JP Morgan’s Man in the White House
| by John Stanton
( June 18, 2013, Virginia, Sri Lanka Guardian) At one time, it seems decades ago now, the general thinking in the USA was that President Barack Obama would jolt the American political system into actually doing something beneficial for its citizens rather than spying on them, building F-35 aircraft, upgrading nuclear weapons, spending trillions of dollars (US) on national security, cutting unemployment benefits/food stamps, fomenting war with Iran, Syria, China and Russia; and dragging out the war in Afghanistan.
It is a damn shame!! Why? Why?
Sadly, Barack Obama’s legacy will be one of ashes. The destruction of America’s social fabric; the implementation of a surveillance corporate-state; assassination and negation of Habeas; and a perpetual state of emergency/war economy will come to dominate the historical narrative on the Obama presidency. President Obama will also go down in US history as the American President who paved the way for the financial industry to dismantle Social Security. With the Executive Powers he has accrued and newly created, future American President’s will, by fiat, be able to sell off national park lands and other US assets, even the nation’s artwork: citizens of Detroit, Michigan and Greece, Eurozone, are undergoing the pillaging now (see below Greece Memo, Detroit Creditors).
JP Morgan provides the rationale: Constitutions, like many in Europe and the USA in the post-industrial era, are too “socialist” and written at a time when dictatorships flourished. JP Morgan believes that should change for the sake of capital flows (see below: JP Morgan Halfway There).
The US Homeland is in serious need of repair. And it is not just the physical infrastructure that Americans take for granted that needs fixing: roads, runways, sewage systems, water, electricity and the like—it is also the American consciousness both individual and collective that requires revision and regeneration. There’s no time for time for nostalgic looks to past days. The good old days were nothing of the sort as the US elite inflicted some pretty severe damage to the American psyche. Just think of legalized racism/segregation and the Vietnam War. Then there were the alterations, whether by groups or individuals, that literally changed the course of US history: the killings of JF Kennedy, ML King, RF Kennedy, Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. Like them or hate them, America has never produced any dynamic leader(s) since that can match their individual and collective standards. And each one of them was “American” to the core.
Better in 2013 than 1963: But Protests, Malcolm X Apply
That said, Americans would do well to look to the protests of the 1960’s and early 1970’s that would ultimately bring out millions from all levels of society to make their collective voices heard to end a senseless war (Vietnam), stop mindless discrimination (women, minorities), and strike for better wages/benefits (US Postal strike in 1970—Nixon use of executive power controversial).
The time for listening to the blatherskites that hold power has passed.
“The people in power have abused and it is time for a change,” said Malcolm X in a blistering oratory, quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Oxford Debate Union in 1964. “If you sit around waiting for those in power to change things, you will be waiting for a long time. In my opinion the young generation of Whites, Blacks, Browns--and whatever else there is—are living in a time of extremism, a time of revolution…And there has to be a change…A better world needs to be built and the only way that is going to happen is by extreme methods…I will join with anyone, I don’t care what color you are as long as you want to change the miserable condition that exists on this Earth.”
That “miserable condition” will return with vengeance absent opposition from the multitudes.
The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse have arrived: Democrats, Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives are riding roughshod over Americans young and old. They are trampling, with impunity, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights and the ideals within the Declaration of Independence. Their ideologies blind them from seeing the damage they are doing. They speak only to each other through the mainstream media/websites and not to the American people. The citizens of the USA are little more than a compliant audience.
Americans need to respond to this by asking and answering some key questions. How much more low intensity conflict? How many civilian and military suicides are tolerable? How many more mass shootings at home? How many more vapid statements from politicians and military leaders? How many more school closings, furloughs, layoffs? How many more cities like Detroit left to the Hedge Fund and JP Morgan vultures? How much more intrusion by the American corporate-state (one dare not use the “F” word) into the lives of US citizens and millions more around the globe? How many more “big lies” on the economy and security? How much longer is the Cold War going to last (pivot to Asia and missile defense systems ringing Russia/China)? Why so much child poverty which sees Save the Children so active in America?
And just what does it mean to be an American citizen? Is Rahm Emanuel, the current Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, a good example? The same Rahm Emanuel that chose to volunteer with the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1991 Gulf War instead of with the US Army? What about those USA corporate citizens who pay no taxes and offshore jobs?
So what’s the game plan for your struggling city, town, state or region?
How useful would a program like the National Security Agency’s PRISM, or TRAPWIRE, be in rounding up those protesting in the USA against austerity, asset sales, pension robbing, child poverty and unemployment?
JP Morgan: The Euro area adjustment--About Halfway There (28 May 2013)
“At the start of the crisis, it was generally assumed that the national legacy problems were economic in nature. But, as the crisis has evolved, it has become apparent that there are deep seated political problems in the periphery, which, in our view, need to change if EMU [Eurozone] is going to function properly in the long run. The political systems in the periphery were established in the aftermath of dictatorship, and were defined by that experience. Constitutions tend to show a strong socialist influence, reflecting the political strength that left wing parties gained after the defeat of fascism. Political systems around the periphery typically display several of the following features: weak executives; weak central states relative to regions; constitutional protection of labor rights; consensus building systems which foster political clientalism; and the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo.
The shortcomings of this political legacy have been revealed by the crisis. Countries around the periphery have only been partially successful in producing fiscal and economic reform agendas, with governments constrained by constitutions (Portugal), powerful regions (Spain), and the rise of populist parties (Italy and Greece). There is a growing recognition of the extent of this problem, both in the core and in the periphery. Change is beginning to take place. Spain took steps to address some of the contradictions of the post-Franco settlement with last year’s legislation enabling closer fiscal oversight of the regions. But, outside Spain little has happened thus far…the process of political reform has barely begun.”
Citigroup--Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer March 2006
“The data shows that the gap in incomes and wealth between the rich and the poor in the US shows no signs of significant change, and that the richest 10 and 20% of Americans continue to earn disproportionately high chunks of national income, and own an even higher share of the national wealth…While the average consumer might not be feeling great, the important consumers – the richest 20%, who account, as we’ve shown, for 58% of income – are in good shape…Finally, the dollar. The perma-bears told us that the current account deficit in the US was too high. It could only be lowered by raising the savings rate of the household sector which in turn would only be accomplished by rising interest rates and/or a dollar collapse. We disagree. To us plutonomists, the current account deficit is largely a function of the savings…rate, which is a function of the propensity to save by the rich. As we highlighted above, they are rationally consuming out of their stock of wealth (which incidentally, keeps going up) as well as from their incomes. To them, dollar devaluations are a mild inconvenience, but not a reason to change their spending and dis-savings habits…”
Memorandum of Understanding on Specific Economic Policy Conditionality between Greece and Financiers (9 February 2012)
“The Government [of Greece] will neither propose nor implement measures which may infringe the rules on the free movement of capital. Neither the State nor other public bodies will conclude shareholder agreements with the intention or effect of hindering the free movement of capital or influence the management or control of companies. The Government will neither initiate nor introduce any voting or acquisition caps, and it will not establish any disproportionate and non-justifiable veto rights or any other form of special rights in privatized companies. No further special rights will be introduced in the course of future privatization projects. The Government publishes and updates on a quarterly basis its medium-term staffing plans per department, for the period up to 2015, in line with the rule of 1 recruitment for 5 exits. The recruitment/exit rule applies to the general government as a whole. The staffing plans should be consistent with the target of reducing public employment by 150 thousand in end-2010–end-2015. If necessary, the Government will enact temporary hiring freezes…
15,000 redundant staff will be transferred to the labor reserve in the course of 2012, in connection with the identification of entities or units that are closed or downsized. Staff in the labor reserve will be paid at 60 percent of their basic wage (excluding overtime and other extra payments) for not more than 12 months, after which they will be dismissed. This period of 12 months may be extended up to 24 months for staff close to retirement. Payments to staff while in the labor reserve are considered part of their severance payments….The minimum wages established by the national general collective agreement will be reduced by 22 percent compared to the level of 1 January 2012; for youth (for ages below 25), the wages established by the national collective agreement will be reduced by 32 percent without restrictive conditions. Clauses in the law and in collective agreements which provide for automatic wage increases, including those based on seniority, are suspended…”
City of Detroit: Proposal for Creditors (14 June 2013)
“Maximize recoveries for creditors…since the City [Detroit] will not generate sufficient cash to pay all liabilities alternatives have to be considered…restructure governance of pension arrangements, maximize collection of taxes and fees that are levied or imposed, generate value from city assets, wage reductions (implemented through imposition of furlough days), caps/reductions on vacation/holiday pay/overtime/sick days, the reduction of pension multipliers, and changes to healthcare coverage… Prohibits Detroit’s local elected officials from exercising any powers as authorized in writing by Mr. Orr [appointed emergency manager] and subject to any conditions he may impose [Orr later reinstated Detroit city’s mayor and city council]…The City must reduce employment costs for both represented and unrepresented workers as part of its restructuring…Representatives of the Emergency Manager met with representatives that currently operate the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to discuss the art collection exhibited there… DIA contends that the collection is held by a public trust and cannot be used for any purpose other than exhibition or to maintain and enhance the collection itself…Further dialogue is anticipated…”
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in national security matters. Reach him at email@example.com. His newest book is Cyber Noodles and Orphan Nukes at amazon.com.
