple moments, however, when that apathy is breached. One such moment occurs when Luchaume is at Vallette’s family home eating dinner. After avoiding a discussion of the war for most of the evening, Valette finally lets go, shouting and asking “Why did you allow us to leave? Why did you allow the troop trains to leave? Why did you abandon us when we were on the trains? Why? Why? We did not want to go! We did everything we could not to go! We barricaded ourselves in our barracks…! Why?” The same questions were asked in the US during its debacle in Vietnam and even, on occasion, as it sent men and women to their fates in Iraq.
This is a novel about war; about the soldiers who fight them and the civilians that send them either willingly or because they can pretend it has nothing to do with their lives. Plainspoken but also eloquent, it is a gentle plea to end wars of empire not only because they destroy the lives of those in the lands where the guns are blazing and the bombs exploding, but also because such wars destroy the lives of those the empires enlist to do their bloody work.
Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.