| by Paul Craig Roberts
( June 18, 2013, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the 21st century the two hundred year-old propaganda that the American people control their government has been completely shattered. Both the Bush and Obama regimes have made it unmistakenly clear that the American people don’t even influence, much less control, the government. As far as Washington is concerned, the people are nothing but chaff in the wind.
Polls demonstrate that 65% of the US population opposes US intervention in Syria. Despite this clear indication of the people’s will, the Obama regime is ramping up a propaganda case for more arming of Washington’s mercenaries sent to overthrow the secular Syrian government and for a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which, if Libya is the example, means US or NATO aircraft attacking the Syrian army on the ground, thus serving as the air force of Washington’s imported mercenaries, euphemistically called “the Syrian rebels.”
Washington declared some time ago that the “red line” that would bring Syria under Washington’s military attack was the Assad government’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction against Washington’s mercenaries. Once this announcement was made, everyone with a brain immediately knew that Washington would fabricate false intelligence that Assad had used chemical weapons, just as Washington presented to the United Nations the intentional lie via Secretary of State Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had dangerous weapons of mass destruction. Remember National Security Advisor Condi Rice’s image of a “mushroom cloud over American cities?” Propagandistic lies were Washington’s orders of the day.
And they still are. Now Washington has fabricated the false intelligence, and president obama has announced it with a straight face, that Syria’s Assad has used sarin gas on several occasions and that between 100 and 150 “of his own people,” a euphemism for the US supplied foreign mercenaries, have been killed by the weapon of mass destruction.
Think about that for a minute. As unfortunate as is any death from war, is 100-150 deaths “mass destruction?” According to low-ball estimates, the US-sponsored foreign mercenary invasion of Syria has cost 93,000 lives, of which 150 deaths amounts to 0.0016.
In other words, 92,850 of the deaths did not cross the “red line.” But 150 did, allegedly.
Yes, I know. Washington’s position makes no sense. But when has it ever made any sense?
Let’s stretch our minds just a tiny bit farther. Assad knows about Washington’s “red line.” It has been repeated over and over in order to create in the minds of the distracted American public that there is a real, valid reason for attacking Syria. Why would Assad use the proscribed weapons of mass destruction in order to kill a measly 100-150 mercenaries when his army is mopping up the US mercenaries without the use of gas and when Assad knows that the use of gas brings in the US military against him?
As the Russian government made clear, Washington’s accusation is not believable. No informed person could possibly believe it. No doubt, many Americans wearing patriotism on their sleeves will fall for Washington’s latest lie, but no one else in the world will. Even Washington’s NATO puppets calling for attacking Syria know that the justification for the attack is a lie. For the NATO puppets, Washington’s money overwhelms integrity, for which the rewards are low.
The Russians certainly know that Washington is lying. The Russian Foreign Minister Larov said: “The [Assad] government, as the opposition is saying openly, is enjoying military success on the ground. The [Assad] regime isn’t driven to the wall. What sense is there for the regime to use chemical arms–especially in such small amounts.”
Larov is a relatively civilized person in the role of Russia’s main diplomat. However, other Russian officials can be more pointed in their dismissal of Washington’s latest blatant lies. Yury Ushakov, an aide to Russian President Putin said: “The Americans tried to present us with information on the use of chemical weapons by the [Assad] regime, but frankly we thought that it was not convincing. We wouldn’t like to invoke references to [the infamous lies of] Secretary of State Powell [at the UN alleging Iraqi WMD], but the facts don’t look convincing in our eyes.” Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, cut to the chase. “The data about Assad’s use of chemical weapons is fabricated by the same facility that made up the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Obama is walking George W. Bush’s path.”
Here in America no one will ever hear straight talk like this from the US presstitutes.
Orwellian double-speak is now the language of the United States government. Secretary of State john kerry condemned Assad for harming “peace talks” while the US arms its Syrian mercenaries.
Washington’s double-speak is now obvious to the world. Not only Assad, but also the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and every US puppet state which includes all of NATO and Japan, are fully aware that Washington is again lying through its teeth. The Russians, Chinese, and Iranians are trying to avoid confrontation with Washington, as war with the modern nuclear weapons would destroy all life on planet earth. What is striking is that despite 24/7 brainwashing by the presstitutes, a large majority of the American population opposes obama’s war on Syria.
This is good news. It means more Americans are developing the ability to think independently of the lies Washington feeds to them.
What the neocon nazis, the bush/obama regime, and the presstitute media have made
clear is that Washington is going to push its agenda of world hegemony to the point of
starting World War III, which, of course, means the end of life on earth.
Russia and China, either one of which can destroy the United States, have learned that the US government is a liar and cannot be trusted. The Libyan “no-fly” policy to which Russia and China agreed turned out to be a NATO air attack on the Libyan army so that the CIA-sponsored mercenaries could prevail.
Russia and China, having learned their lesson, are protesting Washington’s assault on Syria that Washington pretends is a “civil war.” If Syria falls, Russia and China know that Iran is next.
Iran is Russia’s underbelly, and for China Iran is 20% of its energy imports. Both Russian and Chinese governments know that after Iran falls, they are next. There is no other explanation for Washington surrounding Russia with missile bases and surrounding China with naval and air bases.
Both Russia and China are now preparing for the war that they see as inevitable. Washington’s crazed, demented drive for world hegemony is bringing unsuspecting Americans up against two countries with hydrogen bombs whose combined population is five times the US population. In such a conflict everyone dies.
Considering the utterly insane government ruling in Washington, if human life exists in 2020, it will be a miracle. All the worry about future Medicare and Social Security deficits is meaningless. There will be no one here to collect the benefits.
Addendum: If the report below from RT is accurate, it seems obvious that the ignorant and evil denizens of Washington, D.C., are driving the world to World War III. http://rt.com/news/iran-troop-deployment-syria-782/
Addendum: Russia says it will not allow Syria no-fly zones. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article35318.htm
Addendum: Once again Washington demonstrates that it is home to the most stupid people on earth: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-to-send-4000-troops-to-aid-president-assad-forces-in-syria-8660358.html?printService=print
About Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
| by Dayan Jayatilleka
( June 18, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Three bad ideas in one week?
One is that the UNP will boycott the Parliamentary Select Committee. Another is that the 17th Amendment must be reintroduced before the Northern Provincial Council election. The third is that a referendum should be held on the subject of the retention or abolition of the 13th Amendment.
It is understandable that the TNA is reluctant to participate in a PSC. The point made by that party is that the goal posts have been shifted. A PSC was not mentioned at the commencement of the talks with the Government and was certainly not stipulated as mandatory.
The TNA says it does not reject participation but that the talks with the Government should achieve some degree of consensus which could be than taken to the PSC. The lousy conduct of the UPFA MPs in the PSC towards the former Chief Justice gives considerable credibility to the TNA’s position.
This is not true of the UNP. Last year it said that it would boycott the PSC if the TNA did not participate. Its point, more or less, was that a PSC to resolve the ethnic issue would be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark were the TNA to stay away.
If that argument held any water, it no longer does. The UNP is not the TNA nor is it a coalition partner of the latter, and I hope it knows the difference, though many voters probably think it doesn’t.
That general point apart, the deliberations of the proposed PSC will affect the interests of the UNP quite directly. If the proposal that changes can be made to the powers of the PCs with the concurrence of a majority rather than of all existing PCs, then a UNP-ruled PC can find itself divested of its powers, thereby pre-empting the possibility of an Opposition-led PC proving a developmental success and serving as an electoral lever for change. The UNP must surely participate in the PSC, ally with the progressives among the Government’s representatives and prevent such retrogression. To stay away would be plain bad.
The next bad idea is that the 17th Amendment must be reintroduced before the election to the Northern PC is held. Now that would be nice indeed but it ain’t gonna happen and the UNP Leader who has made the suggestion has no way of enforcing it. He probably thinks the Commonwealth would do so, but then again he thought that George W. Bush would make Chandrika return the portfolios she took away from him. Instead, she held an election which he lost, after a brief two-year stint as the PM.
The choice today is to hold the northern election this September with or without the 17th Amendment or wait till the 17th Amendment is reintroduced. Now the latter proposition would suit those hawks in Government who do not wish to hold an election. I trust that was not the intention of the Opposition Leader.
The crucial battle now is to keep the 13th Amendment intact in all its essentials, block the neoconservative counter-reformation, hold the election in September and count on the Commissioner of Elections, the world’s media and international observers to keep that election fair and transparent.
The race is a close one but the worst idea around is possibly the one that a national referendum should be held on the retention or abolition of the 13th Amendment. That gem of wisdom comes from the JHU and NFF but has been picked up by opinion makers closer to the Opposition leadership. Those who advocate it like to see themselves as patriots, but their suggestion gravely undermines the national interest. It is evident that the advocates of a referendum are myopic to the point of inability to see beyond their noses.
Consider the highly probable – I would say, almost certain – result of such a referendum. The Tamils of the north and east will vote against abolition on the 13th Amendment as will the Muslims. There is no Tamil political party in Opposition or with the Government that will support abolition. There is no Muslim party of any significance that will do so either. Most of the Sinhalese, located in the southern two-thirds of the island, will vote for abolition. Except for the Sinhalese in Ampara, the north and east will vote in one direction, the south another.
The bloc of ‘Tamil speaking people,’ a long-standing slogan of Tamil ultranationalists, will be created by this plebiscite. The electoral map will show the north and east re-merged emotionally, psycho-politically; de facto although not de-jure. Worse still, the NO vote will pretty much correspond to the contours of the Tamil Eelam map. The world will see a divided Sri Lanka, with a clearly defined proto-Tamil Eelam.
To compound the stupidity, a referendum would also reveal a NO vote right in the heart or abdomen of the island, the hill country, with a majority of Tamils of recent Indian origin voting against the abolition of the 13th Amendment. What a damaging blow such a political map would be to the achievement of the Sri Lankan armed forces and what a splendid gift to the Tamil Eelamists in Tamil Nadu and the diaspora!
[Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka is a member of the International Expert Group (INTEG) of Security Index, a Russian Journal on international security; the ‘academic and policy quarterly journal’ of the Russian Centre for Policy Studies, Moscow-Geneva-Monterrey.]
Courtesy: Daily FT
| by Dayan Jayatilleka
Courtesy: The Hindu
By pitching their political ambitions higher than the Sri Lankan constitution’s existing provisions on provincial autonomy under the 13th amendment, Tamil nationalists have played into the hands of Sinhalese hardliners
( June 18, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A political battle of major proportions, perhaps the most portentous in years, is looming in Sri Lanka this year and is being preceded by a debate amounting to a battle of ideas. The matter at hand is the much delayed and deferred election to the Northern Provincial Council.
Political forces are arrayed in four positions on the battlefield. On the Tamil side there are those who hold that the existing 13th amendment to the Constitution under which the Northern Provincial Council was established, was inadequate from the start and that therefore, contesting the election and holding office would be of no positive consequence, and may even have the negative consequence of legitimising the institution. The other position occupied within the Tamil political spectrum is of those who regard the 13th amendment to be flawed and deeply unsatisfactory, but grasp the value of contesting and winning the election, and occupying the political real estate that remains.
On the Sinhala side are those who wish to abolish the system of provincial autonomy, those who do not and support the system of limited provincial autonomy, and those who seek to retain the bare bones of the system for fear of the external repercussions of abolition, while gutting the provinces of any real measure of autonomy.
At the moment, the predominance on the Tamil side is of the more pragmatic mainstream politicians who would like to occupy whatever political space that opens up, and on the Sinhala side, of those unhappy with provincial autonomy but seek to dilute rather than dismantle it in its entirety.
The major error on the Tamil side was and remains the failure to grasp that the 13th amendment was the best that could be achieved even when the political, or more accurately politico-military, balance was far less in Colombo’s favour. It proved the best deal achievable even with a far more overtly, robust Indian role and power projection.
When the liberal administration of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga sought perhaps imprudently to range well beyond the 13th amendment in the form of three political packages in 1995, 1997 and 2000, the efforts were opposed as expected by Sinhala hardliners, but more fatally by the conservative United National Party (UNP) Opposition headed by Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe. Most crucially, President Kumaratunga’s risky, politically ambitious quasi-federal initiatives did not have the acceptance, still less the support, of the parties and personalities (most prominently at the time, the TULF) currently grouped in the Tamil National Alliance.
In its sporadic and ultimately abortive discussions with the administration of President Rajapaksa, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) urged that these drafts of 1995, 1997 and 2000 be taken up for discussion, but those deals were no longer on the table, the Tamil politicians having proved that what was once said so famously by the liberal intellectual Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, of the Palestinian political leaders was also true of them, namely that they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Having failed to put sufficient daylight between themselves and the LTTE before the war ended with a decisive disaster for the latter, the Tamil nationalist politicians might have been expected to realise that the 13th amendment was the only fall back available, and that it should be defended doggedly against attempts by the triumphant Sinhala hawks in Colombo to roll it back. However, the TNA not only declined to take the 13th amendment as the explicit basis of negotiations, it initially rejected that structural reform as the starting line. The keynote speech by Mr. R. Sampanthan, the leader of the main Tamil parliamentary party (TNA) at the 14th Convention of the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) [the main constituent of the TNA] in May 2012 was in many respects a landmark event. It played into the hands of the neoconservative hardliners within Colombo’s power elite and ruling troika, bringing the bilateral talks to an abrupt halt.
Mr. Sampanthan’s convention address not only stated clearly that the political project lay outside the parameters of both the 13th amendment as well as the structural form of a unitary state, but also provided considerable evidence to the Sri Lankan political leadership that the goal of a sovereign state of and for the Tamils, one in which they enjoy absolute rather than shared or devolved authority, remained the goal.
The ITAK/TNA leader’s speech said “we must prove to the international community that we will never be able to realize our rights within a united Sri Lanka.” Colombo seems to believe that with such a strategic objective in mind, it is logically inevitable that Tamil nationalism will reject, discredit and undermine any solution proposed or arrived at within a united Sri Lanka, especially a solution within a unitary state such as is the 13th amendment.
Mr. Sampanthan, the most prominent local leader of the Northern Tamil community, reiterated at his party’s annual convention its commitment to achieving with the support of the international community, the same “soaring aspirations” that could not be achieved through armed struggle.
By the time the TNA collected its collective wits, the Government had commenced the siege and attrition of the 13th amendment, while the hardliners within and outside were campaigning for outright abolition.
On the Sinhala side, the drive for rollback of provincial autonomy or crippling by means of the removal of any powers with regard to land and its utilisation, fails to grasp the possible blowback of such unilateralism; a unilateralism based on the assumption that the Tamil question in Sri Lanka is a purely internal matter for a sovereign state, and oblivious to the Kissingerian category of “intermestic” issues; those at the interface of the internal and the international.
New Delhi, which failed to militarily support an unambiguously pro-devolution President Kumaratunga during the Tigers’ siege of Jaffna in 2000, did not extend the requested and requisite degree of military support to Mahinda Rajapaksa in an equation that would have linked such support to political progress in lockstep as it were. Instead of simply insisting on the implementation of Sri Lanka’s own constitutional provisions (obviating the need for protracted, problematic talks with the TNA and the reinvention of the wheel), it was persuaded into echoing President Rajapaksa’s promise of 13 Plus. No wonder it finds itself in a dilemma on the next steps.
The anti-Sri Lankan hysteria in Tamil Nadu is reminiscent of the foaming at the mouth in Florida for decades at any mention of Castro’s Cuba. What takes Tamil Nadu beyond Florida is the ubiquity of Tiger symbolism including portraits of Velupillai Prabhakaran, in the pan-Tamilian agitation. In a rich irony of future history, that wave of agitation which rises higher during election year and its aftermath in India may well be exactly what sweeps away his UNP competitor and gifts President Rajapaksa all he needs for re-election to a third term. Given that he is increasingly a human shield for the Sinhala hawks in his ranks or a George Dubya to their Cheney-Rumsfeld, this cannot but have decisive repercussions on Delhi’s protracted efforts to secure a modest if authentic measure of provincial self-rule for the Tamils.
(Dayan Jayatilleka was Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. in Geneva from 2007-09, and until recently, Ambassador to France. He is the author of Long War, Cold Peace: Conflict and Crisis in Sri Lanka, Vijitha Yapa Publishers, 2013.)
| by M. A. Sumanthiran
( June 18, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Tamil National Alliance has repeatedly pointed out the consistent and continuing failure of the Sri Lankan government to fulfil its promises to the peoples of Sri Lanka. The proposed amendment to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution––currently the only concession to any form of devolution in Sri Lanka––is yet another example of this.
Perhaps, the most significant of the government’s broken promises are those relating to a political settlement. The Sri Lankan government has for several years promised a power-sharing arrangement that will ensure that power is shared equitably amongst the peoples of Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa’s Joint Statement with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon soon after the end of the war in May 2009 contained several assurances relating to a political solution, one of which was
"…to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment…".
Before the end of the war, at the inaugural meeting of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) and its multi-ethnic Experts Committee appointed by the President to assist the APRC, on 11th July 2006, the President said:
"People in their own localities must take charge of their destiny and control their politico-economic environment. … In sum, any solution needs to as a matter of urgency devolve power for people to take charge of their own destiny. … Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution without sacrificing the sovereignty of the country given the background of the conflict."
At the 10th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March 2009, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe reiterated the President’s pledge, saying,
"Our national discourse has been dominated for decades by an ethnic issue, which requires a political solution as a means to resolve problems. … [o]n a recommendation of the All Party Representatives Committee, we are able to properly implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which was passed in 1987."
When the Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris visited New Delhi in May 2011, a joint press statement with the Minister of External Affairs of India stated :
"… the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties. A devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation."
In January 2012, after meeting with President Rajapakse, visiting Indian Minister for External Affairs, S. M. Krishna speaking at a joint press conference with Minister G. L. Peiris, said:
"The Government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and building on it, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers. We look forward to an expeditious and constructive approach to the dialogue process."
This is not the first such assurance made to the Government of India. On 25th December, the Indian External Affairs spokesman stated
"[I]n this context we have been assured by the government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process … leading to the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond, so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation."
It is in this context that the government proposes to strip the 13th Amendment of the limited concession it offers to devolution.
The current framework under the 13th Amendment provides only modest protection to minority peoples in the event that Parliament seeks to legislate on a subject on the Provincial Council List. Article 154(G)(3) is a measure to prevent the central government from legislating on subjects allocated to the Provincial Councils (PCs) without first obtaining the consent of all PCs. Where one or more PC does not consent to a proposed bill, the central government has the power to either pass the bill by a simple majority, in which case the bill will become law applicable only to the Provinces where the PCs agreed to the bill, or to do so by a two thirds majority in which case the bill will become law applicable to the entire country. The government’s proposal to remove this safeguard will in effect render the 13th Amendment in terms of devolution of legislative power meaningless, as the central government at any given time could take away any or all powers vested in the PCs by passing legislation with a simple majority.
Not only has the government failed to keep its many promises to move towards a political settlement based on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment and build on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers, it shamelessly proposes to strip away the limited concession to devolution that exists! The proposed amendment is majoritarian on two counts. First, it imposes the majority will of PCs on a particular Province by empowering Parliament to enact — through a simple majority — legislation on any Provincial List subject, provided a majority of PCs agree to the proposed Bill. Second, it imposes the majority will of Parliament on a particular Province, as it empowers Parliament to enact such legislation through a simple majority rather than a special majority. A special majority is required only if a majority of PCs disagree with the proposed Bill.
To date, the government has been content with ‘winning the war’ and has made no attempt to take the next necessary step – to win the peace. This failure will make ‘winning the war’ and all its dividends meaningless. The peace can be won only if there is a genuine political will to do so.
It is vital that the Sri Lankan government realises that actions speak louder than words. And so far, when it comes to a genuine political will to arrive at a meaningful political solution, the government’s actions have drowned out its words.
| by Vikram Sood
My friend for 40 years, not 30 as I had Tweeted in my grief, Raman was a core professional. But he was more. Strong on loyalty and professional excellence. Loved irreverent gossip yet immensely secretive professionally. A man seriously and earnestly devoted to his profession for whom detail was everything.
A very private man, it took a while to get to know him after I was sent to understudy him and eventually take over from him, in 1972. There would be days he would be very quiet, not rude, just immersed in whatever he was doing. I could sit there all day and read volumes of intelligence material and leave quietly without even a word. Or not have shown up that day.
There were other days he would be gossipy and cheerful with many stories to tell of his days in Madhya Pradesh recounted with a loud chuckle. He did spend time moulding me, taking me through the paces, the dos and don'ts of an analyst and what makes a career intelligence officer. Over time the bond grew and even when we disagreed, both knew that we merely made a point and moved on.
Our career paths took us along different routes in 1974 but we met again, professionally, in 1983 when I took over from him once again and finally, in August 1994 when he retired. But he did not really retire. Such men rarely do. His frequent assessments, analyses and reports on events were a touchstone for most of us in the business of intelligence reporting and assessments.
All of these are now on his blog for posterity to read and learn. Over time his writings became legendary, like the man himself. Later, he was called in to help the government with the task force on intelligence following the Kargil Review Committee, he became a member of the National Security Advisory Board and once again called to assist in the Naresh Chandra Committee review.
Raman's career took him through tumultuous times of the Cold War, the Indo-Pak war and the Liberation war in Bangladesh of 1971, the Naga and Mizo rebellions and the peace talks, the Sikh insurgency of the 1980s and finally, the ISI led campaigns in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s of which the Mumbai bombings of March 1993 were an important and monstrous milestone.
Raman was the only Indian intelligence officer with three books to his credit. Two of them were Intelligence: Past Present and Future and A Terrorist State As a Frontline Ally. He writes about his experiences in his last book, The Kaoboys of R&AW.
In this book, Raman is remarkably chatty as he takes the reader through his days in the intelligence world and its interactions with the powers that be. Raman expresses his anger at the US State Department of the Bill Clinton era pressuring us on Pakistan and the eternal hyphenation between India and Pakistan that was the hall mark of the nineties till Kargil 1999.
His final remark on the US and perhaps the Western attitude is still valid when he says 'An over-anxiety to protect Pakistan from the consequences of its misdeeds still continues to be the defining characteristic of policy making in the State Department.' Secretary of State John Kerry might do himself a favour by heeding Raman's last warning ' ... I am convinced in my mind that if there is an act of terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction one day, it would have originated from Pakistani territory.'
The last chapter of this book contains his assessment of the organisation he served so selflessly and his advice for the managers of intelligence in the country. We would do ourselves immense credit if we follow at least some of the ideals and goals he sets out.
Raman the man has passed, Raman the legend remains.
( June 17, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) It's with a sense of sadness and loss that we register the death of Mr Bahukutumbi Raman (B. Raman), who needs no introduction for the regular readers of our website.
Mr Raman wrote very matter of factly about his battle with cancer ever since he was diagnosed with it, always willing to share his experiences to spread greater awareness about what he called his live-in-companion.
His determined optimism about fighting it off seemed almost convincing earlier, but from last month onwards, once it became known that his cancer of the bladder had spread to his liver, as he put it himself on Twitter, the countdown had started.
When the news about Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy hit the headlines, Mr Raman, only recently having been diagnosed with terminal secondary liver cancer, while admiring the Hollywood star's courage, was still focussed enough to point out that the real issue was the "lack of basic cancer care facilities for our poor pple & in our backward areas".
Born in 1936, Mr Raman lost his father when he was very young. He wrote with characteristic candour and lack of sentimentality about his childhood:
From a young age, we were conscious of our poverty. We were never ashamed of it. We took our poverty in our stride...
I did not do too well in the college. I did a one-year journalism diploma course after leaving college and got a job in The Indian Express on a salary of Rs.100 per month. I managed to save enough money to study for the UPSC competitive examinations, sat for them and was selected for the Indian Police Service.
I was quite successful in my career and achieved all I wanted to achieve. It was not only because I was a good professional, but also because I was a balanced individual. Our poor mother and our poverty gave all of us a sense of balance and a determination not to let our poverty come in the way of our achieving whatever we wanted to achieve. All of us did well in life.
An IPS officer of the 1961 Madhya Pradesh cadre, he was handpicked by Rameshwar Nath Kao to join the Research and Analysis wing, right from the day it was carved out of the Intelligence Bureau in September 1968.
He went to serve the R&AW for 26 years, heading the agency's counter-terrorism unit from 1988 until his retirement in 1994 as Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat.
After his retirement, Mr Raman was associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and was a regular contributor to the South Asia Analysis Group, serving as Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.
Till the very end, Mr Raman remained a prolific commentator on security and strategic affairs, writing his last full-length piece on May 15, and even after that continuing to share his wisdom on Twitter, despite being in great physical pain.
In his 2007 memoir on the R&AW, The Kao-boys of R&AW – Down Memory Lane, Mr Raman made a strong case for parliamentary oversight. He maintained that major debacles like Kargil and Rabinder Singh's escape could have been pre-empted by a suitable monitoring mechanism for RAW, on the pattern of the CIA and Mossad. He also wrote about his anger and bitterness at the US State Department.
This is how he described himself in this memoir:
Throughout my 26 years in the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency, I was known as a man with a poker face.
As someone, who showed no emotions or passion on his face or in his words.
As someone, who led a robot-like existence, working from 8 in the morning till 9-30 in the night — seven days a week, 365 days in a year.
As someone, who took life in its stride.
It was a description, his colleagues said, fitted his life even post-retirement. So absurdly well-informed he remained about terrorism in South Asia even after retirement, as evidenced by his columns, that a reviewer of his book recalled wondering whether the agency had continued to keep him briefed at regular intervals. Au contraire, his interlocutors in the agency informed him, it was the other way around: he was still regularly briefing the active agents!
The ‘Karmayogi’ for whom time was always short
| by Swati Parashar
( June 17, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) On 30th May, 2013, B Raman tweeted, “Hanumanji willing, shd be back home coming Saturday.” Instead, he left for his heavenly abode, yesterday 16th June, 2013 in the evening. He had shared every detail of his illness on his blog and also on twitter, including the fact that it was terminal cancer he was dealing with and he didn’t have much time. Although quite active on facebook, I am not on twitter and missed his updates. The grief is profound: had I known, I would have spoken to him, even gone to India to see him. I was unaware of his hospital stay, of the end that was near and I am left now with deep regrets and a profound sense of personal loss. I couldn’t read the ominous signs of things to come. Since 11th May, there was no ‘article alert’ in my gmail; South Asia Analysis Group, which carried his articles, have none of his pieces on their first three pages; since 14th May there were no posts on his blog (Raman’s strategic analysis); his cancer update posted on 11th May suggested of a serious relapse. I am now only left with memories, of the most extraordinary person with whom I worked so closely and who in so many ways was the perfect ‘guru’, the best teacher.
Bahukutumbi Raman (1936-2013) was an IPS officer of 1961 Madhya Pradesh cadre who later joined the Research and Analysis Wing, of the Intelligence Bureau. He served in the R&AW for 26 years, heading the counter-terrorism unit from 1988 until his retirement in 1994 as Additional Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat. He spent his post retirement years as a prolific commentator and analyst on terrorism and strategic issues and was a regular media presence. He churned articles on a daily basis! He also had brief stints with various research organisations and think tanks. With his death, an era of strategic thinking in India has ended; he was a walking-talking data base of terrorism and counter terrorism; a recognised expert all over the world.
Between September 2003 and November 2005, I worked with him at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a think tank in Delhi. He was Head of the International Terrorism Watch Programme which he had set up at ORF and also served as Director of ORF’s Chennai Chapter. I had completed my Masters degree in International Relations at JNU and was hired to coordinate the Terrorism Programme at the ORF. When I first met Raman Sir at ORF’s Delhi office, he asked me a few questions about why I wanted to work on terrorism, what I thought were the terrorism issues, what my plans were etc. and then after his return to Chennai sent me a long list of things to do. That was his style. Everything was well compartmentalised and every detail was mapped and that helped enormously in implementation. He sent regular instructions on emails and I reported to him on a daily basis. It was a wonderful working relationship and I don’t recall having worked harder in my life before or after that period.
The good thing about Raman Sir, contrary to popular view, is that he never actually imposed and. With his junior colleagues and beginners like me, he had all the patience and always ensured that we expressed ourselves even if we disagreed with him. This was special, because in India, kowtowing to the bosses is common and contrary opinion is never tolerated by those in authority. He did have issues with his contemporaries and former intelligence colleagues (although he always extended professional courtesy to everyone, including those whom he disliked) but he was kind and extremely generous towards those whom he mentored. I don’t recall one harsh word that he ever spoke to me, going out of the way to write references and supporting my career aspirations in so many ways. He knew I wanted to train in academia and pursue a PhD in gender and terrorism studies. I was not going to be a regular mainstream terrorism analyst and he always supported my decisions. From the moment I met him, I only had respect, admiration and affection for the man who has had a very big role in my career. Although I am now quite well published and in some internationally acclaimed journals, my proudest moment was when South Asia Analysis website carried my article next to his!
The first conference we organised at ORF brought in experts from South and South East Asia together to talk about the regional impact of terrorism. I had just started working and was not even proficient in handling computers those days! After the conference programme was drawn up, I noted that one of the panels had no chair and another had a missing paper presenter. I pointed it out to him and to my utter shock, he calmly said that I was going to be chairing that session and would also present a paper! I had only 24 hours to think and my affirmative decision then put me on a career path that has never let me look back. After the conference, it was my turn to invite one of our organisers to offer the vote of thanks. Raman Sir asked me to wait as he had something to say. He was most generous in his appreciation of my efforts and lavished so much praise that only left me humbled and tearful. It was as if our mutual faith had been vindicated. I still have the transcript of that speech he made and in moments of self doubt, it gives me inspiration and motivation. It was his confidence that he allowed me to co-edit the proceedings of that conference with another colleague and it was finally published as a book. He organised a massive book release function at IIC and made sure I was given credit for every bit of hard work I had put in. He ensured that there were ample opportunities for everyone who worked with him to realize their potential. His faith in the young and the untrained was remarkable.
While at ORF, I had started looking for PhD opportunities and I was uneasy telling him I wanted to leave. The intelligence man that he was, he was good at keeping some secrets. He resigned from ORF without discussing or deliberating with anyone; we had no clue this was coming. One morning he sent an email saying he had dissociated himself from ORF and after returning the few things at their Chennai office, “‘c ést fini between me and the ORF once and for all”, he wrote. He appeared whimsical at times like these and those of us who worked with him were very upset. Within moments of his resignation, I found another long email from him explaining (in bullet points which was always his style) why he had dissociated from ORF. He ensured that he played by the rules of the democratic and transparent work culture which he had created for all of us at ORF. He didn’t care about seniority or hierarchy and worked very hard to build a team in which the junior most members were also respected and valued. As someone who was such a big mentor and teacher to all of us, it was amusing when we met his elder brother Mr. B. Raghavan at a conference in Chennai. Raman Sir was visibly embarrassed as his older brother addressed him as ‘Ramu’ and chided him in front of all his staff. We giggled as we witnessed the great and proper Raman Sir, endearingly addressed as Ramu by his elder brother.
Most people say, he showed no emotions or sentimentality. I disagree, for, I saw Raman Sir extremely angry at times, also disappointed, tired, happy and always curious. I remember his laughter was uncontrollable and long after those around him stopped laughing and sat sombrely (waiting for the next instructions) he would keep chuckling at a joke only he understood. He deeply mourned the death of his friends K. Subrahmanyam and R Swaminathan (as I remember) and he was devastated by the untimely demise of his young and dynamic friend, Shakti Bhatt. We talked for a long time on the phone that day. He never seemed like a loner to me and knew how to communicate with himself. His single status and not having a family used to be a joke at work and most people found him socially awkward. I recall the two large pegs of whisky he relished at all social events and since his cancer diagnosis he really missed drinking, he told me. After his set quota of two drinks, he would leave immediately afterwards, often unnoticed and quietly without a fuss. I often wondered (if I hadn’t asked him earlier) if he had had dinner. It was impossible to not feel affection for him and care about his well-being. I remember at one such post conference event, he turned up in a bright yellow printed Hawaiian kind of shirt! For someone who always wore dull safari suits, this was bound to attract gossip and attention. I finally dared and complimented him as he shyly replied, it was a gift from a Malaysian friend!
He always travelled and walked into the office with his old briefcase. When in Delhi he would reach office before any of the regulars would. He would always thank me profusely for that hot coffee I would make him in a proper cup, whenever I found that he was there. I remember a colleague once admonished that I was being servile to my ‘boss’. He was more than a ‘boss’ to me; a father figure, a mentor, an inspiration, always a good listener, a very humble man with impeccable manners and work ethics. I last met him in 2008 at Chennai where he invited Ravi (my husband) and I to a five star restaurant for dinner. He ate only curd rice and laughed heartily over his own jokes. I kept in touch over phone and email and he was always keen to know about my career, new projects and publications. If he was disappointed that I didn’t become a mainstream terrorism analyst, or if he thought my work on gender and political violence was not important, he never showed it. He was always so curious, so pragmatic and yet positive. I see that he endorsed Narendra Modi as Prime Minister a few weeks ago on twitter. I am convinced that it must be a frustrating moment for him because he had all along disliked the Sangh Parivar’s brand of Hindutva politics. He had no patience for right wingers who harassed him continuously in the cyber space. For a man who had dutifully served in India’s spy agency, he lived a remarkably public and transparent life. Every detail of his cancer was there on his blog and other web spaces (to the annoyance of some and curiosity of others). Although he was not active on facebook, I noted today that on twitter he expressed himself all the time, sharing his feelings. He posted a picture of himself after he was diagnosed with terminal liver secondary cancer. He also expressed concern at how the poor would afford cancer care in India. To possibly family members, he admonished on twitter, “I can eat only what my tummy can tolerate. I can't eat what others want me to eat. Affection for terminal cancer patients shd be simple and normal, not instructive.” He called cancer, the ‘terrorist’ he would not be defeated by and always wished to avoid radiation therapy. The ironies were plenty, as he reminded his readers after his 11th May cancer update on his blog that he would be 77 in August this year. For the last 8 years, I have never forgotten to wish him on his birthday which falls on 14th of August (Pakistan’s Independence Day!). I am absolutely gutted that I couldn’t get to speak to him one last time. But there is a comforting thought, that he lived and died like true ‘karmayogis’ do. In our country when corruption is the norm these days and public servants amass wealth, the spartan and inspirational life of Raman Sir will keep reminding us that there once was an India, where government officials cared for their jobs, their country and their people. After he was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and told me he had 5 years or so in this biggest fight against ‘terrorism’, I always dreaded writing this obituary. His presence was comforting and although we lived continents apart, I always know his blessings have stood me in good stead. His phone ring tone was A. R Rehman’s Jai Ho (from Slumdog Millionaire), and in many ways captures what Raman Sir lived by and believed in. I have been extraordinarily fortunate in having had the best mentors in my life and B. Raman was the most special of them. I dedicated my PhD thesis to him and it will be my eternal sorrow that I will not be able to hand over a copy of my book personally to him, when it is out. Rest in Peace, Sir. There will never ever be another like you and may Hanumanji take care of you in the heavens above.
(Swati Parashar is a lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She teaches and researches on Feminist IR, Political Violence and South Asia. She can be contacted at Swati.Parashar@monash.edu)
( June 17, 2013, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) Mr. B. Raman one of the main contributors to the Sri Lanka Guardian passed away last evening. His demise is a loss not only to me personally and the Guardian, but also to the intelligence community as well. He was oour one of regular contributors since we started the Sri Lanka Guardian in 2007.
In course of time he became truly an international expert on terrorism and thanks to him, our site has grown from small beginnings to about thousands of hits a day and all from “niche” people.
| by Eran Wickramaratne MP
( June 17, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The reactivation, of the Press Council Law and the government-proposed Code of Ethics for journalists have to be viewed with great suspicion for many reasons. Ethics is beyond the realm of legal codification. Ethics is about moral principles that govern a person or a group’s behaviour. While some philosophers suggested that it should exemplify justice and charity, and benefit the person and society, others later introduced the idea that ethics entrains one’s duty towards others and respect for others. The attempt to encourage better ethics or behaviour amongst journalists, while being laudable cannot become coercive. Attempts to legalise ethical systems have been made by religious orders from time to time the world over empowering clergy to become the ethical police. Such systems have universally failed. A Code of Ethics for the media imposed by a government will of necessity make the relevant government ministry the ethical police. The recent Island newspaper editorial made the point “There is no difference in our book, between politicians extolling the virtues of ethics and prostitutes pontificating on chastity.”
No more need be said about politicians trying to enforce ethical conduct on journalists, while not being able to impose an ethical code on its own ilk.
Freedom of expression and the freedom to information are universally accepted values. The individual’s right to freedom of expression has had to be defended from time immemorial whether the threat was from the king or the ruling coterie in a republic. That struggle continues today. The media provides both information and expression of opinions for public consumption. The Judiciary and the media are the two keystones of our democracy. The subjugation of the Judiciary to the Executive as in the recent irregular and immoral impeachment of the Chief Justice is a part of our recent dark history.
The issue dominating media freedom today is not the problem of too much freedom. The country ranks near the bottom of the Press Freedom Indexes compiled the world over. The World Press Freedom Index 2013 – Reporters Without Borders ranks Sri Lanka 162nd out of 179 countries. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranks Sri Lanka fourth from the bottom, only better than Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines. The report states “But four years after the end of the nations long civil war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration has shown no interest in pursuing the perpetrators of nine journalist murders over the past decade. All of the victims had reported on politically sensitive issues in ways that were critical of the Rajapaksa Government”. The CPJ lists 13 journalists killed since 2005. The report states that the country has one of the worst impunity records, where impunity is measured by unresolved journalist murders as a percentage of the population. Freedom of the Press 2013 – Freedom House ranks Sri Lanka 164th out of 196 countries with the status “Not free”.
The murder of the Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge in broad daylight by armed men near a security establishment on the outskirts of Colombo was the ultimate punishment to a journalist who dared challenge the regime. The numerous attacks on MTV/MBC who have reported fearlessly on the misdemeanour of Ministers, have caused the broadcasting station large financial losses. Even as recently as a couple of months ago there were more threats against MTV/MBC. The burning of the Uthayan newspaper as well as the attack on its Editor and sub-editor occurred during the post war period. Rather than the vilification of the media because of the errant conduct of a few of its members, there must be a remembrance and celebration of the achievements of journalists and media institutions that have suffered in the interests of keeping democracy alive.
Code of Ethics or censorship
An imposition of a Code of Ethics is in some respects worse than press censorship. When a government-appointed censor blocks out the words of a writer and kills the spirit of expression, the public are aware as to who is responsible for curbing the human spirit while the writer is protected from lawsuit and its consequences. But a Code in the guise of an ethical code is like the sword of Damocles which will hang over the journalist who will have to answer not to his conscience or the collective conscience of his profession but to the objectives of a government as described in the Code. Curbing the journalist’s right of expression and his responsibility to report to the public through the threat of punishment is more damaging to the public cause than state imposed censorship. The journalist is a professional as is the accountant, the banker, the doctor and the lawyer. Most professions have self-regulating Codes of Ethics. They are important. The professionals need to be constantly indoctrinated regarding their own professional Codes so that they and society become collective beneficiaries. When legal luminaries succumb to the pressures of the Executive, they are in violation of their own ethics; when auditing firms are not exacting on the financial and accounting practices of State owned Enterprises, they are in violation of their own ethics, when doctors participating in the procurement of goods and services for the Health Ministry are financially corrupt – they are in violation of their own ethics. Then a government-sponsored Code of Ethics is legislated for such professions? Undoubtedly the media is the fourth estate of our democracy. Therefore media ethics is of paramount importance. But self-regulation of the media as in other professions is the way forward. As in other professions where injury and hurt to others in society occur, civil remedies can be sought. A self-regulating media could also expel its own members as other professions do when their respective Codes of Conduct are violated.
The public interest
The public interest is not necessarily synonymous with the Government’s interest. The development of a media Code of Ethics should be in the public interest and to protect those who are vulnerable. The public interest is defined in the Code of Professional Practice (Code of Ethics) of the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka adopted by the Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka as “Protecting democracy, good governance, freedom of expression and the fundamental rights of people and of keeping them informed about events that would have a direct or indirect bearing on them, and that of their elected Government, and detecting or exposing crime, corruption, maladministration or a serious misdemeanour; protecting public health and security and social, cultural and educational standards; protecting the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation”. The protection of children, the abuse of the dignity of women in advertising, consumer protection and the exclusion of incisory hate-speech on race, caste, nationality and creed may be included in a Code of Ethics.
However, clauses to prohibit the questioning of the Executive, the Legislature or the Judiciary will weaken the check on the most powerful branches of government. Contempt of the judiciary or defamation of individuals can be dealt with within the legal framework with costs to the media. The government-proposed Code of Ethics goes as far as to restrict criticism affecting foreign relations and encouraging superstitious and blind faith. Who is to judge whether Sri Lanka’s external relations have been affected by the writings of a journalist or by the intemperate utterances of Parliamentarians. It is widely believed that Sri Lanka’s foreign relations have been in disarray for quite some time. On most significant issues different Ministers and institutions have expressed a range of views. Professional diplomats have been wondering which particular stance is the official foreign policy stance of the Government. In such a chaotic foreign policy environment the journalist will become the whipping boy of the regime. The country is engulfed with superstition and blind faith. There is no major decision that is taken without consulting an astrologer – from the auspicious time to hold an election to the moment the budget speech should be delivered in Parliament. The rationale to restrict journalists from reporting superstitious and blind belief in a country like ours is beyond comprehension.
Right to information
The freedom of expression is empty without the freedom of a citizen to obtain information pertaining to matters concerning one’s life and government. The principles of transparency and open government require the right to information. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives and Bhutan have either a Freedom of Information or a Right to Information Act empowering their citizens. That makes Sri Lanka the only country in South Asia to deny its citizens this right – a right incidentally that the citizens of Scandinavia have enjoyed for over a century. A move by Karu Jayasuriya to introduce a Right to Information Act as a private members’ motion was defeated by the government on the basis that the Government intends to bring in a Right to Information bill. This promise is unlikely to see the light of day judging by the Government’s attempt to suppress even partial information that is now available.
Restrictions imposed on the media should be confined to the exceptions permitted under article 19 (3) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The restrictions are for respecting the rights or reputations of others: for the protection of national security or public order or public health or public morals. In times of an emergency which threatens the life of the Nation, the existence of which is officially proclaimed, such measures must not be inconsistent with our obligations under international laws.
A guided democracy
How does the Government intend to enforce such a code on the private media when the behaviour of the state-controlled media at present abounds in defamation, slander and baseless reporting? Will the same guidelines and standards apply to the state press? Who will be the watcher of the state media while the Government monitors the private media’s adherence to the proposed guidelines? What will be the consequence of non-adherence to the Government guidelines?
On what moral basis is the Government contemplating further state regulation when the true need is for the state to get out of the way of the free press, stop leaning on submissive editors and publishers, and stop buying newspapers and channels that it cannot intimidate into submission?
The Press Complaints Commission of Sri Lanka (PCCSL) together with the Editors Guild and the Sri Lanka Press Institute undertake to ensure that newspapers operating in the country abide by certain basic ethical standards. Nearly all newspapers in the country are signatories to the PCCSL guidelines. It was an initiative of the media fraternity to raise reporting standards and prevent litigation against newspapers. The PCCSL acts as arbiter between newspapers and victims of erroneous reporting. It has successfully mediated to prevent confrontation and litigation in many cases. So why have a state-controlled Press Council?
The UNF Government of Ranil Wickremesinghe repealed criminal defamation and attempted to enact freedom of information laws. The Press Council Act revival is the first step towards re-enactment of these oppressive laws. The Government has mooted the return of criminal defamation laws to further muzzle the free press. A subservient Judiciary will now ensure state media is insulated from the danger of the laws while the independent media will hesitate to report. A free press and independent Judiciary are the enemies of totalitarianism. The attempts at subjugation of these two vital democratic organs offer the best clues to the direction the incumbent regime is taking. During President Suharto’s regime, Indonesian democracy was known as a ‘guided democracy’, a euphemism for a totalitarian state!
| by Ranga Jayasuriya
( June 17, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The downfall of DIG Vass Gunawardena, once a star crime buster, known for his special relationship with the powers that be in the defence establishment is interesting, not so much for the extent of his alleged involvement in a myriad of killings and extortions, but for the strange reason that his political bosses and quasi-political bosses, especially, in the defence establishment, have let him down.
But those within the defence circles should know that investigating DIG Gunawardana would tantamount to opening a can of worms.
They should brace for more disturbing disclosures, if the investigators are given a free hand. Perhaps they do not need to worry as even the top echelons of the government, who authorized the investigation, would find it more convenient to confine the investigation covering only the murder of Mohamed Shiyam, whose brother was a generous financer of the ruling party.
Fight the underworld
Disgraced DIG Vass Gunawardena was a cornerstone of the government's unorthodox and highly questionable strategy of fighting the underworld, which saw suspected underworld kingpins, disappear, and being shot dead under suspicious circumstances.
Vass commanded a special police team, which was deployed to fight the underworld, in underworld style. Their operations were officially sanctioned, though some of which had little to do with fighting the underworld. In the aftermath of the abduction and the torture of media activist and journalist, Poddala Jayantha in Nugegoda, it was alleged that Vass's elite police team was involved. Last year, in the wake of the paranoia over the spree of killings in Kahawatta, Vass and his team were deployed in the area. In one particular incident, three men who were arrested over the killings and subsequently released were abducted by unidentified gunmen. Vass Gunawardena, however, was applauded by the villagers for bringing the spree of killings to an end.
Subsequent to Vass' arrest last week, the over-enthusiastic investigators have now gone on record, helped by their friendly scribes and their inspired media leaks, that Vass and his cops were involved in a series of extortions and murders. The investigators allege that Vass, through his cops, had been demanding millions of rupees from Tamil business, threatening them with arrest, over charges of involvement with the LTTE, should they fail to pay up.
However, this is not the first time that the allegations about the extortionist rings run by the security forces and police officers have come to light. The government and its interlocutors have regularly dismissed those allegations as 'conspiracies and propaganda.'
Notwithstanding Vass' now much publicized warning to the CID, in which he bragged he was a murderer, the investigators deserve a word of caution for different reasons.
Several years back, DIG Pujitha Jayasundara who tried to play the good Samaritan when journalist Parameshwari Munusamy was abducted and later detained in TID custody, was transferred to Nuwara Eliya on the same night itself.
The fact of the matter is that DIG Vass Gunawardana did not act alone. He was a trusted figure of the government. His operations were sanctioned by the State and when he stepped beyond his mandate, the State looked the other way. This time, Vass apparently moved far beyond, and allegedly ordered the abduction and murder of Shiyam, who hailed from a politically connected family.
In this country, some people, such as Shiyam are more equal than others.
Many others, less fortunate, disappeared without a trace, like businessman Ramasamay Prabhakaran, alias Majestic Prabha, 42, who was abducted by armed men, after he filed a FR petition over the torture he had been subjected to by the police, when he was held in the custody of the TID for 28 months, earlier. One respondent cited in the FR application was then SSP Vass Gunawardena.
Prabha also alleged, during a discussion with a group of human rights activists, days before his abduction, that SSP Vass Gunawardena tortured him and demanded Rs 100 million during his earlier stint of detention.
Three days before his FR application was taken up by the Supreme Court, Prabha was abducted by seven armed men, in the presence of his wife and daughter, near his residence on Canal Bank Row, Wellawatte, on 11 February, 2012.
In his FR petition, Prabha demanded Rs 90 million as damage for degrading treatment and torture he had suffered during his 28 month detention by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID).
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Vas Gunawardena, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Anura Senanayake, SP Mahin Dole, and five others were cited as respondents.
In his FR petition, the petitioner stated that "on 21 May, 2009, he was interrogated by one of the Respondents, SP Mahin Dole together with other Officers, of how well he knew Col. Ranjith Chandrasiri Perera of the Sri Lanka Army and what connections he had with him...
"Petitioner was then taken by SSP Vass Gunawardena to the CCD and was assaulted with an iron rod in the most inhuman and degrading manner, where he was injured over most parts of his body, including his private parts."
After Prabha was abducted, a caller telephoned his wife, in faltering Tamil, and demanded Rs 100 million to release her husband. After two days, the caller stopped calling.
Prabha joined a long list of the disappeared and abducted.
Climate of impunity
Vass Gunawardena is a product of the climate of impunity that the incumbent regime and some of its key protagonists, perpetuated in the country. Gunawardena, though now demeaned, rightly so, served his political and quasi-political bosses. It would be naïve to believe that the latter would remain idle as investigators unearth more and more incriminating evidence, some of which indicate, their own culpability.
The state sanctioned cover-ups are part of the game. Those who are familiar with the investigations into the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda would recall that the CID investigators traced the last caller to Eknaligoda, whom he was supposed to have gone to meet on the day of his disappearance. The CID using its advanced equipment traced the caller, who continued to use the same phone, to somewhere in Ampara. After this particular breakthrough, the investigations were suddenly stalled, in the words of the officials' privy to the investigations, 'due to the instructions from the top.'
It was in this culture of sanctioned killings, abductions and cover-ups, that Vass Gunawardena and his ilk thrived – and were thriving.
Some would genuinely hope that recent findings would lead to a genuine clean up of the rogue elements in the police and the defence establishment, and would deliver justice to their victims. I beg to differ. Here is my two cents: A blanket ban would be imposed on the media pronouncements of the investigating officers, and the investigation would strictly be confined to the particular killing of the businessman and anything beyond it would be a 'no go zone.'
As far as Vass Gunawardena is concerned, his luck has not run out totally. He may even emerge unscathed, charges against him dropped, and statements retracted. But, that is only if he plays by the cardinal rule of loyalty; don't desecrate the names of your bosses, no matter how culpable they are.
Should he decide otherwise and choose to drag the rest with him, he ought to reminiscence about the dozens of suspects who died in the custody of the police. Vass does not need advice.
And I should not teach my grandmother to suck eggs.